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HAL may build components for Sukhoi-Boeing venture

By Our Staff Reporter

BANGALORE, JUNE 17. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) may build aircraft engine components for a consortium led by Sukhoi and Boeing, planning a new line of regional jets, if talks with those firms succeeded, N.R. Mohanty, HAL chairman, said here on Thursday. The public-sector aerospace and defence manufacturer could join in as a "risk-sharing partner", Mr. Mohanty said.

He was talking to presspersons at `Scale 2004', a conference on supply chain and logistics management organised by the Indian Institute of Materials Management here on Thursday. Earlier, he presided over the inauguration of the conference.

Russia's fighter aircraft maker Sukhoi Design Bureau and American aerospace and defence conglomerate Boeing won the bid to make the aircraft last year. The Russian Government is backing this Russian Regional Jet (RRJ) venture. The new aircraft will replace the ageing fleet of Tupolev Tu-134s, Antonov An-24s, Yakovlev Yak-40s, Yak-42s and other old aircraft in Russia and elsewhere in the former Soviet Union.

This could mean millions of dollars in government support, some of which could come HAL's way. The consortium, which includes Sukhoi, Boeing, Ilyushin, and Yakovlev, plans to build a family of regional passenger aircraft, with ranges between 2,000 km and 6,000 km, and seating capacities of 60, 75 and 95 passengers, respectively.

The RRJ joins a market dominated by Bombardier and Brazilian Embraer, but with captive demand. Russian carrier Aeroflot is said to be among the airlines interested in the new aircraft and could order some 30 of them, reports say. Others include Russia's regional airlines, Sibir, KrasAir, Pulkovo, UTAir and Ural Airlines and Air France.

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 aircraft by 2022. The engines will be made by French defence aerospace firm Snecma, which won the contract in competition with Canadian Pratt and Whitney.

Mr. Mohanty said, "This is a good opportunity for us to go global." If HAL joined the consortium, "it will give a big boost to our capabilities, infrastructure and image in the international market," he said. "The planes will be marketed globally and the profits, if any, will be shared in proportion with investment."

HAL and Snecma would soon be forming a 50:50 joint venture to manufacture engine components here. "We are starting with machining of compressor blades. To begin with, Snecma will bring the forgings and these will be machined jointly. We are most likely to finalise the investment and other parameters in July," he said.

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