In an effort to rely less on the United States and Europe for large jets, Russia and China are working together on a wide-body jet that is aimed at competing with aircraft from leading manufacturers Airbus Group SE and Boeing Co.
The collaboration between Russia’s United Aircraft Corp. and Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China is scheduled to be solidified by agreement later this year. It may expand to also include the development of a jet engine, something China has had particular difficulty producing despite long ago stealing detailed technical documents from leading engine manufacturers.
The wide-body aircraft would contain two aisles and seat over 160 passengers.
President Vladimir Putin is working with China on a variety of matters in order to offset the industry strength of the United States and Europe. The shift comes as tensions between the West and Russia have escalated due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Despite the growing ties between China, to date, Putin has made little progress in the partnership as the Chinese economy is in distress and the prices of oil and commodities have plummeted. As a result of those two factors, trade between Russia and China has actually decreased 29% in the first half of 2015, though that is largely due to oil prices.
The Russia-China plan to develop a viable wide-body aircraft will likely need investments totalling as much as $20 billion and the Russian government claims it is ready to fund the initial stage of the ambitious project.
In order to keep up with demand, airlines across the globe will need as many as almost 9,000 wide-body mets in the over the next 20 years. Demand in China alone requires the production of at least 1,500 aircraft.
Presently, Boeing and Airbus have had a combined monopoly over the production of wide-body aircraft. The more crowded narrow-body planes are manufactured by a few more companies with Boeing and Airbus leading the way.
In addition to the wide-body aircraft collaboration, Russia and China plan to sell Russia’s Superjet 100 regional plane in both China and other Asian markets under a leasing agreement framework signed earlier this year. The two countries plan to compete with market leaders both under the collaboration as well as separately. Russia’s United Aircraft Corp. is developing the MC-21 and Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China is developing the C919. Both planes are scheduled to for the first time by early 2016.