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[SHANGHAI] China and Russia on Monday completed the formal registration of a joint venture to build a proposed wide-body jet, kickstarting the full-scale development of a programme that aims to compete with market leaders Boeing and Airbus.
State planemakers Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (Comac) and Russia's United Aircraft Corp (UAC) said at a ceremony in Shanghai the joint venture would aim to build a "competitive long range wide-body commercial aircraft".
Comac, which is increasingly looking to break the hold Boeing and Airbus have over the global commercial jet market, successfully completed the maiden flight of its home-grown C919 narrow-body passenger jet earlier this month.
"The long-haul, wide-body passenger jet is a strategic project for China and Russia, followed closely by the two governments," said Guo Bozhi, general manager of Comac's wide-body department.
Comac and UAC first announced the twin-aisle jet programme in 2014 but the project has so far been slow to materialise.
In November, the firms said they had set up a joint venture in Shanghai and unveiled a mock-up of the wide-body jet, based around a basic version that would seat 280 and have a range of up to 12,000 kilometres.
UAC president Yuri Slyusar said the firms were aiming to complete the wide-body jet's maiden flight and first delivery between 2025-2028. He added the plane would look to take 10 per cent of the market from the Boeing 787 and Airbus 350.
Previously, the firms had been aiming for a maiden flight of the jet in 2022 and delivery from 2025 or later.
While the target is tough, it is more realistic than recent aircraft programmes that have sought results in 5-7 years and then come in late, industry analysts said. Comac's first homegrown jet, the ARJ-21, obtained permission to enter domestic service more than 10 years behind its original schedule.
Comac and UAC hold equal shares in the joint venture.
Last July, Boeing forecast the world's airlines would need 9,100 wide-body planes over 20 years to 2035, with a wave of replacement demand to come between 2021-2028.
China has ploughed billions of dollars over the past decade into a domestic jet development programme as it looks to raise its profile in the global aviation market and boost high-tech manufacturing at home.