Brazilian KC-390 completes first aerial refuelling mission

Embraer’s KC-390 Millennium tanker-transport has marked a major operational milestone in Brazilian service, after the Força Aérea Brasileira (FAB, Brazilian Air Force) completed the type’s first official air-to-air refuelling (AAR) mission on August 9.

The successful completion of the KC-390’s first operational AAR exercise, which was carried out over the Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro, was announced by the FAB on August 18. The flight involved KC-390 (serial FAB 2857) and personnel from the air arm’s 1st Troop Transport Group (1º GTT); the 1st Squadron of the 1st Transport Group (1º/1º GT) and the 1st Fighter Aviation Group (1° GAVCA), along with instructors from the type's original equipment manufacturer, Embraer.

Embraer and FAB crew members pose with the Brazilian flag in front of KC-390 (serial FAB 2857) after completing the type's first operational AAR training exercise on August 9, 2022.
Embraer and FAB crew members pose with the Brazilian flag in front of KC-390 (serial FAB 2857) after completing the type's first operational AAR training exercise on August 9, 2022. FAB

For the KC-390’s first operational AAR training exercise, two 1° GAVCA-operated Northrop F-5EM/FM Tiger II fighters departed Base Aérea de Santa Cruz (BASC, Santa Cruz Air Base) and linked up with the Millennium. The two fighters received a total of 6,393lb (2,900kg) of fuel from the KC-390 before returning to their respective base. The Millennium is capable of transferring up to 50,000lb (22,679kg or 25 US tons) of fuel to receiving aircraft, delivering it at a minimum rate of approximately 800 litres per minute using the hose-and-drogue method of AAR. The KC-390 can be fitted with two hose-and-drogue refuelling pods (with one being carried under each wing).

The FAB praised the success of this training mission in announcing its completion on August 18, highlighting that “after a week of training, the KC-390 aircraft and its crew became capable of carrying out [AAR] missions, leaving the FAB ready to meet the most diverse strategic demands.”

A pair of FAB-operated F-5EM/FM Tiger II fighters form up alongside KC-390 (serial FAB 2857) during the latter's first operational AAR mission on August 9, 2022. The two fighters hail from the 1° GAVCA at Santa Cruz Air Base.
A pair of FAB-operated F-5EM/FM Tiger II fighters form up alongside KC-390 (serial FAB 2857) during the latter's first operational AAR mission on August 9, 2022. The two fighters hail from the 1° GAVCA at Santa Cruz Air Base. FAB

Aviator Colonel Renato Leal Leite, commander of Base Aérea de Anápolis (BAAN, Anápolis Air Base) – home of 1º GTT – and the director of this AAR exercise, said: “We have taken another step in the process of preparing our crews for the KC-390 Millennium multi-mission aircraft. The ability to perform in-flight refuelling in a country of continental dimensions like Brazil is essential in a modern theatre of operations and brings us closer to the desired operational excellence.”