Not so Russian: Irkut SSJ-NEW jetliner will first fly with French design engine

UAC Russified version of the regional jet will have the first prototype still equipped with SaM146 turbofan, designed by Safran. Only the second aircraft will feature the Russian PD-8 engine

The SSJ-NEW, an all-Russian version of the SSJ100 regional jet, won’t be all that Russian. At least the first prototype of the Irkut aircraft, which is in the final assembly line in Komsomolsk-on-Amur.

According to the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), a state-owned company that houses several Russian aerospace manufacturers, the SSJ-NEW that is being finalized will use SaM146 engines, supplied by Safran (France) in partnership with NPO.

According to the company, the decision was taken not to delay the development program, which also includes the replacement of avionics and equipment that were previously sent by western suppliers.

Since the beginning of sanctions against Russia, already after the invasion of Crimea in 2014, UAC faces difficulties to produce its most global aircraft. The conflict in Ukraine ended any hope of having foreign parts, hence the focus was placed on the development of the SSJ-NEW and the MC-21-310 – variant with local PD-14 engines.

The PD-8 turbofan on the IL-76LL wings (Rostec)

The UAC, however, assured that the second test SSJ-NEW will already feature Russian PD-8 turbofans. The first engines will be delivered in the coming weeks, according to the company.

“In a few weeks, we will start factory development tests, within which the first flight will take place. In the next step, the aircraft will be presented to Rosaviatsia specialists for certification tests, after which the systems will be approved for use on board the SSJ-NEW. This will allow the start of series production and commercial operation of the aircraft,” said Andrey Boginsky, UAC Deputy Director General for Civil Aviation.

Disappointing international career

The original Superjet (SSJ100) was launched in the early 2000s by Sukhoi, the design office best known for fighter jets. The plan was to compete for orders with companies like Embraer and Bombardier by offering a commercial aircraft with 100 seats and generous interior space.

SSJ100´s first flight in 2008 (Marina Lystseva/CC)

To increase the chances of orders outside Russia, the SSJ100 was designed with several Western components. The Superjet International, a joint venture between Sukhoi and Alenia (now Leonardo) was created in 2007 to offer the aircraft in overseas markets.

The SuperJet’s commercial career, however, was troubled. Although it operated with Mexico’s Interjet and Europe’s Brussels Airlines and Adria Airways, the jet had several reliability and availability issues.

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Currently, only Russian airlines and airlines from countries under Moscow’s influence use the SSJ100, but part of the fleet would be inactive due to a lack of spare parts.


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