Ukrainian aviation industry: On the way to sky
After the USSR had collapsed, Ukraine inherited the main design and production base of all the "An" aircraft concentrated on the Kyiv and Kharkiv
aircraft factories. For the last 20 years, a number of joint projects with Russia have appeared on this basis: the military transport airplane An-70, regional passenger-cargo An-140, and continuation of production of the gross weight production cargo airplane An-124 "Ruslan". However, all of these projects have been in limbo for many years, including due to the fault of Moscow, which tightens the definition of the final terms of cooperation.
However, at the end of the summer the State Enterprise "Antonov" (Kyiv, Ukraine) and JSC "Aviakor Aircraft Factory" (Samara, Russia) signed a "roadmap" of establishment of the joint venture for the development of the Program of the An-140 aircrafts. It happened within the MAKS-2013 aviation and space salon in Moscow in response to the protocol of the 5th meeting of the Ukrainian-Russian Intergovernmental Commission of 12.07.2012. The "roadmap" provides for the formation of a working group to develop a set of documents for the further promotion of the AN-140 program, including draft business plan.
In the meantime, vice Prime Minister of Ukraine Yuri Boiko confirmed that the agreement on restoration of serial production of "Ruslan" could be signed with the Russians until November. This could be done at a meeting of the Committee on Economic Cooperation of the intergovernmental commission chaired by both prime ministers. According to Boiko, the resumption of the An-124 production is important not only for the domestic aviation industry, but also for the whole economy: "We will get a huge selling market and the ability to produce as many "Ruslan" aircrafts, that it would be economically sound. In addition, that will give orders to a number of the allied enterprises. This is a unique aircraft, which has a very high potential in all sectors of the world economy. It will be the positive example, on the basis of which our cooperation will develop in the future".
However, the Kremlin is not in a hurry to meet the wishes of Kyiv. President and designer general of the SE “Antonov” Dmytro Kiva complains that joint testing of AN-70 stopped in April. The Russians have not participated in testing since November, "we have repeatedly and formally invited them, but have not received any official response,” the top manager said. “I decided to stop testing, so that the results achieved by ourselves won’t be challenged later. The arrangements for the production of transport aircrafts at the Kazan aviation plant are also not fulfilled. This sad story, unfortunately, is associated with the political situation. The agreement on the joint production was concluded in the early '90s. In October 2012, the northern neighbors refused to accept technical documentation on the model.
In August, against the background of the "customs war", Russian deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin expressed doubts about the feasibility of further aviation cooperation with Ukraine, including on the An-124 and An-70. According to the official, the problem is that "another party is reluctant to agree on the modernization of the individual units of “Ruslan”. We are not going to wait any longer and we are to make use of foreign experience, localizing all the production in our territory and abandoning the Ukrainian services. Whom will they work with? The Chinese? China, too, has far advanced in this respect. Why do they need Ukraine? I am truly worried about the future of our bilateral industrial cooperation". In addition, Rogozin called the An-70 almost a direct competitor to the Russian Il-476 (or more precisely, Il-76MD-90A).
Experts object: the Russian "analog" lags behind the An-70 in many respects. Russian military industrial sector expert Alexander Goltz admits that the Ukrainian machine surpasses the existing and prospective foreign counterparts, including the European A400M: "Maximum carrying capacity of An-70 is 47 tons, while that of the European rival is 37 tons, the cargo volume is 425 and 340 square meters respectively, etc. In addition, Ukrainian aircraft costs $ 67 million, and the A400M - 145 million euros; operating cost is also twice less. Advantages over C-130J-30 (U.S.) and Shaanxi Y-9 (China) are even more".
If to compare An-70 with Il -476, Ukrainian aircraft is capable of carrying 98% of the basic types of federal weapons, whereas Il-476 - only 70 %. An-70 takes on board 19 units of technique, Il -476 - only 9. The fact is, director of the Center for Army, Conversion and Disarmament Valentyn Badrak explains ForUm, that section of the cargo compartment of Il-476 is much smaller than that of any modern military transport aircraft - AN-70 , C- 17 , A-400M and even Chinese Y-20 (created with the help of SE "Antonov"): "Yes, it can carry a portion of the arms in parts, but the recent conflicts in the Caucasus and elsewhere have shown the need for equipment commitment to combat immediately after landing, or it may simply fall into the hands of the enemy. Moscow military men recognized that a return to the An-70 project in 2009 (just after the conflict in South Ossetia) was reasoned by its ability to throw weapons ready for action. "In addition, "An" can take off from unprepared runways of 607 m and from the equipped ones of 310 m, whereas the laden Il-76MD-90A requires a 2100m of equipped runway. Moreover, the Russian aircraft weighs about 210 tons, and the An-70 - about 125-140 tons. Ability rating suggests that the similar combat missions need half as many of An -70 aircrafts, comparing with Ils.
