Sunday, 5 September 2010

Americans may assemble Russian Ruslan cargo planes

The final assembly of Russian An-124 Ruslan for the American market may take place in America on Boeing factories, United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) President Alexey Fedorov announced yesterday at the ILA air show in Berlin.

“For the American market the assembly will take place in the US territory, possibly in Long Beach, because we know the rules that 50 per cent of the works have to take place in the USA.” Itar Tass quoted him as saying. He said that Boeing is discussing the proposition with the US government. The Russian side has not been given an answer yet.

Fedorov earlier said that resuming production of Ruslan may cost up to $1 billion and the US specialists may be invited to ease the financial pressure on all the participants, reported Rosbalt news agency. “Besides, the participation of a third partner will open up new markets for the project,” he said.

Russian Boeing did not deny or confirm the information. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, on the other hand, confirmed the news in his interview with Kommersant.

An-124 is the biggest transport aircraft in the world. It was developed in the USSR in the end of 1970s and made its maiden flight in 1981. After the production stopped in 1995, Russian and Ukrainian governments repeatedly tried to restore it, but it has not happened yet.

After modernisation the plane’s carrying capacity will be increased from 120 to 150 tonnes. UAC plans to start production at Ulyanovsk Aviastar-SP factory not earlier than 2015.

Russian President Medvedev bid the Defence Ministry to include a purchase of 20 An-124s in the armament programme by 2020. The decision to order An-124 for the Defence Ministry was seen as a main condition for other potential buyers of civilian aviation. UAC conditions state that at least 80 machines need to be produced, but civilian carriers are ready to buy no more than 60.

Dmitry Medvedev’s idea to offer the USA a part in the An-124 project was a surprise for Russian market participants and caused “acute aversion” for the Ukrainian partners that hold the construction documents, a source in the aviation industry told Kommersant.

Experts see the deal as economically impractical. “Even if produced in Russia, UAC announced that the catalogue price for the plane will be $150-200 million, and production in the USA is going to be objectively more expensive,” a source told the daily. The plane cannot be used in regular flights and the charter operation will be unprofitable.

The project will need orders from the Pentagon, and it is a political issue, Alexei Sinitsky, chief of Aviatransportnoe Obozreniye SAID.

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