After years of discussions, the Austrian federal government announced on Wednesday, September 20, 2023 that the aging Lockheed C-130 “Hercules” transport aircraft would be replaced by Embraer C-390s.
About 20 years ago, the then decision-makers at the Ministry of Defense decided that used C-130s would be purchased. These now have a proud age of up to 56 years under their belt. While in civil aviation one would speak of historical aircraft, in the military it is quite common for aircraft to have very long periods of service.
Regardless of this, both the armed forces and the Ministry of Defense have known for a long time that the oldies need to be replaced. This process has so far progressed very slowly. It has now been announced that the decision has been made for the Brazilian model Embraer C-390. Major General Harald Vodosek and Minister Klaudia Tanner (ÖVP) announced at a press conference on Wednesday that all planning will be based on this model.
“True to our motto 'Mission Forward', we can now finally announce another major milestone for our air force. Since 2003, the three 'Hercules' aircraft have completed many missions and have always been a reliable transport device for our soldiers. Now it is time for the Embraer C-390 to replace the C-130 'Hercules'. Embraer's aircraft system is the only one in the 20-ton class that meets all of our requirements. With this procurement we are taking another big step towards a modern army and thus more security for the Austrian population,” said Tanner.
It is currently planned that four C-390s will initially be purchased. It is expected that these will cost between 130 and 150 million euros (each) to purchase. Other nations, such as Brazil, Portugal and Hungary, are already relying on the C-390. This creates opportunities for cooperation to make purchases more cost-effective and to create synergies, for example in training. One of the desired collaborations is with the Netherlands and is already being negotiated. Delivery of the first new aircraft would be possible in 2026/2027 after successful negotiations.
The Lockheed C-130s currently in use were purchased around 20 years ago as used aircraft. Even back then, they had a few years under their belt, but with an average age of 56, they had long since reached their zenith. Due to the necessary, expensive maintenance, it became necessary to procure a successor system in the 20 ton class. The future aircraft system will also be stationed in Linz/Hörsching. The C-390 can transport up to 80 passengers.