Russia's United Aircraft (OAK) has added the proposed medium-range MS-21 airliner to its production targets with serial manufacture scheduled to begin in 2015.

The MS-21 is conceived as a replacement for Russia's Tupolev Tu-154 fleet. Its three models will have capabilities similar to those of the Airbus A319/A320 and Boeing 737-700 and capacities of 130- to 170 seats and a range of up to 5,550km (3,000nm).

"The [OAK] board last month gave a formal go-ahead for this project and assigned our company a key role in it," says Oleg Demchenko, president of OAK's constituent firm NPK Irkut.

"We have an overall responsibility covering the development work, being carried out jointly by Yakovlev and Ilyushin design bureaux, plus the aircraft production programme."

Under a business plan, preliminary design of the MS-21 should be completed next year, with type certification in 2014. Its serial manufacture is scheduled to begin in 2015 and is expected to allow Irkut to increase the share of civilian production to 80% from 10%.

Demchenko expects the project costs to be recouped through sales of at least 100 aircraft, estimating potential demand for them at around 1,000 units. "This is roughly 10% of the global requirement in that segment," he says. "But we want to avoid a head-on competition with Western aircraft manufacturers. Ideally, we'd like to carry out this project in co-operation with Airbus."

Source: Flight International