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Where’s the plane, Antonov? Ukrainian MP doubts country’s aircraft maker will ever actually supply contracted An-178 jet to Peru

Where’s the plane, Antonov? Ukrainian MP doubts country’s aircraft maker will ever actually supply contracted An-178 jet to Peru
Ukraine’s contract to supply an An-178 jet to Peru’s police force, praised by politicians and manufacturer alike, might never come to fruition since the country does not actually have the capacity to build it, an MP claims.

Concerns over the deal were voiced by Ukrainian MP Aleksandr Dubinskiy, from the Servant of the people party, from which current President Volodymyr Zelensky came to power. He called the agreement a “cheap PR stunt” by Ukroboronprom, expressing doubt it ever will – or even intends to – actually supply the aircraft to the Peruvian police force.

The $65 million contract to deliver the Ukrainian transport jet to Peru was signed back in August. The deal was lauded by aircraft maker Antonov, Ukrainian politicians, and media alike as a major breakthrough.

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The deal is actually quite “piquant,” as Dubinskiy put it, since Kiev signed an agreement to deliver a plane it does not actually have. While the country has time to try and make an actual plane to deliver, there’s a major obstacle on the production path. Roughly a third of the jet’s components are Russian made – but due to the strained relations between the two countries, all technical cooperation has effectively stopped. In 2018, former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said Russian-made parts would no longer be used for the plane – but months later, experts are still asking where Antonov is expected to procure them.

Moreover, the Peru deal was reached by Ukroboronprom managers who had not even bothered to discuss the actual prospects of the jet’s production with the plane maker, Dubinskiy claimed. Antonov has shown a very modest capacity to make planes – over the past decade, it has assembled roughly two machines per year. Last month, the company said that roughly 80 percent of its manufacturing equipment is worn out, and that if no funds to maintain it are procured, it will not be able to make anything in five years.

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The history of signing contracts but failing to deliver further reinforces doubts regarding the An-178 Peru contract. For instance, the MP stated, the company signed a deal to deliver an An-74 jet for Kazakhstan’s National Guard back in 2014. While this model dates back to the Soviet era – and the manufacturer surely has experience in producing it – it still failed to make it.

The plane was due to be delivered by the end of 2015, yet production dragged on due to lack of Russian-made parts, Dubinskiy said. Ultimately, Kazakhstan annulled the contract in 2017, recovering $15 million from the manufacturer for pre-payment after a court ruling.

Unless the Peruvian police are satisfied with a dummy – or a prototype that Antonov will be unable to service due to the lack of Russian-made spares – the much-hyped contract is likely to flop. If that happens, it will affect the whole country, not just a few Ukroboronprom managers, Dubinskiy warned, adding that the fiasco will leave yet another dent on Ukraine’s image of a – somewhat – reliable aircraft maker.

Meanwhile, Antonov’s vice president told the media that the work to produce a plane for Peru on time is going as planned.

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