The Russian government has decided to start final assembly of Ilyushin Il-76 transports at the Ulyanovsk Aviastar factory, in an effort to salvage an unravelling production schedule for 34 Il-76s and four Il-78 tankers ordered in a $1.5 billion deal with China.

An agreement was signed by Russia and China in September 2005 for the 38 aircraft. Most of the components are built in Russia, but final assembly was to be undertaken at the Chkalov Tashkent Aviation Production Organisation (TAPO) plant in Uzbekistan, which had been the final assembly site in the Soviet era. However, no Il-76s have been built at TAPO since 1997, and only 16 fuselages were in storage at the factory, which can no longer build complete airframes.

The contract stipulates that the first aircraft was to be delivered 16 months after the two sides signed the contract, and the rest within four years. China regards the deal as having come into force in February, but Russia is hesitating to confirm the contract, as it doubts it can maintain production to meet the original contract.

The Russian government is now planning to build the Il-76 wings at VASO in Voronezh, and conduct final assembly at Aviastar, but moving production to Russia means that there is likely to be a significant delay between Tashkent finishing the 16th aircraft and Aviastar producing the subsequent aircraft. China is demanding that Russia speed up production, according to Russia's Vremya Novostei newspaper.

Source: Flight International