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    Greece to join MS-21, Be-200 aircraft projects - Russian minister

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    Greece is to participate in the production of the Russian MS-21 medium-haul passenger aircraft and in post-sale servicing of the Be-200 amphibious aircraft, the Russian industry minister said on Tuesday.

    ATHENS, November 11 (RIA Novosti) - Greece is to participate in the production of the Russian MS-21 medium-haul passenger aircraft and in post-sale servicing of the Be-200 amphibious aircraft, the Russian industry minister said on Tuesday.

    Viktor Khristenko, who is currently on a visit to Greece, said Russia's Irkut aircraft maker and Greece's Hellenic Aerospace Industry were set to sign a joint memorandum envisioning bilateral cooperation in these two projects on Tuesday.

    "We are certainly interested in selling the Be-200 aircraft on the Greek and European markets. Setting up a servicing center in Greece will largely depend on sales of these planes on the European market," the minister said.

    Developed by the Beriev Aircraft Company, the Be-200 has a number of uses, including fire fighting, as an air ambulance, in search-and-rescue, cargo and passenger transport and maritime surveillance.

    The Be-200 has a maximum speed of 710 km/h (440 mph), a range of 2,100 km (1,300 mi), and an operational service ceiling of 8,000 m (26,250 ft).

    In summer 2007, at the request of the Greek government, Russia dispatched several Be-200s to assist Greece in dealing with a spate of forest fires, which killed 68 and destroyed over 200,000 hectares of forest and hundreds of homes in dozens of towns.

    "This aircraft is unique and is important and necessary not only for Greece, but also for the rest of the European Union, especially the Mediterranean," Khristenko added.

    "Our second goal is to involve Greece in the development and production of components for the new MS-21 project, which is a priority for the Russian aircraft industry," the minister said.

    The MS-21 plane is being developed by Russia's major manufacturing companies - Ilyushin, Tupolev and Yakovlev - to replace the aging Tu-154, which currently accounts for some 80% of Russia's passenger and freight traffic, and compete with the Airbus A-320 and Boeing 737 aircraft.

    The single-aisle MS-21 family of passenger aircraft is designed to seat between 150 and 220 passengers and to fly up to 5,000 kilometers (3,125 miles), or 6,350 kilometers (4,000 miles) in the case of the longer-range model.

    The new passenger jet, due to enter service in 2012, is expected to be 10-15% more efficient than the equivalent Boeing and Airbus aircraft. However, its target price will be just $35 million, $20 million less than the similarly-sized Boeing 737-700.

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