Alternative to Suez: The Northern Sea Route

Finnish designers have developed a container ship for the Northern Sea Route

Suez Canal was blocked for one week by the giant container ship Ever Given. Alternative routes from Europe to Asia are increasingly being discussed. The Northern Sea Route (NSR) is no exception.

On March 22, the day before the incident in the Suez Canal, the Finnish design bureau Aker Arctic , specializing in ice technology, presented a project of an Arctic container ship for the NSR. Detailed information is contained in the corporate publication of a Finnish company. 


The concept design of a container ship with a capacity of 8 thousand TEU for year-round operation on the NSR is based on previous developments by Aker Arctic for the region. A series of reinforced ice-class container ships of the Norilsk Nickel type and LNG carriers of the Arc7 class for the Yamal LNG project.

The container ship for the NSR will differ from other vessels of a similar type with an ice-reinforced hull. As well as icebreaker-type bow lines, and equipment for protecting cargo from the cold.

Two options

According to Luigi Portunato, shipbuilding engineer at Aker Arctic, the vessel can be built in two versions.

The first assumes the use of the “double acting ship” technology. It is due to the hull lines and the propulsion complex higher than the nose. In this case, the hybrid propulsion system consists of one shaft line with a central propeller and two rudder propellers along the sides.

The second , more traditional option, involves the use of two shafting with propellers and two rudders.

The container ship with rudder propellers will be able to operate on the NSR all year round. It would be moving stern ahead in difficult ice conditions. A container ship with propellers in difficult conditions will need the help of an icebreaker.

A special feature of the double-acting container ship will be an additional wheelhouse located in the aft part of the mooring deck. That will be used when moving aft forward. In addition, due to low operating temperatures, the bridge between the engine room and the wheelhouse with living quarters will be located below deck.

Container ship for work on the Northern Sea Route / Illustration: Aker Arctic


At the moment, the following technical characteristics of the container ship from Aker Arctic are known:

  • container capacity – 8000 TEU;
  • length – about 300 m;
  • width – 46 m;
  • draft – 13 m;
  • power (option 1) – 56 MW (propeller 1×22 MW, rudder propellers 2×17 MW);
  • power (option 2) – 44 MW (propellers 2×22 MW);
  • icebreaking capacity (option 1) – 2.3 m (at 3 knots, nose forward);
  • icebreaking capacity (option 2) – 1.9 m (at 3 knots, nose forward)

Project economics

When developing the project of the container ship, two options for the use of Arctic container ships on the Northern Sea Route were calculated. From Asian ports to European ports. As well as only in the section between the supposed container hubs in Murmansk and Kamchatka.

As a result, the designers came to the conclusion that the cost of transportation of a conventional container decreases with an increase in the vessel’s capacity for all options. At the same time, it is difficult to pinpoint the point when the options for transportation along the NSR become more profitable than the route through the Suez Canal. This is influenced by many factors, including the cost and type of fuel, the degree of loading of the vessel, etc.

According to Luigi Fortunatto, in the current market conditions, using an Arctic container ship is slightly more expensive than crossing the Suez Canal. The economic efficiency of Arctic container ships could be increased by switching to liquefied natural gas (LNG). At the same time, the shorter route from Asia to Europe along the NSR gives a gain in time. If earlier the speed and adherence to the schedule could only be guaranteed in summer, then with the new container ship we can already talk about the winter-spring period.

It is worth noting that the Aker Arctic publication does not mention the customer for the new vessel. It can be assumed that it is a subsidiary of Rosatom, Rusatom Cargo, which is implementing a project to create the Northern Sea Transit Corridor (SMTK). Earlier it became known about the company plans to start pilot operation of Arctic container ships of the Arc7 class as early as 2024.

A license was issued to create the BREST-OD-300 reactor. What does it mean?

