Russia To Invest in Indigenous Superjet

 - December 23, 2019, 8:54 AM

Russia’s Ministry for Industry and Trade has confirmed its intent to spent 14.867 billion roubles ($239 million) on a multi-stage effort targeting the creation of a Russianized version of the Sukhoi Superjet 100 (SSJ100), dubbed the Superjet-New, with completion expected in 2024. The confirmation came on December 23, following leaks to the media of internal governmental papers mentioning this new allocation as well as an interim aircraft variant, dubbed Superjet-New-2020.

The additional funds will be provided as part of the government program known as Development of the Aviation Industry in 2013-2025. Funds will go to Sukhoi Civil Aircraft and its industrial partners over the next 24 months, beginning this month. Some money will be spent on alterations of existing aircraft systems to improve reliability and ensure higher comfort and flight safety. According to explanations given to the media, some equipment on the Superjet-New can be of foreign design, but production must take place in Russia.

This new cash injection follows a previous one worth 3.5 billion roubles in May 2019. Work under that contract was completed earlier this month, and it covered preparation of a design concept, lists of tests to be conducted and their timetable, some preliminary calculations, and preparation of digital models, among other things. According to the ministry, the work was done in a timely manner and enabled the program to proceed, including preparation for production. The ministry said it plans the next budgetary allocation for the Superjet-New in 2021, without providing any further details.

Historically, work on a completely Russianized Superjet commenced in March 2015, when minister for industry and trade Denis Manturov issued an order instructing the industry to reduce foreign content in the SSJ100, Tupolev Tu-204/214, and Irkut MC-21 as part of the broader efforts prescribed by the government Program for Import Substitution. Among other things, that order listed about 20 systems of the current-production SSJ100 whose design must be altered.

Since then, the effort saw a number of ups and downs. The work gained new momentum in April 2018, when two Iranian airlines signed letters of intent for the SSJ100R without U.S. content, and S7 Airlines selected the SSJ75, effectively a next-generation airplane with the seating capacity reduced to 75.

Later, however, the SSJ75 proposal drew criticism for allegedly having too small a market. Instead, SCAC was advised to reconsider the Superjet-NG seating 130 passengers. The latter proposal met more enthusiasm in government circles, but also a burst of poisonous public statements by S7 founder Vladislav Filyev, who pledged to withdraw the previous commitment in case the next-gen Superjet doesn't meet the airline’s original specification.