A letter from the management of Russian carrier Aeroflot to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin earlier this year confirmed the airline's intention to acquire 11 Antonov An-148 and 40 Sukhoi Superjet 100 regional jets, alongside 25 An-140 turboprops by 2016.
Coming as it did after the airline selected Airbus and Boeing equipment for much of its fleet-renewal programme, the letter appears to have been prompted by Putin’s remarks about the need to support the national aerospace industry.
Significantly, the state-owned operator also plans to obtain 50 single-aisle Irkut MS-21 jetliners during 2016-20, thus confirming its commitment to domestic manufacturer United Aircraft Building Corporation (United Aircraft). It also demonstrates the continuing close ties between aerospace and aviation in Russia and neighbouring Ukraine, which is involved in joint-production programmes.
Following a thaw in relations between the two countries, Russia has resumed co-operation with Ukraine's aerospace companies. As well as joint production of the Antonov An-158 regional jet, Russia also will acquire more of the Ukrainian-designed Antonov An-124 heavy-transport aircraft and An-70 military transport.
United Aircraft, which was formed in 2007 to absorb around 20 major aerospace companies, has been modernising and renovating the Russian industry, with the goal of being the world's third-biggest aircraft manufacturer after the USA and Europe. Rationalisation includes an almost 50 percent cut in jobs and improved productivity.
The need to compete against the likes of Bombardier and Embraer, as well as mighty Airbus and Boeing, has provided a huge challenge to United Aircraft as it sets about industry renovation. In addition, its plans must accommodate partnerships with Ukraine and other former Soviet republics such as Uzbekistan (where the former Tashkent Aircraft Factory was recently declared bankrupt). For example, Antonov and Ilyushin programmes are not truly Russian, since all established transport aircraft were manufactured in Ukraine or Uzbekistan. Eventually, United wants to produce all these aircraft in Russia.
United Aircraft has absorbed large chunks of the industry, decided which programmes to continue, and begun investing in the future as the corporation embarks on new-aircraft development. In September, it announced a US$300 million investment to improve production facilities and build a new plant for the Irkut MS-21 programme, alongside US$230 million for Antonov An-148 development and production (on which Antonov had already spent US$360 million).
United completed acquisition of all Russian aircraft design bureaux and factories in the first stage of its reorganisation last year. In 2010, the plan has been to set up three divisions, identified as UAC Commercial, UAC Military, and UAC Special. The split between military and civil output is intended to become more balanced, moving from an initial 80:20 in 2009 to 50:50 – and eventually perhaps 40:60.
Ukraine is hoping a joint venture can be established soon to build Antonov aircraft in Russia. Discussions on an equal-partnership structure took place in September, with Russia reportedly in full agreement with Ukraine's proposals. Initially, the venture will oversee marketing and after-sales support for aircraft designed by Antonov Design Bureau in Ukraine. The An-148 regional airliner is in production in both countries, and resumed production of the An-124 could provide a second co-operation project.
United Aircraft - Ilyushin Il-96
Production of the four-engine, twin-aisle Ilyushin Il-96 jetliner has been continuing slowly, with as few as nine slated for manufacture by VASO in Voronezh during 2009-12. The Series 400T is the latest variant: a stretched freight version of the PS-90-engined Il-96-300.
After launch customer Aeroflot Cargo cancelled its order as the first delivery was taking place, Voronezh-based freight operator Polet agreed to accept the Il-96-400Ts. Deliveries of an initial three aircraft began in 2008 under 15-year financial leases from Ilyushin Finance, which acts as Antonov's marketing agent. The carrier has also taken options on a further three, for delivery from this year.
Irkut - MS-21
The Irkut MS-21 single-aisle airliner had a high-profile debut at July's Farnborough International air show, with a partial cabin mock-up on display and many order announcements. Development is being led by Irkut and the Yakovlev Design Bureau, under the United Aircraft umbrella. The MS-21 will be offered with two engine options: the Aviadvigatel PD-14 twin-shaft turbofan or Pratt & Whitney's PW1400G geared turbofan.
P&W is seeking Russian partners, with the western engine option allowing Irkut to offer a 12-15 percent operating cost advantage over current narrowbody designs. Earlier this year, conceptual definition of Aviadvigatel's PD-14 (initially dubbed PS-14) was said to have reached a firm design stage, with development costs put at US$1.1 billion.
The basic MS-21-200 variant will carry about 150 passengers in single-class configuration, and is to be followed by a 181-seat Series 300 and the stretched Series 400, accommodating 212 people. Standard and extended-range models are planned, with a very-long-range MS-21-200LR to follow.
