MiG to Fold into UAC With Sukhoi?
As Sukhoi’s SU-30 family of large, multi-role fighters has come to dominate Russian aircraft exports over the past decade, the positions of Sukhoi and MiG have reversed. Now MiG is the deeply secondary design bureau, and Sukhoi is the firm designing Russia’s flagship fighters. Russian weapons exports have risen sharply over the past 5 years, but the overall volume of orders for Russian manufacturers has plunged without the Soviet empire’s vast arms budget, network of dependent clients, and the global military tensions and warfare that accompanied its drive for expansion.
That has created serious trouble for RAC MiG. Their MiG 1.44 design lost to Sukhoi’s PAK-FA in the competition to become Russia’s future fighter, their MiG-AT lost the future trainer market to the Yakolev/Aermacchi Yak-130, and their flagship MiG-29 now struggles to find buyers on the international market, despite multi-role upgrades. India is buying about 45 MiG-29K aircraft for its aircraft carriers, and the omnidirectional thrust-vectoring MiG-29OVT/MiG-35 variant is a candidate in India’s 126-plane MMRCA competition, but sales elsewhere have been slow. Algeria’s cancellation of its $1.3 – 1.5 billion, 34 plane MiG-29 buy has hit the company hard on multiple fronts. Even Russia’s recent $615 million purchase of the 28 MiG-29SMT multi-role fighters from that deal will not solve the firm’s $1.5 billion in reported debts…
A 2005 DID article asked if the Russian aviation industry was moving toward a French-style “sesquipolar” design split between Sukhoi and Irkut. Since then, Russian industry appears to be moving toward a more fully unipolar, state-owned model. Both Sukhoi and Irkut have been pulled into the government’s United Aircraft Corporation. Now Aviation Week reports that UAC vice president and Sukhoi general director Mikhail Pogosyan will head up RAC MiG, while retaining his existing titles.
Part of MiG’s problem has been the poor record that Russian firms in general have earned for delivering timely and effective service. India’s MiG-29 fleet has a poor operational record, for instance, in part because the parts and repairs often involve lengthy turnaround times and even shipment of equipment to Russia. Pogosyan has identified MiG’s after-sales service as a key area for improvement. If he can successfully deliver it, the lessons will benefit Russia’s military aviation industry as a whole. Meanwhile, layoffs and restructurings are expected at RAC MiG, to be followed by the integration of the MiG design bureau, some of its manufacturing, and implicitly of the troubled engine manufacturer Chernyshev into UAC.
The fate of the more robust Klimov Corp. remains a question mark. Klimov is a full member of the VPK-MAPO (the Moscow Aviation Production Association) group alongside MiG, producing engines for helicopters, and industrial use in addition to its role providing jet and turboprop engines. RAC/MiG is believed to retain a large share of VPK-MAPO’s assets, and the Russian government has made statements to he effect that it wishes to consolidate the engine manufacturing sector under Oboronprom. These statements have included the Chernyshev, Salyut and Klimov plants, along with Ufa’s facility.
A restructuring of RAC MiG could give the Russian government the opportunity it had been looking for, allowing it to move forward with that effort. The government could also decide that sorting out the structure of Russia’s military engine industry poses its own set of questions, and opt for a different sort of interim approach for Klimov. Time will tell.
- DID – Russia’s Military Spending Jumping – But Can Its Industry? The industry as a whole faces challenges that set part of the context for its restructuring.
- DID – Russian Aircraft Industry Moving Toward the French Model?
News & Views
- Moscow Defence Brief (#6 2012) – MiG-29 on the Market: Recent History and Outlook
- NewsMax (Dec 4/08) – Russian Military Misfires With Defects, Sales Lags. Points to RAC MiG as a firm with an especially problematic future, and adds that China is swiftly becoming a full competitor.
- Aerospace Technology (July 28/08) – Russia Reconsolidates Military Aerospace Arena
- Moscow Defence Brief (Q3 2007) – The Launch of Engine-Building Reforms
- Russia and CIS Observer (September 2007 – The Russian government announced plans to merge its aero engine manufacturers. By MDB’s Konstatin Makienko.
- Moscow Defence Brief (Q1 2007) – Russia’s Defense Industry in 2006
- Aeroworld (Dec 8/97) – Russian Fighter Tales: The Yak-141 and the MiG-29SMT. Vovick Karnozov look at some of the possible reasons for the MiG-29’s failure to secure more export orders, something that would not have been predicted in the early 1990s.