Portugal conducts first force projection with new KC-390 transport aircraft

Story by Allied Air Command Public Affairs Office based on input provided by the Portuguese Air Force

The Portuguese Air Force conducted a first force projection with their modern Embraer KC-390 transport aircraft on October 22, 2023. It transported military personnel and cargo to the Canary Island, Spain, in support of multinational Spanish-led exercise Ocean Sky 2023, where Portuguese F-16s participate in multinational drills.


The KC-390 is a transport aircraft with intercontinental reach, capable of executing strategic and tactical, civil and military operations without limitations. Missions can include transport of troops, vehicles and palletized loads, launch of paratroopers, medical evacuations, search and rescue missions, air-to-air refueling and firefighting.

“This comprehensive range of capabilities enables the Portuguese Air Force to accomplish necessary requirements for the participation in military operations under the aegis of alliances Portugal is part of e.g. the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO),” said Major General Sérgio Roberto Leite da Costa Pereira, Head of the Office of the Air Chief of Staff.

In 2019, Portugal made the decision to acquire five KC-390 aircraft and a flight simulator. On October 18, 2023, a Portuguese KC-390 made the first operational flight from Brazil to Portugal taking off in Gavião Peixoto stopping in Recife and Cape Verde and landing at Beja Air Base, Portugal on October 19. With this ferry flight, the newly created 506 Squadron dubbed “Rinocerontes” welcomed its first KC-390. Until 2027, the Portuguese Air Force will receive one aircraft each year and the Rhinoceroses will be complete.



The KC-390 transport aircraft is a medium-size, jet-powered twin-engine utility transport aircraft with a payload of 26 tonnes. It is designed and produced by Brazilian aerospace manufacturer Embraer. After first prototype flights in Brazil in 2015 and start of production in September 2019, the Brazilian Air Force has received its sixth C-390 aircraft. Besides Portugal, several other European air forces are looking into acquiring C-390s, e.g. Hungary, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Austria.

The KC-390 can be compared to a C-130 Hercules. Main difference is the jet-powered twin- engine, which makes it faster and allows it to carry heavier cargo. Moreover, the KC-390 offers air-to-air refueling as a standard feature complementing existing tanker fleets.



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