MS-21 development has progressed from completion of the pre-design stage last year to the main design phase. Final assembly is to be performed by Irkut's IAZ plant in Irkutsk, Siberia, while Aviastar is to provide cabin furnishing and painting in Ulyanovsk. First flight is scheduled for 2014, with Russian certification expected in 2015, followed by entry into service and European approval a year later.
Russian state holding company Rostekhnologii has signed a letter of intent for 50 aircraft that are understood to be earmarked for Aeroflot. Five commitments have come from Moscow's Nordwind airline, with an undisclosed customer having reserved further aircraft.
At the Farnborough show, finance and leasing companies signed for almost 100 MS-21s and took additional options. Ilyushin Finance ordered 28 (with 22 options), Russian lessor VEB-Lizing committed to 15 (plus 15 options), and fledgling Malaysian lessor Crecom placed an order for 50. Privately owned Crecom aspires to gain exclusive MS-21 regional marketing rights and establish a support centre for the type.
United Aircraft perceives a global market for 1,200 MS-21s over 25 years, with just 300 earmarked for domestic sales. The company believe that the MS-21 can account for around 10 percent of the 150- to 220-seat class, equivalent to about 75 percent of production being exported.
Sukhoi - Superjet 100
The Sukhoi Superjet (SSJ) 100, which first flew in May 2008, is expected to receive Russian airworthiness approval by year's end, with European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) certification following in 2011. Russia's first major airliner since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the Superjet 100 completed eight months' noise testing in October, before embarking on high-intensity radiated fields trials. Italy's Finmeccanica has a 25 percent stake in Sukhoi Civil Aircraft.
The SSJ's PowerJet SaM146 turbofan engine, jointly developed by Russia's NPO Saturn and France's Snecma, received CIS and EASA approval in mid-2010. PowerJet expects to have made 13 production-standard engines by the end of this year, including one spare, and plans to produce 30-50 in 2011.
Despite slower-than-expected initial delivery of powerplants, Sukhoi was able to fly all four prototypes by February this year, using just six engines, with the fourth aircraft using the SaM146s from SSJ Number 1. By September, the four SSJ test aircraft had logged over 2,000 hours in almost 850 flights and static testing of the airframe had been completed. Almost 20 SSJs were in assembly by October.
Sukhoi Civil Aircraft has claimed an 8 percent fuel-burn advantage for the SSJ over the competing Embraer 190 and 195, with a full 9,800kg payload. Operating costs per passenger and per flight are stated to be 6-8 percent below those of the jet’s direct competitors.
Sukhoi handles sales of the aircraft in Russia, China, India, the Middle East, and South-East Asia, while Italian partner SuperJet International covers Europe, North and South America, and Africa, Oceania and Japan. Much of the Superjet's appeal to customers outside of Russia is attributed to a high level of Western aerospace content and support.
Lufthansa Technik Logistik will provide spare-parts distribution services for SuperJet International at Frankfurt International airport, under a new, five-year contract.
Orders for the SSJ have now passed the 150 mark. In October, Russian carrier UTAir said it would order 75- and 95-seat SSJ variants to replace its Tupolev Tu-134s. Atlant-Soyuz, which is controlled by Moscow's city government, has said it is considering ordering about 30 SSJs.
In September, US engine lessor Willis Lease Finance agreed contracts for six Superjets (plus four options), while
new business announced at Farnborough in July included the firming up of a 30-strong order from Indonesian carrier Kartika Airlines. Preliminary deals were also struck covering 30 Superjets (plus 15 options) with new, Bermuda-based aircraft lessor Pearl Aircraft and 12 (plus 12 options) with Bangkok-based Orient Thai Airlines.
Alitalia, which received demonstration flights in early October, is understood to require 20 aircraft – possibly from Pearl's lease fleet – while Lufthansa has also has been reported to be a potential customer. Russian gas company Gazprom has an "agreement of intent" for 10 aircraft for 2013-15 delivery. A letter of intent from Hungarian carrier Malev for up to 30 Superjets may be converted into an order before next year.
First deliveries are scheduled for the turn of the year, with initial aircraft going to Aeroflot, Armavia, and Finance Leasing Company. In 2012, Superjets will go to Avialeasing, Kartika Airlines, and Laos-based Phongsavanh Airlines, which has a tentative agreement for three aircraft and six options. Sukhoi expects to ramp up the production rate to 50 aircraft a year by 2014 and subsequently increase it to 70 a year.
Antonov - An-124
Although the aircraft has been out of production since 1995, 20 new An-124 heavy freighters are planned for manufacture by 2020 to meet the requirements of the Russian state arms procurement programme, although final numbers have not yet been published.
