In the early hours of February 2, the Brazilian Air Force (FAB, in Portuguese) multi-mission KC-390 aircraft dropped paratroopers in joint flights with U.S. Air Force C-17 and C-130 aircraft during Operation Culminating, in Alexandria, Louisiana. The mission was a milestone in the development project of the KC-390 because the aircraft had the opportunity to operate, while meeting all goals, with established military transport aircraft deployed in combat scenarios worldwide.
“To imagine that a product of the national aeronautic industry, the result of decades of development, could operate side by side, on equal footing, with historically established aircraft, felt like a dream. We just proved that we indeed achieved the much desired technical and operational maturity level,” said FAB Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Silva Fortes, Operations officer of the 1st Ground Transportation Battalion (1° GTT, in Portuguese).
The KC-390 joined what is known as a package, when aircraft take off within short periods of time to fulfill air force complementary operations, pursuing a common goal. In this situation, the goal was the launch of paratroopers to reach a position via air. About 120 Brazilian Army paratroopers who took part in the joint exercise with the U.S. Army were dropped from the KC-390 from the drop zone of Joint Readiness Training Center, a U.S. Army installation that specializes in receiving this type of joint training.
According to FAB Major Daniel Elias Souza, mission coordinator, coordination was more complex because the many aircraft that were part of the package departed from different locations and met at a common point. “In this challenge, we saw that our planning was in line with our goals, which we were able to meet,” he said.
In addition to the KC-390, nine C-17 and four C-130 aircraft participated in the flights, all from the U.S. Air Force. Some 1,600 paratroopers were dropped, in addition to 22 platforms with heavy equipment. “We realized that the KC-390 aircraft is compatible with this type of scenario, as well as with the FAB’s doctrine,” he added.
Service members of the 1°GTT achieved another milestone during the exercise with the crew’s complete operability in paratrooper drop. For the first time, the KC-390 carried out service members’ drop mission with a 100 percent operational crew comprised of FAB personnel.
During a visit to the exercise, Brazilian Minister of Defense Fernando Azevedo e Silva highlighted the interoperability of the Brazilian Armed Forces, enhanced by the joint participation of the FAB KC-390 and the Brazilian Army’s Paratrooper Brigade in Operation Culminating.
“It’s a historic day for the Brazilian Armed Forces in the unprecedented Culminating exercise, with the drop of paratroopers from the Paratroopers Brigade and the use of the FAB’s new aircraft: the KC-390,” he said.
The first KC-390 Millennium was delivered to the FAB in September 2019. After operating the multi-mission aircraft for nearly a year and a half, the FAB currently now has four KC-390 in its fleet conducting key missions for the country, such as Operation COVID-19, supporting the fight against the novel coronavirus pandemic, and the humanitarian assistance mission in Lebanon.
The participation of the KC-390 in trainings such as Operation Culminating is critical to improving the use of the aircraft. The operational capability and performance of the KC-390 are achieved through the accumulation of experiences in joint exercises, which also enables doctrinal development for the safe use of the aircraft.