New Cargo Plane Nears Commercial Production
Published: October 10, 2012 (Issue # 1730)
MOSCOW Ś Russia has moved closer toácommercial production ofáa military transport aircraft that will rival theáBoeing C-17 Globemaster.
Aádemonstration flight ofáthe upgraded Ilyushin-76 airlifter took place as President Vladimir Putin looked onálate last week.
Russia has been working toward domestic production ofáan improved version ofáthe airliner ever since it concluded iná2005 that efforts toáassemble it ináUzbekistan had failed.
Following theáflight Thursday, theáDefense Ministry signed aácontract with theáplane-maker, United Aircraft Corp., toábuy 39 craft worth 140 billion rubles ($4.5 billion).
Putin described theáagreement as theábiggest single deal foráthe Russian aircraft industry since theáSoviet break-up, andáhe noted that only theáUnited States manufactured similar airlifters.
ôIncidentally, no other country, as aámatter ofáfact, except us andáour American partners, produces this type ofámachine foránow,ö he said atáan industry meeting ináUlyanovsk.
Previously, one ofáthe biggest contracts foráRussian airliners came fromáAeroflot, which placed aáfirm order forá30 Sukhoi Superjets, estimated toábe worth more than $820 million.
Theánew Ilyushin-76, officially referred toáas Ilyushin-476 or Ilyushin-76MD-90A, is 1.5 meters longer than its predecessor andáhas aálarger airlift capacity, more energy-efficient Russian engines, aádigital dashboard andábetter wings. It can also fly longer distances.
TheáDefense Ministry is using Ilyushin-76s that are atáleast 20 years old andáwhose service life is onáthe verge ofáexpiring, said Vasily Kashin, anáexpert atáthe Center foráthe Analysis ofáStrategies andáTechnologies, aáresearch institution.
Theágovernment, including theáEmergency Situations Ministry, theáInterior Ministry, theáTransportation Ministry, theáFederal Security Service andáthe presidential administration, will order aáfurther 100 ofáthe planes toábe delivered byá2020, said Sergei Ivanov, theáKremlin chief ofástaff. Theáairliner is convertible intoáa firefighting plane or aáflying clinic, he said.
Additional orders could come fromáthe countryĺs private cargo companies. Ivanov said Ilyushin-76s are widely used commercially foráshipping flowers toáMoscow Ś presumably fromáthe Netherlands Ś seafood fromáthe Far East andásalmon fromáNorway.
Russia decided toámove production toáUlyanovsk after it had toácancel aácontract with China foráthe airliners because theáplant ináTashkent, Uzbekistan, couldnĺt assemble them, Kashin said. United Aircraft Corp. will use its Aviastar-SP unit ináUlyanovsk toáproduce theáaircraft.
Ivanov said China andáIndia could still be interested ináa deal.
Theánewer Ilyushin-76s will begin rolling off theáline iná2014, theáDefense Ministry said.
Kashin said theáUnited States is politically finicky about its arms exports, leaving theádoor open foráRussia toáexport toácountries like China.
China is developing its own airlifter ofáa similar class, theáY-20, but still has aálong way toágo, Kashin said.
Boeing exported some ofáits C-17ĺs toáBritain andáthe United Arab Emirates earlier this year.