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Embraer Showcase the C-390 Millennium to the SAAF

Embraer arrived in South Africa last week when the Brazilian manufacturer showcased its C-390 Millennium military transport aircraft to the South African Air Force (SAAF). The demonstration took place at AFB Waterkloof in Pretoria when the Aircraft made a short hop from OR Tambo International Airport where it had landed the day before.

After some behind-closed-doors negotiations the Chief of the Defence Force, General Rudzani Maphwanya flanked by Lt Gen Wiseman Mbambo addressed the media. Sadly very little was learnt from the media conference and as explained this was purely a visit to ascertain the capabilities of the C-390 and no comment was given as to whether the SAAF would be placing an order for the Brazilian transport aircraft. Representatives from the SAAF visited Embraer in Brazil in April to begin discussions about the C-390, and last Friday's demonstration was the next step in the process, with Embraer hoping that it will be able to secure a deal with the South African Airforce. After the media conference invited guests from various government departments went for a flight in the C-390.

The C-390 entered into service in September 2019 with the Brazilian Air Force. The country ordered a total of 19 aircraft and went on to deploy one of them to Europe in early 2022 to repatriate Brazilian nationals at the start of the war in Ukraine. The Brazilian Air Force recently celebrated having accumulated 10,000 flight hours across its growing fleet of C-390s.

The Portuguese Air Force took delivery of its first C-390 in October 2022. Earlier this year, the Austrian Air Force ordered four C-390s, at a total cost of $500 million, to replace its three ageing Lockheed C-130 Hercules aircraft. At the time, Austria's Defence Minister, Klaudia Tanner, heralded the aircraft as "the only one in the 20-ton class that meets all our requirements."

Other countries awaiting delivery of the C-390 include Czechia (two), the Netherlands (five), and Hungary (two). South Korea, Colombia, and India are also understood to be considering placing a future order.

The C-390 is similar in size to the C-130 but has a slightly larger cargo hold, capable of carrying up to 28 tons. The aircraft also has two engines, unlike the C-130's four, meaning lower fuel consumption and maintenance costs.

According to Embraer, the C-390 has a maximum range of 3,370 NM, although when carrying a maximum payload, this is reduced to 1,240 NM. The C-390 can fly higher and at lower speeds than other comparatively-sized military transport aircraft and can operate on unpaved runways.

The C-390 is also capable of air-to-air refuelling, aerial fire-fighting, search and rescue, and the transportation of humanitarian aid, making it ideal for use across the African continent. If it does place an order following Friday's demonstration, South Africa is unlikely to be the only African nation to put the C-390 to use – both Egypt and Rwanda have previously expressed an interest in the aircraft.

We sincerely hope that the SAAF and the government of South Africa take a serious look at this and other similar aircraft on offer as the SAAF has very limited capability in the realms of strategic lift aircraft at the moment.



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