Kremlin Steps Up Domestic Aircraft Output As Sanctions Bite

 - June 16, 2022, 12:10 PM
Ilyushin's Il-114 turboprop regional airliner is one of several Russian-made aircraft for which production rates are being increased. (Photo: Vladimir Karnozov)

Russia’s ministry for industry and trade has issued a revised plan calling for the production of 1,000 aircraft by domestic manufacturers through 2030. The policy, which is part of a coordinated Kremlin effort to counter disruption to the country’s air transport sector from Western sanctions barring imported aircraft and parts, calls for 564 “major passenger types” with the following breakdown: 12 Ilyushin Il-96-300 widebodies, 270 of the new MC21-310 and 70 Tupolev Tu-214 narrowbody jetliners, 142 of Sukhoi’s new version of the SSJ-100s and 70 Il-114-300 regional turboprops. For operators flying shorter routes, Russian manufacturers have also been instructed to produce more of the Ladoga, L-410, and Baikal commuter turboprop types.

“At the same time, helicopter manufacturers shall make 746 shipments. Their primary products shall be the Ansat, for a total of 201, and the Mi-8, for a total of 276, since these two types are most popular,” government minister Denis Manturov added while speaking to Russian journalists at the International Economic Forum being held in St. Petersburg this week.

Manturov did not say explicitly where some of these aircraft might be exported but mentioned Egypt, Iran, India, Algeria, and the United Arab Emirates among the friendly countries with whom detailed discussions are being held during the forum.

The need to correct earlier aerospace production plans arose in late March when President Vladimir Putin issued a directive after the governmental meeting on aircraft manufacturing and civil aviation development. “Together with the ministry for transportation, my ministry has put together a new program for aviation industry development until 2030. This document includes a new plan for the production of airplanes and helicopters, optimized for nomenclature, production runs, and delivery schedule,” Manturov explained.

Touching on the issue of customer commitments, Manturov said that the Russian carriers responded to the two ministries’ questionnaire. “In the conditions of Western sanctions and restrictions, the airlines have assured us that the plan we have compiled for new aircraft production will be completely met with their solvent demand,” he said.

Apart from the local design production, the domestic manufacturers have also been tasked “as necessary” with reverse engineering and production of local analogs to vendor items that used to be imported. This follows a recent move by Russian air safety regulator Rosaviatsiya to issue certificates to five Russian aerospace groups to develop parts for imported aircraft, including widely used Airbus and Boeing models. The agency also has waived requirements for Russian airlines and their maintenance organizations to only use parts certified by FAA and EASA.

Russian airlines are increasingly suffering from the economic sanctions imposed by the West for the Russian invasion of Ukraine. As partial compensation, the Kremlin has promised them subsidies worth 110 billion Roubles on operational activities, deputy chairman of the Russian government Andrei Belousov said. After Airbus and Boeing stopped providing technical support for their aircraft deployed in the Russian fleet, the airlines warned that without governmental aid the domestic air transportation industry faces degradation, loss of professional pilots and technicians, and bankruptcies.

To address the already existing shortage of jetliners that may safely fly abroad without fear of being seized, the Kremlin ordered the local industry to resume production of old Tupolev types. Last month, Aleksei Pesochin, Prime Minister of Russian Federation member state Tatarstan, informed the Republic’s State Council that the KAPO factory in Tatar capital Kazan is going to complete 3 Tu-214s next year, 7 units in 2024, and then continue at a rate of 10 aircraft annually.

“In order to ensure this, we need to build an industrial cooperation chain,” said Pesochin. “Despite big investments coming to the factory from the federal budget, there are still some grey zone and uncertainties.” Because of these difficulties, the local manufacturers could, at best, produce only about 110 new jetliners by 2025. Accordingly, Rostec—a state corporation that controls all aircraft manufacturers in the country—said it will continue to keep the Il-96-300 in limited serial production at a rate of two a year while admitting the type is unpopular with airlines.

Rostec sees this approach as being necessary to bridge the gap before Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation can get revised versions of the SSJ-100 and MC-21 into production. These designs have both had to be adapted to take account of the unavailability of Western systems, including engines.