"The MS-21 is our most important commercial aviation project," United Aircraft Building Corporation CEO Alexei Fyodorov said. "It will account for the bulk of Russia's freight and passenger traffic."
The plane will be developed by aircraft majors Ilyushin, Tupolev and Yakovlev to replace the aging Tu-154, which currently services some 80% of Russia's passenger and freight traffic.
The single-aisle MS-21, due to enter service in 2012, will be designed to seat between 130 and 170 passengers and to fly up to 5,000 kilometers (3,125 miles), or 6,350 kilometers (4,000 miles) for a longer-range model.
Developers said the new jet will be 20%-25% more efficient than the Boeings and Airbuses of its class. It will have 15% better structural weight efficiency, 20% lower direct operating costs and 15% lower fuel consumption than the Airbus A320.
Yet, its target price is just $35 million, $20 million below that of the similarly sized Boeing 737-700.
Another advanced medium-range Russian airliner, the RRJ, is being developed by Sukhoi, in cooperation with Ilyuishin and Yakovlev. It is due to enter service in 2007.
Both projects aim to upgrade Russia's aging commercial jetliner fleet and make it more competitive on the global market.
Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, confirmed Tuesday as board chairman of the United Aircraft Building Corporation, said commercial aviation should be a priority area for the group, which is being formed to consolidate major domestic assets in aircraft manufacturing and to streamline the sector.
"I believe we should focus our attention on the construction of commercial planes, as this is not just a matter of industrial development, but also one of unifying the country's transport infrastructure."
The 90% state-owned UABC conglomerate will incorporate commercial and military aircraft makers such as Sukhoi, Ilyushin, and Tupolev, as well as companies involved in distribution, including Aviaexport.
It is set to begin operations in the first quarter of 2007 and to hold an IPO at the turn of 2008.
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Any response would likely boomerang on Russia – the partnership between Rosneft and ExxonMobil is a case in point. The United States has hit Russia with a third round of sanctions. This time the Americans went with a higher caliber weapon, targeting Russia’s biggest energy companies (Rosneft and Novatek) and banks (VEB and Gazprombank).