Embraer, SAMI Partner For Potential C-390 Assembly In Saudi Arabia


Credit: Embraer

Embraer and Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI) are exploring a potential final assembly line in Saudi Arabia for the C-390 airlifter, as the aircraft is considered a potential Lockheed C-130 Hercules replacement.

The two companies signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on Nov. 29 to cooperate on a potential offer of the aircraft in the Kingdom.  

As well as a final assembly line, the companies will explore partnering on local maintenance capability through the creation of a regional maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) hub, mission system integration, and training activities.

The effort follows a similar collaborative arrangement between Embraer and BAE Systems agreed to at last year’s Farnborough Airshow, which saw the creation of a strategic partnership to market the C-390 in the Kingdom.

“We are delighted to have signed this agreement with Embraer, bringing new support and production facilities into the Kingdom,” said Eng. Walid Abukhaled, SAMI’s CEO. “It is another important step in SAMI’s efforts in supporting the Saudi Vision 2030 to strengthen the Kingdom’s self-sufficiency in the defense sector and contribution to the localization of 50% of the defense spending in the Kingdom by 2030.”

The partnership reflects the growing effort that airframers need to make if they wish to sell their products to Saudi Arabia by partnering with local industry. In an earlier interview with Aviation Week, Abukhaled said OEMs now need a “clear localization plan” to do business with Riyadh.

“This is the first step to advance cooperation in defense and security involving production chains between the two countries,” said Bosco da Costa Junior, president and CEO of Embraer Defense and Security. “With this memorandum of understanding, Embraer advances further into a strategic market. We will work hard to add value to the local industry, to the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF), and to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

The recapitalization of Saudi Arabia’s airlift fleet is seen as one of the key opportunities in the airlifter market. The Royal Saudi Air Force is reliant on an aging fleet of around 36 C-130H Hercules.

Embraer has heavily marketed its C-390 in the region with multiple appearances of the aircraft at the Dubai Airshow and to the RSAF in-country.

A Saudi Arabia purchase would be a significant boost to the C-390’s fortunes, which have already been buoyed by selections of the type in Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, the Netherlands and Portugal.

Tony Osborne

Based in London, Tony covers European defense programs. Prior to joining Aviation Week in November 2012, Tony was at Shephard Media Group where he was deputy editor for Rotorhub and Defence Helicopter magazines.