Superjet-NEW To Make First Flight In Early 2023 With Russian Engines

SSJ at MAKS 2015
Sukhoi SSJ 100
Credit: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty Images

Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation has intensified the development of an import-substituted version of its Superjet (SSJ) 100 regional jet—which remains almost the only commercial passenger aircraft Russian domestic carriers can use for international flights now. 

The first flight of the new modification—dubbed SSJ-NEW—will take place in the first quarter of 2023, UAC CEO Yuri Slyusar promised in an April 8 interview to the Russian Rossiya 24 TV channel. 

The SSJ-NEW will have all of its Western-made components—including avionics, auxiliary power unit, electric and hydraulic systems, wheels, brakes, and interior—replaced by Russian-made products. UAC was forced to take the measures once foreign suppliers suspended deliveries for the Superjet program after Western countries imposed sanctions in late February as a response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The sanctions are also forcing a speed-up in the development of the Russian PD-8 powerplant, despite the earlier plan to initially certify SSJ-NEW with current Russo-French SaM146 turbofan engines in 2023. “The [PD-8] engine should indeed be delivered to us by the end of 2022 for mounting on the wing, ground checks and preparation for the first flight,” Slyusar said. He mentioned that colleagues from Rybinsk-based UEC-Saturn, the engine’s manufacturer, promised to meet the schedule so the PD-8-powered Superjet could conduct intensive trials in 2023. 

Neither UEC-Saturn, nor its parent United Engine Corporation confirmed that PD-8 could be delivered in 2022. The bench-tests of the PD-8 core started in summer 2021. UEC promised to launch the test runs of the prototype engine in March 2022 but hasn’t reported about it yet. UEC-Saturn announced bidding in early March looking to modify one of Ilyushin Il-76LL flying test beds at the Gromov LII Flight Research Institute to conduct the PD-8 flights trials. However, the work on the test aircraft was expected to take at least eight months. 

Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov admitted the entry into service for SSJ-NEW as well as for another UAC passenger airliner, the MC-21, was likely to be delayed by one to two years due to the need to complete the import-substitution efforts.

Russia’s minister of industry and commerce Denis Manturov confessed earlier that UAC had enough foreign components to assemble only 18 Superjets in the current configuration in 2022. They will join the Russian fleet of 148 Superjets. 

The SSJ has become quite popular now that Russian carriers cannot use their Western-made aircraft for international services due to the risk that they can be seized abroad by their foreign lessors. Russia’s largest operator of the type―Aeroflot subsidiary Rossiya―launched flights to 14 destinations in Armenia, Egypt, Israel, Turkey and Uzbekistan on Superjets from Sochi on the country’s Black Sea coast starting April 7. The carrier also plans to use the type to fly to five destinations in Kazakhstan starting April 23. 

Another SSJ operator, Iraero, announced on April 8 it would fly with Superjets from Moscow to Tel Aviv with a refueling stop in Mineralnye Vody in southern Russia. Total travel time will be around 7.5 hours. The all Superjet airline Azimuth now flies from Mineralnye Vody and Sochi to Armenia, Dubai, Egypt, Israel and Turkey.

Slyusar mentioned that the UAC facility in Komsomolsk-on-Amur, in Russia’s Far East, has a capacity to assemble 40 aircraft of the type annually. “The [Russian] airlines say they need at least 150 to meet [passenger] demand in the new structure of the market,” Slyusar said.

Slyusar said that UAC also plans to start the deliveries of the import-substituted MC-21-310 narrowbody airliners with Russian-made PD-14 engines from 2024 and to increase the annual production rate to 36 aircraft in 2025 and further to 72 airframes. He explained that the two baseline MC-21-300s with PW1400G engines, which were expected to come to Rossiya in 2022, would be used for flight service evaluation and pilot training, but not for revenue operations. 

The CEO also confirmed that the manufacturer plans to build 20 new Soviet-design Tupolev Tu-204 narrowbody passenger airliners to “compensate for Russian carriers the risks inherent in [the] prescheduled withdrawal of Boeing and Airbus” aircraft. The Tupolev aircraft are expected to be rolled out in the next two years. However, a source from the Russian aircraft industry told Aviation Week that no specific customers for them had been found yet.