The Sukhoi Superjet 100 (SSJ-100) is a regional jet designed by Russia’s Sukhoi Civil Aircraft company for which development started in 2000, and which began commercial operations in April 2011.

Although a Russian design, it relied heavily on foreign components, with estimates that over 50 percent of key elements were sourced from the US and Europe. Its engine, the PowerJet SaM146, was produced as a joint venture between France’s Snecma (Safran) and NPO Saturn of Russia.

As sanctions against Russia’s aviation industry began to tighten following Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and Donbas in 2014 and in subsequent years, in 2021, Sukhoi decided to substitute Western parts for those designed and manufactured in Russia to produce a “Russified” version of the aircraft – the SSJ-100R.

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This included using the United Engine Corporation / Aviadvigatel the PD-8 turbofan engine; new KRET avionics to replace that produced by Thales; Russian designed inertial navigation system and auxiliary power unit substituting for Honeywell's equipment; and a new Russian landing gear instead of that made by France’s Safran.

In all a total of approximately 40 systems and units had to be replaced on the aircraft.

In 2021 Sukhoi forecasted it would produce 345 aircraft by 2030, primarily for export to former Soviet states, southeast Asia and Latin America, with 34 deliveries of the SSJ-100R aircraft to the domestic airline Aeroflot between 2022 and 2025.

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As with many of Russia’s planned schedules, this was, to say the least, optimistic. Rostec the state-owned defense conglomerate told Ria Novosti: “Examples from world practice show that it takes ten to 15 years to create a single engine for a civil aircraft, we are moving twice as fast. Now there is a test program for all systems and units for the imported SJ-100. It will be fully completed on schedule.”

Delays in certification of a number of key components, has pushed the scheduled delivery back. Most critical is that for the PD-8 engines, which was programmed for completion in 2022 and has still not been achieved.

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Yuri Slyusar, head of Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), Sukhoi’s parent company told reporters at the Dubai Airshow on Monday that full flight tests [up to 200 flights-ed] of the new SJ-100 with the Russian PD-8 engine will take place next year.

“The testing program for the PD-8 engine turned out to be a little longer than originally planned,” Slyusar said.

Asked to comment on the situation, a Rostec spokesperson said that the aircraft “can be transferred to the customer only when there is confidence in the safety and reliability of all systems.” This particularly applied to the PD-8 engine, which Rostec said was “the most complex technical system on the new aircraft, the work on which involves dozens of thousands of people… Painstaking work on quality will not be traded for time.”

Rostec said that the first serial deliveries of import-substituted SJ-100 aircraft will begin in 2024, although he added “Possible adjustments to the timing within a few months should not be considered critical… Currently, 22 aircraft are in varying degrees of readiness.”

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