Russia plans to build 1,000 aircraft by 2030, using local parts

Western sanctions mean that Airbus and Boeing will neither deliver new planes nor spares in the future.
Ameya Paleja
Maiden flight of MC-21
Maiden flight of MC-21, a locally made Russian aircraft.

Denis Fedorko/Wikimedia Commons 

The Russian aviation industry has decided to work alone and produce 1,000 aircraft before the end of the decade as it aims to end its reliance on foreign aircraft manufacturers like Airbus and Boeing, Reuters has reported. Industry experts see this as an indication that Russia's relations with the West are unlikely to thaw in the near future.

In the wake of Russian aggression in Ukraine, the Western nations responded by putting in place tough sanctions that were meant to effectively kill the aerospace industry in the former Soviet country.

Even though Russia is looked at as a major player in the aerospace industry, its domestic market is dominated by the likes of Airbus and Boeing. The two airplane manufacturers enjoy a 95 percent market share in the country. In March, Interesting Engineering reported that Russia has quickly enacted laws that allowed these planes to fly and obtain airworthiness certificates locally too.

However, as the conflict has prolonged, these measures are falling short and Russia needs a long-term plan to keep planes in the air.

Russia's ambitious goal of self-reliance

Under Vladimir Putin, the Russian aerospace industry has found new vigor after state-owned aerospace corporation, Rostec, which was founded in 2007. Now, Russia's only manufacturer of civil aircraft has decided that it will cater to all of the industry's needs, and the foreign-made aircraft will drop out of the fleet of Russian airlines.

In responses sent to Reuters, the corporation said that it does not see Airbus and Boeing planes being delivered to Russia in the future and has embarked on a journey to build new aircraft with locally made parts. Rostec will begin this process by substituting imported parts such as the Pratt & Whitney engines on the medium-haul MS-21 planes.

It will also make 20 new aircraft every year of its regional jet Superjet-new from 2024. Between now and 2030, Rostec plans to make 142 Superjet News, 270 MS-21s, 70 turboprop Il-114, 70 medium-haul Tu-214 aircraft as well as 12 wide-body jets, Il-96.

How is the Chinese experiment going?

The Russian move echoes the Chinese decision to compete with the Airbus A320 and Boeing's 737 Max aircraft with its homegrown C919, which was taken without the pressure of sanctions. China took this step 14 years ago and it was only earlier this month that the aircraft inched closer to certification.

The aircraft is assembled in China but relies heavily on the West for components such as avionics as well as engines, a Reuters report said. While this single-aisle aircraft could address Chinese aviation needs in the coming decades, for the country to be truly self-reliant, it needs to substitute the components with locally made ones, a move that is expected to take at least a decade and many billion dollars, experts told Reuters.

The Chinese experience provides a glimpse of how tough the Russian plan will be to execute in the timeframe it has imposed on itself. Experts told Business Insider that even after spending huge amounts of resources, Russia could end up using second-grade technology simply because the available best technology remained out of reach.

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