The Republic of Korea Air Force will be the first Asian service to operate Embraer’s KC-390 Millennium multi-mission tactical aircraft acquired under the government’s Large Transport Aircraft (LTA) II programme. Although, the number of aircraft remains undisclosed.

The government’s acquisition will replace its enduring fleet of transport aircraft. According to GlobalData intelligence, the air force currently operates 24 aircraft – one Boeing 737 from as early as the late 1960s, while four C-130J units acquired in 2014 lead the fleet as its most modern transport aircraft.

The KC-390 can carry more payload (26 tons) compared to other medium-sized military transport aircraft and flies faster (470 knots) and farther, being capable of performing a wide range of missions such as transporting and dropping cargo and troops, medical evacuation, search and rescue, firefighting, and humanitarian missions, operating on temporary or unpaved runways such as packed earth, soil, and gravel.

Configured with air-to-air refueling equipment, with the designation KC-390, the aircraft has already proven its aerial refueling capacity both as a tanker and as a receiver, in this case by receiving fuel from another KC-390 using pods installed under the wings.

This twin-turbofan-powered aircraft is designed to be reconfigured in less than three hours to support different missions.

Originally, the aircraft achieved initial operating capability in December 2017 and received type certification from the Brazilian aviation authority Agência Nacional de Aviação Civil in October 2018.

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Embraer also agreed to provide services and support including training, ground equipment and spare parts as well as an offset package allowing Korean partners to produce parts locally. The overall cost of the agreement will be released in manufacturer’s Q4 backlog at the end of the year.

South Korea is the seventh nation to select the KC-390 after Austria, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Hungary, the Netherlands and Portugal with its latest order for five units in October 2023.