"We would like to start cooperation with Poland. We have a lot of experience in one area and the Poles in another. We wish you and ourselves the opportunity to build aircraft," the Antonov state aircraft manufacturing enterprise’s Chief Designer Dmytro Kiva said in an interview with the Polish portal Defence24.pl. Below are the most interesting portal excerpts from the interview.
What is the situation in your company regarding economic-political difficulties?
Our concern consists of many assets, including the plant in Kharkov. We are a state-owned company. If we are speaking about our Kiev enterprise, there is a good base for development, testing, certification, and serial production of aircraft here. In total, we employ 13,500 people. The situation is now normal, stable. Work on new aircraft is continuing. However, our ability is greater and, unfortunately, we produce less than we would like. Frankly, we have obviously lost as a result of the freezing of various joint programs with Russia.
What do you mean?
Military-technical cooperation. The loss from this accounts for about 10% of our income.
On which markets do you see prospects for aircraft Antonov aircraft?
Many countries are showing serious interest, including Asian countries, which want to develop their own aircraft industry and have adequate financial resources for this. We have already signed preliminary agreements with four countries and we are now continuing work on negotiation of contracts.
In addition, we are cooperating with several countries in South America. Also with Europe, including Poland. There was even a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Janusz Piechocinski last year. I saw that there was a desire to cooperate. Unfortunately, Poland has already lost practically its entire aircraft manufacturing industry.
Even before World War II, Poland was a country with a powerful aircraft manufacturing industry. Later, many aircraft were also produced in Mielec, Swidnik, and Rzeszow. Now only production of helicopters in Swidnik remains. Frankly, I was in Mielec and even met with the mayor of the city. It is worse there now than it was before. Production of the An-28 or the M28 – as it is called there – is in single digits. Previously, more than 100 aircraft were produced here per year. However, even now, there are proposals to build the An-2 turboprop there. It is also possible to produce the modernized An-28 or An-38. Completely new aircraft based on new technologies could also have been manufactured there.
What is preventing this?
It is necessary to create an enterprise that will be able to do it. Unfortunately, I do not yet see such an enterprise. I do not want to criticize anyone, but comparing with what I saw in Mielec earlier, when 25,000 people worked there...
What are your plans for the An-178?
We have big plans. This aircraft will replace the An-12 and C-160 because it has the best parameters. It can be used on a short runway, it can transport shipping containers, and it can fly under category 3A conditions (under conditions of practically zero visibility). Many countries want to buy this aircraft, as well as acquire licenses to produce it.
How many An-178 do you plan to sell?
We plan to sell about 200. For example, 1,400 An-12, about 160 C-350, and about 2,500 C-130 Hercules have been produced. The fact is that there is an unoccupied niche. There are airplanes with payloads of 10-11 tons – the Alenia C-27J Spartan, the CASA C-295, and our An-32. That is all. After those, only the C-130 Hercules exists. There is nothing between them. We see the An-178 in this niche. In addition, our aircraft has greater fuel economy.
The next development – the An-188 – has not yet been announced. Is it a modernized An-70 or something new?
The actual payload of the Airbus A400M does not exceed 30 tons, and it costs about EUR 200 million. This is a huge amount of money. In addition, it needs an acceleration runway of 915 meters. We had planned 600-700 meters for the An-70. Every meter results in losses or capability in terms of other parameters of the aircraft. We have seen that our offer is cheaper. The Embraer KC-390, which can lift 22-24 tons of cargo, and the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III, which can carry 78 tons, have emerged. Our An-70 (40-45 tons of cargo) is between them.
What is the An-188 project about?
It will be an An-70, but "westernized." Secondly, we offer installation of modern, western engines. It will be American engines and American avionics. We have completed the testing of the An-70, and we did it without the participation of Russia.
Is there any interest in this project?
Of course. Even the French wanted the An-70 to perform a variety of tasks for them. They mainly use the A400M, which is simply unsuitable for certain tasks. We are also working under the program RusLan SALIS GmbH – we deliver goods to various corners of the world for NATO.
There are many components in the An-70, including its engines, which are produced in Russia. Without them, the airplane does not make sense. It is necessary to replace them completely. We come back to what has already been said before – to the need to install modern western engines. I think that Americans should think carefully. We are already suggesting to them that this project could be implement jointly.
