Plane for Bortnikov: Tatarstan creating flying headquarters for Russian Federal Security Service

The Kazan Gorbunov Aviation Plant prepares to deliver a serial plane with a VIP cabin in 2023

As Realnoe Vremya found out, the first Tu-214 plane whose serial production is resuming in Kazan will be delivered in a VIP version — likely deliberately for top officials of Russia’s Federal Security Service. The handover of “flying headquarters” for Alexander Bortnikov is scheduled for late 2023. At the same time, the Kazan aviation factory is preparing to produce two passenger planes for 180-190 seats. These passenger machines will unlikely be cheaper than foreign analogues, therefore the first buyers can win regarding their delivery time, not the price.

Special plane for Alexander Bortnikov?

As Realnoe Vremya found out, the Russian Federal Security Service, not operators of commercial aviation leasing in the country like before, turned out to the first client of the first 10 Tu-214 passenger plane production programme in the Kazan aviation factory. The first serial Tu-214 plane in the new programme Kazan is building “from scratch” received a contract from the Russian Security Services, several sources in the aviation sector said. However, it is built in a separate programme for special aviation because the enterprise is the foundation of the strategic aviation division of the United Aviation Corporation. With the launch of the first 10 passenger production programme, the enterprise is working in two areas at once. The turn towards the security service is related to the priority of state tasks to provide the country’s security, they assume. Realnoe Vremya sent a request to the Public Relations Centre of the Russian Security Service but a reply hasn’t yet been received.

“The first Tu-214 will have a VIP cabin,” an interlocutor involved in the plane production programme revealed some details of the issue. “It will have a small number of chairs (for understanding, a standard cabin of a narrow-bodied Tu-204 plane is designed for nearly 200 seats).

“This machine is for aviation of the Russian Security Service,” another source of Realnoe Vremya’s confirmed. “It is designed for special tasks. First of all, it will have special communication devices.” The interlocutors of the newspaper claim that the first plane is built to do special tasks of aviation management of the Federal Security Service.

“All Russian security service officials can use it,” a representative of Tupolev evasively answered Realnoe Vremya’s question if the plane was built for head of Russia’s Federal Security Service Alexander Bortnikov. “It will be like a passenger VIP plane, but it is certainly not for the head of the country.”

In addition, the first Tu-214 passenger plane will have a longer range. “Since there will be fewer passengers to carry, there is a possibility of having more fuel and increasing the range. Additional fuel tanks will be installed in it,” another representative of the aviation sector said. So the first plane will be able to fly further, not only basic 6,500 km. The cost of the plane is assessed at about 3-4 billion rubles.

Yury Slyusar arrives in Kazan once in three weeks

The delivery of the plane is scheduled for late 2023. This coincides with the upcoming 100th anniversary of aviation of Russia’s Federal Security Service, which probably cannot do without congratulations. Is there a better present for security aviators than a modern plane?

Earlier, this July, the Kazan Aviation Plant — Tupolev’s branch — already delivered a Tu-214 for the Russian Federal Security Service, which is no surprise because the factory is the main enterprise of the strategic and special aviation division. We should add that the Tu-214 programme execution is under a special control. According to the newspaper’s interlocutors, head of the United Aviation Corporation Yury Slyusar monthly holds meetings on the construction of the Tu-2014 and arrives in Kazan himself once in three weeks.

Yury Slyusar monthly holds meetings on the construction of the Tu-2014 and arrives in Kazan himself once in three weeks. Photo: Maxim Platonov:

Now aviation brigades of the security service has mainly manoeuvre helicopters that can land anywhere. Unlike them, mid-range planes need an aerodrome with good coating. Therefore simple Soviet Mi-8 helicopters as well as Ansat made in Kazan and Bashkir Ka-226 are the skeleton of the fleet. Lightweight Finist is one of the planes of the fleet assembled in Smolensk.

How ordinary aviation machinery is remade

“It is ordinary aviation machines only at first sight,” specialists note describing the aviation fleet of the Russian Federal Security Service. “The equipment of the planes is the main difference. For instance, the Ka-226 helicopter is reequipped for making as little noise as possible. The Ansat, Mi-8 and Finist used by the security service were also remade. They were modernised deliberately for different operations of the security service. The handover of the airborne command centre based on the Il-96-400VPU (270 tonnes of takeoff mass, 900 km/h of the maximum speed, which is comparable to the Tu-214 and the range is more than 12,000 km) became a milestone in 2015.

However, this plane is already well-known among Russia’s special services. The Tu-214 has been long used as part of Russia government squadron — there are 12 planes that belong to the Russian Defence Ministry. Also, different modifications are created on its basis for special tasks — intelligence, retransmission, control.

How to assemble 10 Tu-214 planes in three years

This year, the Kazan Aviation Plant started the construction of 10 Tu-214 passenger planes to replace foreign ones that stop being used. According to Tupolev’s plans, they are projected to be delivered by 2025, after that, the plant hopes to make 10 aircraft every year. The financing is provided by the UAC, Rostec and the enterprise itself.

After Bortnikov’s plane, the Kazan Aviation Plant is going to deliver two new passenger planes in classic versions. According to the plant’s Vice Director General Boris Naishuler, the contract for their supply is now being discussed with two airlines that are ready to buy them directly, without leasing operators. It was preliminarily decided the cabin will have 180-190 seats, that’s to say, they are designed to carry passengers.

“It was preliminarily decided the cabin will have 180-190 seats,” says Boris Naishuler. “Both planes will be delivered in 2024. They have different modifications, therefore they have different numbers of passenger seats.”

The substitution of foreign air navigation systems is the main problem. Though the Tu-214 is nearly 90% consists of Russian components, there are still issues. “Nowadays 60 items need to be replaced,” Realnoe Vremya’s interlocutor noted.

The cost of the passenger planes isn’t revealed, but sources give us to understand that they will unlikely be cheaper than foreign analogues. As it is known, Boeing 757-200 that is used in many airlines around the world in flights from 3-7,000 km despite its age is considered a close opponent of the Tu-214.

“I can say that the service time of the Tu-214 at Transaero in the early 2000s was 43-450 hours a month. It is like Boeing and Airbus. Though the fuel efficacy of our engines is a bit lower than that of foreign planes, this isn’t critical,” Realnoe Vremya’s interlocutors noted.

According to Tupolev’s representatives, the Tu-214 will improve. Now a transfer from a crew of three people instead of today’s five is being considered.

Luiza Ignatyeva