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Russia-China Project is nearing the stage of choosing system suppliers for the new widebody CR929



In 2018, the project of the CR929, a long-range wide-body passenger airliner jointly developed by the UAC (Russia) and Comac (China), passed an important stage of general layout approval. At the same time, the developers determined the portion of work to be delegated to suppliers. Now comes the important stage of choosing these suppliers.

The CR929 developers issued RFIs and RFPs for potential suppliers in about 15 pre-identified areas. Now they are analyzing the proposals received and choosing the best of them. The suppliers list is planned to be finally “frozen” in Q1 2020, when the CR929 project is to pass the Gate 3 stage. Under the previous project management system, this roughly corresponds to the draft design defense. Aleksey Kubasov, the Head of the Systems Engineering Department, Sukhoi Civil Aircraft, will tell us about the specific details of choosing the main system and equipment suppliers at the CR929 pre-Gate 3 stage.

- Aleksey, what can you compare the project CR929 with in terms of international cooperation? Probably, with the first Airbus A300 development, when the French and German aviation industries, not yet merged, were jointly involved in this project?

- The global experience record has plenty of project organization examples, where different companies united to do something together. This was the case with our previous project – Superjet 100, which enjoyed extensive international cooperation. The CR929 project has some specifics issues, too. Collaboration with Chinese partners has its own particular features, of course. This is particularly true for organizational issues, which should be addressed now, so that the project could move along a way understandable to all parties.

- Are there any differences in the Russian and Chinese schools of engineering?

- In my area of responsibility, everything is quite simple. In this case, the CR929 is an ordinary project. What difference would it make if Sukhoi started designing a plane together with Tupolev? When we launched the Superjet 100, representatives of many enterprises joined the project team. Although the company was named “Sukhoi Civil Aircraft”, there were no more than 25-30% of specialists from the Sukhoi Design Bureau in the design department. The rest were from Ilyushin, Tupolev, and MiG. However, they all got together, found a common ground, and made a plane. Launched in 2004, the project was certified in 2010. There was enthusiasm and a common goal.

The difference between the Superjet 100 and the CR929 is that people speak different languages. But it is no longer a problem, since basic regulatory documents and requirements are the same for all companies and countries producing civil aviation products such as ICAO Requirements, aviation regulations, a large number of applicable standards, etc. However, each company has its own implementation procedures for them. So, our current task is to devise standard procedures for the project.

Traditionally, the Chinese tend to involve all the very best in their projects and they themselves learn from them. Those colleagues who work with us are also involved in the C919 project, and some of them were involved with the original the ARJ21 project. They all have experience in working with western partners; moreover, with those who are now offering their systems for the wide-body airliner. Most of them have previously been engaged in international cooperation; they know the global rules of the game. They know what it means to develop systems on their own and how to develop systems with suppliers. So there are no big differences, and today we don’t face any difficulties in development of most systems. We have a very good rapport; there is an understanding of how we should move forward.

- How do you distribute the work on systems?

- For Now, there is no separations in work. A united Russian-Chinese team formally develops all systems. The set of documents and the source data are known. We divide in half the next “portion piece” of work, so they do their part, and we do ours. Then, we meet in person during “jets”, check our positions; make adjustments and coordinate our work, where necessary, and then issue a single joint document. Everything involves comprehensive agreement taking into consideration the parity in workload.

- At what stage is the CR929 project now?

- We are currently preparing for Gate 3. In terms of systems development, it is the choice of the process of the suppliers’ selection. In 2018, we finished releasing the RFPs for all systems. This April – early May, we received technical and commercial offers from the suppliers planning to participate in the project. It turned out to be quite a big list. For each area of the systems – there are 15 in my area of responsibility – there are at least four candidates. 15 areas with 4 suppliers in each, on 200 pages: more than 12,000 pages to review. This includes calculations to be analyzed, pros and cons to assess strengths and weaknesses to be identified. This the portion of work we split with our Chinese partners.

- Is 15 the number of the main systems?

- We used a flexible approach. We decided that it is better to order a turnkey integration development for some systems. Some other systems we’ve divided into segments.That is all because at the previous RFI stage, 2 or 3 years ago, we received either proposals that did not quite suit us, or it was clear that some of the potential suppliers were strong in only one area, and the others were strong in another. So we decided to divide some systems into subsystems to get the best proposals for the CR929 project. The hydraulic system will be developed according to a single HLR, whereas the air conditioning system has been split into five different subsystems, with five HLRs released.

- What are the criteria to choose the best suppliers?

- The RFP is a document for many fields, not just technology. It's not only aircraft designers who are to make the final choice. Our design team analyzes documents and data related to the technical aspect of the proposal. We assess the suppliers' technical response to the RFP as per two documents: Technical Requirements (TR) and Statement of Work (SOW), that make a clear division of global development responsibility between the supplier and CRAIC (UAC and СОМАС joint venture), as the plane integrator.

