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UAC picks Ulyanovsk for $250m carbon fiber components plant for commercial jets

3 Mar '10
Oleg Kouzbit, Online News Managing Editor

In its 2008 Year-End Review Marchmont reported Russian nanotech corporation Rusnano and United Aircraft Corporation’s joint plans to set up production of composite aircraft components. More than a year after, in late February 2010, UAC announced it had chosen Ulyanovsk to build a $250m plant to churn out ‘black wings’ for a new series of the Sukhoi SuperJet 100 and MS-21 aircraft, as well as future wide-body planes.

Four sites in the running

Two years ago, when Rusnano and United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) had aired their plans for a new ‘black wing revolution’ in Russia, Kazan, Ulyanovsk, Voronezh and Moscow Region’s Lukhovitsy were being considered as possible production sites.

At the time Kazan seemed most likely to host the new long-term national project. Rusnano’s Andrey Malyshev even referred to Kazan as “a perfect site” for setting up a facility.

Yury Tarasov, the CEO of United Aircraft Corporation’s technology center, estimated investment in production of composite components and wing and tail assemblies to be between $500m and $870m.

He expected the project to start by 2013 with a capacity of 140 sets of wings a year, and was hoping that Russia’s first ‘black wing only’ plane (one built entirely from composite materials) would be commissioned that year.

Now that the site has been chosen, both the cost of the plant and its expected production volumes have been scaled back.

…and the winner is

UAC finally put an end to the guessing game when it announced two weeks ago that it had chosen Ulyanovsk as its site to build its high-tech factory. The company said that the city had offered a better choice of tax breaks and, most importantly, a ready-to-revamp production site.

The project investment has been trimmed 50% and is now expected to cost a reported $250m. Funding will be provided by a newly formed consortium, the RF and private investors—none of whom have been as yet identified.

The actual component designer and maker will be AeroComposite, a company specifically established a year ago to design, produce and test parts and units from polymer and composite materials. As many as 600 new jobs will be created, UAC reports.

The production site will be created at the existing Aviastar-SP aircraft plant. Components will include wings, center-sections and tail assemblies for Russia’s ‘dream jets’, the twin-jet Sukhoi SuperJet and MS-21.

Under the plans, the factory will also be able to make ‘black wings’ for future wide-body planes.

The construction phase is reportedly expected to be completed in 2015, two years later than originally planned. Annual production of wing sets is now being set at 100.

When the plant is fully operational UAC says AeroComposite expects to generate between $130m and $200m in annual sales.

Oleg Panteleev from Aviaport analytics believes the investment will pay off because the state-of-the-art Ulyanovsk plant will be among the world’s elite polymer and composite makers.
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