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Superjet: Kryptonite for Embraer?

Just what Embraer (NYSE: ERJ  ) needed -- a dogfight.

But I guess it goes with the territory. The Brazilian plane maker and Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation had been doing so well recently that it was just bound to attract interest -- and competition -- eventually. And as it typically goes, "eventually" has finally turned into "now."

On Monday, Russia's reformulated national aerospace champion, United Aircraft Corporation, or UAC, conducted the maiden voyage of its new Superjet-100 regional jet. It has 73 firm orders in its books, and you can expect that it will begin filling them soon.

Well, not all that soon. The Superjet needs to conduct 99 more flights to be certified "safe." But Superjet does have a stable of strong allies that should be able to help it navigate the turbulent entry into world markets. America's own Boeing (NYSE: BA  ) , for one, is helping UAC develop the jet. Italy's Alenia Aeronautica has also partnered with UAC and presumably helped broker the sale of 10 jets to ItAli Airlines last year. (Alenia is a subsidiary of the same Finmeccanica defense conglomerate that aims to buy U.S. contractor DRS (NYSE: DRS  ) .)

And of course, Superjet's ace dogfighter would be the Russian government itself, which owns UAC. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov chairs the board. That's customer loyalty you just can't buy.

How hot is this dogfight?
How big of a challenge does Superjet pose to Embraer? Well, Russia aims to sell 1,200 of the aircraft over the next 20 years or so. Figure a list price of $25 million per plane, times 60 planes per year on average, and you're looking at a potential $1.5 billion in market share that UAC has staked out for itself.

Small potatoes, you say? Well, relative to Embraer's $6 billion in annual sales, it probably is. But consider, too, that both China and Japan are developing regional jet offerings of their own. If the former's ambitions for its ARJ-21 and the latter's hopes for the "Mitsubishi Regional Jet," or MRJ, are anything like what UAC expects its Superjet to accomplish, then Embraer had better forget about aluminum and look into the possibility of incorporating lead into its airframe, because combined, the ARJ, MRJ, and Superjet could be Kryptonite for Embraer.

For more on the new regional rivals to Embraer's market share in regional jets:

Embraer is a Stock Advisor selection. Try this market-beating publication free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of any company named above. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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