The Brazilian Air Force (FAB) announced on Wednesday a surprising decision to cut the order for 28 KC-390 Millennium airlifter jets.
Claiming budget cuts, the service aims to reduce the rate of annual deliveries to two aircraft, but has not revealed how many units will be excluded from the order.
According to the original schedule, Embraer, which has already sent four KC-390s to the Air Force, should deliver three aircraft in 2021, three in 2022, four in 2023, three in 2024, four in 2025, four in 2026 and three in 2027.
The rate of delivery of two military transport jets per year suggests that the Air Force is expected to receive less than 20 aircraft in the future.
“The main issue concerns the expected number of 28 aircraft under the current contract, which, at this moment, has proved to be superior to the budgetary reality of the Force, both for acquisition and logistical support over time,” says the statement released by FAB.
Three customers so far
The Air Force announcement is a major blow to the C-390 Millennium program. The order for 28 aircraft so far accounted for 80% of firm orders for the airlifter, which still has five units ordered by Portugal and two planes under an agreement with Hungary.
FAB has also played a role as a showcase for the jet, whose first aircraft was delivered in 2019. With greater capacity than the C-130 Hercules turboprop and much higher speed, the KC-390 has been used by Brazil in several missions, including the health aid to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.
Weeks ago, the FAB received authorization from the Ministry of Defense to acquire two widebodies for air transport and refueling under the argument that the force lacks large-capacity aircraft.
Embraer has been betting on the C-390 as one of its main assets to obtain new orders while recovering from the failure of the joint venture with Boeing. The US airframer, in fact, was interested in being a partner of the Brazilian company in international sales of the airlifiter jet, but the agreement was also broken last year.