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Brazil’s Embraer woos Saudi Arabia for military plane deal

A Brazilian delegation in front of an Embraer C-390 aircraft at the Singapore Airshow in February Reuters/Edgar Su
A Brazilian delegation in front of an Embraer C-390 aircraft at the Singapore Airshow in February
  • Saudi Arabia to replace ageing fleet
  • Hopes for 25-plane deal
  • Saudi defence spending up

Saudi Arabia is in “early engagement” with Brazilian planemaker Embraer over a deal to replace its ageing fleet of military transport aircraft.

Embraer is touting its C-390 Millennium transport plane as the ideal replacement for the kingdom’s Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules aircraft.

Embraer Defense & Security’s CEO João Bosco da Costa Junior told reporters: “They don’t have an open tender, but they need to replace their old C-130s. We did a lot of studies and concluded that the [Embraer] C-390 could deliver additional capability in this replacement process.”

A potential Saudi purchase could reach 25 units and Embraer expects the country to make a decision in two to four years, the executive added.

Saudi Arabia is maintaining one of the highest defence expenditures relative to GDP in the world, according to data analyst GlobalData, despite the current trend towards de-escalation with Iran. 

Defence spending will grow 4.5 percent a year to $86.4 billion in 2028, from $65.3 billion in 2022 and a defence budget of $69.1 billion for 2023, GlobalData said. 

However, the kingdom’s spending was 7.9 percent of GDP in the period 2019-2023, GlobalData said, compared with 3.1 percent for the US.

Saudi Arabia was ranked fifth in the table of world military spenders in 2023, behind the United States, China, Russia and India.

Embraer views India, Saudi Arabia, the European Union and the US as strategic markets for its defense unit and expanding its presence abroad with more C-390 sales has been a key goal.

In addition to Embraer’s home country, Portugal, Hungary, the Netherlands, Austria, the Czech Republic and South Korea have selected the C-390. Embraer has partnerships with Mahindra in India and Saab in Sweden to introduce the plane.

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