BAE, Embraer Link Up On C-390s, Eve eVTOL For Military Roles

Credit: Steve Trimble/ShowNews

FARNBOROUGH—BAE Systems has teamed up with Embraer to offer the C-390 transport aircraft initially to Saudi Arabia, and then other countries in the Middle East, executives of both companies said July 19.

The companies also announced a partnership to pursue development of a military variant of the Embraer Eve electric vertical-takeoff-and-landing (eVTOL) aircraft, which formalizes a relationship initiated last year by a BAE investment in the hybrid-powered Brazilian aircraft project.

The agreement with BAE to help market the C-390 in the Middle East replaces a former partnership with Boeing, which walked away in 2019 from an attempt to acquire Embraer’s commercial business and collaborate on the C-390 program.

BAE can boast a rich history of defense sales to Middle Eastern countries, including the supply of Tornado and Typhoon fighters to Saudi Arabia, as well as Typhoon sales to Kuwait and Qatar.

Saudi Arabia has been pursuing a replacement for a fleet of aging C-130s for at least a decade.  The U.S. State Department cleared the Kingdom to buy up to 20 C-130Js and five KC-130J tankers in 2012. Riyadh never signed an order, however, and now relations are strained between the Gulf power and the U.S. Congress, which has prohibited most sales of defense materiel since a brutal war erupted between Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

In addition to the C-130J, the BAE-Embraer partnership with the C-390 faces competition from an Airbus A400M bid. The C-390 is the smallest of the three and is powered by two International Aero Engines V2500 turbofans instead of turboprops.

“The aircraft brings a new concept to market, offering a versatile and multi-mission platform with very low operating costs and fast turnaround, which is an unbeatable combination,” said Jackson Schneider, chief executive officer of Embraer Defense and Security.

Embraer has sold C-390s to Brazil, Portugal, Hungary and the Netherlands.

BAE and Embraer also now “intend” to form a joint venture to develop a defense variant of the Eve eVTOL aircraft. The goal of the partnership is to allow Embraer to establish the Eve in the commercial market first, then develop a military variant later, says Ian Muldowney, chief operating officer for BAE’s Air sector. The point is to introduce new capabilities with eVTOL in the military sector.

“It’s not about substitution,” Muldowney says. “It’s about doing things differently.”

Steve Trimble

Steve covers military aviation, missiles and space for the Aviation Week Network, based in Washington DC.