EUROPEAN AEROSPACE INDUSTRY SET TO ENTER RUSSIA

21.09.06
MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political analyst Andrei Kislyakov)

In mid-September, Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the State Duma foreign affairs committee, said a forthcoming Russian-French-German summit would discuss the purchase of shares of the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) by Vneshtorgbank.

Although the largest European nations have every reason to discuss this event, it is clear that expanded Russia-EU contacts in the aerospace sphere are a continuation of tangible processes underway today.

Indeed, Russia’s future partner has an impressive potential. EADS, the largest European aerospace corporation, produces Airbus passenger airliners, helicopters, warplanes, missiles and space technology. It owns an 80% stake in Airbus; the remaining 20% belong to the British BAE Systems. EADS earned 34.2 billion euros last year and posted 1.68-billion-euro net profits. French SOGEADE and German Daimler/Chrysler own 30.3% and 22.5% of EADS shares, respectively. The French government has a 15% stake in EADS; 7.5% of corporate shares belong to the French media company Lagardere. Spain’s state holding company SEPI and EADS employees are each entitled to 5.6% and 3.55%.

Technical reliability is the most important factor in political and economic cooperation. In this context, Russia-EU cooperation won international acclaim at the Berlin Air Show ILA-2006, where Russia received official partner status.

This choice can hardly be called a coincidence. Thomas Enders, president of BDLI, German Aerospace Industries Association, said this decision recognizes Russia’s undoubted success in space exploration, as well as the reliability and stability of long-term bilateral cooperation. He said Russian enterprises had supplied components for Airbus planes, including those of the brand-new A380 super jumbo jet.

Russian launch vehicles have orbited German and EU satellites; Russia and the EU also implement joint space-research projects, said Enders.

Russia’s pavilion, the second largest after Germany, highlighted its impressive status at the ILA-2006 show.

EU markets are becoming increasingly important for Russian aircraft companies. The Airbus proposal to jointly implement an ambitious $25-billion program testifies to this.

EADS CEO Gustav Humbert said three years ago that the Russian aircraft industry could become part of the big Airbus family. Russia, which received an offer to develop the A350 XWB (Extra Wide Body) airliner together with EADS on a risk-sharing basis, has a 3-5% stake in this project.

Russian experts would be expected to develop and produce separate components and take part in post-sale maintenance and support. The companies involved will receive profits in line with their contributions after the A350 project recoups itself.

Russia and the European Space Agency (ESA) have made considerable headway in the field of space exploration over the last few years. Work is proceeding to build a launch facility for Russia’s Soyuz-2 rockets at the Kourou space center in French Guiana.

The Volga project involving seven agencies, three of which are Russian, is another example of fruitful Russia-ESA cooperation. Notably, the Keldysh Research Center is developing a reusable rocket engine, which may open a new era in space exploration. The ESA has undertaken to finance the lion’s share of the one-billion-euro Volga project.

The EU and Russia have also agreed to jointly develop an advanced manned transport system on the basis of Russia’s revamped Soyuz spacecraft and its new-generation Kliper reusable space shuttle. The modernization of the Soyuz taxi and the Progress cargo craft is motivated by the need to switch over to a modern elements base and to upgrade digital onboard control-and-guidance systems. These innovations will make the Soyuz user-friendlier.

Soyuz spacecraft will fly to the International Space Station (ISS) and to the Moon, subsequently reentering the terrestrial atmosphere at 25,000 miles per hour, the equivalent of escape velocity.

There are plans to completely upgrade all Soyuz spacecraft by 2010, and the EU has supported Moscow’s proposals on launching them from the Baikonur and Kourou space centers.

The ESA, which is developing the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), understands that it cannot implement any major space research programs without Russian assistance in the foreseeable future. Russian experts develop and supply key elements, i.e. docking, refueling and control systems. Moscow is also doing its best to integrate the ATV with the ISS’ Russian segment.

The ESA strives to explore space in conjunction with Russia because it is very hard to compete against the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). However, the ESA considerably expands its potential by teaming up with Russia, which has rich experience in the field of space exploration and space-technology development.

It is important for Russia to consolidate its leading positions in global manned space programs. In addition, EU involvement will make it possible to use the financial, industrial and intellectual resources of partner-countries.

All this shows that the forthcoming Russia-EU space deal, one of the most expensive in history, is a crucial and predetermined event.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and may not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.
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