Embraer and BAE Systems have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to jointly promote the C-390 transport aircraft into Middle East countries, in particular Saudi Arabia, as part of the renewed export drive.

The C-390, manufactured by Embraer , is a medium-weight, twin-engine multi-mission tactical transporter in service with the Brazilian military from 2019, with first export deliveries to Portugal and Hungary due in 2023 and 2024 respectively. An air-to-air refuelling variant, the KC-390, has also been developed.

The Middle East, in particular the Gulf countries (Saudi Arabia, Oman, the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, and Kuwait), are significant importers of military equipment given the relatively immature nature of their own defence industries. However, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are developing their own manufacturing base, with any exports to Riyadh or Abu Dhabi potentially requiring technology transfer and in-country manufacture or system installation.

Saudi Arabia currently operates a mixed fleet of more than 30 C-130H/J tactical transporters, with the H variant gradually being phased out and replaced by the more modern J model. Any offering of the KC-390 to Riyadh would augment its tactical transport fleet, which is due an expansion in line with its increased combat air numbers.

BAE Systems has a long relationship in the Gulf region in particular, and has sold defence aerospace solutions into Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, and Oman in recent years. Embraer had an earlier agreement with Boeing to aid the C-390’s penetration in markets such as the Middle East, which had since lapsed.

Speaking at Farnborough International Air show on 19 July, senior officials from Embraer and BAE Systems were confident that the C-390 would find a market in the Middle East.

“We want to be ahead of the game. Saudi Arabia, like others, has to recapitalise its transport fleet,” said Ian Muldowney, COO for BAE Systems Air sector.

Jackson Schneider, CEO at Embraer Defense and Security, said that the KC-390 would be the “best platform” for markets such as the Middle East.

A Brazilian Air Force C-390 was displayed on the flight line at Farnborough International Air Show, fitted out as a military VIP transport. The two companies also signed an MoU to market Embraer’s Eve eVTOL concept aircraft, a platform said to have potential defence applications in ISR, HADR, and logistics roles. Embraer and BAE Systems will create a joint venture to develop the platform.