L-15, Yak-130 Jet Trainers Compete for Asian Buyers

 - December 7, 2012, 9:18 AM
The similar-looking Yak-130 from Russia and L-15 from China are competing in the advanced jet trainer market. (Photos: Chris Pocock)

Bangladesh and Vietnam are close to buying the Yakovlev Yak-130 advanced jet trainer, according to Russia’s weapons exporter, Rosoboronexport, but in other Asian countries the aircraft faces growing competition from China in the form of the Hongdu L-15. “There are no sales prospects for our aircraft in China, because the local engineers have developed their own design. Outwardly, the L-15 bears a distinct resemblance to the Yak-130,” said Sergei Kornev, head of the Rosoboronexport department for aviation.

Kornev said that Rosoboronexport still hopes to sell the Yak-130 to a number of Asian customers since it has “certain advantages over the Chinese product.” The L-15 is designed for supersonic speed, which makes it more difficult to operate and maintain. It needs a set of dedicated equipment at an operational airfield. The Yak-130 is subsonic and is capable of autonomous operations from temporary in-theater airfields, Kornev noted.

Meanwhile, at the recent Airshow China in Zhuhai, China Aero-Technology Export-Import (Catic) signed for 12 L-15s that will be delivered to an unspecified foreign customer. This move coincided with the show debut of the Minshan and Jiuzhai jet engines, full-size mockups of which were on display. The Minshan offers approximately 8,800 to 11,000 pounds of thrust (4,000 to 5,000 kg), while the Jiuzhai looks like a derivative with no afterburner, and may fit the K-8 jet trainer and small business jets. Today’s L-15s are powered by the Ukraine’s AI222F, which develops 9,250 pounds (4,200 kg) of thrust at full afterburner.

Igor Kravchenko, general designer at Ivchenko-Progress, told AIN that AI222F shipments to China continue. Ukraine holds an order for 250 AI222F afterburning turbofans due for delivery by 2015. Work on the newly announced Chinese designs has just started, and they are unlikely to enter service any time soon, whereas the AI222 is already in series production. Therefore, Kravchenko does not see any “immediate threat” to the AI222 sales prospects.

At previous shows in Zhuhai, the Chinese showed the Tai Han engine in the class of the AI31F, and an eight-tonne design in the class of the RD33/93, but so far none of these has affected sales of those Russian engines to China.