This week Rostekhnadzor issued a license to build the world’s first experimental demonstration power unit with a lead-cooled BREST-OD-300 fast neutron reactor. The project is being implemented at the site of the Siberian Chemical Combine of Rosatom near Tomsk

This material was prepared with the support of Postnews.

What does it mean? This means that the creation of the most modern, efficient and safe nuclear reactor in the world has officially begun in Russia . It’s just so pretentious? In this case, it is not a cliché. Let’s explain and start from afar. That is why nuclear energy has not yet conquered absolutely the whole world? After all, the problem of emissions from hydrocarbon power plants is now so acute. It would seem that nothing better than nuclear power could be invented. There are two reasons.

First: depleted uranium

Accumulated during uranium enrichment for reactor fuel and already spent fuel . What to do with them? In fact, the problem of their storage is not so terrible, because there are not so many of them and they are not so radioactive, and the methods are quite reliable. But still.

This is how depleted uranium hexafluoride is stored in Russia. 
And most importantly, this is sufficient for safety. 
From the site

The second reason: fear of a repeat of Chernobyl.

The first problem with “waste” is solved with the help of fast reactors. In such, recycled fuel elements of conventional nuclear power plants are used as fuel elements. And in the process, they also enrich depleted uranium. Bingo! How? Here is brief explanation:

“Conventional” thermal (much less fast) neutron reactors use enriched radioactive uranium-235. Fast reactors can use both thorium-232 and weapons-grade plutonium, which in conventional reactors cannot participate in a controlled reaction. This solves the problem of spent nuclear fuel and weapons-grade plutonium stockpiles. But how is the problem of depleted uranium-238 solved?

It is placed in the reactor core. Neutrons are fast, so they have enough energy to turn depleted uranium into plutonium. Which can be used right there (well, not quite right there, but after processing into special assemblies) as fuel.

Experiments with such reactors were carried out at the dawn of nuclear power, but then there was simply not enough technology and materials to create such complex systems. It is a little paradoxical that neutrons are initially fast during the reaction. In the classical scheme, they have to be slowed down with the help of fuel compaction and special moderators and reflectors. But now in Russia there are such technologies, materials and specialists to cope with fast particles.

Solving problem with nuclear waste

There are now only two such commercial reactors in the world, both in Russia. Therefore, sometimes you can see panic news that “nuclear waste” is being brought from Europe to Russia . This is not waste, but raw material for the fuel of our nuclear power plants. And we are also paid extra for this. Moreover, in fast neutron reactors most of the radioactive superheavy elements are “burned out”, which in a conventional reactor go to waste. Combustion is not a very good term. Because smoke and soot remain from the fire, but not here. They, these elements, are simply not available at the output.

The second reason, security, is also being addressed. A second Chernobyl will not happen at the current level of technology. A lot of special and active and passive (like several thick reinforced concrete sealed capsules) have been invented since then.

But it is possible to make a peaceful atom even safer. In the abbreviation BREST, “BR” stands for “fast reactor”, and “EST” stands for “natural safety .

In ordinary fast reactors, sometimes mercury is used as a coolant, but more often it is liquid sodium (and in “ordinary”, thermal reactors , it is most often water). It boils at 883.15 ° C. And upon contact with air, it actively reacts chemically. So an explosion is purely potential.

In BREST, liquid lead is used. It does not react with air, it boils well over a thousand degrees, and in the event of a depressurization (and so unlikely) it will simply solidify and cool the reactor core by itself.

So in Russia two futures began at once : the future of a closed nuclear cycle and the future of naturally safe reactors.

China seeks self-sufficiency as chip shortage hits car production

The situation is not likely to get better until the third quarter, while the country’s dependence on international chipmakers could take years to overcome

By Iris Hong

China strives to strengthen self-sufficiency of chips by matchmaking automakers and suppliers. And by stockpiling chipmaking machines as the global shortage of computer chips forces auto plants to halt production. However, analysts expect the disruption to auto production to continue until at least the third quarter.

