The Brazilian Air Force First Troop Transport Group (1st GTT), known as Zeus Squadron, commenced the Third Phase of Operation Zeus at Anápolis Air Force Base (BAAN) on Monday (07/03). The primary objective of this exercise is to assess the operational suitability and efficiency of the KC-390 Millennium military transport aircraft in transporting the Astros LMU MK-6 vehicle of the Brazilian Army (EB), both on the ground and in flight. This operation, which will conclude on Friday (07/07), holds significant importance in solidifying the KC-390 Millennium project. Moreover, it signifies a noteworthy milestone in terms of interoperability between the Brazilian Air Force (FAB) and the Brazilian Army. By synergistically coordinating their efforts, they aim to ensure the sovereignty of the national territory in its entirety.
During the test, following the necessary preparations, the KC-390 Millennium aircraft was loaded with the Astros vehicle. The vehicle was then subjected to taxiing and various checks as outlined in the Test Plan to ensure the safety of all actions involving the loaded vehicle. With the success of the initial phases, a flight was conducted with the Astros vehicle on board, including maneuvers within designated airspace. The final landing, executed with maximum performance, further solidified the knowledge gained from previous experiences and marked the success of the operation. The vehicle was safely unloaded from the aircraft. Numerous entities are participating in this operation, including military personnel from the 1st GTT, Embraer, Avibras, the Department of Aerospace Science and Technology (DCTA), the Institute for Research and Flight Tests (IPEV), the Aeronautical Material Park Galeão (PAMA-GL), the Aeronautical and War Material Directorate (DIRMAB), and the Brazilian Army.
Major Aviator Vinicius Marcel Holdorf, a Flight Test Pilot who piloted the test aircraft, revealed that the evaluation of the KC-390 Millennium aircraft’s capacity to transport tanks has been ongoing since last year in Santa Maria. He said, “During that time, we tested the Guarani and M-113 vehicles of the Brazilian Army. The Astros launch vehicle presented the greatest challenge in this phase, further augmenting the KC-390’s capabilities and reinforcing the operational superiority of the Embraer project.”
Major Aviator Rafael Portella Santos, the Head of Operations for the 1st GTT, emphasized that the Astros LMU MK-6 holds a vital position among the Brazilian Army’s artillery systems, providing support in both training exercises and real missions. He said, “Its capability to launch rockets and missiles of various types and ranges makes it a crucial component of the Brazilian Army’s arsenal for engaging distant targets. Transporting this equipment aboard FAB’s wings will significantly enhance our operational reach in the desired scenarios.”
The Embraer C-390 Millennium is a medium-size jet-powered military transport aircraft designed and produced by the Brazilian aerospace manufacturer Embraer. With a load capacity of 26 tonnes (57,000 lb), the aircraft can be configured to perform various conventional operations such as troop, VIP and cargo transportation, and more specialised logistical operations such as aerial refuelling as a tanker. It can carry payloads of up to 26 t (57,000 lb), a medium helicopter, up to 80 soldiers or 66 paratroopers with full gear.
Astros II (Artillery Saturation Rocket System) is a self-propelled multiple rocket launcher produced in Brazil by the Avibras company. It features modular design and employs rockets with calibers ranging from 127 to 450 mm (5–17.72 inches). It was developed on the basis of a Tectran VBT-2028 6×6 all-terrain vehicle for enhanced mobility based on Mercedes-Benz 2028 truck chassis while later versions use Tatra 815-7 chassis.