After consolidating the nation's aerospace design and manufacturing entities under a single umbrella of the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) in 2007, the Russian government is now pursuing an aggressive growth strategy for civil aircraft. Russia needs to shift the heavy weightage that military programmes command in this sector and balance it with civilian programmes.
The new strategy includes the development of commercial transports of various sizes, said UACs director general Alexei Fyodorov.
Speaking to the media at the Farnborough air show, Fyodorov said the defence-oriented UAC, which currently generates just about 10 per cent of its revenues from civilian products, now intends to double the share to about 20 per cent of its business by 2015, and eventually to 50 per cent by 2025. He remarked that the market for civilian aircraft is about five or six times larger than that for military aircraft, and hence needs to be developed quicker.
Fyodorov said that the first real UAC product would be the MS-21, a 150/210-seat mid-range aircraft that would cost in excess of ruble150 billion ($6.5 billion) to produce. Half the funding for the project would come from Moscow.
Russian aerospace firms Ilyushin, Sukhoi, Irkut and Yakovlev would be involved in its development and production and its first flight would be targeted for 2013. Very likely, the aircraft would be pressed into service anytime between 2015 and 2017.
Fyodorov also said that the UAC intended to develop and manufacture a short or medium-range wide body passenger aircraft, which would allow the UAC to slip into the international market more easily, with rivals Boeing and Airbus dominating the long-range wide body market.
The company is also developing an upgraded version of the IL-76 freighter with all-new avionics, and much better fuel efficiency. Fyodorov said the new IL-76 is slated for first flight in 2010. Fyodorov extended an invitation to "all global players" to be suppliers on the project, while observing that competition in the global market with Boeing and Airbus would be tough.
The MS-21 is the second offering from Russia, following the Sukhoi SuperJet100 regional aircraft that took its first flight last month.
However, deliveries to its launch customer Aeroflot would be a year behind schedule, and would start around late 2009.
Fyodorov said the delay was on account of "technical" issues, as the jet was "our first experience to integrate so many different systems." He said that after the first delivery, the production schedule would be expedited to deliver 250 SSJ100s by the end of 2012.
The company has 73 firm orders thus far.