Second KC-390 Millennium for Portugal

KC-390 Portugal
The second KC-390 for the Portuguese Air Force (All images, credit: FAP)

The Portuguese Air Force has received its second KC-390 airlifter.

On June 28, 2024, at 11:30 AM LT, the second KC-390 Millennium for the Portuguese Air Force (or FAP – Força Aérea Portuguesa) landed at Beja Air Base. Following its official delivery on June 26, this KC-390 departed from Gavião Peixoto, Brazil, stopping in Recife and Porto Santo before arriving. Designated as 26902, it joins Squadron 506 Rhinos.

The second KC-390 is welcomed by water cannons.

Portugal ordered five units from Embraer in 2019 to replace the Lockheed C-130H Hércules. The first KC-390, 26901, entered service in October 2023, serving various roles including transport, evacuation, and reconnaissance.

In October 2023, one of the initial missions for the C-390 in the Portuguese Air Force involved transporting military personnel and cargo to the Canary Islands, Spain, to support the multinational Spanish-led exercise Ocean Sky 2023. Following this, the aircraft flew to the United States to collect a Black Hawk helicopter purchased by Portugal. On its return journey, it completed a direct transatlantic flight from Providence, Rhode Island, to Ovar.

Beja Air Base has seen extensive upgrades to accommodate the new aircraft. New infrastructure has been constructed in the area previously used by Alpha Jet trainers. Adjacent to the existing hangar, a new Ground Support Equipment building has been erected. Additionally, a new squadron building has been built, featuring multiple offices, briefing rooms, preparation rooms, and other necessary facilities.

The KC-390 Millennium

The KC-390 is a medium-sized, twin-engine, jet-powered military transport aircraft developed by Brazilian aerospace company Embraer. It features a length of 35.20 meters and a wingspan of 35.05 meters, powered by two IAE V2500-E5 turbofan engines, reaching a cruising speed of 870 km/h. It accommodates four crew members and can transport payloads up to 26 tons (57,000 lbs), including two fully equipped M113 armored vehicles, a Sikorsky H-60 helicopter, 80 soldiers, or 66 fully equipped paratroopers, with a maximum take-off weight of 81 tons and a range of 8,070 km. Its versatility allows for easy reconfiguration and ample cargo capacity, meeting NATO’s operational requirements.

The first KC-390 in the colors of the Portuguese Air Force (Embraer)

It is versatile, capable of performing strategic and tactical airlift missions, both civil and military. These include troop, vehicle, and cargo transport, paratrooper and cargo drops, medical evacuations, search and rescue operations, aerial refueling, and firefighting.

Besides Portugal and Brazil, which operates 22 aircraft, the KC-390 has been ordered by Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, and South Korea. Hungary is currently testing a unit, and there are discussions with potential buyers, including the United States and Sweden. Embraer has achieved all necessary certifications, and the fleet has logged over 13,000 flight hours with high availability and mission completion rates.

About Jorge Ruivo
Jorge Ruivo is a freelance journalist based in Marinha Grande, Portugal. Since 2000, he has contributed with photography works and articles on the topic of Military Aviation published by the Portuguese press. More recently he has started working with various international media outlets publishing articles and photographs in several magazines, including Combat Aircraft and Airforces Monthly. His main areas of interest are the Portuguese Air Force, its flight squadrons, foreign deployments and military exercises.
About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.