SuperJet International (SJI), the joint venture between Italy’s Leonardo and Studio Guidotti and Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), is seeking a way out capable of allowing the SSJ100 jetliner to continue with its active program.
The Venice-based company is responsible for marketing and supporting the Sukhoi SuperJet, a 100-seat aircraft that has emerged as a global competitor to manufacturers such as Embraer and Bombardier.
Economic sanctions imposed on Russia, however, made the SSJ100 an unwanted plane outside its home country. In addition, the aircraft had a troubled international career, with many availability issues.
Now, the partners of SJI reached an agreement in which UAC committed to sell its participation in the joint venture (49%) to Mark AB Capital Investments, from the United Arab Emirates.
If the company obtains approval from the Russian and Italian authorities, SJI would have a 49% shareholding with Mark AB Capital Investments, 41% with Studio Guidotti International and 10% with Leonardo.
With UAC gone, the hope is that SJI’s stock and assets will be unfrozen, allowing the SSJ100 to be re-launched.
In the new scenario, the aircraft will be assembled at Al Ain airport, in Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates), and then finalized at SJI’s facilities in Venice. The new partner promises to invest 190 million euros to enable the commercial relaunch.
“This agreement has a great value for our company, as the interruption of industrial and commercial relations with UAC will allow the company to no longer be burdened by the limitations resulting from the sanctioning regulations set by the European Union,” said the CEO of SuperJet International, Camillo Perfido.
SJI sees a sales potential of at least 240 aircraft in passenger, executive and cargo versions, “most of which will be destined for the UAE and Indian markets.”
The announcement came as a surprise because UAC is in the midst of developing a new variant of the SSJ100. Named SSJ-NEW, the aircraft had all western components replaced by items produced in Russia.
The project includes replacing the PowerJet SaM146 engine, produced by the partnership between Safran and NPO Saturn, for the PD-8, from Aviadvigatel.
SSJ-New is expected to enter service in 2024 and has had dozens of units ordered by Russian airlines, so it is highly unlikely that the program will be abandoned.
It sounds more credible that UAC is relinquishing the original variant in order to allow the SSJ100 to pursue its commercial career outside of Russia.
Even so, it will be necessary to take the opposite path from the SSJ-New, therefore, to remove the Russian components of the aircraft, including the SaM-146 engine, at first.