The Netherlands Selects The Embraer C-390 As New Tactical Cargo Aircraft

File photo of a Brazilian C-390M converted to the KC-390 tanker variant. (Photo: Embraer)

The C-390 will replace the four aging C-130Hs of the Royal Netherlands Air Force.

The Dutch Ministry of Defense identified the new tactical cargo aircraft, that will replace the current fleet of four aging C-130H Hercules aircraft: the  Embraer C-390 Millennium. With the selection of the Brazilian-made cargo aircraft, the Netherlands are bound to become the third European country to order it after Portugal and Hungary. The C-390 was the winner of the assessment against the U.S.-made Lockheed Martin C-130J Hercules.

The replacement of the C-130H fleet was initially planned between 2031 and 2033, however a persistent low deployability and the changed security situation in eastern Europe pushed the government to replace the fleet earlier than expected. The evacuation from Afghanistan, for an instance, underlined the importance of guaranteed availability of tactical and strategic transport capability, with the Dutch armed forces recognizing in the Defense Memorandum 2022 an increased need for transport, taking the required flying hours from 2,400 to 4,000 hours.

Other than the flight hours, the MoD set a number of requirements: a payload of at least 60 paratroopers; the ability to transport different types of equipment over a distance of 2,000 nautical miles to unpaved and short runways or eventually to be airdropped; a MEDEVAC/CASEVAC capability for seriously injured people who require continuous medical care while in flight; self-protection systems and secure communication systems. Last but not least, the aircraft has to be already available as Military Off The Shelf.

The assessment for the new cargo aircraft was performed on the only two candidates considered suitable for the role: the C-130J and C-390M. The documents released by the Dutch MoD mention that the C-390M was assessed to be the only candidate within the budget that can meet the requirements set within the framework of Commercial/Military Off The Shelf (COTS/MOTS), as well as meeting the delivery and certification time schedule set by the MoD.

Also, the MoD says that, compared to the C-130J, the C-390M has greater availability and requires significantly less maintenance, allowing more hours to be flown with the same number of aircraft. The documents continue by explaining that the C-390M scores higher than the C-130J on a number of operational and technical requirements, meeting the operational needs, while the C-130J can meet the Dutch operational needs, but must then be equipped with various mission-specific elements that are not available as COTS/MOTS.

File photo of two Dutch C-130Hs. (Photo: RNLAF)

Another comparison is related to the number of aircraft needed to fly the required flight hours: the C-390M can meet the minimum requirement of 2,400 flight hours with four aircraft and the requirement of 4,000 flight hours with five aircraft. On the other hand, according to the information obtained by the Dutch MoD, the C-130J already requires at least five aircraft for 2,400 flying hours and they are not sufficient to meet the requirement of 4,000 hours.

The Dutch Defense is now going ahead with the acquisition of five C-390M aircraft plus a cargo hold simulator and cockpit simulator. During the assessment phase it was expected to replace the first C-130H with the first C-390M from 2026. Even with some delays during the assessment process, Embraer assured the MoD that it will still be able to deliver the five aircraft and simulators in accordance with the delivery schedule. The costs of the replacement programme are estimated between € 1 billion and € 2.5 billion.

H/T @Gerjon for the heads-up

About Stefano D'Urso
Stefano D'Urso is a freelance journalist and contributor to TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. A graduate in Industral Engineering he's also studying to achieve a Master Degree in Aerospace Engineering. Electronic Warfare, Loitering Munitions and OSINT techniques applied to the world of military operations and current conflicts are among his areas of expertise.