Farnborough Air Show

Russia bids for trainer sales

 - July 14, 2008, 3:20 AM

The Yak-130 advanced jet trainer is not cavorting about the skies over Farnborough, but company executives are on hand at the Irkut stand (Hall 1 E8) to discuss its capabilities and give an update on the program. At one time a joint venture with Aermacchi, which is participating in the flying display with its M346 of similar design, the Russian aircraft is so far the only new generation trainer that has been ordered both by its national air force and for export.

In today’s fiercely competitive market, there is clearly a need to train pilots to fly third and fourth generation combat aircraft, while fifth generation fighters will also soon enter service. Tight defense budgets have encouraged air forces to delay the selection and acquisition of an appropriate advanced jet trainer and indeed some have opted to buy the earlier-generation BAE Hawk in its latest guise. Consequently, of the new-generation trainers, only Korea’s T-50 has entered service. The Italian air force has ordered the M346 but the German-designed EADS Mako project was dropped after failing to secure an industrial partner and the Chinese L-15 is not yet ready to tackle export markets.

To bring a totally new military aircraft into service is a slow process and although in 2002 the Yak-130 won a Russian air force tender for its “core trainer” program, it was not until November 2007 that authorization to manufacture an initial batch was secured. But Oleg Demchenko, president of Irkut Corporation, is confident that by the end of this year, the Yak-130 will have completed its second set of weapon trials.

The aircraft will then become operational with the Russian air force. At present, the Irkut orders for the Yak-130 include 12 for the Russian air force and 16 for Algeria, while negotiations for a further batch of 62 for Russia are currently underway. Demchenko declared that the Yak-130 is the only advanced jet trainer that can faithfully replicate the performance of the latest fighters.

Indeed, the Russian trainer’s re-programmable fly-by-wire systems allow variation of the stability and controllability parameters, depending on the aircraft type to be simulated. It is claimed that this enables the Russian aircraft to cover about 80 percent of total pilot training needs. While the Yak-130 can closely simulate aircraft such as the MiG-29, Su-27 or Su-30, Demchenko said that in theory any aircraft can be simulated, including the F-15, F-16 and F-18 as well as the Mirage 2000 and Rafale, the Eurofighter Typhoon and the Lockheed F-35 JSF.

The Yak-130 has nine hard points for the carriage of weapons or other stores weighing up to three tons but pilots under training do not need to fire actual missiles or release bombs, the onboard system imitating combat employment modes by providing full air combat simulation.

Highly maneuverable and pilot-friendly, the Yak-130 has much to offer but no doubt many potential customers will wait to see how it performs in service with its first operators before placing an order.