Cargo operator Volga-Dnepr Airways has wanted to see the programme resumed and said at Farnborough International that it understood Russia's defence ministry might be the first customer. United Aircraft said the manufacturer's business plan anticipates that commercial operators might order new-build aircraft in numbers similar to those for the defence ministry.
United Aircraft has charged Irkut with managing its commercial aircraft projects (excluding the Sukhoi Superjet 100) and is to consolidate production and global marketing of the Antonov An-148 regional jet at its Irkut division. The 85-seater entered service in June last year with Ukraine's Aerosvit Airlines and production is being increased.
Two An-148s were delivered last year, while completion of seven more has been scheduled for 2010, increasing to 12 a year, and subsequently an annual rate of 24. This contrasts with last year's plan to build five An-148s in 2009, 18 this year, 36 in 2011, and 50 a year from 2013 onwards.
The first Russian-built serial-production Antonov An-148, one of four flying in with Rossiya, was returned to the factory in July for modification aimed at improving performance. Work was expected to include consideration of re-engineing the aircraft with the PowerJet SaM146 turbofan, the introduction of changes to the cabin interior and an improved heating system.
Powerplant manufacturer Motor Sich has said it had a long-term agreement to supply Progress D-436 engines to Antonov, which was "to equip the first 50 serial An-148s [to allow Motor Sich] to break even on the development costs". Motor Sich expected to provide 36 D-436s this year, with 60 being planned for 2011 delivery under an agreement with Ilyushin Finance. Rossiya was scheduled to have received its fifth An-148 by September, with the fleet being acquired via Ilyushin Finance.
Next year, Russia will start to produce the Antonov An-158, a stretched variant of the 85-seat An-148 regional jet, with a payload of 99 passengers. It has an increased takeoff weight of 43,700kg and a maximum range of some 2,500 km.
The aircraft was unveiled and first flown earlier this year and deliveries should begin in 2011. Production of the An-158 in Ukraine is planned at a rate of 12 a year.
At this year's Farnborough International air show, Ilyushin Finance signed an order for ten Antonov An-158s and took options on a further ten. The aircraft are scheduled for delivery in 2011-13.
The manufacturer has predicted a requirement for up to 200 aircraft, including planned cargo variants, in the coming five years. Antonov also predicts demand in the same period for some 60 examples of the An-168 business-jet version, which seats between eight and 40 passengers.
[Subhead:] Tu-204 & Tu-214 and SM
The future of Tupolev's Tu-204 remains clouded after Atlant-Soyuz cancelled an order for 15 earlier this year. Discussions reported between Syria and Russia for two Tu-204-100As might provide some respite. Previously, an Iranian order for five examples was stymied because the customer wanted US-made Pratt & Whitney PW2037 engines. Five aircraft were delivered last year to Air Korvo, Cubana, Red Wings, and VTB Leasing.
Because of reports of poor reliability, United Aircraft has reworked the basic, 210-passenger Tu-204-100, the short-body -300, and higher-weight Tu-214 models to create the SM, scheduled to succeed current variants from next year until 2016 (when the Irkut MS-21 is planned to enter service). About 100 are expected to be built in the period.
Changes include more-efficient Aviadvigatel PS-90A2 engines, a new auxiliary-power unit, revised avionics, and increased use of composites and aluminium-lithium materials to reduce operating empty weight by up to 2,000kg.
A PS-90A2-powered Tu-204 test aircraft flew in October last year and Tu-204/Tu-214SM type certification is planned for 2011.
The maximum range of the Tu-214 with 210 passengers in all-economy cabin configuration is 6,200 km. With 164 passengers in a typical two-class cabin, the range increases to 7,200km. Launch customer Ilyushin Finance has ordered 31 Tu-204SMs (plus 30 options) for delivery during 2010-12.
Two years after United Aircraft elected to develop the 102-seat Tu-334 airliner as a large-cabin business-jet, the project has foundered. The aircraft does not appear in the Ukraine state aviation development plan covering the period to 2015 and no budget funds have been set aside, leaving its future in doubt.
The Tu-334 made its first flight in 1999, but development has been slow because of budget problems. Two have been flown and the design has received type and noise certificates. It was to be manufactured by KAPO in Kazan and at the Aviant plant in Kiev.
Two years ago, United Aircraft was saying Russian government agencies would buy "not less than 50" Tu-334 VIP variants to replace military-operated Tu-134s. Alongside the Tu-334, United Aircraft planned to market SSJ100s primarily to large, scheduled airlines flying from high-quality airports and the An-148 to smaller regional airlines operating at smaller, less-developed aerodromes. It wanted to offer the three designs to three different markets "so as to avoid unnecessary internal competition".