The arrival of Yak-130 advanced jet trainers is ushering in a new chapter of fast jet training for the Russian air force. ()
The arrival of Yak-130 advanced jet trainers is ushering in a new chapter of fast jet training for the Russian air force.
Training has started now that the first six production examples from the order of 55 jets, placed in December 2011, have arrived at an air force training base some 400 miles south of Moscow. This followed an initial order for around 12 of the twin turbofan-powered aircraft, which allowed the Russian air force to conduct test and evaluation flights.
Training aircraft tend to have lengthy lifespans, and the Yak-130 represents a jump over the Czech-built Aero L-39 Albatros that has been the standard Russian advanced trainer since the 1970s.
The glass-cockpit Yak-130, with its multi-function displays replacing analog dials, allows trainees to experience an expanded syllabus in a single, modern aircraft. This offers potential efficiency and cost savings to the service.
“Does it make a difference to training capability? Absolutely,” said Douglas Barrie, senior fellow for military aerospace at London’s International Institute of Strategic Studies. “It’s a step change in what they can do in terms of the kind of training syllabus for that level of aircraft.”
Pilots will have the option to download much of the training to the Yak-130, something that the air force has needed badly for some time, according to Barrie.
“As an intermediate jet the L-39 was absolutely fine, particularly as a lot of Russian pilots would be going on to ‘clock and dial’ stuff in the cockpits [of operational types] anyway,” Barrie said. “That has obviously changed now with the upgrade program for the [Su-27/30] Flanker and some MiG-29s.”
The Yak-130 also offers Russia the ability to stage weapons-training sorties; the aircraft can carry up to 3,000 kilograms (6,600 pounds) of external stores and sensors.
“It’s a credible contender in export markets for that class of trainer,” added Barrie. “They might also pick up a few foreign sales for an aircraft that straddles the advanced trainer/light ground-attack aircraft categories.”
The Yak-130 has already garnered sales beyond its domestic market, with orders from Algeria, Libya and Syria. The 16 Algerian aircraft have already been delivered, although the status of the exports to the two other strife-racked nations remains uncertain. The Syrian order was placed only in January this year, and during July’s Farnborough air show the Russian news agency RIA Novosti cited Vyacheslav Dzirkaln, deputy head of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, as saying that no new weaponry would be delivered to Damascus until the Syrian situation stabilized.
The Yak-130 was born out of a joint Russian-Italian design with Aermacchi, though the two partners eventually went their separate ways. The Italian company’s version developed into the M-346, which has picked up export orders for Singapore and Israel as well as the Italian air force.
Deliveries of the current Russian order of Yak-130s are scheduled to run until 2015.