31/01/2018 |

For two or three billion dollars

Elizabeth Kuznetsova

Elizabeth Kuznetsova on supersonic business jet on the basis of Tu-160 and competitors.

The Russian aviation industry is improving in the ability of ancient philosophers to “give the old for the new and the new to recognize the old.” Now the representatives of the aviation industry were amazed with ingenuity and diligence: it was only worth Vladimir Putin last week to propose a passenger version of the supersonic Tu-160 bomber, as the officials immediately worked out the business plan. Already on Monday, the Ministry of Industry and Trade promised for seven or eight years to design the first in modern history supersonic administrative aircraft – business jet. However, the officials immediately made a reservation that the project will take place only “if there is a reserve for the power plant.” Demand, as well as at the start of other civilian projects, is still limited to a few dozen – 20-30 cars, each costing $ 100-120 million.

But this news causes a lot of memories. And it’s not even about the Soviet Tu-144 or the British-French Concorde. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, the Sukhoi Design Bureau was developing a project of a supersonic passenger aircraft of the business class C-21 and its larger modification C-51. The project, named Sukhoi Supersonic Business Jet (SSBJ), was headed by the deputy chief designer, and later the president of the United Aircraft Corporation and the ideologist of the creation of the SSJ 100 aircraft, Mikhail Pogosyan. Unlike the current plans (now the Russian aviation industry is ready to independently implement the project), the creation of SSBJ was sought to attract serious foreign partners – the American Gulfstream Aerospace, the French Dassault Aviation. There was even an attempt to find investors in China. But the project was canceled at the design completion stage, and the serial release of the SSBJ would require at least $ 1 billion.

Return to another great, but unfinished idea looks at least self-confident. Officials confidently state that the export potential of the supersonic business jet “can be significant.” No less optimistic is the format of the passenger version of the Tu-160 – according to plans it can accommodate up to 50 people.

It should be noted that the American Aerion and Lockheed Martin announced similar, but less large-scale plans to create a supersonic business jet AS2 for 12 people at the end of 2017. Similar developments are engaged in NASA and the start-up Boom, in which businessman Richard Branson has already invested $ 2 billion, buying rights for ten future aircraft. By the project of processing the Tu-160 into business jet, the Russian aviation industry again aims at leadership in the segment of civil supersonic aircraft, but the competition already promises to be tougher. However, judging by the way in which earlier and much more real projects for the creation of Russian aircraft disappeared, before the struggle for a buyer of a civilian Tu-160, the matter may not come up.

Article in Russian: Kommersant

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