Military Aviation

Austrian Air Force selects Embraer KC-390 Millennium to replace its C-130K Hercules cargo aircraft

KC-390 Millennium for Austrian Air Force

On Sep. 20, 2023 Austrian Defence Minister Klaudia Tanner announced that the Austrian Air Force (Österreichische Luftstreitkräfte) has selected the Embraer KC-390 Millennium for its future fixed-wing medium-lift requirement.

The KC-390 will replace the Lockheed Martin C-130K Hercules currently in service with the Austrian Air Force.

According to Major General Harald Vodosek from the Austrian Federal Ministry of Defence four aircraft will be acquired, with a contract expected in early 2024.

As reported by Janes, news of the selection came six months after Austria attended a Portuguese Air Force (Força Aérea Portuguesa: FAP)-hosted user meeting for the KC-390 at Air Base No 11 in Beja. Austrian Air Force personnel joined countries that had already ordered or had committed to ordering the tanker transport and discussed co-operation, collaboration, and knowledge sharing on the aircraft during the event.

As outlined in the latest defence budget that was published in October 2022 and which will run through to 2027, the Austrian Air Force has a requirement to replace three former Royal Air Force (RAF) C-130K aircraft. The KC-390 was one of the platforms being considered for that requirement, with other surplus C-130s, as well as newbuild C-130J Hercules, Leonardo C-27J Spartan, and Airbus C295 aircraft having been looked at also. At the time of the selection, the KC-390 was up against the C-130J.

The KC-390 Millennium

According to Andalucía Aerospace, the KC-390 is a medium-size, twin-engine jet-powered military transport aircraft under development by Brazilian aerospace manufacturer Embraer. It is the heaviest aircraft that the company has made to date. The KC-390 is a new generation multi-mission aircraft capable of transporting and launching cargo and troops.

The KC-390 is a twin-engine jet-powered military transport aircraft, like the turboprop-engined A400M of Airbus, with which it intends to compete in the international market, although within a segment of smaller size. It has a maximum capacity to carry up to 26 tons, including armoured vehicles, and is similar in size to the Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules, which has a load capacity of around 20 tons.

This aircraft is designed to perform a wide range of missions: military transport, medical evacuation, search and rescue, refuelling (fighters and helicopters), aerial firefighting and assistance. It has a modern cargo handling system which can transport large-sized cargo: pallets, vehicles, helicopters, troops, paratroopers, medevac stretcher, mixed configurations. It highlights, therefore, its versatility and flexibility for its use by the Armed Forces of different countries.

Fly-by-wire flight control

The KC-390’s piloting is facilitated by an integrated avionic system and a fly-by-wire flight control, and it can be equipped with a self-defense system and ballistic protection which increases its capacity to operate in hostile environments.

On the other hand, the aircraft is undergoing a complete certification process built on a dual approach, which combines the efforts of the civil and military airworthiness authorities and ensures that the aircraft can safely fulfill all its military missions.

The KC-390 has a length of 35.3 meters, a height of 11.84 meters and a wingspan of 35 meters, with a maximum range of 4,600 nautical miles. The program currently has more than 30 orders, 28 of them are aircraft of the Brazilian Air Force. The Portuguese Air Force has ordered 6 units.

A rendering of an Austrian Air Force KC-390 Millennium

Photo credit: Embraer

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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