In spite of earlier calls to eliminate state financing, Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) will seek government funding for the development of the new widebody aircraft it plans to build in cooperation with Chinese civil aircraft manufacturer Comac.

“We will raise the issue of financing [for this program],” UAC President Yury Slyusar said last week. 

The program was officially announced in May 2014 and calls for the development of a 250-280 seat aircraft. Development costs were estimated to reach $13 billion in late 2014. The partners will share the expenses, but this figure will be revised due to the weakening ruble. “We are now optimizing [the program’s budget]. We will need less than asked [initially],” Slyusar explained. 

Slyusar made his statement a week after the Ministry of Industry and Trade suggested canceling the government’s financing of the widebody-aircraft development in 2015. The federal program for the development of commercial aircraft in Russia in 2002-2015 initially suggested that the government would allocate 1.1 billion rubles ($17.2 million) for the aircraft’s preliminary and detailed design in 2015.  

The project’s total 2015 budget was estimated at 3.6 billion rubles, as it also included 2.5 billion rubles from non-budgetary sources. The ministry now suggests the program’s budget should be limited to 50 million rubles from non-budgetary sources only. The suggested cuts are part of the general effort to reduce the government expenses due to the economic difficulties Russia faces at the moment. 

The federal program for the development of commercial aircraft in Russia in 2002-2015 is a major tool for the government to subsidize the aircraft industry. For example, as part of the program the government plans to allocate 15 billion rubles this year to UAC to assemble the first prototypes of the MS-21 narrowbody airliner and start testing. 

The current stage—preliminary design—doesn’t require much money. It is being financed from non-budgetary sources, Slyusar explained. UAC plans to spend about 50 million rubles (about $0.8 million) for this work in the first quarter. The preliminary design is expected to be completed in July. 

State funding will be needed for the next development stage that is to start in 2016.The aircraft’s first flight is planned for 2021 or 2022, with entry into service following in 2025.