While Covid-19 has disrupted chipmaking around the world, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake near Japan’s northeast coastal prefecture of Fukushima and winter storm blackouts that struck the US semiconductor hub Texas last month only exacerbated the situation. Several chipmakers such as Infineon, NXP, and Samsung halted their chip production in Austin, Texas, and Japan-based Renesas Electronics closed its plant. 

The world’s largest carmakers such as Volkswagen, Ford, General Motors, and Honda as well as China’s Changan Auto are bracing for production disruptions from chip shortage. Tesla also shut down a Model 3 production line at its factory in Fremont, California, for two days amid an industry-wide microchip shortage. 

China became the world’s first economy to recover from the pandemic. Its auto sales also outperformed global sales in 2020. However, January auto sales decreased 11.6% month-on-month to 2.5 million units. Auto production was down 15.9% from the previous month.

Excluding years 2017 and 2020 when auto production decreased exceptionally in January, the slowdown this year is larger compared with the years 2016, 2018 and 2019, CAAM said. 

Li Shaohua, secretary-general of CAAM, said chip shortage was one of the key factors that caused car production to drop in January. 

A rise in demand for smartphones and stay-at-home technologies that offer higher profit margins has also squeezed the production of automotive chips, according to Li. 

Amid an industry-wide chip shortage, Chen Hong, chairman of SAIC Motor and a deputy to the National People’s Congress, has called for more policy support for a self-sufficient supply chain of automotive-grade chips. 

He suggests that Beijing provide research grants and subsidies for automotive chip development and production, and that insurers develop product liability insurance policies for the chips. 

MIIT matchmaking bid to boost chip supply-chain

China, which accounts for 30% of the world’s car sales, only produces less than 5% of the world’s automotive chips. 

China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) held a workshop with automakers and semiconductor companies. Then it released a directory for supply-demand matchmaking.

The directory includes information on over 500 chip products provided by 59 semiconductor companies. They include computing chips, control chips, power chips, memory chips, communication chips… It cover 80% of the types of chips needed for auto production. 

The directory also includes over 1,000 listings of demand information from automakers. As well as auto part companies such as Desay SV Automotive and CATL.

Chip shortage since the fourth quarter of last year highlights the insufficient supply capacity of China’s automotive semiconductor industry. 

Domestic semiconductor companies are less experienced in developing and marketing their products to the auto industry. The directory is intended to facilitate collaboration across the supply chain.

Old chip machines being snapped up

Chinese semiconductor makers are snapping up used chipmaking machines. It is driving up equipment prices in Japan’s secondary market.

A report by Nikkei Asia on Sunday said machines “worthless several years ago” now sell for $1 million. 

Chinese businesses bought almost $32 billion of equipment last year used to produce computer chips. From Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and elsewhere, a 20% jump from 2019. 

Meanwhile, Li from CAAM expects chip shortage to continue crippling China’s auto production for another six months. “The sales and production of cars are expected to recover in the second half, which will gradually offset the decrease in the first half,” he said. 

Auto analyst with a Ministry of Industry and Information Technology-affiliated think tank, believes the market has over-panicked about chip shortage. 

“There has not been a price surge in China’s auto market. T indicates that supply is enough to meet demand. Besides, the majority of cars sold in China are traditional models. They have no screen or small screens, which need fewer chips,” he said.

US chip ban on Huawei 

A widening US technology ban has exposed the vulnerability of China’s semiconductor sector. 

China’s largest chipmaker, SMIC, was also added to an export control blacklist by Trump. That restricts its access to chipmaking equipment for advanced nodes that are 10-nanometer and below. SMIC does not yet mass produce chips that are below 10nm. However, the US sanctions will hamper its ability to develop advanced chips to meet upcoming demand.

China, a market with 28 million units of auto sales per year, imports over 80% of key components needed for auto production.