We use +special weighting factors to analyze the responses received. We have already agreed upon them with our Chinese partners in almost all the work areas: the symbolic weight of each group of responses in each field. This work was been launched in Shanghai in March 2018. Then we were discussing the criteria for suppliers’ proposals for 10 days. We almost managed to reach an agreement on calculation technique. Now, after analyzing the documents received, we will use these criteria to digitize it all, so that we could get a clear estimate value of the proposals evaluation.

- Will other units departments– economists, marketers – do the same work on the proposals?

- Yes, final proposals from suppliers will be processed by an expert board. Since this is a CRAIC project, this will be their assessment, I mean assessment of the joint Russian-Chinese expert team. The technical aspect is only one of many.

- When is it planned to carry out this analysis and to evaluate proposals?


- We released RFPs for engine and chassis suppliers in August 2018. The engine is not within of my area of competence, so I'd prefer not to talk about it. As for the chassis, the suppliers sent their responses in December 2018, according to the plan. We have checked them all. But since the project is ongoing, it has had some adjustments. We have issued adjustment notices for the requirements. We are expecting to receive updated technical proposals from chassis suppliers now.

By the autumn, we expect to get updated technical proposals from suppliers of all other systems in response to our RFPs. By the end of the year, we plan to issue our technical analysis of suppliers and present our position agreed upon with our colleagues from COMAC to the CRAIC board.

- And what is next?

- Next, the question of choosing suppliers goes to the next level: program management. They are to agree on the rest of the commerce and sales criteria. Following the results of Gate 3, all systems will be frozen and all component suppliers will be finally chosen. That means it will be finally determined on what and with whom we will work. From this point on, we will start signing contracts with suppliers. For a start, development engineering contracts.

- Will suppliers cover the entire CR929 design? Or the developers reserve something for themselves?

- In aircraft certification, the developer, formally called the “applicant", is only responsible for the development and integration of the systems. It is CRAIC for the CR929 project. As for work organization for each of the systems, CRAIC has agreed upon the amount of work to be delegated to suppliers. This is enshrined in the Statement of Work (SOW). In some cases, we deal with the entire system, on the so-called “turnkey basis”, in other cases, with a part of the system.

- And what about the plane airframe?

- We have already divide the works for the airframe. The Russian side is responsible for the wing panels, the center section, the wing flap system, and the engine pylons; the Chinese side - for the body, the horizontal and vertical tail unit plains, and the nose cowl cone. As for the works on systems, the division is made between the aircraft developer and the supplier. We haven't yet discussed which side, Russian or Chinese, will do the developer’s part. So far, the discussion is ongoing in the united team of engineers.

- Russia is responsible for the wing. Will it be composite? For which wing are you ordering systems now?
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- Yes, the wing will be composite, and the system suppliers should take into account in their proposals all the peculiarities associated with the installation and operation of their units on a composite wing. First of all, this is related to electricity and installation requirements.

- Will the choice of suppliers be affected by the wing panel manufacture location: will it be Vladivostok or Shanghai (the CR929 final assembly center) or any other city?

- In the case of systems, this does not matter much now. The component suppliers are waiting for us to tell them the final place to deliver their products to.

- Are there any preferences expected for Russian or Chinese suppliers?

- In terms of technology, nobody has any preferences. First of all, because technology is about safety and optimal performance. It means exactly the same approach to all suppliers. All other economic, logistic or production aspects will surely be assessed by its own criteria.

- In case of the Superjet 100 project, many systems were supplied by foreign companies. Even though the French Snecma and the Russian Saturn Scientific Production Association established a joint venture – PowerJet to manufacture SaM146 engines. When selecting suppliers for the MC-21, we stressed that foreign companies shall have Russian partners. Are there any similar wishes for CR929 suppliers?

- There is no such requirement. However, there are recommendations to have Russian or Chinese partners. We are also trying to encourage potential suppliers to make such alliances. For example, one of the chassis manufacturer Liebherr-Aerospace Lindenberg GmbH applied for the Russia-China cooperation tender. The Chinese Liebherr’s branch also participates in its bid, along with the COMAC divisions and the Russian Hydromash Company. To make an alliance, they have signed a quadrilateral document, dividing engineering and production operations and tests. The Chinese have already started to expand their +test base for this purpose. Even though Liebherr was initially an independent bidder, planning to consider the localization issues later.

- You said that after Gate 3, the list of suppliers will be fixed. Could there be any changes in the list for some reason later?

- We hope that, in terms of technology, our analysis is be reliable, and our suppliers have sent us up-to-date information for this analysis. In my practice, there have never been any changes in supplier's position due to technical problems.

- What are the final plans for the CR929 program?

- We expect CR929 flight tests to launch around 2023–2025, with first deliveries to customers around 2025–2027.

Tags: cr929
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