(Adds details of Iran aerospace deals)
By Priscila Jordão
SAO JOSE DOS CAMPOS, Brazil, Feb 25 (Reuters) - Brazilian planemaker Embraer SA will extend the range of its biggest commercial aircraft, executives said on Thursday as they rolled out the first of the re-engined E-Jet planes to compete with Bombardier Inc’s new C-Series.
The next-generation E195-E2 will have increased fuel capacity giving it a maximum range of 2,450 nautical miles (nm), up from a prior design with a range of 2,000 nm, said Paulo Cesar Silva, Embraer’s head of commercial aviation. The E195-E2 will have three more rows of seats than the current series.
That would put Embraer’s biggest jet in more direct competition with Canadian rival Bombardier’s C-Series, whose smallest aircraft has a maximum range of 3,100 nm.
Embraer and Bombardier have battled in recent decades over the regional jet market with smaller planes than the narrow-body aircraft of industry leaders Boeing Co and Airbus Group SE, which usually carry 100 to 200 passengers. Both smaller rivals are now pushing deeper into the over-100-seat segment.
Embraer’s approach has been more gradual, building on the success of its E-Jets in the 70- to 130-seat segment with more fuel efficient engines and slightly more capacity.
The revamp starts with the E190-E2 unveiled on Thursday, which enters service in 2019, and will proceed with the E195-E2 entering service a year later.
Bombardier has spent more than $5 billion to design the C-Series from scratch, with 100 to 160 seats and long-distance capacity rivaling Boeing and Airbus narrow-body aircraft.
Boeing has beat out Embraer and Bombardier for two orders from United Continental Holdings Inc this year with its low-end 737 aircraft seating around 100 passengers. The longer-range design of the E195-E2 suggests Embraer is not backing away from the fight.
Separately on Thursday, Embraer Chief Executive Frederico Curado said the Brazilian planemaker is in early talks with Iran, with a focus on commercial aviation, following the end of international sanctions.
A Brazilian presidential aide with knowledge of the negotiations told Reuters this week that Iran is interested in buying 50 Embraer airliners along with taxis, buses and trucks made in Brazil, following a trade mission to Tehran in October.
Iran signed a deal for 118 Airbus jets in January and this month it struck a deal for up to 40 turboprop planes from Franco-Italian producer ATR. Boeing also said last week it had gotten U.S. clearance to enter talks with airlines in Iran. (Reporting by Priscila Jordao; Writing by Brad Haynes; Editing by Richard Chang and Diane Craft)