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Tu-214 goes on
Monday November 1, 2010 15:02 MSK / Roman Gusarov, Vladimir Karnozov

Next year will mark delivery of one more new version of the baseline Tu-214 aircraft. The turn is now for the Tu-214ON. Ample information on this model became available at MAKS'2009. During the air show in Zhukovsky, the V ega Concern of Radio Equipment, KAPO and the Bank of St. Petersburg signed contract on construction of a second Tu-214ON. To enable KAPO fulfill the contract, the Bank of St. Petersburg opened a credit line for the manufacturer. Signatures on the respective documents applied Vega General Director Vladimir Verba, KAPO General Director Vasil Kayumov and director of the bank's Moscow branch Nikolai Udodov. According to the information revealed at MAKS'2009, the Tu-214ON shall enable the Russian Federation to fulfill its obligations under the Open Skies international treaty. This specially configured aircraft is intended for aerial photography and inspection flights. It will be equipped with special photo cameras to take aerial photos of infrastructure objects when overflying territories of "Open Skies" member states.

Twenty seven nations signed the Open Skies treaty on 24 March 1992. Russia ratified it in May 2001. Since then the number of member states has grown to 34 (US, Canada and 32 European nations). Any state which signed-in has the right to overfly territory of other member states. Russia has so far performed about fifty such missions. The Tu-214ON has been created especially for that sort of missions. One airframe is now at a high degree of readiness at KAPO final assembly shop, second one being manufactured. Under arrangement with Russian MoD, which will operate the aircraft, Vega acts the project leader (which is also the case with other special mission aircraft on the Tu-214 platform).

Vega's Vladimir Verba told the press that, under the Open Skies agreement, member states have the right to overfly and make aerial photography of infrastructure objects, which are subjects to international disarmament treaties. "The Russian defense ministry has made decision to place an order for several aircraft suitable for that role. The customer chose Vega to lead this project. We ran selection of a suitable platform and opted for the Tu-214".

Vega has completed development of mission equipment for the Tu-214ON. The set includes radio transmitters and receivers, a surveillance radar, photo and television cameras, infra red seekers etc. "It was not easy to structure financing package for this project. By now we have found complete understanding with the customer on that and other matters", Verba said. The Open Skies treaty and its implementation are under personal supervision of Russian president and prime minister, he stressed. First Tu-214ON shall be completed in 2011, and second by the end of that year. A third airframe may be added later, should the customer make a decision.

Timely completion of the manufacturing plans requires much effort from Tupolev and KAPO. The customer has issued approval for KAPO to use commercial bank credits. The additional capital is needed to intensify work on renovation of manufacturing equipment and make advance purchase of vendor items. KAPO will use commercial bank credits to improve and expand its manufacturing capability. The credit line opened by the Bank of St. Petersburg is meant to inject more cash into KAPO manufacturing process and make it run faster. Speaking on behalf of his bank, Nikolai Udodov said that, if necessary, the manufacturer can hire as much as six billion rubles under the opened credit line. "We expect our client will continue using our services in other projects. We work closely with enterprises of the military-indus trial complex and know their specifics and needs. I am glad to be of help to such a high-class manufacturer as KAPO".

Recently we were lucky to get some exclusive moments with the head of V ega and asked him if there is a possibility to export the Tu-214ON? Although this particular aircraft is developed to the specification compiled by the Russian defense ministry, its equipment is in many ways "universal". The equipment set is suitable for various users, both governmental and commercial. Not all of the Open Skies member states necessarily have their own aircraft for aerial photography. There are very few companies in the world that can produce cameras for aerial photography with suitable performance. Equipment necessary for the Open Skies is not only universal, it also must have preset working modes and parameters.

Generally speaking, an Open Skies tailor-made aircraft bears resemblance to a photo reconnaissance plane. But there is a distinct difference. The latter is being created so as to have the best performance possible. People working on reconnaissance aircraft projects do their best trying to equip their aircraft with finest sensors, in order to get best pictures. The higher resolution, the better. "That's not the case with the Open Skies. The member states agreed (and that the cornerstone of the agreement, otherwise it would not work) that the working parameters of the special aircraft operated by all member states shall be similar. Prescribed resolution for photo camera falls in between three and five meters. Even though a manufacturer can produce equipment with better performance, it gets downgraded so that every inspector, regardless of his country, gets pictures of the prescribed quality".

Moscow is ready to cooperate with other Open Skies member states. Especially with those not having specially-tailored aircraft of their own. Talks are open with Ukraine, Belarus and others. Today, these nations hire aircraft from those who have them. "When we get a pair of Tu-214ON completed and introduced into the Russian government service, we may consider supply of such aircraft or their services to foreign customers", Verba says.

A respective decision is, surely, not at the level of the manufacturers, but rather that of the ministry of defense and the government. Verba continues: "Once the MoD has a fleet of two or three aircraft, it may consider a higher utilization for them. The customer may choose to offer those aircraft to other users. If other nations ask Russia for such aircraft or services, we can oblige them. Our set of equipment developed for the Tu-214ON is already available, it meets all international requirements. In terms technical, we are ready for cooperation".

Should a foreign country choose to order a Tu-214ON and apply to the Russian government, there shall be no considerations of secrecy regime to prevent the manufacturer from signing a delivery contract. "Together with Tupolev and KAPO, Vega is ready to such a perspective. The program may have export prospects if we complete the flight test program timely and satisfactorily". Roughly half of the Open Skies member states do not have their specialized aircraft with necessary equipment. This opens before Russia some export perspective. 

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