Facing Western sanctions in a variety of modern sensitive technologies, Russia is speeding up the process of so-called “importozamecsheniye” (import replacement) in the aviation industry. After the Soviet Union collapsed, Russia became entirely dependent on Western civil aircraft, which form about 90 per cent of the domestic commercial fleet. The only modern regional aircraft, Sukhoi’s SUPERJET 100, relies heavily on Western components, including engines and avionics. Another ambitious Russian product, the MC-21 short-to-medium-range narrow-body airliner prototypes have been so far equipped with the Pratt & Whitney PW1000G turbofan engine. This is similar to the situation facing the Ilyuishin Il-114-300 regional turboprop, which employs PW127H engines and electronics from Collins.
Such a dependency becomes crucial not just for financial reasons, the constant weakness of the ruble makes foreign spare parts more and more expensive for the local operators, but more importantly is political dependency. For example, the United States banned a SSJ 100 export contract for 100+ copies to Iran due to the US-made components. If US and European Governments decide to cut spare parts and maintenance, practically all Russian air traffic will be grounded.
The process of non-Russian components replacement within the aviation industry seems to be extremely costly. The all-Russian SSJ-100 project may cost up to 20bn roubles, almost double the previous cost of the whole programme, estimated at 12bn, making it likely the Russian authorities will be forced to cancel it completely. The process of re-engining is well under way. At the end of August, Yury Slyusar, United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) CEO reported to Russian President Vladimir Putin that the Russian engines had been already mounted on one of the MC-21 planes. Since August, the aircraft, equipped with Russian Aviadvigatel PD-14 conducted over 30 trials at speeds varying from 10 to 150 kts at the Vostochnyi airport in the Uliyanovsk region. The ground runs were in a framework of the MC-21-300 certification programme, with aircraft delivery is expected to start in 2021.
The new version of the Ilyuishin regional turboprop, termed the Il-114-300, is to become a “completely Russian aircraft” through being powered by two TV7-117ST-01 turbojet engines. The power plant is designed by the Klimov company, a United Engine Corporation subsidiary, on the basis of TV7-117, operational since 1990s. The TV7-117ST-01 has 3000 horsepower at the maximum take-off mode, and 3600 horsepower at the increased emergency mode. It was reported that the “300” version is to receive a TA-1 auxiliary unit and a TsPNK-114M2 digital flight and navigation complex. The IL-114-300 will be able to accommodate 68 passengers. The advantage over “100” and “200” versions should be an increased flight range and reduced operating costs. Earlier this month the ground tests of Il-114-300 started with the maiden flight to take place by the end of the year.
How successful will an ambitious “Make in Russia” programme, it may not take long to see, but if Russia wants to follow an independent policy, both foreign and domestic, it must become technologically independent first.