Lockheed L-1011 proposals

Model of Lockheed L-1011 proposal for Aeroflot to be built in the Soviet Union under license.

As the IL-86 was going nowhere, the Soviets, in a rather landmark move reached out to American manufacturers. McDonnell Douglas balked. However, Lockheed, suffering from their own engine issues and always a company interested in earning political capital, decided to send an L-1011 to Moscow in March of 1974.

In what, at the time, must have come as a surprise, the Soviets decided to order 30 L-1011s. They also wanted to build up to 100 per year domestically. It would have been a landmark order in monetary terms, and probably changed some of the dynamics of the Cold War. But we can’t have that now, can we?

President Carter had the DOD and Department of Commerce investigate any potential ITARS issues. Naturally, there was a tangential one. The RB-211 engine used composite fan-blades. The Soviets had no industrial process for that, nor did they ever consider it a wise idea (something Rolls Royce probably wished they had decided). The deal, as if by design, fell apart.

If that was not enough, the Department of Commerce also blocked the sale of General Electric CF-6-50 engines. The Soviets had planned to use this engine in their own indigenous wide-body projects. The Soviet high-bypass engine solutions were running behind schedule, and the L-1011 deal would have allowed them the necessary time to properly develop an iteration of the IL-86, probably CF-6 powered. When Soviet engines of the same thrust class were ready, there would be indigenously-powered versions only.

Strangely, if the deal had gone through, the Soviet Union (then Russia and the former Republics) would actually have not only been the largest operator of the L-1011, but also would have built far more than the parent designer.



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That made for interesting reading. Somehow, I'd guess that the Soviets expected the deal to fall apart the whole time. All they might have wanted was really the complete information on the TriStar for industrial espionage purposes. Certainly the proposal took long enough, as I recall reading about the IL-86 when I was in high school.

Certainly they copied the L-1011 enough with their proposals, as the article points out. I actually like the idea of the Antonov 318, like the plane it emulates, it's beautiful. As for Myasischev, perhaps the budget troubles caused designers to be lent out for experiments with psychotropic drugs, as the M-52 beats everything I've seen on this forum for crazy. It takes the cake, eats it in one bite, and burps in your face. Twice.
US having "reached out" in 1972 to PRC, the politics of doing so to Brezhnev became possible, and, after Carter's 1/77 inauguration, desirable. The ISTAR and COCOM issues on technology transfer could be fixed - CAAC's 707s, for example, had Litton IN, of clear military pertinence, so the gyro came as a sealed unit, with no repair capability being provided. All Western politicians believed that the evident superiority of (our) products would discomfit the Kremlin and help to defuse domestic propaganda of us as running dogs or worse. The issue causing MDC to baulk, L.1011 notions to be abortive, was money. USSR had none, nor, then was money's substitute, natural gas, available.

XS Deng Opened the Door to Trade, 10/78: that co-incided almost exactly to GPA+ILFC extending to aircraft the freight container concept of operating leasing: they caused capital markets to ignore the (un)creditworthiness of the User and to concentrate on the cash generated by the asset. China chose not to entertain offers of operating lease of Western aircraft, but did accept the pitches, starting in Canton with 737-200ADV, provided they could....buy them for money!!! They would accept whatever operating record-keeping the manufacturer might propose. So the capital markets fell over themsolves to provide loans against Western assets, normal deposits being provided by China. The Party welcomed Western aircraft onto routes into ports where banks could seize them if the User fell into arrears...but they would not, because the tickets were priced in $. Bingo! cascades of everything. Even the Short SD360s were financed on the basis of occasional visits to HKG (and very quickly PRC credit became so good, that ceased to be necessary).

It was not until 1980s that USSR agreed to accept Western finance for aircraft on the basis of Registration in (nearly-proper) places, to ensure record-keeping compatible with high residual values. They all operated routes including ports where they could be seized and which generated sufficient $ to cover their financing.

Oddly, "face" sensitivity was in USSR, not PRC: Sovs. were reluctant to contemplate the economic illiteracy of their products. China had no products.
United States foreign policy to the Soviet Union beginning with Nixon Administration in 1968 was one of détente. This continued through the Ford Administration and for most of the Carter Administration. The events that marked the end of the détente era was the invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and the boycott of the Moscow Olympic Games in 1980. There was a continuation of Cold War tensions during the Reagan Administration. In his first press conference, President Reagan said "'Détente' has been a one-way street that the Soviet Union has used to pursue its aims." I wonder if Lockheed would have received license fees for the Soviet-built L-1011s had the deal gone through during the 1980s or if there would have been political pressure on Lockheed to revoke the license?

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