Russia: July 17, 2001

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Russia's aviation industry is headed for trouble. The basic plan is to put off any major domestic military purchases until 2015, leaving 75% of the production capacity for export sales. Without those sales, the aviation industry could all but collapse, leaving Russia without the factories to produce the new generation of fighters to be bought in large numbers from 2015. No one, of course, actually expects these large orders to materialize, which is one reason why Russia is being so nice to China (the single largest customer for the latest Russian warplanes.). Russia knows that if it does not provide a new fighter by 2010, it will be out of the export business just when it needs it most. The Russians honestly thought they had a chance against the Eurofighter Typhoon if the US canceled the JSF program, but the new US Administration seems determined to not only continue it, but to accelerate it. The new PAK-FA fighter program is geared entirely to the market dates for the JSF. The aircraft design is about the size and cost ($30 million) of the JSF but is optimized for air superiority with bombing as a sideline. The PAK-FA is due to fly in 2006 and to reach Russian (and foreign) fighter squadrons in 2012, but this assumes that Moscow can find the money to develop it. The Russians are hopeful to convince China or India to invest in the program. Sukhoi is likely to win the contract with its design, but the Russian government is trying to convince Sukhoi to sign onto a deal where the winner would share production work with Mikoyan and Yakovlev. Sukhoi has shown great resistance to such a plan, as an outright victory would all but put Mikoyan and Yakovlev out of business.--Stephen V Cole


 

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