One of the main tasks now facing Russian civil aviation is to ensure domestic air transportation, where medium- and short-haul aircraft are primarily in demand. In the period up to 2030, their share will amount to 85.5% of all projected deliveries of civilian equipment by UAC.
The Comprehensive Program for the Development of the Russian Air Transport Industry until 2030 (the document was amended on March 11, 2023) provides for the delivery of 564 aircraft of five types to customers. Over 70% of them are new-generation SJ-100 and MC-21-310 aircraft. Il-114-300, Tu-214 and Il-96 aircraft are previously developed aircraft that have undergone modernization to varying degrees.
Deliveries in such a structure and in such volumes make it possible to meet the demand for domestic transportation even under the most unfavorable development of the situation with maintaining the airworthiness of foreign aircraft in the fleets of domestic airlines. If the operation of their significant part will be continued, and according to the results of 2022, there is every reason for this, the tasks of increasing air transportation and increasing the aeromobility of the country’s population will be successfully solved.
Import substitution in Russia is based on its own scientific and technical potential, not on copying existing foreign solutions. This is an important advantage of our country. The question is not whether Russian enterprises are capable of developing and producing components for aircraft. The problem is in the rapid organization of large-scale multilevel cooperation. The absence of even one device or assembly can devalue the efforts of hundreds of enterprises.
The United Aircraft Corporation is producing or finalizing the development of five types of civil aircraft:
UAC’s civil lineup, in terms of its capabilities, meets all the needs of airlines in the segment of regional and long-haul transportation: from flights within one region to long-haul flights. Taking into account the fundamentally new political situation, the Russian Government promptly revised its plans for the development of the aviation industry in 2022.
The IL-114-300 regional passenger turboprop aircraft is a deep modernization of the IL-114. The aircraft was originally designed specifically for domestic local airlines, including for use in regions with poor airfield infrastructure and in difficult climatic conditions – hard-to-reach areas of the North, Far East and Siberia.
The decision to launch the modernization program and resume serial production of the IL-114-300 aircraft was made following a meeting on aircraft development held on May 18, 2016.
The IL-114-300 differs from the base vehicle by a number of innovations. The airplane is equipped with a modern piloting and navigation system for flights in difficult weather conditions. New engines with digital control have increased power.
The technical characteristics of the aircraft will allow it to operate at poor airfield infrastructure, including from short and unpaved runways. The IL-114-300 has a built-in gangway for passenger entry and exit. Quick and easy access is provided to all structural elements and units, the need for access to which is stipulated by the maintenance program.
The design and characteristics of the aircraft allow to create on its basis aircrafts of various modifications: transport, cargo-passenger, sanitary, polar and a number of others. Final assembly of the aircraft is carried out at the Lukhovitsky Aviation Plant named after P.A. Voronin. P.A. Voronin Aviation Plant. The program is at the stage of completion of certification tests and deployment of serial production. Some delay in the schedule of the IL-114-300 program is due to the need to finalize the TV7-117ST-01 engines.
Deliveries are scheduled to start in 2024. A number of Russian airlines, including the Far Eastern Aurora, are interested in purchasing new regional airplanes to replace the An-24 and An-26. The volume of deliveries until 2030 will amount to 70 airplanes with a maximum rate of 12 per year.
The SJ-100 short-haul passenger airplane is a foreign-looking modification of the SSJ100, which has been in serial production since 2011.
Over 150 Superjets are in operation in the fleets of nine Russian airlines, as well as a number of government customers. The harmonious combination of range, capacity and comfort has allowed to increase direct transportation between Russian cities bypassing the Moscow air hub. The share of such flights reached 50% in 2023.
After the introduction of Western sanctions, it was the SuperJets that made it possible to support international transportation. According to the results of 2022, most of the major aircraft operators improved their economic indicators. For example, net profit of Azimut Airlines increased 6 times, compared to 2021.
The SJ-100 will receive new PD-8 engines, certification tests of which are scheduled to be completed in September 2023. In total, more than 40 aircraft systems are subject to import substitution. In parallel with the introduction of domestic units and components, a set of measures is being implemented to modernize the airframe design aimed at improving the aircraft’s performance and technological characteristics. Russia’s leading aviation research centers – TsAGI and SibNIA – are involved in static tests of the updated airframe.
