Later this year the Irkut Corp. will deliver the first Yak-130 advanced trainers to the Algerian air force. The North African air arm already has personnel training on the type at the company’s Irkutsk facility in Siberia, where Algerian pilots undertook their first solo flights in September.
Irkut sees the Middle East/North Africa as a key market for the type. One nation that already signed up is Libya, which ordered six, but the contract is currently frozen in the wake of the recent conflict in the North African country and the aircraft could be reallocated.
Designed by the Yakovlev design bureau, the Yak-130 Mitten employs advanced aerodynamics and systems to provide a trainer for fourth- and fifth-generation fighters. The aircraft has a three-metric-ton weapons-carrying capacity, and Irkut is looking at increasing capability, first through the integration of targeting pods and, ultimately, the installation of radar. This would not only make the Yak-130 a fully-capable lead-in fighter trainer, but also give it significant combat capability.
The Russian air force has selected the Yak-130 to fulfill its advanced training requirements, and last week it was announced that the Russian defense ministry would shortly sign a contract with Irkut for 65 aircraft to be delivered by 2017. Russia received an initial batch of 12 for evaluation and initial pilot training in 2009/10.
According to Irkut, the Yak-130 is unique in being a subsonic trainer suitable for preparing pilots for next-generation combat aircraft. “It differs from previous generation trainers through its capacity to provide full training of pilots for fourth- or fifth-generation fighters,” said Irkut CEO Alexei Fedorov. “The trainer matches them in its maneuverability, thrust-to-weight ratio, ability to fly at a high angle of attack and cockpit software.”
Algeria’s order for 16 Yak-130s was received in 2006, part of an arms package that included 28 Sukhoi Su-30MKA Flanker multi-role fighters, which are also built by Irkut. Delivery of this first batch of Su-30s was completed in 2009, and good initial experience led to a follow-on order for 16 last year.
Irkut claims a full orderbook for the Su-30MK through 2017. Two Su-30SMs were recently ordered for evaluation by the Russian air force, and the company expects an order for 28 to follow imminently. The Su-30SM is a “Russianized” version of the Su-30MKI supplied to India.
The company is working on an upgrade program for the Su-30MKIs delivered some time ago, which could include integration of the BrahMos supersonic anti-ship missile. According to Fedorov, the fighter’s combat performance will be enhanced by a new set of on-board systems.
Meanwhile, Irkut continues to finalize the design of the United Aircraft Corp. MS-21 airliner, a process that should be complete in the middle of next year. Intended to replace a number of older types in domestic Russian service, and to rival the Boeing 737 MAX and Airbus A320neo in the international marketplace, the MS-21 has been designed to offer cost efficiencies of 12 to 15 percent over current airliners.
Irkut claims an advantage for the MS-21 in that it has been designed from the outset as a complete “aircraft-engine complex,” with benefits over a re-engining program. The aircraft employs advanced aerodynamics developed by the TsAGI institute and a high volume of composites in its construction for reduced weight. Power comes from the Pratt & Whitney PW1400G geared turbofan or Aviadvigatel PD-14. Passenger comfort has been an important factor in the development process, resulting in a wide fuselage and a cabin pressure altitude of just 6,000 feet.
The MS-21’s principal manufacturing and assembly plant at Irkutsk is in the process of being modernized in preparation for production. First flight is scheduled for 2014 and first deliveries to Aeroflot in 2017. Initial aircraft deliveries will be the baseline MS-21-200 version, with the further stretched MS-21-300 to follow. Irkut claims that its backlog of orders for the new narrowbody will support production through 2020.
According to Fedorov, each MS-21 aircraft in service will generate “additional profits” of between $20 million and $40 million for its operator because of its lower operating costs. He maintained that passengers also will benefit from the seating comfort and space normally associated with widebody, long-haul jets.