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Mr Putin’s visit to China was busy. The two nations signed 17 deals. One deal attracted our attention.

United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) and COMAC signed a memorandum of understanding on manufacture of a wide-body long-range aircraft. A Russian report states the cooperation effort will center on the IL-96. 

Russia will supply the IP and China the cash. But here’s the really important part – production will be located in China. China already has an Airbus factory producing four A320s per month. Airbus says the Chinese A320s match the quality of EU-built A320s. Air Asia will take delivery of the first export from the China factory in December.

China has experience with aircraft manufacturing. It has done deals with Embraer and McDonnell Douglas. These were not too successful. The Chinese got what they wanted though. Chinese firms also sub contract for Boeing and Bombardier. China has proven adept at learning aerospace technology – the Sukhoi fighter order that was cut as it developed a local version of the same fighter underscores this. Russia was not pleased with this. Yet Russia signed a deal on cooperating on a long range airplane.

With the factory in China, the Chinese will be doing the work and learning how to build a large airliner. China has tried this before, with their Y-10 suspiciously looking like a 707.  And the ARJ21 has a heritage that is tough to hide.  China is determined to acquire the skills and has proven with the A320 it has the ability to build a modern high quality product. How good this latest deal is for the Russians is an open question.

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