This post first appeared on Russia Insider
Russia forges ahead with huge investments from state-owned mega companies. An interesting talk with the deputy Prime Minister in charge of several of these projects. He gives the impression of a guy who knows his way around a construction site, whereas his American counterparts seem like they know their way around K street.
At the Zvezda shipyard, we spoke with the director of this construction site and Deputy Prime Minister of the Federal Government, Yuri Borisov.
- Hello, Yuri Ivanovich.
- Hello, Sergey Borisovich.
- You know everything about it all, I don't. Where are we?
- This is probably one of the largest construction sites in the Far East. In the harsh conditions of the Arctic, we'll have to extract oil and gas. To do so, we'll need special vessels. Our supreme commander has set a goal to use the development of our fields as a catalyst for the construction and development of shipbuilding.
- Our oil and gas…
- ...will be transported by our own ships. You can assess a shipyard by how many tons of metal it consumes. This one will consume 330,000 tons of metal.
- Can you give me something to compare with?
- For comparison, the amount is greater than all current capacities of the entire United Shipbuilding Corporation.
- Including St. Petersburg?
- Including St. Petersburg, the Sevmash shipyard, and all other shipyards. This shipyard will process more metal. In particular, three Lider icebreakers will be built here. They have a capacity of 120 megawatts. The first site is on that side. It's a heavy construction slipway. There's a unique crane, the Goliath, with a lifting capacity of 1200 tons. After metal arrives, it's cut out. Then, plane structures are assembled. The structures are assembled into larger ones. Then, they are transported by this beautiful crane and assembled just like a Lego kit. At the final stage, all of the modules are jointed. We haven't used this method before. The second stage is the unique dry dock. Imagine these numbers — the dimensions of the dock are 485 meters long (1,590 ft.), 414 meters wide (1,360 ft.), and the depth is 14 meters (46 ft.). There are marks — +2.0 meters, -7.0 meters, -10 meters, and -16 meters. There will be three pumps which can pump water in and out of the dock in eight hours. In this dock, three gas carriers or two Liders can be built at the same time. The dock will be commissioned in 2020.
- I guess the crane looks small on the screen. But it's actually as tall as a fifteen-story building.
- Yeah, it took 20 days to put up the crane. This one was produced in China. However, we do our best to use the products of Russian manufacturers when building the shipyard. We will build the hulls ourselves. Now, the commissioning of a plant for producing azimuth thrusters is nearing completion. This is the main mechanism that drives a ship.
- There's one of them, right?
- Yes, this is an azimuth thruster. Up to 70% of the parts are manufactured locally. Its capacity may vary —from 7.5 up to 20 megawatts. The main components will be made in Russia, in Chelyabinsk. One of the tasks posed to the plant is a gradual increase in domestic parts.
- That is, this is an assembly shop for all of Russia.
- It is indeed. That's right.
- The average wage at Zvezda is 78,000 rubles ($1190) per month.
But so far people can't spend the money — there are no large supermarkets. In general, in the Far East, everyday life lags behind the European part of Russia and the large cities in the Urals and Siberia. As they say in Primorye, "the latitude is Crimean, but the longitude is Kolyma." Using the same approach of involving the whole country, the Vostochny Cosmodrome is being built in another Far Eastern region — in Amur Oblast. The president went there after visiting Primorye. Like new seagoing ships, the spacecraft is assembled at the launch site from pre-made modules. They are delivered to Vostochny from Samara by train. To shorten this path, they plan to transfer the production of the Angara rocket to Omsk, Siberia. The main thing now is to meet the construction deadlines.
Strange as it may seem, we get to another Far Eastern topic important for the country via America. More news from this Saturday — Boeing has suspended tests of its new 777-X long-range aircraft. An official commentary refers to an unforeseen event during ultimate load tests. A source at France-Presse claims that a door fell off the fuselage. Such huge test loads are extremely unlikely in real life but Boeing remembers the death of five hundred Jumbo passengers who crashed in Japan in 1985 and the very recent disasters of the two newest 737-MAXes.
So, they're being cautious and double-checking everything. By the way, there was another catastrophe in Japan which damaged Boeing's reputation. Ten years ago, a McDonnell Douglas cargo plane landed extremely unsuccessfully, resulting in a so-called porpoising. There was an explosion, a fire, almost nothing remained of the fuselage. Not long ago in Russia, a similar situation happened to a Superjet at Airport Sheremetyevo. Experts haven't reported the exact cause of the catastrophe. But for now, we can state: under loads similar to those of the McDonnell Douglas in Japan, there were survivors in the Sukhoi Superjet disaster. The fuselage didn't collapse entirely. So, this is truly a next-generation airplane.
On the other hand, not even 150 Superjets are flying around the world. There could be more of them. This again brings us to the Russian Far East. What can the workers expect at the aircraft factory in Komsomolsk-on-Amur, where Superjets are made? We have first-hand information.
- Komsomolsk-on-Amur isn't very far from here. The factory producing Sukhoi Superjets is located there. This is Russia's first modern aircraft. A lot of technologies have been tested. But the number of aircraft produced is still small, exports haven't been successful yet. What are our plans?
- It was created in the early 2000s in close cooperation with Western manufacturers.
- French engines?
- Yes, French engines. Avionics and the undercarriage were big issues. Western manufacturers played an important role. Probably, in that political situation, it was the right step to take. We divided the labor to make the most modern, highest-tech aircraft. As for what time has demonstrated... We faced sanctions. Suppliers began to increase the prices of their products and refused to localize aggregate assembly in Russia as happened with the SAM-146 engine. They practically refused to assemble the hot sections of the engines in Russia. Today, we've had only the full-service issue solved. Well, this helped us a lot indeed. But all these circumstances have made the plane uncompetitive in terms of price. So to stay on the market, we have to make serious efforts on import substitution. This is the first aspect.
The second aspect is we're obviously lagging behind and we don't have the developed infrastructure in terms of aftersales service.
- As far as I understand, Boeing and Airbus service is a matter of hours our service takes weeks or even months.
- You're absolutely right. Boeing and Airbus planes have 10-12 flying hours per day, while we have 3-4 flying hours per day at very best. This is a common opinion that it is necessary to gradually create a competitive infrastructure for aftersales service.
- In Russia or all over the world?
- First of all, in Russia, in our main traffic centers — Moscow, St. Petersburg, Krasnoyarsk, Novosibirsk, Khabarovsk. I'll stress this again — it'll be done not just for the Superjets. This infrastructure is being created for an entire line of aircraft.
- I just wanted to ask about it. That is, the MC-21 is already done being taken into account?
- The MC-21 will rely on this infrastructure. We have plans to start mass production in 2021, and we will create this infrastructure in advance to avoid the mistakes of bringing the Superjet to market.
- But Superjets will be produced, right?
- Aeroflot has ordered an additional 100 aircraft. Also, about 50-70 aircraft are intended for airlines at the second and third levels.
- So we need to produce 150 planes.
- Yes, but I think we can enter the foreign market with this aircraft.
- Thank you, Yuri Ivanovich.Support Russia Insider - Go Ad-Free!
- You're welcome.
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