The Embraer KC-390’s sales momentum 27/06/2024 | Tommaso Massa

Yesterday, June 26th, 2024, Brazilian company Embraer delivered the second tactical transport aircraft to the Portuguese Air Force, with the ceremony taking place at Embraer's Gaviao Peixoto plant.

Portugal had placed an order for five aircraft in 2019, with the first entering service in October 2023 at the Beja airbase. The KC-390 is a twin-engine, jet-powered medium tactical transport aircraft with greater load capacity (26 t) and top speed (870 km/h) than its main competitor, namely the C-130J (nearly 20 t and 670 km/h).

Last week, FW-Mag had the opportunity to visit Embraer's final assembly line for the KC-390 in Gaviao Peixoto. Moreover, we had the privilege of flying on the aircraft from Embraer's facilities in Sao José dos Campos to Gaviao Peixoto and back. During the visit, Joao Bosco da Costa Junior, President and CEO of Embraer Defence and Security, provided an overview of the KC-390's sales momentum, identifying potential future markets such as India and Saudi Arabia.

Embraer is also aiming to enter the US market, proposing the KC-390 to the United States Armed Forces. Bosco stated, "We believe that the aircraft could offer them capabilities they currently lack." However, according to Bosco, the primary market in the near future will be Europe. Embraer has identified a potential market for nearly 500 aircraft over the next 20 years, focusing on the need to replace aging cargo planes currently in service.

Approximately 260 of these planes are at least 45 years old. According to the company’s figures, the main emerging market will be Southeast Asia (34%), followed by the Middle East (32%), and Europe (14%). Fewer opportunities are expected in Africa (11%) and South America (9%). While the North American market is currently excluded from these projections, as mentioned above, there is potential for future penetration. Bosco confirmed the company's interest in entering the US market, mentioning that they are evaluating possible mergers and acquisitions in the United States to facilitate this entry. Delving deeper into future market analysis, Bosco identified India and Saudi Arabia as 2 countries where Embraer is actively negotiating potential sales. Negotiations are more advanced in India, while in Saudi Arabia are in the early stages.

Bosco also emphasized that Europe and NATO are the main strategic markets for the company. Currently, the KC-390 fleet consists of 8 aircraft in service: 6 with the Brazilian Air Force (BAF), with the first delivered in 2019, and 2 with the Portuguese Air Force, one delivered in 2023 as the first in “NATO configuration”, and the second one delivered yesterday. Brazil is set to receive a total of 19 aircraft, while Portugal will receive 5. Additional orders were placed between 2020 and 2023: 2 for the Hungarian Air Force (2020), 5 for the Netherlands (2022), 4 for Austria (2023), 2 for the Czech Republic (2023), and an undisclosed number for the Republic of Korea Air Force (2023). In addition to yesterday's delivery to the Portuguese Air Force, this year will register the 1st delivery to Hungary, and the 7th to Brazil. During our visit to the final assembly line in Gaviao Peixoto, we had the opportunity to see the last 2 above mentioned aircraft in different stages of construction, with the one destined to the Hungarian Air Force already completed and ready to start flight testing.

To date, the KC-390 fleet has accumulated over 13,000 flight hours with an availability rate of 80%. The KC-390 is a true multi-mission aircraft, easily reconfigurable for various missions in a matter of hours. The aircraft can perform a wide array of missions, including aerial resupply, air assault (paratrooper deployment), special operations, MEDEVAC, air-to-air refueling, search and rescue (SAR), and firefighting.

The full report from Brazil with insights, analyses and perspectives will be published in FW 1/24, available in digital an print in October.

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