In Poland, many people are saying that it is necessary to help Ukraine and that it is necessary to cooperate. However, one can ask specifically - what do you need, what would you like to do together with Poland, and with which companies?
We have experience of cooperation with Poland. We have done a lot of work in this country. Personally, I even have the license of distinguished aviation industry worker from your ministry. Our cooperation was very developed during the communist era. I worked in Poland for 12 years and I headed the programs for al the Antonov aircraft that were produced here. Later, I came to Poland every year to visit the grave of my father, who died here during World War II.
I would like to develop our cooperation. We have experience in one area and the Polish in another. Industrial partnership will benefit Poland and Ukraine. I was recently at the Military Institute of Weapons Technology. I was surprised by its high technological level. We are currently negotiating with the Arboleda company, and we are cooperating with Ankol, which is headed by Czeslaw Kolisz. Of course, we wish you and ourselves the opportunity to build airplanes.
We think we will build Bryza patrol aircraft based on the An-28. We could design modifications of it with significant capabilities (carrying capacity, increased flight duration). In addition, we have implemented the An-38 project. We have stopped cooperation with Russia on this aircraft. We have orders for this airplane from Brazil, Indonesia, and Malaysia.
We have also proposed modernization of the patrol aircraft that are used on the border. We are analyzing the use of Polish products for this. We could also jointly decide how to develop the An-148. It could be equipped with Swedish equipment and used as AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System). I saw airplanes with such antennas at an exhibition in Abu Dhabi last year.
What does the interest from the Polish side look like?
Such interest exists. We have held many meetings. There should be customers for those projects that we can implement jointly. For example, the Germans are interested in the An-178. We could work together in this area. Negotiations are going on all the time, and delegations are coming to us from Germany and Poland.
"There are many aircraft manufacturers in Russia, but they are all weakened and they have lost the full aircraft manufacturing cycle. They now talk a lot but do very little"
What opportunities exist in the context of the An-178 and the An-188?
This should be your decision – either "Sikorsky" continues to produce and sell helicopters or also begins to develop aircraft manufacturing. At the same time, I am sorry, but "Sikorsky" is only a name, the owner is someone else. Sikorsky’s parents were born near Kiev. Theoretically, the Americans should not have anything against the launch of aircraft production in Poland. It is obvious that "Sikorsky" does not invest in development of aircraft manufacturing in Poland. Now, everyone has his own interests. However, I know that there is a strong sense of patriotism in Poland, Poles put their country above all things, and that is very good. In Ukraine, something similar has been observed more recently. In general, a lot unite our nations, although our assessments of various periods of history are different. In fact, cooperation can be built on this.
Do the Polish authorities want to help? Only declarations or are there specific actions?
My impressions from meetings in the Polish Ministry of Economy are very positive. It seems that this cooperation is important to the Polish side and there were statements by minister Piechocinski expressing support for Polish-Ukrainian cooperation in aircraft manufacturing. Various documents are being prepared.
The president of Russia declared two months ago that he would allocate RUB 100 billion or USD 1.7 billion to the Russian aircraft manufacturing industry to enable it to quickly become independent of foreign manufacturers. Can this be considered an attack on the Ukrainian industry?
There are many aircraft manufacturers in Russia, but they are all weakened and they have lost the full aircraft manufacturing cycle. They now talk a lot but do very little. We produced our new An-178 aircraft within two years.
Russian companies are in talks with India on production of the medium-range MTA transport aircraft with a payload of 18-20 tons. They have been holding talks for 10 years, and there is still not a single project. At the same time, they are informing us of the desire to purchase a license for our airplane. It is clear that nobody will sell the license under such political relations. The exception is military aircraft manufacturing, but we do not engage in that.
The Russians do not have competitive products, particularly competitive engines. They will not put Western engines in the Il-96 and Tu-204. In the end, there is no one to build these airplanes in Russia. Here is the Irkut MS-21 for 150-200 passengers. It is said that there will be such an airplane, but who is building it? Who is coordinating the production of its elements?
What about the Sukhoi SuperJet?
We invested USD 1.5 billion in it, but it now generates losses because no one produces or sells it at that price. I know that its real price is at least USD 35-40 million, but they are selling it for USD19 million to Mexico and Asia. They are losing USD 20 million on each airplane. Meanwhile, the airplane is worse than our An-148 and An-178 and we will have even better options if we put Western engines.