Yury Slyusar, UAC President: ''We won the second undeclared war''
Kazan Aircraft Production Association celebrated its 90th anniversary and rolled out its first new strategic bomber Tu-160M
On 16 November, the Kazan Aviation Plant named after Gorbunov presented the renewed version of the combat missile carrier — Tu-160M – the first after a sudden termination of the conveyor for production of the strategic bomber Tu-160 in 1994. It is symbolic that the rollout ceremony of the upgraded aircraft coincided with the 90th anniversary of the Kazan Aviation Plant. Yury Slyusar, UAC president, who personally came to congratulate the plant on the significant date, promised 40 billion rubles of investments in a deep modernization of the plant in order to reserve for it the production of ''the most difficult in technological terms Tu-160'' and to switch to the production of aircrafts of the promising complex of long range aviation after 2025-2027.
'White Swan' to land in the Kazan Kremlin
The ceremonial event to celebarte the 90th anniversary of Kazan Aircraft Production Association was held in a large modern shop, built one of the first in the framework of the plant modernization programme initiated two years ago. In the shop there were unusually perfectly smooth floors, good lighting and extremely high ceilings — about 15-20 metres to match the height of the aircraft. We can say that there are no other such comfortable and warm shops in the oldest airplane plant yet. The ceremony organizers divided it into two parts: the first gathered the workers and engineers of the plant, almost entirely filling the area of 4,500 square metres, and the second one, in a separate hangar, there was the waiting main 'celebrant' — upgraded Tu-160 bomber.
Despite gloomy forecasts, for the anniversary celebration of the plant there came President of the United Aircraft Corporation Yury Slyusar, Commander of long-range aviation Sergey Kobylash, Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade of the Russian Federation Oleg Bocharov and President of Tatarstan Rustam Minnikhanov. Along with the aircraft plant, its parent company, Tupolev PJSC, also celebrated its 95th anniversary. Together with President of UAC there also arrived Director General of Tupolev Alexander Konyukhov and his deputy Nikolay Savitskikh. In short, on the stage there came up a large team of aviation executives at the highest level. Along with this, no one wanted 'to keep silent' — each of them gave warm congratulations, after which there showered awardings of the best workers and specialists of the plant.
Nikolay Savitskikh presented to Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov the shiny statue of White Swan, receiving in response the promise to put it in a prominent place of the exposition of the Kazan Kremlin.
About how Kazan aviation workers won in the second war
Yury Slyusar, perhaps, was the only VIP guest who gave not a sugary bravura speech but tried to share with the workers the pain of the plant decline in the 1990s. ''We won in the first Great Patriotic War, but the second began in 1994, when the conveyor production of Tu-160 terminated and the struggle for survival began. And we won this war,'' he drew a warm round of applause of the shop workers. ''We won due to two factors: people did not leave the plant. They stayed because no one else needed them. Despite a low salary. Rustam Minnikhanov said that they paid out rice, and some other products, as salaries. There have remained loyal people, devoted to their work.''
Just as emotionally they spoke about taken then efforts of Tatarstan leadership, without which the Kazan Aviation Plant wouldn't exist. ''And the second factor — thank to the leadership of the republic for the energy and time which you spent in the Moscow offices, wheedling money, orders out of them leaving the plant afloat. I'm sure without it we would have lost the plant,'' he frankly said. ''Without active role of the republican leadership, the plant would not exist, and for that, thank you very much.'' In turn, the president of Tatarstan added that the plant that time faced the question — to be or not to be. But now it is clear that the plant is necessary to strengthen the defense potential of the country.
40 billion in modernization of the Kazan Aviation Plant
For that reason, UAC already two years ago started a deep modernization of the oldest aviation plant, which has become the cradle for Tu-160 production. As the president of the aircraft corporation stated, it is planned to invest 40 billion rubles in completion of the modernization by the middle of 2020.
''The modernization of the plant is the largest project being implemented in recent years,'' he designated the priorities. ''We plan to recover technological processes, which were lost 20 years ago. In the first place — electron beam welding technology. There is a large number of new production sites here, technological processes and the latest runway, with a fundamentally different system of air traffic control, which allows to test all kinds of aircrafts. After 2,5 years, the plant will get a new industrial landscape, which will allow to produce the most difficult in technological sense Tu-160, and will be ready to switch to the production of aircrafts of promising complex of long-range aviation after 2025-2027, which is the purpose of the rearmament,'' Slyusar concluded. However, for now tenders for the second stage of reconstruction has not been declared yet. It is expected that the fight for orders will be between Kamgesenergostroi, which has been selected as first general contractor and with which Tupolev is being in litigation, as well as Kazan Giproniiaviaprom of Boris Tikhomirov, who last year was givne some orders.
In turn, Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade of Russia Oleg Bocharov added that the Kazan Aviation Plant will soon launch digitalization of the production and swithc to digital design bureaus. ''Today we are introducing the first phase of digitalization of the production, but we hope very much that specialists of the enterprises, the specialists of the design bureau will be able in the near term to show good results related not only with digitization of existing processes, but also with the introduction of modern digital technologies such as big data, digital simulation of production,'' he told.
Tu-160 is to rise in the sky in February
After the celebration, the VIP delegation and the workers went outside to the airfield to look at the rollout of the main 'celebrant' — Tu-160M. Although in the statue it was cast in silver metal, in live the missile carrier was painted in light green colour. It rolled about 100 metres and stopped, after which the guests went to inspect the aircrafts Tu-214 lined up nearby.
It is expected that Tu-160 will take to the skies in February 2018. Then, within a few months, there will be test flights, until March-April next year. However, Commander of Long Range Aviation, Hero of Russia, Sergey Kobylash, coundn't name a final term of the transfer of the strategic bomber Tu-160M to the Military Space Forces of Russia. ''Now we have seen only the roll-out of Tu-160M, but it is to undergo a long way of life before it rises into the air,'' said Sergey Kobylash. According to him, there is the most difficult, almost exam moment ahead — a full cycle of inspections, the outcome of which determines the timing of the start of the series production. ''First there will be held on-ground inspections of all electronic control systems of the aircraft, after which it will rise into the air and go into the order of military pilots of the 929th regiment of the Defense Ministry,'' said the commander.
According to him, the prototype will take to the skies in February 2018. ''They [pilots] will test the aircraft in-flight. When they confirm that Tu-160M corresponds to the declared requirements of the Defense Ministry, it will begin serial production,'' the commander described further test algorithm on which the fate of Tu-160M depends. He found it difficult to name the exact date of the transfer of Tu-160M to the service of long-range aviation.
The scale of mass production of Belyy Lebed [White Swan] at the plant remains uncertain. ''I know that there are certain plans that assume that these machines in the serial number will be forwarded to the Armed Forces of Russia. But I cannot name a term and volume of the modernized Tu-160. It depends on producers that participate in cooperation of Tu-160M2,'' Kobylash said.