GRAZ, Austria — The Austrian Air Force will buy four Embraer C-390 “Millennium” aircraft to replace its aging fleet of three C-130 “Hercules” cargo planes in a deal that is expected to be worth more than half a billion Euros ($532 million), the defense ministry announced on Wednesday.
Austria’s current fleet of turboprop transporters was purchased second-hand 20 years ago. The planes are now 56 years old. To prolong their service life, an upgrade of almost €37 million would be required, the Austrian public broadcaster ORF reported. The fleet would ultimately have to be withdrawn from service by 2030 and maintenance costs for the aging aircraft were constantly increasing, the defense ministry said.
In a press conference, the ministry said this money would instead contribute to the purchase of the four brand new aircraft.
Austria’s defense ministry said the price per unit was expected to be between €130 million and €150 million and that the first new planes may arrive in Austria as soon as 2026. A contract is expected to be signed in the first half of the coming year, the defense defense officials said.
The C-390 was the only aircraft in its class that fulfilled all of Austria’s requirements, the defense ministry said in a press release. It is also larger than the American-made C-130 and capable of transporting a Black Hawk helicopter or a Pandur Evo light wheeled tank with its weapons station attached.
The S-70 Black Hawk has served as the backbone of the Bundesheer’s helicopter fleet for the past 21 years and Austria recently announced the purchase of 12 further units.
The new transport jets will be stationed on the military airfield in Hörsching near the Upper Austrian city of Linz. The airbase is the current home of the Hercules fleet and will be upgraded to accommodate the new aircraft.
Defense Minister Klaudia Tanner highlighted as a benefit that other European partners were also procuring the Brazilian aircraft.
Portugal has ordered five and Hungary two C-390s, while the Czech Republic and Sweden are also considering buying the aircraft, Reuters has reported.
Defense leaders here said they hope to piggy-back on a planned Dutch procurement of the aircraft to keep costs down and facilitate training. Negotiations for the collaboration are already underway, according to the Austrian ministry.
The Austrian Newspaper “Kronen Zeitung” reported that the Netherlands may add the four extra aircraft to its own order before passing them on to Vienna.
Austria has shied away in recent years from purchasing military aircraft directly from manufacturers following a major corruption scandal surrounding the 2002 procurement of the Eurofighter warplane.
Linus Höller is a European correspondent for Defense News. He covers international security and military developments across the continent. Linus holds a degree in journalism, political science and international studies, and is currently pursuing a master’s in nonproliferation and terrorism studies.