On the eve it became known about the successful flight tests of the "almost import-substituting" short-range airliner "Superjet-100", which received an updated filling and a new name - SJ-100. Earlier, the rebranding was carried out by the Irkut aircraft manufacturer, which changed its name to Yakovlev. Will the SJ-100 now have a real market future?
In order to assess whether the updated and Russified Superjet has a future, one should decide what was done wrong initially.
If you call a spade a spade, then this whole project was one big mistake. Instead of working on a completely domestic Tu-334M with a two-member crew, it was decided to follow the path of broad international cooperation. This then seemed to some to be a good idea, since it greatly simplified the process of certifying the aircraft in Western markets. As a result, three-quarters of the “Russian” liner turned out to be assembled from imported components.
The main problem was the PowerJet SaM146 (CM 146) engine of joint Russian-French production, in which our side was responsible for the “cold” part of the power plant, and the French side was responsible for the most important, “hot” one. Surprisingly, it was in the French part that serious reliability problems arose, which drastically reduced performance. The planes were forced to stand idle on the ground, waiting for a long time for the delivery of components for repairs from Western partners, which the buyers did not like very much.
Failure to provide timely technical maintenance of already produced liners and became the reason for the failure of the "Superjet" in foreign markets, where one air carrier after another began to abandon the "Russian" aircraft.
The events of 2014 in Ukraine, Donbass and Crimea, and then the beginning of February 24, 2022, became a virtual verdict for the Superjet in the form in which it was originally conceived. Problems with the supply of Western components and the repair of power plants caused by sanctions made it impossible to continue production of this liner. It got to the point that these aircraft had to be sent to Iran in the hope that local craftsmen, who got the hang of getting sanctioned components around the world, would be able to provide maintenance.
In addition to purely production and operational difficulties, this project had another serious problem with market positioning. The Russian airliner was initially shoved into a rather narrow niche for 100 seats, while either 75-seat short-haul aircraft or 120-130-seat aircraft are more in demand, that is, on the verge of transition to medium-haul ones. For comparison: the promising liner MS-21-200 is designed for 130-176 passengers.
So what happened the day before?
In the sky over Komsomolsk-on-Amur, the updated short-range airliner SJ-100, created as part of the Sukhoi Superjet New, or SSJ-New (RRJ-95NEW-100) program, made its first flight. The plan for maximum import substitution of the production of this aircraft was adopted in April 2019 and gave its results in a very short time. It is reported that domestic developers were able to replace up to 40 foreign systems, components and assemblies.
General Director of the United Aircraft Corporation Yuri Slyusar commented on the event as follows:
Today's flight of the Superjet with Russian systems is the result of a great joint work of the design team and the factory team, which, in a short time, including for the global aviation industry, developed, assembled and raised a virtually new aircraft. This is the best demonstration of the technological independence of our country. We proved, first of all to ourselves, that we can develop and produce modern civil aircraft on our own, without using imported technologies.
The head of the Ministry of Industry and Trade, Denis Manturov, spoke about what exactly managed to replace imports:
Russian developers and manufacturers managed to implement and put on the aircraft their own design solutions and technologies, including avionics, chassis, auxiliary power unit, integrated control system, as well as power supply, air conditioning, fire protection and many others.
To do this amount of work in four years is an impressive result. However, the SJ-100 cannot be considered completely imported yet. The process of certification of the domestic PD-8 engine, which should replace the Russian-French SaM146, has not yet been completed. Therefore, the first prototype went on its first flight with a foreign power plant. The second prototype will fly with Russian PD-8s.
Nevertheless, the domestic civil aviation industry has taken a huge step forward in eliminating critical dependence on foreign components. The process of certification and putting on the conveyor of all replaced units and assemblies will take several more years, but as a result, the aircraft will become truly Russian, without quotes. Will he have a second chance in overseas markets?
If the manufacturing company makes a shortened version of the SJ-75 and establishes prompt after-sales service, then there are chances to sell the short-haul airliner not only in the Russian Federation, but also in some developing BRICS countries.