Import substitution of MS-21: technological breakthrough and its impact on the aviation industry

MS-21 cockpit and ceiling control panel / Collage © Aviation of Russia website

The development of domestic systems for the MS-21 began at the stage of aircraft design and construction of the first prototype. At that time, Russian enterprises were unable to meet the necessary mass-dimensional and technical requirements. Now half of all onboard radio-electronic equipment for the aircraft is manufactured by the Ulyanovsk Instrument Engineering Design Bureau (UKBP), which is part of KRET. The range of UKPB products is widely represented on board almost all aircraft manufactured in Russia.

The mid-2010s was a key moment for the MS-21 project in terms of import substitution. Initially, there were only a small number of domestically produced components in the avionics and the bulk of the avionics was supplied from abroad. In 2022, when foreign suppliers finally proved that they are unreliable partners, the need for full import substitution of onboard equipment became a determining factor in the viability of the Russian aircraft, and this process is currently under active implementation.

Import substitution required the development of new solutions for the MS-21’s avionics. This is due to the fact that the aircraft architecture provides for the use of new generation systems that meet the modern requirements of civil aviation and flight safety. Previously, such systems were not produced in Russia and were not installed on domestic passenger aircraft, and their implementation required a major technological breakthrough.

For MS-21 UKBP produces the control system for general aircraft equipment, multifunctional indicators and control panels. A striking example of Ulyanovsk instrument makers’ products is the ceiling control panel in the cockpit. This video shows only a small part of the avionics equipment for MS-21 and SJ-100 created at the Design Bureau:

One of the UKBP’s innovative developments for the MS-21 is the control system for general aviation equipment SUOSO-MS-21. The company’s engineers have created a console that allows to control fire protection, provides signalling and control of the technical condition of hydraulic, fuel, inertial systems, as well as de-icing, air conditioning, speed measurement and other executive mechanisms of the aircraft.

During its development the information and control field of the MS-21 cabin was analysed, which predetermined the system architecture. The system consists of the BVK-12 calculator-concentrator unit, BPS-14 signal conversion unit, BZK-1 protection and switching unit, BUOS-1 glass heating control unit. Implementation of the system made it possible to realise the function of secondary power distribution by solid state protection and switching units, as well as the function of protection of interfacing systems and aircraft feeder against overcurrent.

In addition, the SUOSO-MS-21 ensured a reduction in the weight and nomenclature of control and monitoring equipment for the aircraft as a whole. It increased the depth of control, reduced the probability of system control channel failures, and shortened the time of maintenance and preflight preparation. With the help of the SUOSO, fault tolerance of the heterogeneous architecture of the control system was realised.

Similar equipment was created in UKBP also for Il-96-400, Yak-130, Tu-204SM. These developments make it possible to significantly reduce the load on pilots and increase flight safety. In the Tu-204CM and Mi-171A2 helicopter projects, the use of UASC provided the transition to a crew of two pilots.

The programme of import substitution for the MC-21 and SSJ100 in terms of avionics will also have an impact on the modernisation of the Tu-214 aircraft. This aircraft is currently piloted by two pilots and a flight engineer. With a crew of two people, all the functions of the flight engineer to control aircraft systems and monitor their correct operation are taken over by the flight engineer’s OMS. First of all, automation eliminates the possibility of human error, and from the airlines’ point of view, automation leads to a reduction in training and labour costs for additional crew members.

In the autumn of 2023, the Ulyanovsk Design Bureau handed over to the Irkutsk aircraft factory the first set of fully Russian avionics for the cockpit of the MS-21-310 aircraft – these are control panels for aircraft systems and lighting equipment. The domestic avionics fully corresponds to the foreign equipment installed on the certified version of the MS-21-300.

Another company within the KRET structure, the Moscow Institute of Electromechanics and Automation (MIEA), has developed an information-computer complex for the MC-21 aircraft control system – IVK-KSU-MS-21, which provides manual and automatic piloting of the airliner. MIEA develops inertial navigation systems for Russian passenger and transport aircraft, navigation computer systems, automatic control and aircraft guidance systems. More than 15 items for the IVK-KSU-MS-21, including control system units, are manufactured by the Ural Instrument-Making Plant.

The Airborne Collision Avoidance System (ACAS), which implements TCAS II functions and provides the crew with recommendations on how to eliminate a conflict situation in flight for MS-21 and SJ-100 aircraft, was created by the Navigator Institute of Aviation Instrument Engineering (St. Petersburg). In the spring of 2023, the company began to transfer the first samples of the ACAS to the Irkutsk airplant. Previously, such equipment was not produced in Russia and had to be purchased from the American company Rockwell Collins.

There is a wide co-operation of instrumentation and automation companies in Russia, which create onboard equipment for the entire range of domestic aircraft. Navigator JSC, for example, produces avionics equipment not only for MS-21, Tu-214 and Superjet, but also develops similar systems for TVS-2MS and IL-114-300. Domestic avionics will also be installed on Ladoga (TVRS-44), Baikal (LMS-901) and Osvey (LMS-401) aircraft. Import substitution has given a powerful impetus to the creation of fully domestic avionics based on the research and development of Russian enterprises.