Russia and Italy are jointly working on the development of a new 130-seater regional jet, initially dubbed the Superjet New Generation (SSJ-130NG), which could be launched this year.
Although technical details are scarce at this early stage, it is likely to feature a stretch of the Sukhoi Superjet 100's aluminium fuselage, with majority composite wings and new engines, said the Russian ministry for industry and trade.
Russia believes gaining expertise in advanced materials is necessary to allow the country's aerospace industry to keep pace with the rest of the world. "Development of a composite wing for future airliners is seen as one of several promising and innovative directions that would enable the Russian Federation to create [new] competencies in the sphere of aircraft design, manufacture and maintenance involving modern composite materials," it said.
The ministry this month published a document detailing its achievements and future plans in the civil aviation sector. Among other projects, it refers to the SSJ-130NG and notes the ministry's willingness to provide non-refundable development capital for the new aircraft.
However, under Russian rules governing state funding, the aircraft manufacturer must raise 50% of the project's total cost which will be matched by investment from the government.
According to a Russian aerospace insider, representatives from the Russian and Italian governments and aerospace industries have been discussing the development of a new aircraft for over a year.
Negotiations "continue in an intensive manner, but progress has been slow due to the complexity of the organisational issues being discussed", he said.
The programme will likely be directed by a joint-venture similar to the Sukhoi Civil Aircraft-Alenia Aermacchi alliance behind the SSJ100. However, one avenue being investigated is a partnership between Sukhoi's parent company, United Aircraft Corporation, and Alenia or its owner, Finmeccanica.
Any JV may also feature Russian financiers. Last year, Vladimir Dmitriev, chairman of Vnesheconombank, the Kremlin-backed development bank, said it was ready to fund the development of a new regional aircraft to be jointly created by Russia and leading aviation nations, "France and Italy" or "Canada and Brazil".