The Czech Republic Air Force is planning to bolster its transport capabilities with the acquisition of two medium cargo aircraft, with the Embraer C-390 Millennium currently leading the race.
Brigadier General Petr Čepelka, head of the Czech Republic Air Force, revealed details about the force’s current status and particularly the ongoing or planned acquisition projects.
At present, the Czech Air Force operates six Airbus C295 aircraft, but there is an intention to strengthen this capacity with the acquisition of medium transport aircraft.
Three models are competing for the future contract: the Airbus A400M, the Lockheed Martin C-130J, and the Embraer C-390 Millennium.
Čepelka expressed a clear preference for the C-390 from Embraer.
WHY THE C-390?
The C-390 (or KC-390, if the in-flight refueling option is chosen) stands out, according to Čepelka, for its ability to carry out civilian aid missions worldwide, and military missions within a NATO standard interoperability context.
Compared to the Airbus C295 currently in service, the C-390 can fly faster, farther, and with a much larger cargo. Crucially, the Brazilian aircraft can accommodate and transport the 8×8 Pandur II combat armoured vehicles used by the Czech Army.
The addition of medium transport aircraft could optimise the Czech Air Force’s available resources.
“If we perform transport tasks with this larger aircraft, we will use the CASA (Airbus C295) planes optimally and significantly for the tasks for which they were purchased”, said the Czech Air Force head.
Other features that seem to favour the Millennium over the competition, he said, included the fact that theEmbraer product would be cheaper to operate, and could easily accommodate existing infrastructure in the country.
PARTICIPATION OF THE CZECH INDUSTRY
It’s important to note that in 2010, the Czech Republic signed a letter of intent (LOI) for the possible purchase of two KC-390s. As part of this agreement, Czech aerospace company AERO Vodochody became a strategic partner of Embraer and a supplier of parts for the aircraft to be delivered.
While the Czech Air Force commander asserts that the fact parts of the aircraft are manufactured in his country does not influence his preference for the Brazilian model, it might be significant for the Ministry of Defence and the Czech aerospace industry.
AERO Vodochody is fully responsible for the development, industrialisation, certification support, and production of the fixed leading edge of the wing (FLE), as well as the industrialisation and production of all doors, the loading ramp, and the rear fuselage section II.
Brigadier General Čepelka reported that the Air Force is about to complete the specification sheet for the acquisition of medium transport aircraft. The documents will be forwarded to the procurement office in the coming days to facilitate the setup of the contest.
If everything goes as planned, Čepelka expects to have at least one of the medium transport aircraft by 2024 or 2025 at the latest.
EUROPE’S NEW FAVOURITE
After securing orders from Netherlands, Portugal and Hungary, a contract for two C-390 for the Czech Republic can strengthen the presence of the Airlifter in Europe, a continent where interoperability is key. Growing numbers of the C-390 can improve its position on new contracts, as many NATO countries are poised to renew their transport fleet in the upcoming years.