The European Commission, representing the European Defense Fund (EDF), launched a tender in June to analyze the feasibility of developing a new medium-sized tactical freighter, a program that the entity calls FMTC (Future Mid-size Tactical Cargo). The project is coordinated by France and has the support of Germany and Sweden.
The document released by the EDF explains that the FMTC program is intended to replace the old tactical transport aircraft currently in operation among European air forces, such as the C-130 Hercules, C27J and CASA C295. The aircraft, however, is expected to be a smaller, lighter alternative to the Airbus A400M Atlas.
“Rhere is a need for a new tactical medium European aircraft, lighter than the A400M that could provide a complementary capacity for tactical transport,” the document reads.
The study plan proposes a cooperative analysis of the operational needs of EU tactical transport in the period between 2030 and 2050, in addition to the identification of opportunities for the development of the FMTC in Europe, among the EDF member countries. The tender, which must evaluate one or two aircraft, will be open until November 24, 2022 and estimates a budget of 30 billion euros.
Embraer C-390 Millennium as a short-term solution?
The EDF does not specify whether or not the new tactical freighter must be a 100% European aircraft. The description, on the other hand, highlights that European nations and local industry should participate in the project, which may open up possibilities for companies outside the European Union through partnerships with manufacturers in the region.
Currently, the main aircraft in the medium freighter segment for military use are the Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules and the Embraer C-390 Millennium, which has three customers in Europe, the air forces of the Netherlands, Hungary and Portugal.
An eventual participation by Lockheed Martin or Embraer in the FMTC program may be feasible through strategic partnerships with manufacturers in Europe. This issue is even of interest to the Brazilian company, which has already admitted to having negotiations to have a partner in the C-390 Millennium program in order to open new markets for the aircraft.
The option for the Brazilian project could mean an enormous saving of time and resources, since the aircraft has been in service for about three years and has a performance far superior to the planes that will have to be replaced.