A report from Russia states that the government is considering allowing assembly of its commercial aircraft programs in India. This is a bold move. According to the report Indian production could reduce costs by 40%. Commercial aerospace chases cost reduction because this is the primary goal of airline customers. However, cost reduction cannot come at the expense of safety.
Both the SSJ and MC-21 are apparently available for this deal.India has a long history of close cooperation with Russia. Sukhoi’s SU-30 is built under license in India. So why not Sukhoi’s Superjet? Moreover India would dearly like to develop its aerospace sector. Besides the obvious job creation and boost to the country’s technical skill demands, there is always that other matter – competing with China.
China has shown tremendous development of its own aerospace sector. But its successes have been mainly in the military arena – interestingly, by “borrowing” from Sukhoi’s fighters. India is clearly not seen as much of a threat to Russia’s aerospace as is China. China’s commercial aerospace programs have so far proven to be a disappointment. If the Indians approach the opportunity with Russia with a view to develop their national aerospace industry without compromising long term relationships we could foresee a positive outcome. Sukhoi and the Russian government have seen China show little regard for IP and this is where India can exploit the opportunity.
For the Russians this could be a very smart move. Its aerospace sector, like that of the EU and USA, also needs more resources. Airbus, for example, has been adding facilities across the globe. India could provide a skilled (and known) labor pool. Given the Indian state’s penchant for meddling, it would be expected that India’s airlines will be encouraged to buy “local” equipment. Indeed a deal seems, on the face of it, to offer considerable upside to both parties. Of course the most critical part is execution. It is going to be interesting to see how India responds to this opportunity.