Dubai Air Show

Irkut takes center stage in Russian aero industry

 - December 11, 2006, 11:09 AM

Three years after its creation, Irkut Corp. has established itself as a key player in still evolving aerospace and defense industry. It is one of the main pillars of the country’s new OAK conglomerate which aspires to become a sort of Russian equivalent to Europe’s EADS group.

Here at the Dubai 2005 show as part of the Rosoboronexport Russian industry exhibit in the East Hall, the company is promoting the latest variants of the Su-30 fighter dynasty, as well as the Beriev-200 amphibian, the Yak-130 jet trainer and a new family of unmanned aerial vehicles.

Since its presence at the last Dubai show in 2003, Irkut has extended its business base by taking a majority stake in the Yakovlev design bureau. The group now encompasses the historic Irkutsk aircraft factory, the Taganrog-based Beriev design bureau and the Russian Avionics company. In March 2004, Irkut raised $127 million in fresh capital through the Russian aerospace and defense industry’s first share flotation of almost a quarter of its equity (23.3 percent). Sukhoi itself holds a 13.23-percent stake, with institutional and private investors having 29.3 percent.

Irkut is now looking both east and west to expand its customer base and industrial partnerships.

This time last year the company completed the delivery of the initial batch of Su-30MKI fighters to India’s air force. The next 140 aircraft are now being produced under license by India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd., with deliveries scheduled through 2017.

Series production of the Su-30MKM variant has now begun for an order placed for Malaysia’s air force in 2003. The Russian fighter beat the Boeing F/A-18 to this deal.

The Su-30MKI is a highly maneuverable, multifunction fighter with canards and thrust-vectored engine controls. The aircraft’s further upgrade potential has been enhanced by the adoption of an open architecture  MIL-STD-1553B bus. It can carry precision weapons for engaging air, ground and sea targets.

According to Irkut, the thrust vector controls of the Su-30MKI’s AL-31FP engine give the fighter a strong edge in close-in air-to-air combat as well as improving its takeoff and landing performance to allow it to operate from shorter runways. The manufacturer insists that the Su-30MKI is more maneuverable than the lighter Dassault Rafale and Mirage combat jets, as well as the Eurofighter Typhoon.

The fighter’s cockpit features a phased array passive Bars radar that can track up to 15 aerial and surface targets and attack up to four of these at the same time.

To improve the support available to Su-30 export customers Irkut is establishing local support centers. In India this is being done in partnership with HAL. Irkut is also introducing a new system of integrated logistics support using software from the UK’s LBS company, which has also contributed to the product support networks of BAE Systems and EADS.

Meanwhile, the Be-200 amphibious jet is being offered for a variety of roles including firefighting, search and rescue, maritime patrols, ecological monitoring, as well as freight and passenger transport missions. Irkut claims that its aerodynamic efficiency is almost the same as that of a conventional aircraft in flight mode and it can land both in and out of the water. As a firefighter, the aircraft can pick up 12 tons of water. Its sealed fuselage means that it can be quickly converted to other roles.