DeM Banter: After recently speaking with several NASA Astronauts here at OTS… it was sad to realize we now rely on the Russians to get our astronauts into space. Now the Russians dominate tech at the Paris Airshow… all I can think is… HEY, that used to be us…(great book by Friedman but the way)
Wall Street Journal
June 21, 2013
LE BOURGET, France—At the Paris air show this week, one of the biggest attractions wasn’t an airliner from Airbus or Boeing Co., but a Russian fighter jet.
The new Sukhoi Su-35 streaked across the sky here in flying displays, making its first appearance outside Russia and performing extreme maneuvers that few Western aircraft can achieve.
The plane carries new defense systems and missiles that—for the first time in years for a Russian aircraft—rival those made by Western suppliers.
“I think that this shows we are firmly holding a position as one of the world leaders,” said Mikhail Pogosyan, chief executive of Sukhoi builder United Aircraft Corp., a holding company created in 2006 to consolidate and rebuild Russia’s battered aviation industry.
Two decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia’s defense industry, like the Su-35, is roaring into global markets. United Aircraft and its Russian peers are benefiting from years of restructuring under President Vladimir Putin, rising Russian military spending and more attention from Moscow.
Russian military exports have roughly quadrupled since the early 1990s, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, a think tank that focuses on security issues. Much of that growth has come in the past few years.
Most Russian products on display at the air show are modernized versions of Soviet-designed aircraft. The Su-35, for example, is among many successors to the Su-27, which first flew in 1977. The Kamov Ka-52 combat helicopter, which drew stares with its unusual pair of rotors that spin in opposite directions one atop the other, is an update of a model that first flew in 1982.
The Russian aircraft still lack the cutting-edge electronics of rival Western products and generally require more maintenance, which can get expensive. But the Russian models are robust, extensively tested and relatively inexpensive to buy.
“You get a really sexy looking aircraft that has got some very good capabilities, and you pay remarkably less than for a Western aircraft,” said Francis Tusa, editor of Defence Analysis, a British newsletter.
Mr. Pogosyan of United Aircraft said he aims to sell 100 Su-35s outside Russia. He is positioning the aircraft as a rival to Cold War-era Western planes such as Boeing’s F-15, the F-16 from Lockheed Martin Corp. and the Eurofighter Typhoon, from a consortium of European companies. The Western producers are taking note of Russia’s push.
“They’ve been putting money into fighter aircraft development” and other products, said Chris Raymond, vice president of business development and strategy at Boeing’s defense unit. Mr. Raymond said the most likely markets for Russian planes are countries already flying older models, including India and Malaysia, but he said Russia’s global ambitions are clear. “I expect them to be bidding [in] more places around the world.”
Russia’s drive back onto the global market is intensifying as China is boosting arms exports and U.S. defense companies are chasing more foreign sales. Recent cutbacks in Pentagon spending amid U.S. economic troubles have prompted American defense behemoths, including Lockheed and Boeing. As a result, Europeans and Russians also have stepped up their marketing, say industry officials.
“The battle for the air is heating up,” said Alberto de Benedictis, CEO of British operations at Italian aerospace group Finmeccanica SpA, which builds the Eurofighter alongside British defense giant BAE Systems PLC and Airbus parent European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co. In the Persian Gulf, Mr. de Benedictis said, almost every country is shopping for fighter jets, and similar regional arms races are escalating around the globe.
Russia’s aviation exports aren’t just to military customers. Sales of Russian helicopters—renowned for their power, if not their efficiency—are rising in commercial markets by more than 15% annually, with particular success in India and China, said Igor Pshenichny, deputy director general of the Russian Helicopters unit of industrial holding company Russian Technologies, or Rostec. Against more sophisticated U.S. and European products, “we are very competitive on price,” said company spokesman Roman Kirillov.
Sukhoi is also marketing a new short-range passenger jet, dubbed the Superjet 100, which it has already sold in Russia and other countries, including Mexico. But most aviation analysts say Russia’s best prospects in global aviation for the near future are in bargain-priced military equipment.
Western aerospace companies acknowledge that Russian products are less expensive. They say that even less-developed countries still should opt for pricier Western equipment because such deals can bring other benefits.
American defense exports, for example, are handled through Washington, which can offer economic and political enhancements to close an important military deal.
Buying U.S. defense systems also can open the door to a range of American support and technology that other countries can’t offer, said Patrick Dewar, Lockheed’s senior vice president for strategy and business development. “You’re getting a relationship with the U.S. government,” he said.
–Marietta Cauchi and Jon Ostrower contributed to this article.