Russian Eagle Spreads its Wings

Yuri Lasking, Al Defaiya, Moscow. Photos by: Olga Korobkova01.09.2011 Russia
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This year Moscow International Aerospace Salon (MAKS-2011) broke all previous records. According to the show organizers MAKS hosted 842 companies from 40 countries as well as 241 aircraft of which 91 participated in flight demonstration program. The contracts signed at the show venue exceeded USD 16 billion.

The 10th show took place at the same facilities in Zhukovsky, Moscow region but with different ownership. MAKS is not anymore a step-child of the Gromov Flight Research Institute (Russian acronym LII) but a daughter company to the powerful Russian Technologies Corporation (RTC). The Corporation has been successfully implementing its ambitious project to establish the all Russia transport exhibition complex titled TVK-Rossiya. RTC take part of the LII grounds for the MAKS facilities where the Corporation is also going to run another huge show in the field high-tech and defense to be called Engineering Technologies.

As MAKS is going to be every uneven year, the Engineering Technologies next show is to start on June, 27 of 2012.

The RTC as well as another huge consortium – United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) have been responsible for the lion’s share of the Russian aircraft industry. Both corporations were established in 2006 with 100% state ownership. UAC combined all Russia’s design bureaus (Sukhoi, MIG, Ilyishin, Tupolev, Beriev, Myasichev) and most of the plants (just to mention the largest in Komsomolsk, Irkutsk, Uliyanovsk, Kazan, Novosibirsk, Nizhny Novgorog) in the field of fixed wing aviation. The UAC structure is under development but the corporation main products have been announced as Su-35 and MiG-35 combat aircraft with T-50 in the nearest future as well as Sukhoi Superjet (and MC-21 in future) in the field of commercial aviation.

RTC ownership of over 600 industrial enterprises brings under its umbrella all helicopter designers/ manufacturers as well as most of the UAC subcontractors in the field of avionics, engines and even materials including titanium alloys.

The RTC brand gave MAKS an unprecedented level of state and commercial support. It seems that all Russian/ CIS companies with even slight connection with the aerospace industry have been eager to display their products in Zhukovsky. Rosoboronexport became the main sponsor of the event hosting Prime-Minister Vladimir Putin visit to the show.

MAKS-2011 marked a number of debuts in both flight and static demonstration. For sure, the prime star of the show was the PAK FA T-50 display. Two prototypes of this Perspectivny Aviatsionnyi Complex Frontovoy Aviatsii (Front aviation prospect aircraft complex) used to fly as a group and separated during most of the show. The aircraft developer - Sukhoi Design Bureau claims T-50 as the Russia’s 5th generation combat aircraft pointing out the word “complex” which means in Russian “the aircraft capable to use all types of its weaponry under any conditions. At the moment the word “complex” is not more than advertisement as the aircraft tests are well on the way.T-50 is scheduled to come into service with the Russian Air Force not earlier than in 2016. The aircraft weaponry as well as its radar and avionics are still under development and hopefully the schedule will be fulfilled. The prototype stage of the aircraft got another prove through the week-end demonstration when the T-50 pilot stopped its flight during take-off due to the engine failure.


T-50 display put into the shadow all other Russian aircraft and helicopters even the debutantes: Sukhoi Su-35 multifunction combat aircraft (entered the Russian Air Force service last year), ship-borne MiG-29K for the Russian Navy, Mi-26T2 (the world’s most powerful rotorcraft), serially produced Kamov Ka-52 attack helicopter, etc. According to the State program the Russian Air Force will receive over 1500 new and 400 upgraded aircraft by the end of 2020 to become the US Air Force runner-up. The majority will be Sukhoi-27/35 multirole fighters, Su-34 front bombers, as well as a variety of Mil and Kamov helicopters.

This MAKS didn’t show any new contracts for the Russian Air Force. The local media mentioned a furious dispute between the Russian MoD and the industry for the prices on the new aircraft. With negotiations on the way the long awaited deals will be signed by the end of the year.

New figures came out during the Rosoboronexport CEO Anatoly Isaikin press-conference. The sole Russian arms trader announced portfolio exceeds USD 37 billion. In the beginning of 2011 the portfolio was estimated as USD 36 billion. With the first half year deliveries on sum of USD 5.9 billion, the new contracts figure estimation rounds to USD 7bln. Isaikin mentioned the UN embargo on Kaddafi’s Libya gave Russia USD 4 billion of losses, but some other fast deals (probably generated by the US / NATO phobia) equalized it well. Mr. Isaikin also mentioned that the deals with Egypt and Syria haven’t been stopped as no sanctions have been implemented.

In the field of commercial aviation the real stars were Airbus A-380 and Boeing-787 Dreamliner. Ironically the two rivals were placed shoulder to shoulder at the Zhukovsky airfield. A number of contracts in the field of commercial aviation were successfully announced.

According to the UAC they managed to sign firm contracts on 124 aircraft. The majority with 50 units to Aviacapital Service (RTC daughter) and 28 units to Ilyishin Finance was granted to a non-existing MC-21 short/mid-range aircraft. The aircraft was titled a “paper champion” by the Vedomosti Daily (the Financial Times’ Russian partner). The aircraft production is to start in Irkutsk with the first delivery to the customers to begin in 2016-2017 (the last date was mentioned by the Kommersant Daily quoting the RTC CEO).

Another 24 units came from the side of SSJ with 12 to Sky Aviation from Indonesia and 10 to local Gazpromavia. Worries were placed by Kommersant about what kind MC and SSJ it would be in the end due to the MAKS–announced idea to combine two projects in a single family.

As for the helicopters the Mi-171robust work-horse became a real champion with 40 units contracted by UTair and 39 by Gazpromavia. According to the local experts the sum of the deal signed by the Russian Helicopter Corporation (also the RTC daughter) will exceed USD 500 million.

The scale of the show gave a filling of a real boom in the field of Russian aviation both in military and commercial side to feed the Russian national emblem - the double-headed eagle.

The Russian media claim that local airlines are to buy 1600-1800 aircraft by 2025 mainly narrow-hull planes with 120-210 passengers. The question is how many aircraft will be labeled “made in Russia”? During the show Ilyishin Finance announced a deal on 20 Bombardier CS-100 and CS-300 to meet the hottest demand from the Russian airlines. So, the answer is still not clear.
 
 



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