U.S., Russian manufacturers unite in supersonic jet project

March 18, 1996|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

ZHUKOVSKY, Russia - In an unusual economic collaboration uniting former Cold War adversaries, a leading manufacturer of Russian warplanes has joined forces with the American aerospace industry to carry out research for a possible supersonic passenger plane for the 21st century.

The Tupolev Design Bureau, best known for designing Russia's huge Blackjack bomber, has turned its TU-144 supersonic plane into a flying laboratory.

The experiments are being carried out at the behest of top U.S. aerospace companies, who have also produced their share of warplanes and are now interested in determining whether it is economically feasible to build a new civilian plane that could fly at more than twice the speed of sound.

The sleek TU-144, which is to serve as the flying laboratory, was officially unveiled yesterday at the heavily guarded military airfield here, an hour's drive from Moscow.

In an event redolent with political symbolism, the delta-wing plane was festooned with American corporate logos, including those of Boeing Co., Rockwell International Corp. and McDonnell Douglas Corp. The Russian Army Choir sang "America the Beautiful."

Any aircraft that emerges from the American-Russian collaboration may compete with the French and the British, who produced the Concorde supersonic plane.

The Concorde has given the Europeans considerable experience in supersonic transport operations, and the Russian-American collaboration is intended to erase that advantage, U.S. officials said.

Pub Date: 3/18/96

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