Ukraine’s aerospace biz gaining real momentum

Singapore Air Show » 2008
February 11, 2008, 9:10 AM

After many years of struggle, Ukraine’s aerospace industry appears headed in an upward trajectory, as a promising new civil aircraft program hits the market and some Russian defense market analysts predict Ukrainian military export activity to surpass that of its neighbor over the next decade. Antonov is Ukraine’s leading developer of both military transports and airliners, and currently is offering China joint development and production of the An-70, which the Russian air force has rejected. Ukraine’s prospects also could benefit from the recent collapse of a Russo-Chinese contract to supply the rival Ilyushin Il-76MD and Il-78MK transports.

On the other hand, the planned cooperation with Russia’s new United Aircraft Corp. (UAC) stands to strengthen Antonov’s position in the global market in general and in Southeast Asia in particular. According to Victor Livanov, head of Ilyushin and a member of the UAC board of directors, UAC is determined to pool its efforts with Ukrainian aircraft manufacturers. He said the manufacturer plans to resume series production of the An-124 heavy cargolifter and also hopes to cooperate with the state-run Aviation of Ukraine group to design a 10-metric-ton freighter.

According to some forecasts, the market for oversized cargo transports weighing up to 150 metric tons is developing faster than that for standard-sized freighters, on average by 9 percent per year. During 2006 this segment amounted roughly to $700 million and, according to forecasts, by 2020 it will exceed $3 billion, rising to $7 billion in 2030.

The Volga-Dnepr company, the world’s largest operator of An-124s, predicts the world market’s demand for these types will reach 100 units annually by 2030. The new 10-metric-ton project, should it be re-launched at the Ulyanovsk-based Aviastar-SP Aviation Plant, promises to break even after sales of just 30 aircraft. Today, the backlog for the new An-124-100M-150s totals 17 units, including five for local carriers Polyot and Avialinii Antonova.

At last year’s MAKS airshow in Moscow, a group of companies–including Volga-Dnepr, OAO Motor Sich and Antonov–declared the completion of the first stage of the modernized -150 version. They also signed an agreement to re-establish series production of these aircraft and retrofit those already in service. Antonov has confirmed that it is prepared to become a stockholder in the Cargo Flying Vehicles joint venture created at the end of 2006 by Volga-Dnepr and JSC Motor-Sich to resume An-124-100 production.

First An-148s Ready Soon
The cooperation between UAC and Aviation of Ukraine also extends to the 75-seat An-148 regional jetliner. By 2010, output of this new model at Russia’s Voronezh Aircraft Production Association (VASO) is set to reach 24 to 32 units per year. The aircraft also will be assembled at the state-owned Aviant Aviation Plant in Kiev. Ilyushin Finance Leasing Co. director general Alexander Rubtsov has confirmed orders for 53 units and Polyot has ordered 10 more. Ukrainian carriers Aerosvit and Ukrainian International Airlines have said they will buy 15 more between them.

The Ukrainian government’s 2007 budget allotted about $40 million to produce the first aircraft. Volga-Dnepr, too, is interested in the new model and is looking at investing in more than 10 An-148T freighters.

The Russian government’s Military-Industrial Commission has approved UAC’s plans to assemble 170 An-148s at VASO between 2007 and 2015. The first units are already in production and are due to roll off the assembly line later this year.

Aviant is making the central part of the fuselage and wings in Kiev, while VASO in Voronezh is building the nose and tail parts plus fins, wing edges, engine nacelles and pylons. The Moscow-based Machine-Building Production Enterprise and the Motor-Building Association in Ufa are building the hot section of Salyut’s D-436 engines for the An-148, while the other sections of the powerplant are in the hands of Ukraine’s JSC Motor-Sich. Effectively, the An-148 is 65-percent Russian and 30-percent Ukrainian; the remaining 5 percent originates beyond those borders.

Plans call for offering the An-148 with an alternative, foreign-made engine. According to Rubtsov, talks are under way with a major European engine maker to jointly develop a new-generation powerplant that could be available by 2011.

The director general of IFC also told AIN the manufacturer plans to develop several new An-148 variants. The first of the new models will be a cargo version with a side door and a ramp. Also on the drawing board is a stretched model to seat 85 passengers.

As for the An-140 twin turboprop, Russia is now preparing to build an initial production run of 44 units. Ten are due to be completed before the end of 2008, followed by 14 in 2009 and 20 in 2010.

Modernized An-38
Separately, Antonov and the Sukhoi subsidiary Chkalov Aircraft Production Association of Novosibirsk (NAPO) have signed an agreement to modernize the
An-38 twin turboprop and develop new versions. Last July, Antonov and NAPO created a new version of the An-38-120 for aerial photography.

Existing An-38 operations in Russia, Malaysia and Vietnam have prompted interest in Southeast Asia and India for the proposed new versions and NAPO already claims 12 provisional orders from this region. One version being offered is a 26-seat An-38-120 priced at just $4.5 million. According to Antonov general designer Dmitry Kiva, Chinese regional airlines have also expressed interest in the An-38, and Chinese manufacturers would like to enter joint development and production arrangements for their own version of the aircraft.

However, the An-38 program has run into a serious problem because the NAPO plant is busy building Sukhoi’s Su-34 fighters and components for the new Superjet 100 airliner. It is therefore unable to continue An-38 production, which moved to Novosibirsk in the 1990s when the factory had insufficient work. To date, it has built just seven aircraft, one of which was used for certification tests in Malaysia; however, lack of funding has temporarily suspended this work.

NAPO also is in talks with the Polyot Production Association about transferring An-38 production to Omsk, a process that could take another two or three years.

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