Alenia Aeronautica's decision to invest in Sukhoi Civil Aircraft (SCAC) is part of its efforts to diversify its industrial partnerships evenly between the civil and military markets worldwide, says the company's senior vice-president strategies and business development Carlo Logli.
Balancing revenue between civil and military markets "smooths out the peaks and troughs", he says.
Although the SCAC deal marks Alenia's debut in the regional jet field, it has been flirting with the sector for over a decade, predominantly through its involvement in ATR. "We have been chasing a partner for 15 years," says Logli. "In the early 1990s we talked about a large regional jet family with our ATR partner Aerospatiale and DASA, and we later looked at the stillborn Airbus AE31X."
Logli adds that another avenue pursued was the ATR/BAe Airjet family of large regional jets proposed in the mid-1990s under the Aero International (Regional) banner, but this project never progressed beyond the study stage. "We also did due diligence on taking over the 728 programme after the collapse of Fairchild in 2002, but decided not to go forward with it," he says.
The emergence of the SSJ - or RRJ as it was then - perfectly suited Alenia's needs. "The size was good, and the company had a wealth of aerospace experience, with the added value of the lower labour rate of the Russian market," says Logli.
While Alenia's initial focus will be on establishing the planned international sales and support operation for the SSJ in Europe, it has wider ambitions for its Sukhoi tie-up in the longer term, says Logli.
"On the SSJ we could use our experience of advanced materials to get involved in the construction of composite components," he says. "There are other potential areas of collaboration - for example, a supersonic business jet or even military projects in the longer term."