MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia will show off its best fighter jets and newest space shuttles at the MAKS airshow starting on Tuesday, and an ambitious program to upgrade its aging arms may make Moscow the biggest buyer at its own show.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is expected to visit the show on Wednesday, and among the highlights will be the first public flight of the long-delayed, fifth generation T-50 fighter plane.
Below are some facts about Russia’s aerospace industry:
Russia’s biggest airline is Aeroflot, 51 percent owned by the Russian government and just under 15 percent owned by wealthy businessman and media tycoon Alexander Lebedev.
It operates a fleet of 98 aircraft and transported 11.3 million passengers in 2010, up 29 percent on the previous year.
The company is part of a $120 billion privatization plan, but Chief Executive Vitaly Savelyev told Reuters last month that a sale should not take place prior to 2014 or before it has integrated other state aviation assets.
Aeroflot flies both Airbus and Boeing planes.
It is also a buyer of Russia’s mid-size Superjet 100.
Russia’s second biggest airline, Transaero, carried 6.65 million passengers last year, 32.3 percent more than in 2009, and has a fleet of 64 aircraft, almost all of them Boeing.
Russia delivered its long-delayed Superjet 100 mid-size airline to Armenia’s Armavia in April, the first purchase of a Russian passenger plane since the fall of the Soviet Union.
The Superjet is a joint project led by Russia’s state-owned aerospace firm Sukhoi in partnership with Italy’s Finmeccanica and Boeing.
The aircraft has 170 orders, with more expected at MAKS. It can seat up to 98 passengers and is intended to compete with Canada’s Bombardier and Brazil’s Embraer.
Superjet is also looking to bring a business jet version of the Superjet 100 to the market.
State-controlled Irkut is building the MC-21 larger passenger jet to compete with the next generation of Boeing and Airbus models.
At a far earlier stage of development, the 150-210 seat airliner is hoping to win certification at around 2016 and be on the market by the following year.
Sukhoi and Irkut are part of state-controlled holding company the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), created by Putin during his 2000-2008 presidency to be a national champion for plane manufacturing.
UAC, which also includes Mikoyan (MiG), builds a range of fighter planes including a modernised Su-35 multi-role fighter and the MiG-35, a potential competitor to Lockheed Martin’s F-35.
The MAKS airshow is set to see the first display of Russia’s T-50 fifth-generation fighter jet, which is being produced to challenge the U.S. F-22 stealth fighter aircraft made by Lockheed Martin and Boeing. Moscow is also developing a stealth fighter with India.
Russia has a long track record of selling fighter jets to India, Moscow’s top arms importer, but received a blow in April when the MiG-35 was rejected by India for an $11 billion fighter plane contract.
Russia’s arms industry is trying to break out of a long period of stagnation that started at the end of the Soviet Union when research was cut due to a lack of funding.
Russia brought 11 regional helicopter manufacturers under single holding company Russian Helicopters last year in a bid to revive the industry.
The company builds a family of Mi-branded vehicles and plans to deliver 262 helicopters this year, up from 214 in 2010. Analysts estimate that around half of orders over the next decade will come from overseas buyers.
(Compiled by John Bowker; Editing by Will Waterman)