Embraer is seeking to enlist Portugal as a key player in its KC-390 tactical transport programme. The Brazilian airframer expects to define the full array of production partners and suppliers for the aircraft by mid-2011.

Preliminary government-to-government discussions were initiated in July, with Portugal's leading MRO facility OGMA at the centrepiece of the proposed partnership. Embraer sources have identified a further 18 Portuguese companies that could play a role as suppliers.

Embraer has held a 65% majority stake in OGMA since 2005. In July 2009 the Brazilian company launched a €148 million ($207 million) construction programme to erect OGMA's new facilities at Evora. These are due to open in 2012 and sources in Portugal indicate that they could be tasked with providing carbonfibre components for the KC-390 should the partnership go forward, although other items are being discussed.

The Portuguese air force has a standing requirement to modernise its airlift capability, which was originally to be addressed by Lisbon's participation in the Airbus Military A400M programme.

Spiralling costs forced the country quit that programme in May 2002 and since then Lisbon has considered purchasing Lockheed Martin C-130Js to replace its C-130H/H-30 Hercules airlifters.

Embraer's KC-390 proposal has reportedly gained favour in Portugal's ministry of defence in view of the significantly lower acquisition costs and industrial opportunities.

Source: Flight International