The Russian Aerospace Industry is Rapidly Recovering

More info against the Department of Russia Only Produces Oil and Vodka: Here are some graphs of Russian aerospace manufacturing courtesy of the Reality vs. Myths blog. (2013 figures are projections).


Total helicopter construction has now basically converged with the levels of the late RSFSR.


Aircraft construction is only halfway there, but its state is nonetheless leagues better than it was in the depths of the post-Soviet freefall. As the blogger points out, its poorer performance via-a-vis helicopters can be explained by the fact that the technologies used in Soviet civil aircraft was outdated, so the Russian industry essentially had to start over from scratch. Nonetheless, it seems to have reached the point of a rapid further up-trend, presumably driven by the Sukhoi SuperJet 100 as it enters mass production. The United Aircraft Corporation, the holding company into which independent Russian aircraft companies were consolidated in 2006, projects production increasing to 160 units by 2020.


  1. Dear Anatoly,

    This is a fine article and makes a point you would never know from reading parts of the Russian press, which also seem to have convinced themselves that the country’s aerospace industry is dwindling away to nothingness. I am getting very tired of the way so many Russians who do and should know better and many of whom are by no means swivel eyed ultra liberals constantly do down their own country. This not clever or realistic. It is stupid since people will take you at your estimation of yourself.

    For the rest I would say that though one should never make the mistake of predicting the future with any certainty, all other things being equal there are three developments in the pipeline that promise well and which should raise output further if all goes to plan:

    1. The development of the new MS11 aircraft;
    2. The government’s plans to restart production of light short haul aircraft; and
    3. Talks with China for co production of wide bodied aircraft.

    I would add (somewhat contrary to your article) that by the 1980s the USSR had finally mastered the design and production of high bypass turbofans, the key technology in civil aircraft, the delay in doing so being probably partly due to the misdirection of investment to the supersonic TU144 in the 1960s and 1970s. The knowledge gained in mastering that technology is presumably still there. The problems was that though production lines for helicopters had become well established, the production of modern civil aircraft was then aborted before it got properly started. I suspect that what has held output back since then is less a lack of technology and more a lack of investment and a severe weakening of production capabilities at precisely the time when the Russian market for civilian aircraft was opened for the first time to foreign competition.

    This should mean that if a co production deal is done with China development could be rapid and output of wide bodied aircraft might increase more quickly than some expect. The important thing then will be to ensure that Russian and Chinese airlines actually buy the new aircraft when they are produced (there is little chance of the west doing so). Since they will surely come at a substantially lower cost than analogous western aircraft that might not in theory be difficult but given how Russians tend to trash their own products some “persuasion” might also have to be done behind the scenes.

    I would add that if production of wide bodied civil aircraft really does take off in Russia and China then the west will fight the new industry every inch of the way. Expect a propaganda campaign trashing the new aircraft like nothing we have ever seen. The reason for that is that sales of wide bodied civil aircraft are a critical export for the US and European economies.

  2. Just in last MAKS 2013 orders for 82 MS-21 planes were placed, elevating the total orders to 250 units – and this for an aircraft which hasn’t flown yet! (the first prototype is scheduled to fly next year)
    For giants like Airbus and Boeing this is a small number, but it is huge compared to the orders that Russian civil aircraft have been receiving until recently (just about 20 Il-96 and 60 Tu-204 were manufactured since production started in the late 80’s).
    The Superjet is a good project, but nothing outstanding: it is a very conventional aircraft and uses almost no composites. It is a project with minimal costs and risks meant to revive the civil industry, and if possible give a standing for Russian passenger aircraft abroad. So far it hasn’t paid its costs, but in the medium term it probably will. Anyway, there will be a major upgrade to the Superjet (SSJ NG) in some years, incorporating more advances currently being developed for the MS-21:
    So I wouldn’t say that the Russian civil aviation industry is dead, it still has serious problems, but seems to be recovering.

