Portugal’s aerospace and defense industry has a small but strong industrial base in several areas, including engines, air traffic infrastructures, aircraft, cabin interiors, electronics, tools and support technologies, structures, materials, and production. Aviation maintenance is also important and recognized internationally in civil and military aircrafts.
The Aerospace, Defense, and Space (AED) cluster continued to be a priority and was labeled as a “Strategic National Competitiveness Cluster” by the Portuguese Government. Created in 2016, the AED Portugal cluster currently has over 100 entities that export around 87% of its production, generating a turnover of more than 1.72 billion euros.
The national space strategy, Portugal Space 2030, sets new targets for developing the sector. In 2019, the Government created “Portugal Space” (the Portuguese Space Agency), a private, non-profit organization to promote and strengthen Space in Portugal, its ecosystem and value chain for the benefit of society and economy in the country and worldwide. Portugal Space acts as a business and development unit for universities, research entities, and companies, as stated in the Portugal Space 2030 Strategy.
Portugal approved a new military programming law in 2019 with a forecasted expenditure of approximately $5.3 billion through 2030. The country is primarily focused on enhancing its defense capabilities to secure its maritime borders, develop its cyber warfare capabilities and reinforce its assets to better support the missions where Portugal is involved under NATO, U.N. or EU mandates. The planned defense expenditure may contribute to improve Portugal’s NATO goal of 2% of GDP dedicated to military spending.
The U.S. has been traditionally an important supplier of aerospace and defense equipment and components, competing directly with other countries (e.g., Israel) and EU countries (e.g., Italy, Austria, and Spain). U.S. manufacturers are well-positioned to benefit from a growing market where defense imports are expected to increase over the next couple of years with the recent acquisition of the KC-390 from Embraer and other planned strategic acquisitions.
In addition, the Portuguese Air Force is now responsible for all aerial firefighting operations and management, including leasing the necessary aircrafts ranging from light helicopters to amphibious waterbombers needed to combat wildfires. The last tender to lease aerial firefighters was launched in 2019 for 2020-2023. The Portuguese Air Force is also assessing its current fleet of aircraft to upgrade or acquire new equipment that can be used in aerial firefighting.
Nevertheless, US exporters should be aware that, like in many EU countries, there is a push to buy European, namely from the European Defense Agency. Engaging with the Portuguese Government and identifying local partners as early as possible is highly recommended.
The best prospects for U.S. exporters exist in the following segments: commercial aircraft, business jets, turboprops, helicopters, UAVs, structures, propulsion systems, subsystems for aerospace vehicles; military aircraft, air defense systems, spacecraft, launch systems, communications systems; access control, identity management, integrated systems, security services.
U.S. exporters looking to export to Portugal must demonstrate a clear competitive advantage. A U.S. company must commit time and resources to enter or expand within the Portuguese aerospace and defense market. Identifying a local partner is the least risky market entry strategy for most U.S. suppliers to enter the Portuguese aerospace and defense supply chain.
U.S. suppliers interested in the Portuguese market should connect with the U.S. Commercial Service in Portugal. Portuguese companies often seek technology that may add value to the projects they aim to deliver in Portugal and abroad. They are often proactive in reaching out to U.S. suppliers with specific requests for quotes.
As far as potential future opportunities, these include helicopters, armored vehicles, surveillance vessels, upgrading the existing fleet of F-16 and other aircraft and aerial firefighting equipment and solutions.
Key Government Regulatory Agencies
- Portuguese Air Force - https://www.emfa.pt/
- Ministry of National Defence - https://www.defesa.gov.pt/pt
- AED Cluster Portugal - https://www.aedportugal.pt
- IDD Portugal Defence - https://observatorioauto.pt/
- Portugal Space - https://ptspace.pt/
Leading Products – NAICS
- 33641 - Aerospace Product and Parts Manufacturing
- 488190 - Aircraft maintenance and repair services
- 488119 - Other Airport Operations
- 336412 - Aircraft Engine and Engine Parts Manufacturing
Portuguese National Civil Protection (http://www.prociv.pt/en-us/Pages/default.aspx)