As the president, Petro Poroshenko, put it, the task has been set "to turn Ukraine into a world-class aviation player." At the release of the lieutenants of the Kharkov Aviation University, he called the Air Force weapons containment of Russia. What is the real situation with aircraft construction in Ukraine?
The first domestic-made airplanes appeared in tsarist Russia, but truly mass production aviation technology began in the 30s, when dozens of aircraft factories and hundreds of suppliers were built. The case took such a turn that in 1939 it was decided to create a branch ministry (first - People’s Commissariat) to manage and regulate production processes. This was pushed by the situation in the world and the growing power of aviation technology, which is acquiring truly strategic importance both in military conflicts and in transportation. The ministry, in addition to many enterprises with thousands of employees, also oversaw industry science, without which progress in the aircraft industry is absolutely impossible.
The Soviet Union was then a powerful and unified state, and the Ukrainian SSR is only a component of a large whole, although, it must be admitted, quite important. At the Ukrainian aircraft factories produced aircraft Moscow design bureaus, and the Kiev design bureau them. Antonov was collected at enterprises in Russia and Uzbekistan.
It should be recalled that KB them. Antonova was in Kiev by chance, moving from Novosibirsk to 1952. Nikita Khrushchev played a significant role in the relocation, having headed Ukraine for many years and lobbied for her interests in the Politburo: it was always prestigious to have an aviation company.
Back in Novosibirsk, the team under the leadership of Oleg Antonov created the universal biplane An-2, which immediately received the nickname “Kukuruznik” among the people. This is an unsurpassed masterpiece in simplicity of design, reliability and efficiency - a kind of Kalashnikov machine gun in the field of aviation. It was produced in the USSR, China and Poland, in total more than 18 thousand pieces were manufactured. He is still in service today, and the upgraded version will prolong his flight life for many years.
In 50 – 60, the Antonov-led design bureau focused on transport aircraft, including military aircraft. Real workers of the sky An-8 and An-12, heavyweight An-22 Antey, an unpretentious passenger regional An-24 and its transport variant An-26, still continuing to serve for their intended purpose, were created.
In 70 – 80-s, another significant step was made: the extra-heavy transport aircraft An-124 “Ruslan” and its larger version of the An-225 “Mriya”, which immediately created a real sensation in international aviation shows. However, at this point it is worth making a remark. It turns out that in the competition announced by Minaviaprom, preference was given to the draft design of Myasishchev KB. Their project was more original and had additional features. But some circumstances decided the fate of the super-heavy aircraft in favor of the people of Kiev, and the giant aircraft was assigned to do them. Otherwise, the air ocean would plow a completely different superplane.
On the Russian hump
Antonovtsy still want to praise. In the non-monetary post-Soviet time without state support, they managed to create machines that passed flight tests and got into small-scale production. KB them. Antonova survived and managed to produce new models to the surface: An-38, An-140, An-148 / 158, An-70, that is, she created a full-cycle aircraft manufacturing industry - from idea to transfer to the customer of the finished product. Antonova Airlines, which transported cargoes by Ruslan planes all over the world, helped designers with finance. Its share in the financing of design work periods reached 70 percent.
They earned Ukrainian designers and "on the side", in particular, performing Chinese orders. This concerned, first of all, the modernization of the aircraft manufactured in the People's Republic of China on the basis of the An-12 and An-24. And the biggest order came to the rescue of the design of the new heavy Y-20 aircraft - the firstborn of the Chinese strategic transport aviation, which is currently undergoing flight tests and is preparing for serial production. The characteristic features of the Antonov School of Engineering are clearly visible in his appearance.
Russia in 1990 – 2000-ies in every way pleased Ukraine, considering it as its good neighbor and faithful ally, going towards it in many directions, including in the field of aircraft industry. In particular, the An-70, an absolutely unnecessary Russian air force, was built and tested exclusively on Russian money. It is worth recalling that the Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force of that time, Vladimir Mikhailov, spoke out categorically against An-70, convincingly stating that Russia did not need the plane, because it is in the same payload category as IL-76, and it was not brought to mind. He argued his principled position that it was impossible to dissipate the already modest funding into two projects. However, in the Kremlin, someone stubbornly twisted his hands, lobbying for the production of the Ukrainian machine with surprising persistence. At first they planned to produce a plane in Voronezh, then in Ulyanovsk, and then for some reason in Kazan. As a result, did not grow together, from which the aviation industry of Russia only won.
Obviously, also purely for political reasons, to the detriment of oneself, instead of the passenger Tu-334 already flown around in Zhukovsky, at the Voronezh aircraft plant, a similar Ukrainian An-148 was launched into production. The worthy projects of the Tu-230 and Tu-330 transport planes, which were unified on many nodes with the already produced passenger Tu-204 and Tu-214, were destroyed in the vine.
Russian-Ukrainian love in the field of aircraft industry grew and strengthened, although it was distinguished by a certain one-sidedness. The most zealous officials even hatched the idea of incorporating Ukrainian enterprises in the industry into the United Aircraft Building Corporation, which would increase the workload of the plants and, consequently, provide the necessary funding.
Every man for himself
Sobering came very quickly. After the coup d'état, the new authorities in Kiev set a course to break military-technical cooperation in all spheres, including aviation. Russia did not remain in debt.
