Russia Plans Civil Jet Output After Delay on U.S. Sanctions


Russia plans to begin manufacturing the first domestic medium-range passenger jet since the Soviet era next year, after U.S. sanctions delayed the project by as much as 18 months.

“We had to create our own production and currently we have created the material and we have made up our own wing using our material,” Rostec State Corp. Chief Executive Officer Sergey Chemezov said in an interview on the sidelines of the International Defense Exhibition and Conference in the United Arab Emirates.

American companies had supplied a subsidiary of Rostec -- Russia’s main defense contractor -- with wing composite components up until the U.S. imposed measures against the unit in 2018. Chemezov, who served with Vladimir Putin in the KGB in East Germany, has been blacklisted by the U.S. since 2014 in response to the Ukraine crisis. The new U.S. administration hasn’t shown a tendency to ease the sanctions, according to Chemezov.

The jetliner, known as MS-21, flew its maiden flight in December with Russian-built Aviadvigatel PD-14 engines, and is currently undergoing certification tests.

The first post-Soviet Russian airliner, the Sukhoi Superjet, was developed as a competitor to shorter-range regional jets from foreign manufacturers such as Canada’s Bombardier Inc. and Brazil’s Embraer SA. It was involved in two fatal accidents in its first decade of use and has been criticized by commercial operators for frequent groundings because of technical faults and maintenance issues.

The MS-21 family, which includes two variants, is being developed by the same Rostec subsidiary that runs the Superjet program. It is intended as Russia’s answer to Airbus SE’s A320neo and Boeing Co.’s 737 Max, with a maximum capacity of 211 passengers and a range of 3,240 nautical miles.

The state-owned conglomerate, whose business includes weapons manufacturer Kalashnikov as well as United Aircraft Corporation and Russian Helicopters, is pushing ahead with a diversification plan to increase its share of civil production from 33% currently to 50% by 2030, Chemezov said.

Rostec is ramping up manufacturing across areas that range from electric vehicles to medical supplies, with the latter contributing about 5% of sales volumes last year, according to Chemezov.

Key Insights

  • Chemezov and his family received the Covid-19 vaccine last July, before it was registered, and he thinks Putin will take it this summer
  • Weapon exports to remain flat in 2021 at around $13 billion, with biggest customers in the Middle East and Southeast Asia
  • Relationship between Boeing and titanium producer VSMPO-Avisma, in which Rostec owns a 25% stake, not affected by sanctions

    • Companies have several partnerships, including producing alloys and forging titanium for Boeing’s commercial aircraft

(An earlier version of this story corrected the share of sales attributed to medical supplies in the eighth paragraph)

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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