The KC-390 Millennium is an aircraft that took on one of the biggest sellers in history, the C-130 Hercules.
Lockheed Martin’s four-engine turboprop is a military freighter that has been in production for nearly seven decades and has since spread around the world.
Versatile, resistant and funded by the US government, the Hercules continues to obtain orders, as a result of its still relevant capacity and North American political strength.
But Embraer’s twin-engine jet, which surpasses the Hercules in practically all technical aspects, begins to add a significant number of customers, five in total.
Days ago, another “brick in the wall built by Lockheed was torn down”: Austria announced the selection of the C-390 Millennium to replace its C-130K.
The number of aircraft will be four, included in the future order from the Netherlands, which has already confirmed the purchase of five C-390s. With these contracts in sight, the largest aircraft ever developed by Embraer has 35 units on order.
It is a tiny amount compared to the more than 2,500 Hercules units already delivered, but there are currently several negotiations that could expand the KC-390 backlog.
At least 120 jets could be announced in the coming months, if Embraer is successful in convincing those interested in the aircraft.
Check out the countries already confirmed as candidates to purchase the jet:
South Africa – 6 aircraft (?)
The South African Air Force is experiencing a financial crisis that has already grounded its Gripen fighters. The country currently has six very outdated C-130Bs and has already announced that it would renovate them. The KC-390, however, could be a long-term alternative. The name of the African nation appeared in a presentation by the Brazilian government at the beginning of the year.
Angola – 4 aircraft
Another African country evaluating the C-390 is Angola, as revealed by the Brazilian government during a visit by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The Angolan air force would be interested in four units that would replace its old planes of Soviet origin, such as the An-12 freighter.
South Korea – 12 aircraft (?)
The Republic of South Korea Air Force (ROKAF) intends to expand its transport capacity through the Large Transport Aircraft – LTA II program. But the country sends mixed signals as it also plans to develop an aircraft of this type, but a little larger than the KC-390.
At present, the ROKAF has 12 C-130H and four C-130J. Embraer has already announced partnerships with South Korean companies in order to prepare a possible collaboration in the assembly of the jets if it wins the competition.
Egypt – 12 aircraft (?)
Egypt appeared in the same presentation as South Africa, but there is no other public information about this plan. The Egyptian air force has two dozen C-130H turboprops, but an order for 12 new C-130Js.
Greece – 6 aircraft (?)
The Greek government is also talking to Embraer about the C-390 Millennium, but so far there is no clear signal about what the air force intends to do. Months ago, the country even considered purchasing second-hand C-130Js from Italy but the agreement did not go through. The very precarious situation of Greek C-130s, however, may force a decision to be made soon.
India – up to 80 aircraft
The competition for a new military transport plane from India is by far the biggest potential game-changer for Millennium. The Indian air force intends to acquire up to 80 planes, but a deal in this case includes local production and technology transfer.
That’s why Embraer intensified negotiations with large Indian groups such as Tata, Mahindra and HAL in order to convince the country’s government that the C-390 is the best option.
Czech Republic – 2 aircraft
The Czech Republic is considered one of the strongest candidates to become a new Embraer customer. In May, the air force commander recognized that the C-390 Millennium best fits the air force’s requirements. However, the order will be small: just two aircraft, like Hungary.
Rwanda – 2 aircraft (?)
The small African country has a modest air force, made up of some helicopters and light planes, but was mentioned by the government as one of the possible customers for the C-390. In posts on social media in Rwanda there is talk of two jets being ordered.
Sweden – 6 aircraft
It is another potential buyer of the C-390 Millennium after Brazil’s Defense Minister announced a trip to Stockholm in October to negotiate an agreement in exchange for more Gripen fighters, manufactured by Saab. It is estimated that up to six transport jets could be ordered.
Potential for 490 orders
The sum of hypothetical and confirmed quantities reaches 130 planes, or almost four times sales to date. The estimate only provides a sense of reality as many negotiations may fail or have their terms changed.
But it echoes perspectives from Embrar itself, which sees the potential to sell around 490 KC-390s in the coming years. There is undoubtedly a large market to be explored as the old Hercules is retired.