Hyderabad: Reliance Defence Ltd. and Antonov Co. will market their commercial aircrafts to Indian airlines before venturing into global markets, where they will be pitted against well-entrenched competitors.
The global civil aviation industry is dominated by Seattle-based Boeing Co. and Toulouse, France-based Airbus Group SE with Canada’s Bombardier Inc., Brazil’s Embraer S.A. and Russia’s United Aircraft Corp. having a small share of the market.
Reliance Defence, a unit of Reliance Infrastructure Ltd, last month entered into a strategic partnership with Kiev, Ukraine-based Antonov for assembly, manufacturing, maintenance and repair of Antonov’s platforms for commercial and military markets in India.
Antonov holds a 49% stake in the joint venture, in line with foreign direct investment norms in the defence sector.
The two companies will build and market a commercial aircraft—An-148— as part of the collaboration. They will have a joint go-to market strategy in the international markets.
Opportunities for the 80-seater, dual turbofan jet engine aircraft exist in India especially if the government intends to bring more tier-II towns into the aviation network, M. Matheswaran, president of aerospace business at Reliance Defence, said in Hyderabad. The civilian aircraft can also be modified for military cargo use but the initial focus will remain on commercial airlines.
Matheswaran expects the first order for the joint venture’s airline to come in three years. The first planes will be delivered as fully-built off-the-shelf units from Ukraine, Antonov’s base. But the planes will be gradually assembled in India from completely knocked down (CKD) units, and eventually manufactured entirely in India once the complete supplier ecosystem is in place, Matheswaran added.
The regional jet airliner with a range of 2,100 to 4,400 km will be built at Dhirubhai Ambani Aerospace Park at Mihan in Nagpur. Land acquisition is under way for the facility. Matheswaran said the aviation venture would cost Reliance Defence a “few billion" dollars without specifying a figure.
“The intention is to club it under Make in India programme and address India’s ability to manufacture a regional airline aircraft with a dual adaptability for military cargo application purposes," said Matheswaran.
An-148 and An-158, a stretched fuselage version of the An-148 with capacity to seat up to 99 passengers, is flown by Russian carriers and airlines mostly affiliated with the former Soviet Union. North Korea’s Air Koroyo, Cuba’s Cubana, Russia’s JSC Angara Airlines and Rossiya Airlines JSC are some commercial carriers that fly the An-148 and An-158.
Deliveries have been partly affected because of Ukraine’s strained relationship with Russia, Sergey Semovonik, vice-president of Antonov, said at a media briefing on Friday. Some Russian companies supply components for the An-148 line of aircraft.
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