President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon,
Who is the pilot?
Alexei Ryabov: Crew chief, 1st Class Test Pilot Ryabov Alexei.
Vladimir Putin: Mr Ryabov, congratulations.
Alexei Ryabov: Thank you.
Allow me to report. The test flight programme was performed in full using the new No. 804 Tu-160 following the resumption of production. The aircraft is stable, flies well across the entire range of high speeds, and is ready for comprehensive upgrade. The equipment passed the test with flying colours. Therefore, on behalf of the crew, allow me to congratulate the entire team, you, myself, and our entire country on this landmark event. We hope that this aircraft will take on a new life after comprehensive modernisation. We invite you to fly this aircraft 12–18 months from now.
Vladimir Putin: Do you know that I flew the older version of this plane?
Alexei Ryabov: Yes, I do. It was clean and beautiful.
Vladimir Putin: Your praise is, of course, for the pilots, I had little to do with that. I was just sitting next to them.
As for the project that has now been brought to the point that we are now discussing, this is, of course, a great achievement by the factory's workers. I see older workers and young people here. A large group of young specialists has come here over the past two years. I just discussed this effort with a senior executive. The older version of this plane was discontinued in 1993. In 2015, we decided to modernise it and resume production. This, in fact, is a completely different aircraft, including avionics and everything else. You know that this is different aircraft altogether. It may look the same, but the engine, the flight range and the capacity are different. Of course, this is a big success for this young and already experienced team. Congratulations.
Alexei Ryabov: Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: This is a major step in developing this high-tech sphere and improving our country's defence capability, because it represents an element of our nuclear triad in the air. A very important thing. So thank you very much. I am sure that the work will continue in the same way and with the same result.
Remark: Thank you very much for supporting aviation.
Vladimir Putin: Let’s move on. Aviation holds the future, combat aviation will ensure our country's defence capability, and civil aviation is important as well. We also need to think about the civilian version of such aircraft. With a vast territory like ours, the flight from Moscow to Vladivostok is almost as long as it is to New York. So, I am confident that this will be in demand. Of course, in this respect, more work will be needed, but seeing it to completion is absolutely feasible. So, everyone will have something to do. Not just something, but interesting and necessary things. So, thank you all. Congratulations, everyone.
Remark: Let us hope so.
Vladimir Putin: We will sign a contract soon. Ten aircraft, 15 billion each, more than 15 billion – 160 billion in total. The plant will run at full capacity until 2027. There is a lot to do.
Remark: Importantly, the subcontractors should not fail us.
Vladimir Putin: They have not, so far. A refuelling tanker flew to Ulyanovsk today. So our aviation is making strides.
Remark: Yes, we can see it and feel it. We all know it from Soviet times, so to speak, sitting in an ejection seat. So, we know. (Laughter.)
Remark: Experimental aviation should also be developed as a category of aviation, so that we can test things and move forward. We must develop our own equipment.
Vladimir Putin: Exactly. How does the team feel?
Sergei Mansvetov: Mr President, Sergei Mansvetov, deputy chief technology officer. I have been working here since the 1980s. I want to thank you in advance for the contract to be signed, which will give peace of mind and hope for tomorrow to us, our workers and their families, as well as to the associated enterprises.
I started this work in 1975. In 1980, we began to develop this aircraft. We received new plans and instructions, worked on them, wrote our own instructions, and arrived at a good product in the end. Now, I hope for a much-improved plane.
The years have passed. There were hard years where specialists left the plant, lots of back and forth. With the help of the republic’s authorities, the Defence Ministry and your participation, the plant was preserved. New ambitious, smart, and competent young people have joined our team; they know the equipment inside out. Our first experiences with welding and assembling the aircraft have shown that we can be confident in success. I can assure you that the contract to be signed will be fulfilled.
Vladimir Putin: I do not doubt it at all. We are using the latest technology. They showed me the parts that are made with modern equipment. They are more durable and reliable, and are made ten times faster. Ten times! This is what I call productivity. If it were that way in all other industrial sectors, the manufacturing industry would be different, and the economy would be different as well.
Renat Khammatov: Mr President, as a follow-up to what Sergei Mansvetov said, I would like to boast about our achievements.
