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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Sukhoi, Boeing to Build New Jet

Aviation and space agency Rosaviakosmos on Wednesday awarded a consortium led by Sukhoi the right to develop Russia's next regional passenger jet, which is expected to sell by the hundreds and cruise the skies by 2007.

More known for its fighter jets, Sukhoi, in cooperation with U.S. aerospace giant Boeing and domestic design bureaus Ilyushin and Yakovlev, trumped rivals Tupolev and Myasishchev in the government tender, announced last summer.

The winning bid, known as the Russian Regional Jet, is a family of airplanes with ranges of between 2,000 and 6,000 kilometers and seating capacities of 60, 75 and 95 passengers.

"The creation of a family of this aircraft will not only give a boost to the development of the domestic aviation industry but also will bring it to a new level," Sukhoi general director Mikhail Pogosyan said in a statement.

A jubilant Sukhoi said it and its partners could now busy themselves identifying suppliers, securing a production facility and arranging financing for the development of the new craft.

"We expect to get firm contracts for the craft in 2004," Andrei Ilyin, director of Sukhoi's civil aviation division, said by telephone.

The aircraft is expected to make its maiden flight in 2006 and enter mass production in 2007. Sukhoi hopes to sell some 630 of the craft domestically and abroad through 2022. The price has yet to be decided, but most estimates put the figure in the range of $10 million to $20 million.

The aircraft will eventually replace aging Tu-134, Yak-40s and An-24s.

Sukhoi said the program requires a $560 million investment, with part coming from Sukhoi itself and risk-sharing partners. The government is committed to providing some financing, but has yet to announce a figure. The remainder will have to be borrowed.

"So far, all we know is that our project will be written into the government's program for civil aviation development through 2015," Ilyin said.

Boeing has pledged to assist in the design, certification, marketing, sale and post-sale servicing of the craft. But it was not clear if it would offer financing as well.

Two foreign companies are bidding for the right to supply engines to the craft -- French Snecma and Canadian Pratt&Whitney. The winner will not be officially announced until later this month, but a source in Rosaviakosmos said Snecma's SM146, which it will build together with Moscow's NPO Saturn, had already been chosen.

Russian flagship carrier Aeroflot was the first to confirm interest in the RRJ, saying in 2001 that it would take at least 30 of the craft. Similar agreements exist with Sibir, KrasAir, Pulkovo, UTAir and Ural airlines, Ilyin said, but refused to give the number.

Aeroflot welcomed Sukhoi's victory.

"We needed new regional aircraft yesterday," said Sergei Koltovich, head of Aeroflot's fleet planning.

Abroad, RRJ's first customer may well become Air France.

Francois Bethencourt, Air France's director for corporate fleet development, said from Paris that his company was interested in buying or leasing up to 50 of the jets, provided "they meet our expectations in operating costs and reliability."