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Portuguese Air Force eyes additional transport and ISR capabilities

With five KC-390 aircraft already on order, the Portuguese Air Force is considering the procurement of a sixth aircraft as part of a wider revamp of its capabilities. (Janes/Gareth Jennings)

The Portuguese Air Force (FAP) is looking to strengthen its transport and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities through the acquisition and modernisation of existing aircraft.

The Director of the Engineering and Programs Directorate, Brigadier General João Rui Ramos Nogueira, told Janes that a sixth KC-390 Millennium tanker-transport aircraft is likely to be acquired from Embraer, while the FAP's Airbus C-295 VIMAR and Lockheed P-3C Orion aircraft are to be upgraded.

The FAP is now weighing the acquisition of a new KC-390 aircraft, Brig Gen Nogueira said, with a decision to be made in 2024. Portugal has until 2025 to trigger this option, he added. Five aircraft and related support and training were ordered in 2019. The first aircraft was delivered to 506 Squadron ‘Rinocerontes' in October 2023. The remaining four aircraft will be received in March 2024, March 2025, March 2026, and March 2027.

The FAP is evaluating the possibility of returning to service and modernising a number of the P-3C maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft fleet it will receive from Germany, Brig Gen Nogueira told Janes. The number of aircraft is yet to be defined, he added. Portugal acquired six P-3C CUP Orion aircraft of the German Navy's Marinefliegergeschwader 3 ‘Graf Zeppelin' on 25 September, together with simulators and other equipment to support the operation of the current five P-3C CUP+ Orion aircraft of 601 Squadron ‘Lobos'.

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