“The automotive semiconductor industry is highly concentrated. It is dominated by companies like Texas Instruments, Infineon, NXP, Renesas Electronics, and Samsung. There are very few Chinese companies that can provide automotive-grade chips. These are crucial to the car’s safety, such as those used for the engine control unit. Many semiconductor start-ups have emerged. However, it will be unlikely for them to increase their global market shares in a short-term,”

A few Chinese companies such as NavInfo Co Ltd and Horizon Robotics have launched automotive-grade semiconductors for autonomous driving. However, they rely on contract chipmakers such as TSMC to make the chips. 

Automakers developing their own semiconductor capability

Chinese automakers such as BYD Auto have developed their own semiconductor capability. BYD Auto set up its own semiconductor company in 2004. It launched China’s first homegrown Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistor (IGBT) chip in 2009 and the first 32-bit microcontroller chip 2019. 

BYD Auto said in December that its homegrown chips are sufficient for its own use. And there are extra that can be provided to other automakers. 

There is only one Chinese company – namely Nexperia – among the world’s top 20 automotive semiconductor companies, according to Roland Berger’s report.

Given China’s semiconductor sector is almost two generations behind, it may take Chinese companies three to four years to catch up with the global leaders. With a widening US technology ban the outlook does not look rosy.

Why the Il-114 is more important for Russia even than the MS-21?

I will try to explain why is the Il-114 more important for Russia than even the MS-21.

Undoubtedly, December will go down in history as the most “aviation” month of 2020 in Russia. The flight with engines of domestic production was made at once by two airliners. The MS-21, as well as the Il-114. The importance of both liners for our country can hardly be overestimated. However, if our medium-haul lines are fully and for years to come provided with the products of Boeing and Airbus, which are massively purchased by domestic airlines, there is almost nothing to carry out regional transportation. In this context, the new IL is a much more needed aircraft for Russia.

After the collapse of the USSR and the beginning of the degradation of the national aviation industry. The aging Tu-134, An-24 and Yak-40 remained to work on domestic airlines. Competitors from Bombardier and SAAB produced their own regional airliners. Russian ones were given barriers to access the world market in the form of limits on environmental friendliness and low noise of aircraft engines. It was not particularly interesting for those in power to develop their modern power plants. We had a paradigm “we will buy everything we need abroad for petrodollars”.

Ageing Fleet

The result was logical: the existing aircraft fleet grew old, and experienced pilots moved to work abroad for higher salaries. An-24 turboprop, very decent for its time, began to suffer disaster after disaster. In 1997, an An-24RV crashed in Karachay-Cherkessia, killing all 50 people flying on it. At 2010, in Russia, during the crash of a liner of this type, performing flight 9357 on the Krasnoyarsk – Igarka route, 11 people out of 14 on board were killed. In 2011, flight 9007 from Tomsk to Surgut was forced to make an emergency landing on the Ob River due to an engine fire, as a result of which seven passengers died from their injuries. In 2013, in Donetsk, an An-24 crashed with fans of the Shakhtar football club, five of them were killed, seven more were injured.

There is no doubt about the need to renew the fleet of short-haul lines. In theory, Superjet was supposed to cope with this task, but instead of the most popular segment of 65-75 passenger seats, it was pushed into 100. Everyone has already heard about its problems with imported components, which the domestic industry has now undertaken to replace. But, alas, it seems that they did not have time. On the eve, new US sanctions came into force, which should prohibit the use of US-made components on the Superjet and MS-21. In a short-haul liner, these are the chassis, hydraulic system, electrical and oxygen supply equipment. It is clear that sooner or later it will be possible to replace all this, but here and now a serious failure is forming in the production chain.

Just in time arrival

In this context, the Il-114-300 arrived just in time. The plane can carry up to 64 passengers. It can functionally replace the Superjet on domestic routes, although these are liners of different classes. “Ilyushin” is more severe and unpretentious than “imported constructor”. The most important thing is that it is completely Russian. Although this project was developed three decades ago, it has received a new life in modern Russia. Its main advantage is its own TV7-117ST-01 aircraft engine. The power plant can produce up to 3100 horsepower. It is economical and meets modern requirements for low noise and environmental friendliness. Work on it began in 2014, when it became clear that things went wrong with the West. And it’s good that they didn’t waste time.

