May 27, 2007:
Russia is moving Il-76 production
from Uzbekistan (where is was established when the area was still part of the
Soviet Union) to Russia. This process got rolling last year, when China placed
a $1.5 billion order for 38 Il-76 transport planes and Il-78s (tanker versions
of the Il-76). Based on the older American C-141, the Il-76 is only
manufactured in Uzbekistan. That's because one of the Russian aircraft plants
moved east during the German invasion of 1941, ended up in Central Asia, a part
of the Soviet Union that became independent Uzbekistan in 1991.
The Chkalov Tashkent Aircraft Production Company
was the only one still manufacturing the Il-76. Over 900 Il-76s were
manufactured there over the last thirty years, with nearly a hundred exported,
so far, mainly to Cuba, Iraq, China, India, Libya and Syria. However, until
this Chinese order came along, Chkalov was surviving by manufacturing wings and
other components for the An-124, An-70 and An-225 transports. In addition, it made
replacement parts for the Il-76 and Il-114 aircraft.
The Chinese order, however, proved more than the
Chkalov firm could handle. So far, Russia has shifted at least 60 percent of
the Il-76 production to a Russian firm (Ilyushin). Now it will establish an
assembly line at the Ilyushin Ulyanovsk plant. The first Il-76 will not be
completed here until 2010.
Now the Il-76 will have two production lines, as
well as some protection against political problems in Uzbekistan (which needs
the 18,000 jobs the Chkalov operation creates). Russia always produced many of
the Il-76 components, and the Chkalov plant still has plenty of work
manufacturing replacement parts, and refurbishing aircraft.
Russia is also renegotiating the deal with the
Chinese, because the Chkalov low balled the price so much that they were sure
to lose a lot of money on it. Russia is a major user of Il-76 aircraft, and
expects to buy or refurbish 75 of them in the next decade, and do nearly as
much business with foreign customers.