UkrObornProm, the Ukrainian state defence industry group formed two years ago, had a large presence at the Farnborough International Air Show this week.
The aircraft maker Antonov, manufacturer of the world’s largest aeroplane, the An-225, is one of the most well known parts of this group under which more than 1 000 businesses fall.
They manufacture everything from armoured military vehicles, to radios and communication equipment, air defence systems, rocket and artillery weapons, and naval vessels.
The company’s An-178 military transport took to the skies over the air show and was in a static display on the ground during the week.
The clear purpose of the large UkrObornProm presence is to show that the Ukrainian defence industry has managed to sever its links with Russia and can continue to produce what the market demands.
UkrObornProm was established in large part as a response to the urgency for greater efficiency in state owned defence companies made apparent by the conflict with Russia. The Russian annexation of Crimea two years ago and the conflict between Ukraine and Moscow supported separatists in the east of the country have spurred Kiev to create the state holding company. One of the first priorities was to replace Russian suppliers and find new export markets.
Today the An-178s being built have no Russian parts. A year ago over 40 percent of the plane’s parts came from Russia. The share of Ukrainian parts has risen from 48 to 78 percent and those largely from the west doubled to 22 percent.
“No one imagined that Russian supplies could be replaced,” said UkrOboronProm Director General Roman Romanov in an interview at Farnborough earlier this week. He said it was very often the case that Russian parts were more expensive than those the company was able to buy from other suppliers.
The 18 ton capacity An-178, which first flew in 2010, and is based on the An-158 regional freighter, needs to find greater sales traction in order to establish its position in the tactical military lift market. The pressures to prove the product can sell have grown with the Embraer KC-390, also jet powered, now undergoing certification.
Although more expensive, the Lockheed Martin C-130J already has an established position in this market. Quwa, the defence news and analysis group, said in a report his week on its website that the key selling point of the plane is likely to be its lower price, at more than $40 million a unit, compared to those of alternatives.
The first two of ten An-178s ordered by Silkway Airlines, an Azerbaijan based cargo carrier, will be delivered in 2018. Iraq has agreed to buy three of the military airlifters, and there is a possibility of purchases by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence. China, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey have also shown interest in the An-178.
Romanov said he spoke to a South Africans at Farnborough this week, but declined to say who they represented. Representatives from Antonov were in South Africa earlier this year and the company plans to send executives to African Aerospace and Defence 2016 in mid-September. He says the aim is to interest various operators on the continent in what he called the Antonov concept of designing planes around customer specifications. “We can create any product,” he says.