Now Russia has its own short-haul liner capable of delivering 64 passengers over a distance of 1,500 kilometers in three hours. It will be especially in demand in the difficult conditions of the Far North and the Far East. IL-114-300 with good reason claims to become a reliable “workhorse” of local airlines, increasing the transport connectivity of the vast country. In addition, the RF Ministry of Defense will be able to order its military modifications intended for patrolling sea borders, reconnaissance and electronic warfare.

Explained: ZF two-speed EV gearbox

By Daniel Gardner

German transmission giant cuts new teeth on two EV ratios

With the exception of a handful of high-end high-performance models, all electric vehicles use a simple single-speed transmission to send power from the motor to the wheels.

The solution is cost-effective, and the incredible torque characteristics of an electric motor ensure swift acceleration even with one gear. But now an innovation by transmission giant ZF is about to take EVs up a gear – literally.

Its new universal drive unit, offering a turn-key drivetrain for manufacturers looking to develop a mainstream EV, incorporates a 140kW electric motor and, crucially, a game-changing two-speed gearbox.

At low speeds and in stop-start traffic, an electric motor is at its most efficient, offering regenerative braking to recoup power under deceleration and without power-sapping drag to fight. But at cruising speed, the rapidly spinning motor puts a high demand on the battery, compounded by aerodynamic and tyre resistance.

However, when vehicles fitted with ZF’s new unit pass 70km/h, the gearbox shifts up into its taller cruising ratio, lowering the motor’s RPM for greater efficiency and optimised torque.

Until now, manufacturers have had to choose between low-speed torque or high-speed efficiency and lock that decision into the single gear ratio, but this potentially revolutionary twin-ratio solution is offering something closer to the best of both worlds.

High hopes Down Under

Touring this great land of ours under EV power is a tall order, but multi-speed ’boxes could be part of the answer. Lower gears would provide maximum towing torque for trailers and caravans, while higher gears would impart long legs for vehicles on the interstate run, reducing charge consumption.

Ratio to the finish

As with manual and automatic gearboxes, expect to see EV transmissions with more ratios. ZF is up to nine in its automatics for ICE, and more cogs in an EV gearbox will bring similar benefits – more potent acceleration and torque, increased motor life, and longer cruising range.

Rival gear

Global auto supplier GKN is already manufacturing a two-speed transmission it calls the eAxle, which is, in part, responsible for the dazzling performance of the Porsche 918 Spyder and BMW i8. But with the potential to drive a greater number of mass-market cars, the unit cost of ZF’s transmission will plummet.


Beijing wants 100,000 hydrogen cars by 2025

Lured by government incentives and research, manufacturers are rushing to set up production plants

China expects to have 100,000 cars powered by clean-burning hydrogen cells on its roads within five to six years as it challenges such countries as Japan and South Korea for dominance of the emerging carbon-free automotive markets.

There are already more electric vehicles in China than anywhere else, but an expert in new energy sources with the Chinese Academy of Sciences told Xinhua that the research and production focus was now shifting to hydrogen fuel cells. With their outstanding energy-conversion efficiency and zero carbon emissions, the cells are tipped to replace fossil-fuel engines and rechargeable batteries as the global power source for transport.

The blueprint for the program will be China’s successful marketing of electric cars: There were almost none 10 years ago, but a million electric and hybrid cars were sold to the public and private sectors last year, more than the rest of the world combined.

They use lithium-ion packs, which need to be recharged every 350-600 kilometers. In contrast, fuel cells generate their own electricity when hydrogen interacts with oxygen and do not need charging. Instead, they have hydrogen tanks that can hold far more energy, while the only byproducts are heat and water.

