At the end of 2009 the Russian Air Force cleared for service a new Yakovlev Yak-130 advanced jet trainer. The new aircraft will replace the aging fleet of Soviet-ear Czech L-39 trainers and will also be used for combat missions. Last year the Air Force received the first three serial aircraft, 9 more trainers are to be delivered this year.
The new jet trainer was developed by the Yakovlev Design Bureau, which later merged with the Irkut Corporation. In 2002 the Russian Air Force chose Yak-130 as its new jet aircraft for basic and advanced pilot training. It is equipped with a glass cockpit and a re-programmed fly-by-wire system that can replicate the characteristics of various Russian generation 4+ fighters as well as Sukhoi T-50 fifth generation aircraft.
But besides the training purposes the Air Force plans to use Yak-130 as a light attack aircraft. With a take-off weight of 9 tons it can carry up to 3 tons of combat load. The first phase of joint evaluation trials ended in April 2009 included testing the aircraft with standard weapons, including short-range R-73 (AA-11 Archer) air-to-air missiles, 80 mm air-to-ground rockets, air bombs and 23-mm gun pod.
The second phase, completed in December, included the trial with expanded set of weapons. According to Konstantin Popovich, chief designer on Yak-130 in Irkut, during the second phase the trainer was tested "with all airborne weapons with a weight of up to 500 kg that are in service in the Russian Air Force". He mentioned that the use of expanded weaponry list didn’t require the amendments in the aircraft’s onboard equipment. Additional weapons were used against both air and land-based targets. The Air Force commander Col. Gen. Alexander Zelin earlier explained that Yak-130 will be able to use guided weapons against ground targets.
Now the program is moving into the production phase. In 2005 the Air Force ordered the first batch of 12 new trainers. The first serial Yak-130 assembled at Nizhny Novgorod’s Sokol plant, made its maiden flight in May. By the end of 2009 the Air Force received three trainers while the other 9 from the first batch are expected to be delivered to the military this year. Konstantin Popovich confirmed that the all aircraft from the first batch will be in combat trainer configuration.
The military officials said that the first aircraft will be handed over to the Air Force academy in Krasnodar. According to the Air Force Commander Col. Gen. Alexander Zelin, the total procurement plans already include 72 Yak-130s.
Besides the Russian Air Force, Yak-130 already has foreign customers. In 2006 Algeria ordered 16 trainers while in February Irkut reported that Libya placed an order for six more aircraft. The Yak-130 export modifications are assembled at Irkutsk aviation facility, a subsidiary of Irkut Corp. In August 2009 the first trainer, assembled for Algerian Air Force, made its maiden flight According to Konstantin Popovich, Algeria will also receive a combat trainer version similar to that of the Russian Air Force. The exported aircraft will differ only with the "English" cockpit and IFF equipment, he said. The deliveries to Algeria should start in the second half of 2010. As for Libya, it is expected to receive its Yak-130 in 2011-2012.
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