Ukraine’s Antonov halts production in 2016 due to lack of Russian parts
Antonov is a state-owned Ukrainian company famous for producing Soviet-designed transport planes like the An-124 Ruslan and An-225 Mriya, the world’s largest plane. Last year, the Ukrainian government decided to cut all ties between Antonov and its Russian parts suppliers for political reasons.
The decision “didn’t help Antonov,” acknowledged Andrey Haustov, who heads the company’s development department. The Ukrainian plant is struggling to find alternative suppliers and, at the moment, is unable to produce planes, he said.
“Now if we really wanted to build a plane – and we have several unfinished aircraft in our shops – we would have to replace all Russian parts with parts produced by other companies. Not necessarily Western, they can be Ukrainian,” he told Radio Vesti. “For instance, for the An-148 or An-158 that would be about 5,400 types of parts, the biggest being radio electronics.”
Last year Antonov built one An-148 and one An-158 with Russian parts that it still had in its stockpiles, but those are depleted now, so this year the company was unable to finish a single plane, Haustov confirmed, stressing that the issue is pressing. Nonetheless, he has hopes that production will resume next year.
“The market will not wait,” he said.
The problem is relevant to existing planes as well, Haustov pointed out. For instance, the only An-225 Mriya, which made its latest flight in May when it delivered a cargo from Prague in the Czech Republic to Perth, Australia, uses Russian-made tires, for which Antonov has yet to find a replacement, he said.
Antonov’s planned cooperation with China, which may invest in a second An-225, is overshadowed by the same issue. The Ukrainian producer is negotiating a potential deal under which a Chinese firm would help complete the aircraft, which has been mothballed half-built since the collapse of the USSR, and operate it as a co-owner. Eight major plants were involved in building the Mriya, including four in Russia, three in Ukraine, and one in Uzbekistan.
“The Chinese party may suggest some Chinese companies to outfit their plane,” Haustov suggested.
The potential deal with China revealed earlier this week is subject to controversy, however. The initial report in the Chinese media implied that Antonov would sell all An-225 technology to China to use as it sees fit. The Ukrainian producer denied this, saying that it had merely signed a roadmap for negotiating several business projects with the Chinese firm.