Beijing aims to add 30,000 “clean” vehicles in 30 cities each year from 2019, mostly powered by hydrogen, with the initial emphasis likely to be on public transportation. The government has invested more than US$12 billion in fuel cell technologies.

Lured by government research and production subsidies, domestic automakers such as Great Wall Motor, Yutong Bus and Foton Motor have rushed into the promising hydrogen automotive sector since last year. Changchun-based First Automobile Work, China’s oldest carmaker, has announced plans to mass-produce a fuel-cell version of its flagship marque Hongqi this year.

A 12 billion yuan (US$1.77 billion) hydrogen automobile plant is also being built in Guangdong province, backed by Hong Kong business magnate Li Ka-shing. Production will start by the end of this year, with an annual output of 160,000 units expected within five years.

Chinese policymakers may also offer incentives to accelerate the construction of fueling stations for hydrogen cars, according to China Security Times. There are currently only 12 functioning stations.

Some earlier versions of hydrogen-powered cars are already on the road, such as the Toyota Mirai and Honda Clarity, but the fuel they carry is expensive, volatile and prone to explode. To overcome these problems, the University of Science and Technology of China said this year that it had invented a new catalyst capable of preventing highly flammable hydrogen fuel cells from overheating.

A research team with the university’s School of Chemistry and Materials Science said the catalyst would prevent cells from being affected by carbon monoxide and allow for the manufacturing of high-purity hydrogen at a time when the costs of making fuel cells and building and running hydrogen pipelines and fueling stations are still prohibitive. The battery would be able to work with temperature changes.

Older vehicles may be converted to hydrogen as technologies become available. In one notable breakthrough, Chinese researchers have adapted methanol, an alcohol made easily from coal, to hydrogen gas so it can power cars. The methanol releases hydrogen and carbon dioxide when it comes into contact with water, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Coal Chemistry has developed a way to get a faster reaction under normal temperatures by using a device that can fit into a compact car.

The reaction chamber has a volume of only about 100 milliliters, and the vehicle can carry two fuel tanks – one for methanol and a smaller one for water – according to Xinhua and the South China Morning Post.

RUMBLE Program: Russia, EU Team Up to Create Supersonic Aviation of the Future

Political tensions haven’t been able to stop Russian-European cooperation in advanced aeronautics via the RUMBLE program. What’s at stake is the creation of new guidelines for the return of supersonic civil aviation in Europe through the elimination of a key obstacle: excessive noise levels caused by aircraft as they break the sound barrier.

The joint Russian-EU RUMBLE (Regulation and Norm for Low Supersonic Boom Levels) project was launched in Paris last week, effectively tasked with determining the future of supersonic commercial aviation in Europe. The project’s strategic goals include finding a solution to the issue of the supersonic boom generated by aircraft, and to create standards for global commercial supersonic aviation.

Financing for RUMBLE is split down the middle between the Russian Ministry of Industry & Trade and the European Commission.

Sputnik France got in touchwith Sergei Chernyshev, director-general of the Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute (TsAGI), a key player from the Russian side in the RUMBLE project, to get a better sense of what European companies and governments hope to accomplish.

Offering a bit of background on the issue, Chernyshev explained that one of the key reasons behind the commercial failure of Europe’s Concorde and the Soviet Union’s Tu-144 supersonic airliner was the sonic boom generated by the planes as they hit supersonic speed. The noise issue has led many countries, including the United States, to completely ban the flight of commercial supersonic aircraft over residential areas, effectively depriving airlines of most of their most promising routes.

“The noise caused by a supersonic aircraft as it flies past is virtually indistinguishable from that of an explosion. While it lasts only one or two tenths of a second, this is a very unpleasant phenomenon,” the senior engineer said.

However, the development of new technologies in the area of supersonic aviation may radically alter the situation in the near future, Chernyshev added.

