Move is first step towards the creation of single Russian aerospace manufacturing giant based on EADS model

Russian aircraft manufacturer NPK Irkut will take over the Yakovlev design bureau in a first step towards the creation of a merged aerospace giant incorporating Aviastep, Beriev, Itella and Russian Avionics.

The move follows deputy prime minister Boris Alyeshin's call earlier this year for a single Russian aircraft manufacturer along the lines of Europe's EADS, reducing duplication in the largely state-owned industry and enabling it to compete against foreign manufacturers.

Irkut chairman Valery Bezverkhny says that the merged company will concentrate on unmanned air vehicles, jet trainers and light combat aircraft. Irkut-Yak will be offering various UAVs, including an improved Pchela remotely piloted vehicle and other lightweight designs recently purchased from Israel. Irkut is also optimistic about the estimated $1.5 billion market for the Yak-130 family. "Compared to a $30 million-plus multirole fighter, a $13 million lightweight attack aircraft can be very cost-effective in the ground strike role and highly competitive," Bezverkhny says.

The Yak-130 assembly line will remain at the Sokol plant in Nizhny Novgorod, but some components can be moved to Irkut's IAPO factory in Irkut, says Irkut president Aleksei Fiodorov.

"At the IAPO plant we have advanced manufacturing processes, and it makes sense to use those in the Yak-130 project," he says. IAPO already produces aerostructures for the Beriev Be-200 amphibian and the Sukhoi Su-30MK multirole fighter.

A joint Yakovlev/Irkut holding company will be set up later this year, and its shares will eventually replace Irkut and Yakovlev shares.

Irkut, the National Reserve Bank, and Kaskol are the keenest advocates of Alyeshin's merger plan, and Irkut has now signed an agreement with Kaskol on joint management of its foreign contracts with manufacturers such as Airbus.

Irkut says it is also working on a framework agreement with Sukhoi, to be signed this autumn, although no merger is planned in the near term.

"If we decide to merge, it will require a lengthy process of adapting to the same structural and business principles, and the same legal and production standards," says Fiodorov. "Our long-term relations depend on how the formation of a single national aviation corporation develops," Sukhoi general director Mikhail Pogosyan adds.

Irkut reported revenues of $580 million last year; Yakovlev posted $30 million and Sukhoi $1 billion.

Source: Flight International