Due to the refusal of the Ukrainian side to supply components in Samara, the production of the An-140 light passenger aircraft for the needs of the Russian Ministry of Defense was stopped. True, it should be recognized that it was not the most successful and reliable: several years ago the licensed assembly of the same model was stopped in Iran, it was abandoned in Kazakhstan.
The Rossiya airline operated for quite a long time the An-148 collected from us under a license, but last year was forced to suspend their flights due to low reliability and efficiency. The last aircraft of the An-148 / 158 model range (albeit from the Kiev assembly), through the Russian leasing company, went to the DPRK and Cuba. Among our civilian carriers, only Angara Airlines continues to operate these machines. In 2018, the contract with the Ministry of Defense for the supply of fifteen An-148 from the Voronezh aircraft factory is completed. At the assembly of Antonov aircraft we stop.
But the most important thing is that Russia is moving to the creation of exclusively its models. The production of the well-proven modernized IL-76MD-90A has been revived and gradually gaining momentum. In fact, this is a completely new aircraft in the old guise. Production of light-duty vehicles is being prepared - the Il-112 and the passenger Il-114. Russia gradually ceases to depend on Ukraine in the field of aircraft construction and aircraft operation.
And another important point. The competence to maintain the airworthiness of all An-brand aircraft operating in Russia by a presidential decree officially passed to Aviation Complex named after them. Ilyushin ", which specializes in transport aircraft. The biggest problems here arose when extending the airworthiness certificate of super-heavy An-124, when the Ukrainian side actually took a decent amount just for issuing papers, that is, selling air. In other words, now this money has ceased to go to Kiev.
De jure aircraft building corporation in Ukraine created. The case for the aircraft industry. And with him everything is much more complicated. According to this information, having a full-cycle industry, Ukraine plans to build one (!) Aircraft this year.
It should again be recalled that the independent aviation industry does not receive a penny from the state. In the absence of Russian customers, who made generous prepayments and financed the design work, they had to look for alternative sources, but this was not so easy. Protocols on a number of models of Ukrainian aircraft were signed with potential foreign partners, but these documents do not oblige anyone to anything.
For example, it is planned to organize the assembly of transport An-178 in Azerbaijan. Objectively speaking, the task is difficult, given the lack of qualified specialists in this country and, accordingly, of the traditions in the field of aviation, which have been accumulated for decades.
A little later, the same plane was proposed by the Antonov Indians. Those took a pause for reflection, which they have, as practice shows, can last for years. Turkey verbally also showed interest in the aircraft. However, it must be admitted that the world competition in this niche is very great. Such equipment has long been commercially available in the United States, Europe, and Brazil.
A bet is made on a modernized remake of the An-32 aircraft, voiced as An-132. It seems that they are interested in Saudi Arabia and the same India, even the Poles expressed support for the aircraft. But these are only words for now, and only time will tell how things will go.
Another acute problem of the organization of mass production at Ukrainian aircraft factories is their technical backwardness. By equipping them far from most of the Russian, not to mention the foremost type of the Irkutsk enterprise. And without modern equipment not to start mass production. Where to get money is an open question.
Economists estimate that with the existing “seriality” passenger An-148 will exceed at cost the most popular and sold in the world A-320 or B-737 aircraft, which can accommodate twice as many seats and dominate the global transportation market. With such an economy, no airline will dare to replenish its fleet with Antonov aircraft.
The situation with finances was aggravated by the collapse of the global air cargo market. Traffic from China to Europe and America fell particularly sharply. For this reason, the airline Polet has already gone bankrupt in Russia, which had An-124 aircraft in service. "Antonov Airlines" with exactly the same aircraft survived, but significantly reduced revenues and as a result - financing of design work.
The giant transport workers An-124 “Ruslan” and An-225 “Mriya” are of little interest to customers. Already existing fleet of these machines is clearly underused, so it is absurd to talk about the release of new aircraft. Of course, the drowning man is ready to cling to any straw. And there is an idea, when receiving money, to finish the second copy of the An-225, the reserve for which is available at the Kiev aircraft factory. But if anyone is ready today to buy the same “Mriya”, then only China, and only in order to copy the technology and start producing an analogue for its military transport aircraft.
Smack in KB them. Antonov and the creation of a combat fighter. In principle, from a technical point of view, they are quite capable of it, although it is unlikely that he will stand on a par with Russian, American or European. The transporter and the fighter are not the same. But the worst thing is not even that: it will have to be assembled from Western components. And now let's imagine the cost of this aircraft in small-scale production. Today, the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine does not have enough money even to repair existing combat aircraft made in the Soviet period. What to say about the new.
The problem is aggravated by the fundamental refusal of Ukrainian aircraft manufacturers to cooperate with Russian suppliers of components. Probably, over time, parts from our country can be replaced by Western counterparts, only they will turn out to be much more expensive. And this will inevitably increase the price of the final product, which in turn will reduce the attractiveness of Ukrainian aircraft for potential buyers.
Time will tell what achievements can be achieved without cooperation with Russia. The prestige of Ukrainian aviation officials, badly undermined by a series of corruption scandals, does not add optimism.