Metal cutting begins on Irkut MS-21

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Russian airframer Irkut has started cutting metal for the MS-21 twinjet after securing further funds for an accompanying retooling programme.

Elaborating on the aircraft's development progress, MS-21 production plant director Alexander Veprev said the manufacture of airframe structures is already underway.

"These include forward and central fuselage sections. Preparations are also being made to cut metal for some flight-control surfaces. They will be used for the assembly of two flying prototypes," said Veprev.

"We're working toward having both test aircraft airworthy in the second half of 2015 so that the type certification completes in 2016 and deliveries begin in 2017."

To accommodate the MS-21 production line, Irkut will transfer the assembly of its military products entirely to a newly-built workshop.

"We've also undertaken a large-scale redevelopment and modernisation of existing facilities, with the equivalent of $600 million already spent on upgrading equipment," Veprev says.

"Another $200 million is going toward acquisition of cutting-edge technologies from the middle of this year through to mid-2014."

The retooling programme comprises jigs, machining centres and high-precision module assembly equipment ordered from Western manufacturers.

Irkut has been organising tours for institutional investors through its MS-21 production facilities and its investment campaign is backed by Sberbank which, in 2011, opened a 10-year $1 billion line of credit for the plant.

"This covers 30-40% of funding required for the MS-21 production programme," says Sberbank vice-president Vladimir Yashin.

"But following extra due diligence work, our experts have confirmed the project's [investment value]. If need be, we'll be prepared to increase our commitment to make loans to Irkut up to $2 billion."