On July 11 the Portuguese government announced a firm order for five Embraer KC-390 multi-mission transports. The deal, valued at €827 million ($932.6 million), also includes a flight simulator and logistics contracts. The first aircraft is due for delivery in February 2023, after which Portugal will receive one aircraft each year until the last is delivered in February 2027.
In Portuguese air force service, the KC-390s will replace the aging fleet of C-130 Hercules, which have been in use for around four decades. Speaking at a press conference following the announcement, Portugal’s Minister of National Defense, João Gomes Cravinho, noted that the C-130s are “at the limit of their use” but that they “have a few years of useful life ahead. They are now undergoing a minor upgrade to continue flying until the new KC-390 fleet is complete.”
The minister also commented that the KC-390 “fully satisfies the requirements defined by the Portuguese State, as well as those required for participation in military operations that may result from the alliances of which Portugal is a part.” He praised “the unique characteristics of the KC-390, which set a new standard for strategic military transport, hitherto only possible to achieve with four-engine aircraft.”
Cravinho also explained that the aircraft will be used for some government civilian missions, as well as carrying out military tanker/transport duties. They include medical evacuation and patient transport, search-and-rescue, and fire-fighting missions.
For Embraer, Portugal’s announcement—long expected—represents a welcome boost to the KC-390’s sales campaign. “Today is a historic day for the KC-390 program … this is a very important step to consolidate the aircraft, which we believe will become another success for Embraer,” said Jackson Schneider, president and CEO of Embraer Defense & Security. “The Portuguese KC-390 will meet new interoperability requirements in the areas of secure navigation, data and voice transmission that will allow the KC-390 to integrate into joint operations in multinational alliances. These requirements, developed in partnership with the Portuguese air force, will enable the KC-390 to meet the needs of many other nations around the world.”
As the largest international partner in the KC-390 program, Portugal has a significant workshare. The industrial partnership between the country and Embraer represents “more than 300 million euros in exports each year and thousands of highly skilled jobs,” according to Schneider.
João Gomes Cravinho also commented that the development of this aircraft represents “a very significant stimulus for our economy, not only for the companies that were already involved in the project but also for its future commercialization.”