Therefore, Kyiv has already warned the Kremlin against hasty decisions. Boiko said that refusal of the Russians to work on the An-70 will result in losses for both parties. Ukrainian Ambassador to Russia Volodymyr Yelchenko recently emphasized: “This aircraft needs the political will of the northern neighbor to enter the army and the market. After all, there are three main areas where the combined potential of our countries at times exceeds the capabilities of competitors being 7, 9, 15 years ahead of them. These are aviation, space and nuclear energy. Everyone understands it, but not everyone wants to admit ... Drowning in conversations, we lose the advantage that we still have; meanwhile the rivals do not sleep. What will we do then? Buy Mistrals, Boeings, Airbuses and so forth?”
Kiva adds that he is not against the withdrawal of Moscow from the project. In his opinion, that will harm Russia first of all, as the project involves 135 Russian companies, and only 6 Ukrainian. Meanwhile, the Cabinet is studying alternatives for production of An- 70 and other aircraft, and already has preliminary arrangements with two potential partner countries. Although, analysts doubt the possibility of self-production of a liner on the Ukrainian capacities, Kiva reassures: "refinement" of a model is stipulated as a separate provision in the state program for economy revitalization for 2013-14. Even without Russian orders, taking into account the existing competitive advantages, specialist assesses the potential demand for the aircraft in the 54-57 units in Asia, 15-23 in Africa and about 8 in Latin America. The project will need at least 500 million UAH to implement these marketing plans in the coming years. As for the domestic market, transport expert Vyacheslav Konovalov assesses its need for the An-70 in 10-20 units.
In about a year, An-70 will receive a civil version, after the leading Ukrainian engine manufacturer for airplanes and helicopters "Motor Sich" will finalize the passenger modification of the main engine. Goltz is sure: the aircraft with such flight characteristics may be in demand on the commercial market.
Of course, it's not just An-70, or "Ruslan". Perhaps the most famous Ukrainian production is a passenger line An-148/158. Thus, An-148 is a short-haul version with a range of up to five thousand km and a capacity of 80 passengers, and An-158 is a regional airliner with a range of up to 3100 km for 99 people. The first is working on airlines since 2009 (including Russian ones), and in the coming years there can be sold up to 200 units.
In 2011, at the famous air show in Le Bourget (France), a contract was signed with the leasing company "Ilyushin Finance" (Russia) on the supply of 10 units of An-158 for Cuba. The transaction is estimated at $300 million. The total portfolio of orders for the model today is 20 units, and in the foreseeable future it is estimated at about 100 units, especially in view of competitive prices for both planes - $30 million.
Consultations on Ans supplies are continuing with the Iranian company HESA. The recent working version provides for assembling 16 units of An-148/158 on domestic sites and assembling of 64 more in Iran. The transfer of production to its facilities is beneficial to the Iranians and is also positive for the SE "Antonov", whose capabilities are limited so far. The framework contract was signed in 2011. The total cost of the program for up to 20 years could reach $ 2.4 billion
Another framework arrangement was concluded with Beijing on establishment of practical base for joint production of An-148/158 and An-70, and on the design of large and medium transport aircrafts. In addition, the SE "Antonov" has already built in China a complex of aerodynamic testing, used by the Chinese to design their first wide-body airliner. Moreover, the joint venture on An-140 production could be set up with Kazakhstan to replace the outdated An-24 and An-26. The need of the Republic is approximately 100 units. Perhaps, the Kazakhstan will buy An-148 units as well.
Room for development
However, it is a bad time now for the joint aviation programs with Moscow, analysts lament: probably all fall the Kremlin will conduct unfriendly campaign to prevent the signing of Ukraine’s association with the EU. Yet this does not remove promising projects on the agenda - the more that the Kremlin is now clearly set to alleviate accents, what is noticeable from the last public statements. After all, the domestic aviation industry has not such a bad future, taking into account the abovementioned and the potential opportunity to produce and sell airplanes on its own. Thus, a number of experts agree that today the country has the technological capacity to annually produce about 50 air vehicles. But in order to implement it in practice, we need bigger investments - at least 4.5-5 billion UAH.
Konovalov notes that the national aircraft manufacturers have maintained a good base. This is important because in the fight for consumer, the leading global aviation holdings constantly perfect model range and technology. The emphasis is put on fuel efficiency, passenger comfort, technique of new composite materials is mastered. Despite the lack of resources, domestic aircraft factories are able to successfully operate in the CIS countries, the countries of the "third world", as exemplified by China, Iran and Latin America - including due to better delivery times, prices and terms of service.
The demand in the foreseeable future will only grow. For example, the Boeing experts expect a doubling of the world passenger fleet by 2030. About 33 thousand new passenger aircrafts at $ 4 trillion are expected to be produced. The biggest sales are awaited in the Asia-Pacific region - more than 11 thousand vehicles at $1.5 trillion. Such forecasts give the Ukrainian aviation industrialists a good chance of recovery and development, taking into account the very real competitiveness.