We are in this wonderful shop, and Russian enterprises helped us modernise two outstanding units: the world's largest electron beam welding unit, and Russia’s largest titanium vacuum annealing furnace. We are striving to create the most complex element of this aircraft which is the wing sector centre beam. It is right there behind us.
The goal of the entire team, which has been brought back together, including young specialists and older workers who share their experience with us, is to build this unit. This is a critical part of the aircraft. It takes three years to build a production plane, and the beam takes a year to complete. As Sergei Mansvetov said, we brought in the people; the workers came to the plant, we can do it, the shop was repaired and the equipment was restored, and with the help of the All-Russian Institute of Aviation Materials, we developed the production modes and processes and are now making combat parts. They are here in the shop. They will be mounted on the new aircraft, which we will get off the ground in the near future.
Vladimir Putin: You have already. (Laughter.)
Renat Khammatov: The state defence order, which we have been waiting for, for so long, and look forward to being signed, will be fulfilled, have no doubt.
Vladimir Putin: I have no doubt about that. I can already see that it can fly. The pilots got it off the ground. I have no doubts, and I am particularly pleased to see the symbiosis of young and older workers. There are people to work with, and there are people to learn from. Our colleague put it very tactfully, did you catch it? He said ”youth“ and ”adults.“ He did not say ”old workers.“
Renat Khammatov: We respect them. We never treat them like old people because without them we would be nowhere.
Vladimir Putin: That is true.
Renat Khammatov: This is the hallmark of Tupolev.
Vladimir Putin: The firm is notable, with much expertise under its belt.
Renat Khammatov: Because we preserved the staff.
Maxim Anyutov: Mr President, Anyutov Maxim.
In 2005, you personally piloted this unique piece of equipment as a crew member.
Vladimir Putin: I was sitting beside them.
Maxim Anyutov: Today, you witnessed the take-off and landing of the new upgraded version of the plane. I would like to know what you felt then, 13 years ago, and now, as you looked at this new machine?
Vladimir Putin: You know, it is not just that I flew the Tu-160 and sat in the cockpit. I saw what kind of work it was, and I saw how the aircraft behaved. It’s unforgettable. I said it then and will say it again: it is like a dream. Everything happens as in a dream. So, we can be jealous of the pilots to a certain extent. This is part of their life. Of course, their life is connected with risk, but it is very exciting and very substantive.
Regarding the airplane itself and its modernisation, let me reveal a small secret to you. We have started using it. It became absolutely evident to me that the airplane should be changed. As soon as we got to work on it for real, it became obvious that huge work ought to be undertaken. It did not even officially enter into military service. It has just been done. And they seemed to say that we have such a carrier. But in reality, it definitely ought to have been refined, even in its previous version.
Well, and today with the emergence of new technologies it was clear that we should not just refine, we can make it on a totally new technological foundation. And we succeeded. It is indeed a great success, a big step forward. It only looks like the Tu-160 I used to fly. But it is a totally different plane. And it has very big, good development prospects. This is a considerable step forward, let me repeat it, in enhancing the country’s defence capabilities, its nuclear triad, in this case its air component. This is why this work is major and very important. And it is interesting, too.
Alexei Kochetkov: Mr President, I am Alexei Kochetkov, head of therepair and modernisation unit for these beautiful aircraft.
We said that many young people come to our plant. I have the following question. Training for aviation professions is a long process of at least five years. There is a respective college where the WorldSkills system has been introduced, by the way, with government help. The training process there is very labour intensive. During an internship or upon graduation young people, sometimes ambitious, come and train here.
Firstly, apart from what they have been taught, we impart our own expertise, we have classes that teach specialists to work with their hands in practice. And here is the question – conscription in the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. We wouldn’t like to lose such specialists even for one year.
I have a suggestion for you – to count working on such equipment under the state defence order as military service in the Armed Forces and issue a military service card.
Vladimir Putin: We have to think it over. We have to have the draft in full. But we have several options for conscription military service with parallel full use of the skills and knowledge a person has acquired.
