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Russia's Superjet sees new, bigger plane by 2020

Workers move a Sukhoi Superjet 100 airplane into a static display two days before the opening of the 51st Paris Air Show at Le Bourget airport near Paris June 13, 2015. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

By Sarah Young

PARIS (Reuters) - Superjet International, an aircraft made by Russia's Sukhoi Civil Aircraft Company and Finmeccanica (SIFI.MI) unit Alenia Aermacchi, could be operating a new, stretched version of its SSJ100 regional jet by 2020, an executive told Reuters.

Conceived as a plan to help Russia develop a foothold in the global planemaking business, Superjet's Russian-built SSJ100 operated its first commercial flight in 2011 and since then just over 50 of the 100 seat-aircraft have been delivered.

"We need to offer a stretched version," Superjet Executive Vice President Eugene Andrachnikov said in an interview at the Paris air show onboard a Superjet soon to be delivered to Mexican carrier Interjet.

"We are contemplating that this will be in operation by 2020," he added.

Internal talks were ongoing about the bigger jet, the executive said, and he expected a decision to be made by the end of the year.

The larger jet being considered by Superjet, which competes with regional planes made by Brazil's Embraer (EMBR3.SA) and Canada's Bombardier (BBDb.TO), would have 120 seats and be powered by the same engine as the SSJ100 but with a different wing.

"We're discussing financing with shareholders, we need to persuade them of the market need," Andrachnikov said.

Aviation consultancy Flightglobal Ascend has forecast a market for 4,071 regional jets worth $128.3 billion by 2033.

In the meantime, talks with potential new customers for the SSJ100 continued, Andrachnikov said, adding he expected to win a first order in China some time next year, given an expected boost from a joint Russian-Chinese leasing company being set up.

Sukhoi is part of state-owned United Aircraft Corp (UAC), an umbrella corporation Russian President Vladimir Putin created in 2006 to revive the country's aircraft industry in partnership with Italy's Finmeccanica.

Under EU sanctions on Russia, UAC, which produces MiG and Sukhoi warplanes, is barred from raising new capital in Europe via securities with a maturity of more than 30 days, but Andrachnikov shrugged off the impact.

"We don't feel or sense any kind of tension in this regard, so we keep rolling," he said.

UAC said on Monday it was working on a new wide-body aircraft with a Chinese company which it wanted to be flying by 2025, as part of an ambitious project to take on Western planemakers Airbus (AIR.PA) and Boeing (BA.N).

(Reporting by Sarah Young)