Sukhoi/Boeing RRJ wins Russian state tender

 - January 23, 2008, 6:55 AM

The Russian Regional Jet (RRJ) bid submitted by Sukhoi, Ilyushin, Yakovlev and Boeing has won the Russian state tender for development of a new 70- to 80-seat regional jet. Russia’s Rosaviacosmos state agency initiated the tender last summer. The winner will get state funding to cover some research and development, provided the rest comes from commercial sources.

The competition placed the Sukhoi-led RRJ against the Tupolev Tu-414 and Myasishchev M-60-70. The Tu-414 posed a serious threat. A derivative of the 50-seat Tu-324, it required considerably less investment and it shares a high commonality with the model on which it is based. Further, the Russian government had already allocated $38.1 million for the Tu-324, scheduled for certification in 2005.

Sukhoi Civil Aircraft division general director Andrei Ilyin said the RRJ’s advantages over the competition centered on its family concept; closer work with airlines on definition of the family members; better suitability to the international market through partnership with Boeing and other leading Western companies; “joint funding” from the state budget; and Sukhoi’s own funds and commercial sources. “We have documented proof to back our claim of access to commercial funding, while the others did not,” Ilyin said.

The Sukhoi-led group can expect funding worth $46.6 million from the Federal Program for Civil Aviation Development until 2010 and possibly up to 2015. This funding, validated by the Russian government on Oct. 15, 2001, is allocated for “creation of a new regional aircraft.”

Separately, the program allocates $63.5 million of state funding for “a four to five metric ton engine for regional aircraft” in the 2003 to 2015 timeframe, provided the developer finds the remainder of the requisite funding to complete R&D. The choice between the NPO Saturn/Snecma SM146 and the Aviadvigatel/Pratt & Whitney PW800 proposal has yet to be made. Russia’s Central Institute of Aircraft Engines (TsIAM) has drawn a comparative study that favors the SM146, according to TsIAM general director Vladimir Skibin. The SM146 marries a Snecma DEM21 gas generator with a “cold section” from Aviadvigatel, the Russian engine specialist that mastered technologies of highly effective compressors on the AL41F military powerplant for fifth-generation fighters.

The program partners expect to choose an engine supplier this spring, and other major suppliers by August. They plan to fly the RRJ for the first time in 2006, and place it into service in 2007. Government projections show a market for 630 aircraft by 2022, including 150 for CIS airlines. Aeroflot already signed for 30 RRJs. According to the Moscow Times, an official from Air France said the airline is interested in taking up to 50 RRJs with French-built SM146 engines, provided the airplane meets the airlines’ requirement for regional aircraft.

Boeing reconfirmed its participation in the RRJ program last month when AVPK Sukhoi general director Mikhail Pogosyan came to Seattle to see Boeing civil airplanes president Alan Mulally. The two signed “a long-term agreement on the RRJ,” in which Boeing agreed to share with Russian partners its expertise and intellectual property in aircraft design, production, certification, marketing, sales, after-sales support and project management. Mulally said, “Boeing and Sukhoi have demonstrated one more time that they have potential to go forward, for mutual benefits of our countries.” Pogosyan added that “the two-year study together with Boeing revealed that a vast market is formed for a new, competitive regional airplane” and that “the RRJ project marries the multi-year expertise of Sukhoi, Ilyushin and Yakovlev in aircraft design with Boeing’s know-how.”

The RRJ family will include the basic RRJ-75, shortened RRJ-60 and extended RRJ-95, with all three versions to be available in basic and long-range variants.