Embraer expects to sell more C-390 Millennium in 2024 than last year

The planemaker participates in two important competitions in Saudi Arabia and India, but the chosen plane may take a while to be announced

After a very promising 2023, in which it added three new customers (Austria, Czech Republic and South Korea) for the C-390 Millennium military transport aircraft, Embraer believes that 2024 could be even better.

In an interview with Brazilian newspaper O Estado de São Paulo, the CEO of Embraer Defense and Security, João Bosco Costa Jr, stated that he hopes to announce new operators for the largest aircraft ever developed by the company.

The chief executive, who took office just over a year ago, did not reveal names, but stated that “I can say that we have high expectations for new operators to choose the C-390 in 2024 and in 2025.”

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As previously revealed, there are at least eight countries identified as potential buyers of the aircraft, which is a rival to Lockheed Martin’s C-130 Hercules, Sweden, South Africa, Egypt, Angola, Greece, Rwanda, India and Saudi Arabia.

The most promising agreement currently is with Sweden, a country that has a close relationship with Brazil due to the supply of Saab Gripen E/F fighters to the Brazilian Air Force.

Embraer and Saab have already established a partnership to offer six C-390s to the Swedish Air Force, in return for the sale of a second batch of Gripen to Brazil.

Indian Air Force C-390 renderings (Embraer)

Indian partner will be chosen soon

But there are two nations that stand out due to their potential to order a few dozen planes, India and Saudi Arabia.

The largest order could be placed by the Indian Air Force, which plans to acquire 40 to 80 transport aircraft. Due to the high volume, the competition involves the assembly of part of the planes in the country, in addition to a partnership with a local company.

According to Costa Jr, Embraer should announce in the first quarter which Indian company will be chosen to partner in the Millennium offering.

Groups such as Tata and Mahindra as well as state-owned aircraft manufacturer HAL have already been consulted. A government decision is only expected in 2026 or 2027, said the CEO.

Illustration of the C-390 in Saudi Arabian colors (Social media)

Rumors about the choice of Saudi Arabia

Recently, a possible choice of the C-390 by Saudi Arabia had repercussions after Info Defensa revealed that Embraer had reached an agreement to supply 33 planes with SAMI (Saudi Arabian Military Industries), a defense company owned by the government investment fund from the country.

The two companies, in fact, reached a partnership in November last year, but Embraer declined to comment on the details of the conversations.

“The official visits by the Brazilian government contributed to expanding opportunities for international cooperation, exports and investments in the aerospace and defense sector. Embraer, however, does not comment on ongoing negotiations and projects,” said the Brazilian company in a statement to Airway.

In the interview with the outlet, Bosco Jr also avoided revealing details, but said that the Saudi Arabian Air Force has 60 transport planes that need replacement.

Portugues Air Force first KC-390 Millennium (FAP)

As in India, a deal will require some type of local investment, whether in manufacturing components or providing support services to operators.

Currently, the C-390 Millennium has 40 aircraft on order, including firm orders and pre-agreements.

The number could be close to 50 units, but the Brazilian Air Force, during the administration of former president Jair Bolsonaro, decided to unilaterally cut the original order from 28 to 15 planes.

After negotiations with Embraer, it was established that the FAB will receive 19 KC-390s. To put the matter at ease, the Defense and Security CEO said that the Air Force did not actually need 28 jets, due to the “performance of the C-390”.