The Brazilian Air Force Commander, Lieutenant Brigadier Carlos de Almeida Baptista Junior, confirmed to the newspaper O Estado de Sao Paulo on Thursday that the Brazilian Air Force (FAB) will unilaterally reduce the order for KC-390 airlifter.
The decision comes after several months of negotiations with Embraer that ended this week without an agreement. FAB wants the order for 28 planes to be reduced to just 15 units, citing budget issues.
According to Baptista Junior, the manufacturer did not accept the Bolsonaro government proposal.
“Considering Embraer’s decision and the impossibility of continuing to carry out the contract in the current quantities, the Brazilian Air Force, in order to safeguard the public interest, will initiate, within the limits provided for by law, the procedures for the unilateral reduction of contracts of production of the KC-390 aircraft, an unprecedented and undesirable fact in this important and fifty-year relationship,” said the Commander.
The Bolsonaro administration’s decision could give rise to a legal dispute in the deal valued at around $2.6 billion. The KC-390 program was launched in 2008 after the Air Force asked Embraer for a multi-mission aircraft capable of replacing the outdated C-130 Hercules turboprops.
Embraer has developed a jet with performance and capacity far superior to its US rival, which continues to be the most popular aircraft in the segment. The first KC-390 was delivered in 2019 and since then three other aircraft have been transferred to FAB. Delivery of the 5th plane, however, is still pending.
The Air Force had requested a review of the order from Embraer in May, but without specifying how many planes would be cancelled. The KC-390 has three customers: in addition to Brazil, Portugal acquired five jets and Hungary acquired another two, the first of which went into production this week.
The 35 units ordered so far are a very low figure for an aircraft that has always been seen as having great potential to the point that Boeing closed a partnership to offer it in its portfolio, an initiative that ended up frustrated after the two companies broke up a joint venture in 2019.
After reviewing the FAB order, only 22 aircraft will remain confirmed, a modest volume for such a complex and expensive project.
According to the newspaper, Embrar preferred not to comment on the matter.