The Kremlin has agreed to provide $3 billion for research and development on the Aviadvigatel PD-35, the largest turbofan ever conceived in Russia, according to Alexander Inozemtsev, head of the Perm-based design house that oversees the project. Although news of the allocation had surfaced earlier, Inozemtsev’s confirmation during a recent press tour of the design house marked the first official acknowledgment of the funding. According to him, the PD-35 and its smaller sibling, the PD-14, will keep Aviadvigatel’s 3,000-strong team of engineers and technicians busy for many years.
The 35-tonne-thrust (77,160-pound) turbofan stands as a candidate to power the CR929 next-generation widebody jetliner developed by CRAIC, a joint venture between China’s Comac and Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation (UAC). Although the manufacturer has yet to launch an engine selection process, it has already signaled its intent to invite bids from Rolls-Royce and GE, as well as possibly China’s CJ-2000. Schedules call for the CR929 to enter flight tests in 2025 and revenue service in 2027.
A twin-engine version of the Ilyushin Il-96-400M will become the first application for the PD-35, Inozemtsev confirmed. Under the Kremlin’s orders, UAC will launch production of the four-engine machine seating 380- to 415 passengers with existing PS-90A1 engines, having ditched Aviadvigatel’s proposal to supply the improved PS-90A3M. According to Inozemtsev, the twin-engine derivative will fly in 2025 and acquire certification two years later. Specifications call for the airplane to have a gross weight of 270 tonnes (595,240 pounds) and transport a 41-tonne payload 5,134 nm.
The baseline PD-35 will serve as the foundation for a family of engines with a thrust ranging from 25 to 50 tonnes. If the program proves a success, “Russia will not depend on anybody in long-range aviation and high-end industrial turbines,” Inozemtsev said.
Meanwhile, another proposal calls for a de-rated derivative of the baseline PD-35 to power the An-124 Ruslan. Current plans call for combustor trials to begin next year, completion of the first gas-generator in mid-2021, and the first engine to test in 2023.
Conceived as an up-scaled PD-14, from which it takes 16 key technologies, the PD-35 would feature fan blades made of composite materials as opposed to the hollow titanium blades on its predecessor. Another “must-have” technology involves the 3D printing of composite parts, using carbon-plastic thread and resin from local suppliers. According to Aviadvigatel, it has already employed 3D printing for engine parts in the nacelle and thrust reverser, for example, using metals produced from additive technologies on the PD-14. When applied to composites, 3D printing will achieve a huge leap forward. The Aviadvigatel and its industrial partners have already manufactured a number of prototypes and are perfecting technology for a production specimen, first for application on the PD-14 by 2022 and then on the PD-35.