  3. Interesting article about the Superjet for Mexican airline Interjet:
    Funny how they insist it is an “European” aircraft. Sure, it has a lot of Western components, engine and avionics are designed and produced jointly by Russian and French companies. But to say that “(t)he aircraft was manufactured in Europe” is simply wrong, because the Superjet is assembled in Komsomolsk-na-Amure, in the Far East, close to the Chinese border. Anyway, as still there are a lot of prejudices against Russian civil aircraft, it is understandable that Interjet will emphasize the Western partners. Let’s hope the Superjet starts changing this.

  4. Head of UAC, Mikhail Pogosyan (formerly headed Sukhoi very successfully) is quoted in 20 August 2 September Fight International Issue “Two years ago 90% of our sales were military, but we are moving to a more balanced structure… This year, transport and civil will be 20%. Between 2020 and 2025, they will get to 50%”.

    This will mirror european airframer EADS (now Airbus) which has a rough 50/50 civil/military split, though the civilian side is much more profitable. Plenty of challenges remain. Some other news stories from Flight Global:

    Russian Helicopters, AgustaWestland kick off 2.5t-class joint venture

    MAKS: Russia lifts veil on PD-14 demonstrator, latest engine technology

    MAKS: Russian Helicopters grows backlog for Kamov Ka-62

    Russian Helicopters schedules first flight of high-speed type for 2018

    For the nerds out there:
    Flight International main page:

    Flight International Blog page:

    Flight International News listings:

  5. I strongly suspect that by Q1 2014 those civil a/c statistics will tangent pre-1992 numbers.

    • Maybe I should rephrase this, the 2013 output has surpassed 50 already and stretching the data point into Q1/Q2 2014 would tangent or surpass 1992 numbers. Sticking to the sample rate however, the total 2014 output should alone be able to do this. The standing orders are for hundreds of civil aircraft and just a few weeks ago an additional boost came with hundreds more ordered at MAKS. With the massive overhaul of production facilities and subsequent ever-increasing production rates we’ve seen in the past couple of years, Russian aerospace industry is growing lightning fast.

  6. I just wanted to mention that the aerospace industry and its growth can be seen as forstered by the other area in which Russia is often accused to stick to: weapons and military equipment (as a relic of old Cold War days; see also Syria).

    I would feel much better about the Russian economy being diverse if it had lots of other areas with equal development: computers, industrial goods, services, etc. Alas, those other sectors are still doing rather poorly, at least in comparison to what the human potential in Russia would lead you to believe is possible.

    So: it’s not just oil-and-vodka, it’s oil-and-vodka-and-weapons. Other sectors may eventually grow and surpass them, thereby creating a truly diversified economy, but they are very far from doing it as quickly as they could at the moment (compare China). And, judging by other Russia watchers, the #1 candidate for explaining this is systemic corruption, which is much worse in Russia than in China. Putin’s anti-corruption efforts are too narrowly targeted (perhaps too insincere) to be effective at the level that would be necessary in order to really help the economy grow to its full potential.

    Which is not to say that it won’t. Economies are complex beings, and the fact that corruption is hurting it and the government isn’t really interested in eradicating it doesn’t necessary mean that the economy won’t grow and prosper. It’s just that much less likely than it would otherwise be.

  7. Dear Anatoly
    I don’t speak English very well, so please have my apologies and all readers.
    My native language is Polish.
    Somewhere I have found that by the year 2020 or so something, China will need over 5000 passenger aircrafts
    For Russia is the story similar but the number of passenger aircrafts might be about 2000.
    Solution for Russia would be to follow the path of these countries in Europe who have pooled resources together and created Air Bus.
    Russia has know-how and China has a huge market, if they combine their “haves” they could replicate the European success.
    That is situation win-win for Russia and China. There is no other alternative for Russian airspace industry.

    Also, when I want to log in why must I use only Google,FB, Tweeter and one more, which I dont know what it is. Why cannot I use .ru or Yandex mail?

  8. StreetwiseProfessorslittlebitch says:

    AK: Okay, you’ve been warned for off-topic posting/copy-pasting without original input of your own a few times now. Banned.