The last step by the Portuguese Air Force (FAP) to receive the new Embraer KC-390 aircraft, which will replace the Lockheed C-130 H/H-30 Hercules C-130 (C-130H) in FAP service since 1977, has already been given to fulfill the military capability intended by the Government.
On March 21, the Official Gazette published the order that “declares the building destined for the installation of a flight simulator for the KC-390 Weapons systems, to be built at Air Base N.11, of essential public utility”, signed by the Minister of National Defense and by the Secretary of State for Nature Conservation, Forests and Territorial Planning.
The document allows FAP to overcome a legal impediment and “proceed with the felling of three adult holm oaks”, located on land owned by the State and which are included in the Municipal Master Plan (PDM) of Beja as military facilities and spaces, located in the BA11 right of way.
With this statement, FAP can complete the investment of 9.8 million euros in BA 11, building the building for Squadron 501 and the flight simulator, works that will cost 5.3 million euros, and the requalification of the hangar. 131-264, whose works are already underway, with a base price of 4.3 million euros. The hangar undergoing major requalification was for many years “the home” of the Alpha-Jet, Squadron 103-“Snails”, suspended in 2018 with the end of life of aircraft received from Germany.
New flight simulator
To the almost 10 million euros, there is the acquisition of five KC-390 aircraft and the flight simulator, which involves an amount of more than 606 million euros, to which another 221 million euros must be added, both plus VAT, being this last item refers to logistical services, electronic equipment and the implementation of the aircraft acquisition and maintenance programme. These expenses were authorized by the Council of Ministers on 11 July 2019, for the acquisition of those assets from the Embraer, SA and Embraer Portugal, SA consortium, with the first aircraft expected to arrive at BA11 during the next year.
The entire investment is aimed at transferring Esquadra 501-“Bisontes” to the Beja unit, which operates the C-130H, with the relocation of the BA6 transport squadron, from Montijo, with a view to requalifying this base as a complementary airport to Portela. , in Lisbon. FAP has another transport squadron, Squadron 502-“Elefantes”, which operates the Airbus C295M.
According to the Brazilian website “Cavok-Asas de Informação”, which even published a map with the location of the new infrastructures, the simulator will be located north of the hangar in the new police station building. Next to the hangar will be a new building that will house Ground Support Equipment, containing specific tools and assets to maintain and operate the five Portuguese KC-390 aircraft.
The German company Rheinmetall Defense Electronics was the supplier chosen by Embraer to deliver the new simulator, which comprises three types of simulation for the crew of aircraft of Brazilian origin. A full flight motion simulator, a cabin procedures instructor and a cargo station instructor for cargo masters.
Trained in Brazil
According to “Cavok-Assas de Informação”, the first Portuguese crew of the KC-390, pilots and cargo operators, have already been trained in Brazil at Wing 2, in Anópolis, with the staff of the 1st Troop Transport Group. “Zeus Squadron”, of the Brazilian Air Force. Training was completed in November 2021.
The JN questioned the Air Force about the final budget involved in the works on BA11 and about the dates for the transfer of Squadron 501 and the arrival of the first aircraft to Beja, but the military branch did not respond in good time.
The unit has hosted for 38 years, since November 24, 1993, Squadron 552-“Zangões”, which operated the old and mythical Alouette III helicopters, and since February 2019 the new AW119MKII “Koala”. In addition to FAP pilots, the Squadron is responsible for training pilots for the Navy. The 552-“Zangões” will move to BA 1, in Sintra.
Squadron 601-“Lobos” with the Lockheed P-3C Cup+ Orion maritime patrol aircraft has been installed in Beja since February 19, 2008 and will remain at BA11, where Squadron 101-“Roncos” is also located, with the TBM-30 Epsilon aircraft, used for supplementary and basic piloting instruction. Between 1993 and 2009 she was relocated to Beja, the year she returned to , BA1, in Sintra. On July 1, 2020, 101-“Roncos” is transferred again to BA11.
“Wings of Portugal” and the late Alpha-Jet
Without being deactivated and waiting for the allocation of a new aircraft, but since July 13, 2018, Esquadra 103-Caraóis” has not flown. It arrived in Beja in January 1987, having on October 6, 1993, starting to operate the Alpha-Jet, aircraft received from the German Armed Forces after they left the Beja unit. In 2001, there was an acrobatic patrol in the FAP again and from 2005 on it was called “Wings of Portugal”, having been deactivated in 2010
Source: with agencies