The Defence Minister has just reported, and I have authorised it, the establishment of a techno park; we are doing this in a very good and convenient place. And we will recruit young specialists, young scientists who can, and I am confident, will effectively work within their profession. We can discuss how to best use the specialists you just talked about. Of course, I think we will be able to do this as we implement our plans on increasing the number of voluntary recruits, not conscripts. The more voluntary recruits, the fewer conscripts.
Alexei Kochetkov: Professional selection.
Vladimir Putin: Yes, this is related to many parameters; I will not go into detail, but it includes budget capacity. But nevertheless, we will follow that route. I understand what you said, and you are generally right. We will proceed gradually.
Alexei Kochetkov: All right, thank you.
Vladimir Putin: For you to have a better understanding, the ballet people say “We should not draft men from the ballet. There are so few of them.” Musicians say, “We work hard to train a musician for five or seven years, and just as he reaches a professional level, you draft him into the army. He will be playing the trumpet all day whereas he is, let’s say, a cellist.” This might mean we would have many exceptions like this. Nevertheless, you are right: those who work in the defence industry work for the defence capability of the country.
Please, go ahead.
Alexander Grunin: Good afternoon,
Alexander Grunin, head of the special equipment service laboratory.
I have the following question: our enterprise is currently undergoing a global reorganisation and technical upgrading. Huge funds are being invested in our company, but as soon as we gain momentum and increase output volume, is it possible that state defence orders will decline?
Vladimir Putin: No. As I said, we will now attend the signing of the contract between the Defence Ministry and Tupolev for the purchase of these planes by the Defence Ministry, ten aircraft in one order. The enterprise will be fully engaged until 2027, plus repairs, major rebuilding, and service. There are no questions here.
Of course, and we spoke about this in Ufa yesterday, we have a diversification programme, a programme of gradual diversification in the military industries so that the cutting-edge equipment available here, in this shop, can be used not only in the interests of defence and security but also for manufacturing dual-purpose or civilian products. I set this goal some time ago, in 2015, but now we are focusing on this, planning the immediate and mid-term steps. This must be done by all defence enterprises because the peak of the defence orders will one day come and go. Not soon for you, you have a full load through 2027. But we have to think about the future, and we will certainly deal with it.
Dmitry Voloshin: Mr President, may I speak? Test pilot Dmitry Voloshin.
Experimental aviation is, in fact, the platform for the development of both state and civil aviation. And I hope that today's event in particular and the development of the defence industry of the Russian Federation in general will pave the way for the further progress of experimental aviation that requires legal and administrative regulations based on new principles as well as staff training. Incidentally, the Fedotov Test Pilot School in Zhukovsky celebrated its 70th anniversary this year and it also needs more attention from the government. Naturally, experimental aviation requires the modernisation of airfields…
Vladimir Putin: Yes. Like here.
Dmitry Voloshin: This includes the modernisation of test grounds and all other elements of test flight infrastructure. And of course, we need advanced tests and research in terms of flight testing methods.
For example, Alexei Ryabov, our commander, has been working at the plant for 23 years and his experience can be used for this as well. Our commander and I, we are average experimental aviation test pilots. We are both 53 years old. The average age should be younger.
Vladimir Putin: What do you suggest?
Dmitry Voloshin: In order to resolve this, we need government support and the development of experimental aviation as a separate type of aviation in the Russian Federation.
Vladimir Putin: What should it consist of?
Dmitry Voloshin: A state programme.
Vladimir Putin: Separately for experimental aviation?
Dmitry Voloshin: Yes.
Vladimir Putin: Well. I will think it over. I do not have an immediate answer now. I must take a look one more time at its current state and see what more needs to be done. Support is necessary, this is obvious. Only, what precisely needs to be done and within what time limits? I will take a look.
Dmitry Voloshin: Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: Anything more?
Remark: Mr President, good afternoon. I would like to ask you on behalf of our team to give us an autograph as a memento.
Vladimir Putin: Any more questions to me?
Question: How do you manage to stay in such good physical shape? You are always energetic, cheerful.
Vladimir Putin: I spend time with people like you. (Laughter.)
Being positive, result-oriented, and active gives everyone energy. People like you power me like a battery.
Question: Since you fly a lot, you have recently visited Ufa, how do you manage to stay fit and maintain that pace of work? Perhaps you know some secret.
Vladimir Putin: No secrets. I play sports, as you know.