Motor Sich’s Western Expansion Faces Hurdles Amidst Corruption Concerns and Russian Conflict

Motor Sich's Western Expansion Faces Hurdles Amidst Corruption Concerns and Russian Conflict

Ukrainian aerospace group Motor Sich struggles to find new partners in the West after losing Russia as its biggest client and facing obstacles in China.

Ukraine’s renowned aerospace conglomerate, Motor Sich, is facing significant challenges as it seeks to expand its operations and forge partnerships in the West. The company’s efforts to woo potential partners have been hampered by concerns over corruption and the ongoing conflict with Russia. As Motor Sich looks to turn towards the West, it faces an uphill battle in proving its track record and gaining the trust of Western defense contractors. With the loss of Russia as its primary client and a blocked China tie-up, Motor Sich is now seeking new directions for growth and industrial collaboration.

Seeking Partnerships in the West

Motor Sich, a state-owned company and Ukraine’s leading manufacturer of aircraft and helicopter engines, has expressed its desire to shift its focus to the West. Chief Executive Olexiy Nikiforov has actively pursued meetings with prominent U.S. defense contractors like Lockheed Martin and RTX at air shows and government events. The company hopes to make its case for greater industrial collaboration at a summit in Washington, D.C., where U.S. and Ukrainian defense officials and industry executives will gather.

Hurdles Hindering Progress

Despite Motor Sich’s efforts, interviews with U.S. defense executives, former U.S. officials, and experts reveal that numerous obstacles are impeding progress for the company. While U.S. businesses are open to future cooperation with Ukrainian firms, concerns over corruption and compliance with U.S. and European regulations pose challenges. Due diligence and compliance reviews conducted by Western defense companies often raise red flags for many legacy Ukrainian defense companies, leading to delays in approval processes for co-production agreements. The Ukrainian defense industry’s efficiency and transparency issues further complicate matters, making it difficult to gain the trust of potential partners.

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Rebuilding Ukraine’s Defense Sector

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has made rebuilding the country’s defense and aerospace sector a top priority. The government aims to deepen investment in drone technology and has taken steps to address concerns raised by U.S. defense officials during the Trump administration. Wartime authorities were used to regain control of Motor Sich from Chinese shareholders, resolving a significant issue for U.S. defense officials. However, the budgetary realities of the ongoing conflict with Russia, which escalated with the 2022 invasion of Ukraine, present additional challenges. Motor Sich’s earnings have declined by almost 40% since the invasion, and its production facilities in Zaporizhzhia have been targeted by missile strikes, putting equipment and workers at risk.

Limited Interest from U.S. Defense Contractors

While Motor Sich seeks partnerships with Western defense contractors, there has been limited public interest from major companies in the immediate term. Lockheed Martin has stated that it is closely working with the U.S. government to support its response in Ukraine but declined to comment on a Motor Sich proposal to equip Ukraine’s Sea King helicopters with its engines. Boeing, General Electric, RTX, and Northrop Grumman either declined to comment or did not respond to inquiries about potential collaborations with Ukrainian defense companies. The political realities surrounding the conflict in Gaza and shifting support for Ukraine among U.S. Republicans may also impact Washington’s willingness to collaborate with Ukraine in the future.


Motor Sich’s efforts to expand its operations and forge partnerships in the West face significant hurdles. Concerns over corruption, compliance with regulations, and the ongoing conflict with Russia have complicated the company’s quest for industrial collaboration. While the Ukrainian government prioritizes rebuilding the defense and aerospace sector, Motor Sich’s immediate prospects for partnerships with Western defense contractors remain uncertain. The summit in Washington and previous contacts at the Dubai air show offer potential opportunities, but the political landscape and shifting support for Ukraine may impact the outcome. As Motor Sich seeks new directions for growth, it must navigate these challenges to secure its position in the global aerospace industry.

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