Hungary’s government signed a contract with Embraer in Budapest on November 17 to acquire two C-390 Millennium multi-mission aircraft. They will be in the KC-390 configuration, with tanker capability, primarily to support the air force’s Gripen fighter fleet. Hungary becomes the second NATO country to select the KC-390, following Portugal.
As well as undertaking tanker and a range of tactical transport duties, the KC-390s will be available for aeromedical evacuation and other public service missions, including search and rescue. They will be the first of the kind to include an intensive care module as part of the internal aeromedical fit options.
“Following the procurement of personnel air transport capabilities in 2018, we will see the arrival of KC-390 aircraft to Hungary in 2023-24, able to deliver large military loads in an operational environment, as well as providing air-to-air refueling services,” said Gáspár Maróth, government commissioner responsible for defense development. “We are acquiring a multi-role transport fleet for the Hungarian Defense Forces to fulfill the widest possible range of tasks within the national framework, in a sovereign way.”
Currently, the Magyar Légierö (Hungarian air force) is without a tactical transport capability, having recently grounded the last of its Soviet-supplied Antonov An-26s. With the arrival of the KC-390s, the air arm will effectively complete its transition from Soviet to Western equipment. They are expected to fly from Kecskemét, which is home to the three ex-Air Berlin Airbus A319s that serve on troop and staff transport duties, and also two new Dassault Falcon 7Xs. The nation's military helicopter fleet is also receiving an overhaul through the delivery of H145Ms and H225Ms from Airbus.
Hungary also hosts the Heavy Airlift Wing (HAW) of NATO’s Strategic Airlift Capability, which operates three Boeing C-17As from Pápa air base. The HAW is a multinational unit that flies the aircraft on behalf of 10 NATO members (Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, and the United States) and two partner nations (Finland and Sweden). The C-17s are crewed by personnel from the participating nations.
Hungary’s acquisition brings the number of KC-390s on order to 35. The Brazilian air force has 28 on order and has begun using the type operationally. Portugal ordered five in 2019, with an option for one more, to replace C-130 Hercules transports. These aircraft are now in build with Embraer and are due for delivery in 2023.