Russia Aircraft Makers Seek Support

 
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IL Serge Pod #16.08.2001 20:57
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Russia Aircraft Makers Seek Support

A primary target for U.S. spy satellites during the Cold War, this air base near Moscow attracted thousands of spectators who came to see Russia`s top-of-the-line jets at the Moscow International Air Show, which opened Tuesday.
President Vladimir Putin was the star guest, making a dramatic arrival in a helicopter at the base just 15 miles southeast of Moscow.

``Economic difficulties have taken their toll on the aviation industry, but despite that, our aircraft makers have found their niche in the global market,`` Putin said.

He walked briskly past a line of wide-bodied Tupolev airliners, sleek fighter jets and helicopter gunships, peering into their cockpits and listening to their designers` pleas for state support.

By the end of Putin`s three-hour inspection, the presidential entourage had grown into a colorful mixture of officials, journalists, curious children and security service snipers armed to the teeth.

Most Russian aircraft makers found themselves struggling for survival when generous government orders dried up after the 1991 Soviet collapse. In the decade that followed, the Russian air force has received just a handful of experimental new aircraft and has been short of fuel to train its pilots, while Russian airlines have abandoned domestic aircraft makers for Boeing and Airbus.

In a distraction from the funding problems, pilots from the air force`s acrobatic squadrons stole the show Tuesday, their Su-27s and MiG-29 fighters sweeping low over the base, making synchronized rolls and loops in an immaculate group performance.

The Sukhoi company has been virtually the single Russian aircraft maker to prosper since the Soviet collapse, selling large batches of Su-27 and Su-30 fighters to China and India in deals worth billions of dollars.

Another world-famous Russian manufacturer of fighter jets, the MiG company, has been far less successful and is now vying for lucrative orders to modernize MiGs supplied to Eastern and Central European countries during Soviet times.
Combat jets now make up to 60 percent of Russian arms exports, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov told reporters Tuesday.

Officials have said a new-generation Russian fighter is still on the drawing board and not expected to fly until 2006. The latest U.S. fighter, the F-22 Raptor, first flew in 1997 and is set to enter combat duty in 2005.
Although the new fighter is slow to come, the Russian military says it will keep existing aircraft competitive with the latest Western designs by fitting planes with modern avionics and weapons.

``By modernizing existing aircraft, which are quite good, we can keep them competitive for a minimum of 10 years,`` Ivanov said Tuesday.

The government recently promised to bail out ailing manufacturers of civilian aircraft by launching a state-supported leasing program that would encourage Russian airlines to acquire locally-made planes.

During his visit to the air show Tuesday, Putin visited Western companies' exhibitions, receiving scale models of the latest Boeing and Airbus. Both companies have moved aggressively to expand on the Russian market.

The Zhukovsky base, part of the Gromov Flight Research Institute in charge of testing new military aircraft, was once one of the Soviet Union`s most zealously guarded facilities. Huge hangars hid the aircraft from being photographed from space and testing went on between flyovers by U.S. spy satellites.

AP

AVIA.RU - Информационное агентство "Российская авиация и космонавтика"
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