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Russian air show offers opportunity to shrug off Western sanctions

July 18, 2017 - RUSSIA

An impressive display of the prototype MC-21 passenger plane and new T-50 stealth fighter at the biennial MAKS air show outside Moscow, will give Russia the chance to show its disdain for Western sanctions imposed on it over Ukraine.

The continuing presence of Western companies at MAKS since 2014 makes it clear that the sanctions do not represent a complete bar to doing business in Russia. That presence also displays the uneven Western resolve over the penalties: the pain of sanctions is recognized as extending in both directions.

Squeezed by the sanctions, according to Reuters, the Russian government is trying to rejuvenate domestic industrial production to make the country less dependent on foreign firms. The Moscow Times reports that the government will give Russia's largest aircraft manufacturer, the state-owned United Aircraft Corporation, a 100 billion ruble ($1.7 billion) capital boost to stimulate production of passenger airliners. The medium-range, composite body MC-21 would seem to be a sound bet for filling order books. Deliveries are expected to start in 2018 and state media said numerous contracts with domestic and foreign carriers have already been agreed.

The money-making prospects for the T-50, which made a highly-symbolic flight over Russian-annexed Crimea in 2016, on the other hand, seem more remote. Reuters notes that air forces all over the world are scrambling to acquire stealth aircraft because their ability to avoid detection in air-to-air combat and during bombing runs, but cites a Russian expert who sees Kremlin's most advanced warplane beset by crippling problems. The fifth T-50 prototype -- then less than a year old -- suffered a catastrophic engine fire in 2014 while taxiing on the ground.

MAKS Air Show 2017

Russia unveils new passenger plane it says will rival Boeing, Airbus (Reuters 9 Jun 2016)

Russia's biggest air show hurt by economic crisis, sanctions (Reuters 25 Aug 2015)

Putin Unveils $1.7 Billion Boost for Russia's Biggest Aircraft Maker (Moscow Times 29 Mar 2015)

It's Russia's turn to learn that stealth warplanes are hard to do (Reuters 20 Jan 2016)

Date written/update: 2017-07-12