Business News

Russia moves to sell jets to Iran after Trump exit from nuclear deal sinks Boeing's deals

Andrew McIntosh
Sukhoi Superjet 100 plane of Russia's Aeroflot Airline Company.
Marina Lystseva | TASS | Getty Images

A Russian aircraft maker is exploring plans to make a modified version of its Sukhoi Superjet 100 regional airliner so Iranian airlines can buy the jet.

The move comes after the Trump administration withdrew from the Iran nuclear proliferation deal last week, and reimposed sanctions on Iran.

The fresh U.S. sanctions effectively prevent Boeing and Airbus from further pursuing ongoing efforts to sell commercial aircraft to the Islamic republic because planes from both companies contain many U.S.-made parts.

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Russian aircraft makers, who can skirt the U.S. sanctions, are already working on deals, Russian-state owned media outlet Sputnik reports.

"Russian airplane builders have a historic opportunity to receive a new foreign market for its latest designs," Sputnik trumpeted in a second report on its English language website last week.

One potential winner: Moscow-based Sukhoi Civil Aircraft, which makes the Sukhoi Superjet 100, a twin-engine single aisle regional jet introduced in 2008.

It's working on plans to make a modified version with no parts from the U.S. so it will be legal to sell to Iran, Sukhoi Civil Aircraft President Alexander Rubtsovsaid.

The Superjet 100 can carry between 98 and 108 passengers up to 2,385 miles. The jets have a list price of $50.5 million each, according to Sukhoi's English website.

Sputnik said Sukhoi recently signed memorandums of understanding for 40 Sukhoi SuperJet 100 passenger planes with two Iranian airlines, involving deliveries between now and 2022.

The airlines were not identified but the deals were brewing for months after President Donald Trump threatened to withdraw the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal. A memorandum of understanding is not quite a firm order. Iranian airlines have had difficulty finalizing deals in the past.

The Tehran Times reported that the two Iranian airlines involved are Iran Airtour and Aseman Airlines.

Aseman Airlines is one of the Iran buyers Boeing was trying to win as a 737 Max customer.

In June 2017, Boeing and Aseman signed a contract for 30 737s, plus options on 30 more jets in a deal worth $3 billion at list prices.

The Tehran Times reported a Sukhoi Superjet 100 jets made a landing in Tehran back in February, where Iranian aviation experts studying future airplane purchases inspected the jet.

Sukhoi says it has delivered 159 Superjet 100s to date.

Operators include airlines and government agencies stretching from Russia (Aeroflot) to Mexico, Ireland, Kazakhstan, Switzerland and Thailand.