First KC-390 For Portuguese Air Force Enters Service

KC-390 Portuguese
The first Portuguese AF KC-390 (Image credit: FAP)

The first Portuguese Air Force KC-390 arrived at Air Base No. 11 (Beja AB) after a ferry flight from Brazil.

On Oct. 19, 2023, the first KC-390 destined to the Portuguese Air Force (Força Aérea Portuguesa FAP)  landed in Beja at 16:30 local time after a ferry flight originating from the factory Brazil. After an initial entry to service ceremony held at the Embraer plant in Gavião Peixoto, Brazil, on Oct. 16, the ownership of the aircraft was transferred to the FAP for the ferry flight to Portugal.

Through the week, 506 Squadron conducted its first operational mission with the KC-390, which involved the aircraft making flights across the Atlantic to finally arrive in Portugal later in the week.

Portugal ordered a total of five Embraer KC-390 Milleniums back in 2019. The KC-390 fleet will be operated by the 506 Squadron the “Rinoceroses”. Major Pilot-Aviator Miguel Pousa was appointed commander of the 506 Squadron during the formation of the squadron back in May 2023.

After a few months of preparation, the squadron finally received its first airframe.

The entry to service ceremony took place at the Embraer production plant in Brazil on Oct. 16th . (Image credit: Embraer)

Configured to NATO standards

The introduction of the KC-390 to the Portuguese Air Force saw the types entry to the first NATO nation. As a result the FAP KC-390 is the first Millenium variant in NATO configuration. The aircraft was configured to meet the requirements set by the Portugal National Aeronautical Authority (AAN) and includes NATO standard equipment such as Link-16 datalink integrated into the aircraft. This integration results from an extensive flight tests campaign carried out in Portugal, in a joint effort between Embraer, the FAP, and Portuguese aircraft maintenance company OGMA.

The Portuguese Air Force currently operates four C-130Hs and seven C-295s as their main airlift fleet. The new KC-390 will be able to provide the FAP a huge upgrade to its airlift capabilities. Compared to the C-130 family, the KC-390 offers greater range, payload capacity, and a faster cruise speed. It should be noted that although the KC-390 is capable serving an air tanker role, most of the Portuguese fleet are not readily available for air-to-air refuelling via hose-and-drogue.

Embraer continues expansion of its C-390 pitch.

With the KC-390 now rebranded as the C-390 Millenium, Embraer has been eyeing to ramp up its sale of the aircraft. Multiple countries are continuing to express interest in acquiring the platform. Most recently, the Czech Republic started talks with Embraer of the potential of buying two C-390s. Embraer’s main customer, the Brazilian Air Force, recently logged 10,000 flight hours on the C-390.

About Wonwoo Choi
Wonwoo is a student journalist and contributor to The Aviationist based in London, United Kingdom. Currently studying MEng in Aeronautical Engineering with a keen interest in OSINT, plane spotting and aircraft design. He is a former Sergeant of the Republic of Korea Army, having served as an artillery Fire Direction Centre Vehicle Radio Operator.