Russia and China discuss Il-96 successor

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Russia's United Aircraft and its Chinese counterpart Comac appear to be close to reaching an agreement to jointly develop a new widebody aircraft based on the Ilyushin Il-96.

Speaking in Moscow, Russian industry and trade deputy minister Yuri Slyusar said the country's president-elect Vladimir Putin would sign a relevant memorandum on 5 June during his visit to China.

The draft envisages setting up a joint venture between UAC and Comac as well as outlining contributions of each side to the project.

"Russia is to contribute a package of intellectual rights, technology and know-how," said Slyusar. "China is to provide a production facility and the wherewithal."

He added that the Il-96 could constitute the basis for developing a new widebody aircraft with its serial production to be based wholly in China to minimise production costs.

Chairman of the Russian-Chinese centre for commerce and economic co-operation Sergey Sanakoyev says the planned joint venture should first need to conduct a market research to gauge demand in both countries and then determine production volume.

But he believes the programme could only be viable if it involves assembly of several hundred aircraft.

Slyusar, who heads the ministry's aviation department, suggests the aircraft development will take at least seven years and cost $7-12 billion.

During his visit last year to Beijing, Putin proposed mounting concerted efforts with China to develop a new widebody aircfraft to give an impetus to aerospace industries in both countries.

While admitting that their airlines are increasingly acquiring Western aviation equipment, Putin pointed out that both Russia and China was capable of building aircraft on its own.

"There is a great potential for co-operation in that area," he said. "So much so that China and Russia have such an advantage as an enormous combined market for civil aircraft."