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Iran Offers A Unique Opportunity For Russian Aerospace Industry

Russian Sukhoi SuperJet-100.

After the United States’ pullout from the nuclear deal, Russia could fill the gap on the Iranian market and acquire lucrative orders for new commercial airplanes from Iranian airlines.

With the nuclear agreement signed in summer 2015, Iran’s aviation companies hoped to upgrade their aging fleets. The national air carrier, IranAir, quickly ordered 100 jets from European plane manufacturer Airbus worth $39 billion and 80 jets from its U.S. rival, Boeing, worth $19 billion.

Boeing also struck a 30-aircraft deal with Iran’s Aseman Airlines for $3 billion at list prices.

So far, IranAir has only received three Airbus jets and a handful of turboprops built by its Franco-Italian affiliate, ATR. Boeing has not made any deliveries to Iran yet.

Airbus and Boeing needed to receive licenses from the U.S. government to conduct business with Iran. But following the decision of U.S. President Donald Trump to leave the nuclear agreement, the U.S. Treasury Department announced that the licenses for both companies would be revoked.

Such a move may put an end to the purchase of new jets by Iranian airlines from European and U.S. manufacturers and pave the way for Russian competitors.

The Russian Sukhoi SuperJet-100 and Irkut MC-21 models are designed to compete with similar models manufactured by Boeing and Airbus, which gives Russian aviation companies a chance of conquering the Iranian market.

The Sukhoi plane also known as SSJ100 is a regional jet comparable with An-148, Embraer E-Jet and Bombardier CSeries counterparts, but claims substantially lower operating costs, at a lower purchase price of $35 million.

In 2016, Russian authorities grounded the jet for metal fatigue, which usually occurs with older planes.

For now, the Russians face one problem: Both twin-engine aircrafts are made with parts produced by American companies, and their potential sale to Iran would require permits from the U.S. government.

However, Russian manufacturers have announced they will redesign the planes with Russian-made parts.

Iran is in desperate need of new planes and must purchase 500 new aircraft within 10 years to keep its aviation industry afloat.

Sukhoi Civil Aircraft Company is the first Russian aviation company to take advantage of the demand.

Last month, Aseman Airlines agreed to buy 20 Sukhoi SuperJet 100 planes while IranAir Tours, a subsidiary of IranAir, ordered 20 of the same model. With an average list price of $50.5 million each, the orders have a total value of just over $2 billion.

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    Farhad Bahrami

    Farhad Bahrami is a Europe based Iranian journalist who focuses on technology, industry and transportation and reports for Radio Farda on Iran related issues.