Russia’s Yak-130 Trainer & Light Attack JetsMar 28, 2013 19:17 UTC by Defense Industry Daily staff
Russia’s air force (VVS) aged badly in the wake of the Cold War, and the lack of replacements soon made itself felt in all areas. One of those areas involved advanced jet trainers, which form the last rung on the ladder before assignment to fighters. Russia’s Czech-made L-29 and L-39 trainers were left with questionable access to spare parts, and a competition that began in the 1990s finally saw Yakolev’s Yak-130 collaboration with Italy’s Finmeccanica beat the MiG-AT in 2002. Unfortunately, Russian budget realities allowed orders for just a dozen early production Yak-130s, even as the VVF’s L-39 fleet dwindled drastically.
The Yak-130′s multi-mission capabilities in training, air policing, and counterinsurgency make it an attractive option for some customers beyond Russia. Initial export successes helped keep Yak-130 production going, via confirmed orders from Algeria (16), and unclear relationships with Kazakhstan, Libya, and Vietnam. In December 2011, however, Russia finally placed a significant order that got production started in earnest. Russia continues to promote the aircraft abroad, and now that the plane’s future is secure, interest and orders are picking up.
The Czech L-39 is the world’s most widely sold jet trainer, but many of those those Soviet-era aircraft will need replacement soon. With Aero Vodochody barely hanging on in the modern jet trainer market, Russia’s Yak has an opportunity. MiG dropped the MiG-AT project in 2009, but that still leaves competition from Alenia Aermacchi’s M-346 “AEM-130″ counterpart, China’s similar L-15 (developed with help from Yakolev), BAE’s ubiquitous Hawk family of trainers and light attack jets, and Korean Aerospace’s supersonic T-50 family of trainers and lightweight fighters.
Yak-130 customers currently include Russia (67), Algeria (16), and Belarus (4). A deal with Libya (6) was canceled by the regime’s fall, and the planes may have been sold to Kazakhstan. Syria’s January 2012 order (36) has been signed but appears to be stalled, and there are unconfirmed rumors of sales to Vietnam (8) and Mongolia (?).
Design: Compared to the Yak-130D developmental prototypes, the Yak-130 production aircraft reportedly features lower weight, a more rounded nose to accommodate a radar, a shorter fuselage length and a lower wing area. Like many Russian aircraft, the Yak-130 is built to operate from unpaved runways and unprepared airfields, as long as they’re 1,000 meters in size or larger.
The plane is designed for flight at high nose-up angles of attack, which is a common feature of many modern fighters, and of Russian designs in particular. The layout of its forward wing extensions and air intakes layout reportedly enables steady controllable flight at up to 40 degrees AoA. The sustained maneuvering limit at 15,000 feet is 5.2g, while its recommended limits are +8g/ -3g for immediate maneuvers. Note that these maneuvering G-force limits may not be true at full weapon loads.
Refueling in the air isn’t an option yet, but the Yakolev bureau is reportedly working to add a refueling probe in 2013.
Thrust & Weight: The Yak-130 is powered by a pair of 2,500 kg thrust Progress AI-222-25s, or 2,200 kg thrust Slovakian Povazske Strojarne DV-2SM turbofans. The AI-222s are the standard fit, and generate about a total of about 5,000 kg/ 11,000 pounds thrust.
Normal aircraft takeoff weight is around 5,700 kg, with a maximum of 1,750 kg of fuel in its internal tanks. Weapons etc. can push maximum takeoff weight to 9,000 kg.
Electronics: The production Yak-130 is the first Russian aircraft with an all-digital avionics suite. The suite is night-vision compatible, uses GLONASS/NAVSTAR positioning for navigation, and includes 3 multifunction 6″ x 8″ LCD colour displays. A Hemlet Mounted Display can also be used.
The Yak is a fly-by-wire aircraft, though this aspect gave the project a lot of trouble during development. Avionica’s fly-by-wire flight control system can reportedly be used to adjust the plane’s flying characteristics, in order to simulate different aircraft.
The open architecture avionics suite includes 2 computers and a 3-channel multiplexer, and the plane is reportedly MIL-STD-1553 compatible if a customer wants to integrate Western equipment like AIM-9J-L air-air missiles, or the AGM-65 Maverick short range strike missile.
Its NIIP Zhukovsky Osa radar offers adequate performance, with an effective range out to about 65 km. Some reports cite an alternative fit option using Phazotron’s Kopyo radar, which has been used in some MiG-21 upgrades. Yakolev is reportedly considering a radar switch to a new model that would add targeting-grade ground scans, or they might leave the existing radar in and add a radar targeting pod. Whatever they decide, that work isn’t expected to be done before 2014.