Based on the results of ground and flight tests, the main change to the current certificate will be obtained, which will allow the SJ-100 to start operations in late 2023 – early 2024.
The aircraft are assembled by the Yakovlev Production Center in Komsomolsk-on-Amur, while suppliers of airframe components include a number of UAC enterprises. It is planned to deliver 142 airplanes until 2030 at a maximum rate of 20 per year.
The MC-21 is conceived as a promising family of medium-range airliners that will take over the bulk of air transportation in Russia. The MS-21-310 modification is an import-substituted version of the MC-21-300 aircraft, which was certified at the end of 2021. The airliner’s range and capacity allow it to fly the most popular routes of Russian airlines, including, for example, Moscow – Irkutsk flights.
In terms of the technical level of systems, the MC-21-310 is not inferior to, and in some positions surpasses the ABC trio. As an example, one can mention the active lateral airplane control knob. The B737 type cannot use this innovation due to the design features of the cockpit. Airbas does not use this technology even in its latest A320/321 modifications, COMAC uses airplane controls similar to Airbus. As for the airframe, the MC-21 is a significant step forward compared to the ABC.
The MC-21 wing structure uses composite large-size integral power elements: spars and panels with stringers, which significantly improved the airplane’s aerodynamics. The largest fuselage width in its class provides passengers with more personal space and increased freedom of movement – it is possible to pass the service cart.
The MC-21 program is the first among Russian aviation projects to be affected by Western sanctions. In 2018, foreign companies refused to supply raw materials for composite structures, which required replacing them with Russian analogs. The problem was successfully solved in a short period of time, and at the end of 2022, Rosaviatsia approved major changes to the typical design of the MC-21 airplane related to the installation of a wing made of composite materials of domestic production and a Russian PD-14 engine.
By the end of 2024, import substitution of the remaining 60 systems and units will be completed. By 2029, the Irkutsk Aviation Plant (a branch of the Yakovlev Company) should reach the production of 72 airplanes per year.
Of all the airplanes developed in Russia, the MC-21 has the greatest development potential. According to Denis Manturov, Deputy Prime Minister and Head of the Ministry of Industry and Trade of the Russian Federation, various variants of MS-21 family development are being worked out, including an airplane for 220-250 passengers.
The Tu-214 medium-range airliner, which took to the skies in 1996, has its own niche in the prospective fleet of Russian companies. The production of the airplane was not interrupted, although it was carried out at a low rate in the interests of state customers. Part of the previously produced 34 Tu-214 can be returned to operation in passenger version.
The advantage of the Tu-214 is that the airliner is optimized for flights at an increased, compared to the lighter MS-21, range. Currently, UAC is focused on technological modernization of the Kazan Aviation Plant, which will make it possible to produce 10 Tu-214s annually by 2025.
Transaero Airlines’ Tu-214 at Domodedovo airport, April 2015. Photo © Russian Aviation
UAC CEO Yuri Slyusar said there are prospects for a cargo version of the airplane. Russian airlines have operated in the recent past more than 40 freighters based on jet passenger airliners, including three Tu-204Cs. At least half of the current cargo fleet can be replaced by the Tu-214, based on the Tu-204.
Long-range IL-96 family airliners are built by VASO, a branch of PJSC “IL”. Their production started in 1990 and was carried out at a low rate in the interests of mainly state customers. After 2014, only Cubana Airlines was engaged in commercial operation of the IL-96-300.
In addition to the basic variants of the airplane, VASO is producing an enlarged passenger modification of the IL-96-400M, which is characterized by its larger size and capacity. Earlier Voronezh built IL-96-400T freighters, which can replace Western-made freighters in the fleets of some Russian companies. The comprehensive program envisages the construction of 12 Il-96 aircraft by 2030.
The relatively low rate of production of the machines is due to a number of factors. Among them is a more than threefold decrease in international air transportation in 2022 compared to 2019 against the background of a sufficient fleet of Western wide-body aircraft at Russian airlines.
In the long term, the direction of development of domestic long-range wide-body aircraft will be determined by progress in the development of systems for them, as well as the level of cooperation with friendly foreign partners. The technical and technological foundation for such development is already being formed. The development of high thrust PD-35 engines is underway, a prototype of a composite wing caisson for the future wide-body airplane is being tested.