“Aeronautics technologies have advanced and humanity – the US, Europe, Russia, Japan and China, have begun contemplating whether it’s possible to create a plane that’s able to fly at supersonic speeds over residential areas without producing such a loud noise. It’s clear that the plane will still produce some noise – that is just physics. However, what’s necessary is to make this noise so small so as to make it acceptable to people, similarly to how we are all accustomed to the noise of a big city.”

Commenting on the ambitious ideas behind RUMBLE and its efforts to create new standards on noise pollution, TsAGI’s director emphasized that what is at stake is effectively the creation a new generation of aircraft, one which will change human perceptions when it comes to long-distance travel.

The RUMBLE project required almost six years of careful negotiations to get off the ground, the decision on cooperation made in part based on Europe’s desire to catch up with US developments in the field of supersonic aviation. In the US, research in the area is driven mostly by NASA, with private companies including Gulfstream Aerospace (a direct competitor to France’s Dassault Aviation) engaged in their own efforts. The fact that a Dassault Aviation representative is serving as RUMBLE’s technical director is an indication of the company’s engagement in the project.

According to Chernyshev, Russian and French companies played a key role in establishing the cooperative effort. “Before drafting the specifications for this project, we took a very careful look at what had been done in the US, and attempted to find a niche – something that would allow us to add knowledge to this common international issue,” the engineer said.

In other words, Chernyshev noted, RUMBLE’s work will complement that of NASA and that of other US agencies and companies. “The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has also funded research in this area, and has accumulated a lot of data which can help form the basis of new standards. RUMBLE will do its part in terms of the methodology used to evaluate noise levels caused by supersonic booms…[including differing perceptions] among people depending on whether it’s day or night.”

From Joint Standards to Joint Development?

The senior engineer did not rule out that in the future, this project, currently tasked with dealing with academic and administrative issues, cannot grow into practical cooperation – i.e. into the joint Russian-European development of a new supersonic commercial jet.

According to Sputnik France, it’s probably no accident that European aviation giant Airbus, rather than governments, is coordinating the project. From the Russian side, the participation of Mikhail Pogosyan, rector of the Moscow Aviation Institute and principal creator of the Sukhoi SuperJet 100, is seen as evidence of RUMBLE’s commercial potential.

“It is difficult for us to compete with the Americans in terms of financing. Therefore, in our opinion, it would only be logical for Europe [including Russia] to launch a joint project, thus sharing the funding and the risks involved,” Chernyshev said. “Will our research lead to a new project? We certainly hope so.”

Effectively, Chernyshev noted, what’s at stake is the creation of the supersonic aircraft of the future, one which can fill the niche of high-speed business travel in the 21st century. “I cannot rule out joint efforts for a more detailed design at the concept level, and potential prototypes for such an aircraft,” he said.

TsAGI’s director has some pretty clear ideas on how this potential future aircraft may look. First of all, he said, the design will likely include a single person crew, supported by an advanced flight control system. In terms of design characteristics, the plane will be a “fundamentally new design,” dissimilar to conventional commercial aircraft, something that will demand highly innovative development work by the Russian aviation industry. The planes will be built from composite materials, making them lighter, and of course, will feature a new engine.

“As far as the engine is concerned, one option is to refine an existing one (although for the moment none of them are entirely suitable). The other is a breakthrough in engine construction and the creation of engines with a variable cycle – i.e. engines which can change their cycle during flight, depending on speed,” Chernyshev explained.

The new planes will probably be small, with seating for between 8 and 20 people, he said. “We believe that a small aircraft of about 60 tons with a capacity for between 12-14 people would be a good start as a business jet, costing 1.5 times that of a conventional subsonic business jet.”

In any case, Chernyshev emphasized Russia-European cooperation on commercial supersonic aviation does not seem affected by any political disputes between Moscow, Brussels, or Europe’s national governments. In fact, cooperation has only increased in spite of tensions and sanctions. “Such projects are the bridge which will help maintain working relations in a difficult political period and restore them once sanctions are lifted,” the official concluded.