State-owned company “Antonov” finished the construction of the fuselage of the first prototype of the new average transportation jet An-178. It can be used both by the army and civilian aviation. Now the Ukrainian aviation engineering is forced to fight on two fronts: essentially, the military one, seeking opportunities for operative reaction to the army’s needs and the production one, seeking alternatives to Russian suppliers of spare parts and electronics.
Workers of state-owned “Antonov” company are christening the new An-178: “Godspeed.” At the moment they have finished constructing the fuselage, they are yet to face the mounting of wings, the tail, the pylons, as well as the montage of flight systems. Later the jet will undergo preparation for its first flight.
The head constructor of “Antonov” Dmytro Kiva explains: “This jet was fully projected with the help of modern information technologies. All of its equipment systems are digital, modern aerodynamics, modern wings. It is unique because it can transport marine containers, as opposed to its competitors. There are some ports that have no normal roads leading to them. This one can both take off and land on a soil tarmac.”
The An-178 can transport both military units and commercial cargo. It is the continuation of the family of jets that includes An-148 and An-158. The company can produce at least 12 such jets annually, and in case production is modernized – up to 36, says Dmytro Kiva.
“We are practically unable to construct jets because of the relations with Russia,” expert.
The grandeur and grace of these jets, however, cannot hide the serious problems Ukrainian aviation engineering is to face.
“We are practically unable to construct jets at the moment, taking into account the situation with Russian relations. However the upside is that this situation encourages our producers to turn to a more modern market, filled with more highly technological and reliable systems, which will allow to increase the level of our jets,” concludes President of “Ukrainian Defense Technologies” Association Volodymyr Grek.
Jets such as An-140, An-148, An-70 have been produced by Ukraine in close cooperation with Russia since the Soviet times. For example, the military transportation jet An-70 has 70% of its parts and electronic systems imported from Russia.
As to whether “Antonov” is continuing cooperation with Russian colleagues, Dmytro Kiva says that the situation de-facto cannot be predicted: “We are cooperating with our colleagues: they are private companies, scientific development. We are trying to react to the situation quickly. We have reacted already: you can see that the employees are working stably.”
And he adds laconically that in the future they may be new contracts with western parters: “We are currently working with the western countries on the basis of the planes we have. When the contracts are signed, you will know.”
Volodymyr Grek explains what the Ukrainian aviation constructors will have to do: “Taking the situation into account, “Antonov” will have to look for new cooperation, which is very problematic: avionics (the main electronic systems of the plane) should be bought in Europe, individual parts of the plane should be taken in Europe, set up aluminum and titanium production in Ukraine.”
Also the expert emphasizes that the Irshansk titanium mine in Zhytomyr oblast is the biggest in Europe. However the titanium itself, which is necessary for aviation engineering, is produced in Russia. Ukraine supplies the ore there, making, essentially, an unnecessary “loop” and adding another point to its import list.”
“Establishment of cooperation with western parters is inevitable,” expert
Overall, as of today Ukraine has its own aviation construction bureau and two aviation plants. Besides the bureau and serial production plant “Antonov,” there is also the Kharkiv Aviation Plant. The Kharkiv mechanical engineering plant “FED” produces various plane parts, DP “Orizon-Navihatsiya” in Simla of Cherkasy oblast produces navigation systems, the Dnipropetrovsk mechanical engineering factory makes chassis.
Avionics, as Volodymyr Grek notes, can be quite possible bought in the US and Europe instead of Russia. Among the potential partners of the Ukrainian aviation construction industry in the West, the experts name French company Airbus, American Boeing, Brazilian Embraer.
As to modernizing the An-124 “Ruslan” jet, here, according to “Antonov” head constructor, Ukraine is already cooperating with western partners. In the USSR the serial production of the “Ruslan” jets was done at the “Aviastar-SP” plant in Russian Ulyanovsk.
As such, on one hand Ukraine has the chances to establish cooperation with European and American companies in aviation construction. On the other, it will be able to fight for its place on sales and exploitation markets of its own aviation goods. The latter are mostly found in Africa.
The workers of “Antonov,” looking proudly at the An-178, said that “it is now them who can’t go without the Russians in production,” but the Russians cannot do anything without Ukrainian partners, as they are so dependent on Ukrainian orders and technologies. “They can’t do anything without us,” added one of the engineers, while other tenderly stroked the nose of the giant as if it were a child.
Translated by Mariya Shcherbinina