MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti military commentator Ilya Kramnik) - The biennial Farnborough International Air Show in Hampshire, England, which runs from Monday July 14 to Sunday July 20, celebrates its 60th anniversary in 2008.
Russia attaches great importance to this major military-technical forum because its Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29 Fulcrum fighters were displayed there for the first time in 1988. The last time the Soviet Union took part in the Farnborough show was 50 years before this landmark event.
Throughout the 1990s, Russia's military and civilian aircraft makers scored modest successes in Farnborough against the backdrop of expensive contracts signed by their Western rivals. At that time, Moscow tended to sell its Sukhoi Su-30 Flanker fighters, MiG-29s and Mil Mi-17 Hip helicopters in Asian markets. However, Asian countries did not warm up to Russian civilian planes.
The market gradually started opening up. Russia developed the up-to-date Tupolev Tu-204 and Sukhoi SuperJet-100 medium-haul airliners and also adopted a clear production program. Consequently, the West became interested in Russian planes again. Contracts for the sale of 25 SSJs to Western airlines have been signed in Farnborough; and Sukhoi Holding top managers hope to market over 100 SSJ planes before the show is over.
Russia's leasing company Ilyushin Finance and the United Aircraft-Building Corporation (UABC), which consolidates private and state assets manufacturing, designing and selling military, civilian, transport and unmanned aircraft, signed a contract for the delivery of 31 Tu-204SM-100 planes. Under the contract, UABC can buy another 30 aircraft.
Apart from civilian aircraft, Moscow is displaying its MiG-29 fighters, which have been upgraded to NATO standards, as well as the Su-35 Flanker, the most sophisticated version of the world famous Su-27.
Although Western aircraft are more popular in Farnborough, Russian aircraft makers can also grab a slice of the pie. The prohibitive costs of the new Western fighters and the unimpressive specifications and performance of used models have induced Bulgaria and Slovakia to extend the service life of their MiG-29 warplanes and other Soviet-made aircraft. Other East European countries are likely to follow suit.
Sukhoi Holding top managers have high hopes for the Su-35 that closely resembles a fifth-generation fighter. The Su-35 will be mass produced for the Russian Air Force for the first time after all-out procurement was stopped in the early 1990s.
The company hopes to sell over 160 Su-35 fighters on the global market.
However, no Su-35s will be sold in Farnborough. This hard-hitting fighter, which is popular with countries wielding its Su-27 and Su-30 predecessors, will steal the show at numerous Asian and Russian forums attracting traditional clients in the Russian defense industry.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.