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New era in the air force

Text: Marcell Burillák | Photo: Sztaniszláv Horváth, Ákos Pintér |  12:54 April 15, 2024

“The capabilities of the KC-390 usher in a new era in the history of the Hungarian air force” – this is how MoD State Secretary for Defence Policy, Force Development and Defence Industry Dr. Zsolt Kutnyánszky received the first military transport aircraft of Embraer. He introduced the new equipment – which, for the time being, has arrived in Hungary only for testing, and will soon be commissioned in the Hungarian Defence Forces together with another aircraft of the same type – in Kecskemét on 12 April.

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Due to increasing transport needs, the requirement of providing mobility and the withdrawal of AN-26 transport planes from the TOE, the Hungarian Defence Forces are going to procure two Embraer KC-390 military transport aircraft until the end of 2024. The first aircraft produced for Hungary arrived at Kecskemét airbase on 12 April, where it will stay for a couple of weeks for the time being to be tested on the ground and in the air, and then return to Brazil for the final assembly.

“This short period offers Hungarian specialists an excellent opportunity to familiarize themselves with the technology already well before the arrival of the aircraft” – said Dr. Zsolt Kutnyánszky, adding that the Hungarian Defence Forces are currently undergoing transformations. He emphasized that air policing and air defence are of outstanding significance, and therefore the modernization of the air force has high priority among all developments.

The modern KC-390 significantly increases the airlift capability of the Hungarian Defence Forces. Like the Gripen fighter jets, the Hungarian version of this aircraft type can transport up to 26 tons of payload. It is suitable for air-to-air refueling and an Intensive Care Unit/Patient Transportation Unit (ICU/PTU) can also be integrated into it onboard. Thanks to the latter, Hungary can conduct possible medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) missions using cutting-edge equipment.

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The more than 23.5-ton aircraft with a wingspan of 34 meters, maximum speed of 800km/h, service ceiling of 8000 meters and effective range of 6000 kilometers can carry a maximum of 80 troops with full equipment on a middle row of seats in its cargo hold. “The mobility function was another important factor to consider in selecting the aircraft. The Embraer KC-390 is capable of carrying heavy-weight cargo as well as cargo airdrop” – pointed out the state secretary.

Dr. Zsolt Kutnyánszky said that there is a need for determined and well-trained Hungarian soldiers to operate the high-tech assets.

“The pilots of the Hungarian air force are among the best ones, and in the age of dangers, they deserve outstanding moral and material appreciation. Therefore, the fighter pilots, the pilots of transport aircraft and trainers, as well as the pilots of medium-lift and attack helicopters, the ground crews and the Joint Terminal Attack Controllers/Forward Air Controllers (JTAC/FAC) receive high salaries. The most seasoned pilots may earn a gross salary of HUF 2.5-3 million per month” – said the state secretary.


On behalf of the developers, William Souza, a test pilot of the KC-390 staying in Hungary during April revealed that altogether 18 professionals – most of them engineers – have arrived in Kecskemét.

“We flew a total of 12 hours, first from the northern part of Brazil to the Canary Islands and then from there to Hungary. Due to the characteristics of the technology, we were able to carry out some tests only here, in Kecskemét, and we will return to Brazil for the last phase of the development process” – said the test pilot.

The first KC-390 with Hungarian marking is expected to be registered in Hungary in this autumn, whereas the other aircraft in early 2025. At present, ten Hungarian aircraft maintenance specialists are undergoing academic and hands-on training on the premises of the manufacturer in Brazil. Following the training of the aircrews, a number of trained ground and air crewmembers can start their service from this autumn.