Weapons: Standard integration involves Russian weapons. Wing stores can include unguided bombs and rockets, plus KAB-500Kr TV-guided bombs, and R-73/AA-11 short range air-to-air missiles. Gun options involve podded GSh-23 twin-barrel 23mm cannon (probably the 30 degree traversable SPPU-22), or step up to the heavier single-barrel 9A4273 pod with a 30mm GSh-301 cannon. A Yekaterinburg UOMZ Platan electro-optical guidance pod can reportedly be installed under the fuselage to add onboard TV and laser designation, but pod integration isn’t expected to be complete until some time in 2013.
Weapons mentioned in conjunction with the Yak-130 but not yet confirmed here include 9A4172/ AT-16 Vikhr laser-guided anti-armor missiles, and Kh-25ML/ AS-10 laser-guided strike missiles. More progress may follow on these fronts, once the Platan pod is integrated. If a ground capable radar is added, options will expand again. Irkut VP Komstantin Popovich has said that the Yak-130 design is stable and powerful enough to carry even a supersonic Kh-31/ AS-17 cruise missile, which would make the Yak-130 a far more dangerous plane.
Kevlar armour protection is fitted to the engines, cockpit and avionics compartment.
Contracts & Key Events
2012 – 2013
Syrian contract?; Interest from Bangladesh, Malaysia, Vietnam; Flight at Farnborough; New ordnance loads for the Yak.
March 27/13: Bangladesh. Rosoboronexport Deputy Chief Viktor Komardin tells RIA Novosti that:
“Bangladesh has a whole list of arms it wants [under a $1 billion credit agreement with Russia], but so far that is a state secret. I will reveal one little secret: The purchase of Yak-130 warplanes is a very significant subject of negotiations between Russia and Bangladesh.”
Bangladesh currently flies 7 L-39s in the training role. Its fighter inventory of Chinese designs is aging out, but a 2010 stopgap buy of 16 J-7BGIs (improved MiG-21 copies) will be around for a while. A small fleet of 8 Russian MiG-29s are being upgraded, which makes the Yak-130 a better lead-in than China’s J-15. Their interest has reportedly risen to 24 Yak-130s, which could serve as multi-role trainers with secondary attack and air policing capabilities.
Dec 18/12: Belarus. Irkut Corp.:
“In accordance with the Agreement on the development of military-technical cooperation between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus dated December 10, 2009, today in Minsk the contract on 4 Yak-130 combat-trainers delivery in 2015 was signed by the Belarusian Defence Ministry and IRKUT Corporation (a part of United Aircraft Corporation).”
Late 2012: Exports. Moscow Defence Brief takes an in-depth look at the Yak-130 program, and says that the sale to Syria hasn’t gone through. Meanwhile, it has this to say about potential international sales:
“It has been reported that Rosoboronexport, the Russian arms exports near-monopoly, and Irkut’s parent company, OAK, are negotiating possible Yak 130 contracts with several new foreign customers, including Poland, Venezuela, Uruguay, the Philippines, Bangladesh and Malaysia. In late 2011 it was reported that a 550m-dollar contract for 36 Yak 130s had been signed with Syria – but according to the latest available information, the contract has not yet entered into force because the Russian government has yet to give the final go-ahead. Finally, it has been reported that Belarus also plans to buy several Yak 130s.”
Russia may have talked to Poland, but they aren’t going to buy a Russian trainer, period. As for the Philippines, their choice became official in August 2012: South Korea’s supersonic TA-50. It’s questionable whether the Yak-130 was ever a serious contender.
Nov 15/12: Bangladesh. Rosoboronexport’s Sergey Kornev is interviewed by Voice of Russia at the Zhuhai Airshow 2012:
“Kornev added that Russia will grant a loan to Bangladesh to buy 12 Yak-130 planes and Su-27 jet fighters. He did not mention the sum of the loan. “As far as I know the loan has been approved. Within its amount Bangladesh can choose the number of planes it will buy and their modifications”, he said.”
The cheaper Yaks make far more sense as a replacement to the BBB’s FT-6 (MiG-19) and L-39 trainers, and a ground attack companion to its Chinese J-7 (MiG-21) and Russian MiG-29 fighters. In contrast, buying just 4-6 SU-27s just creates maintenance headaches. Still, one should never underestimate the role of ego in these decisions.
Nov 14/12: Exports. RIA Novosti quotes “a source in the Russian delegation at the Air China aerospace show”, who says that reports that Malaysia and Vietnam are interested in buying Yak-130s. Vietnam is something of an uncertain case, with some reports that a contract for 8 was signed in April 2010, and others saying there has been no final contract. Beyond Vietnam, Malaysia operates SU-30MKMs, and:
“Malaysia will need new combat trainers in the near future to replace the outdated Italian-made M-339 aircraft,” the source said.”
Malaysia also has a good relationship with the British, however, and their neighbors in Indonesia fly a lot of Hawk aircraft.
July 18/12: Syria. Irkut head Alexei Fedorov tells RIA Novosti that they’re willing to deliver Syria’s contract for 36 planes, “when we get an indication from the government.” The paper continues:
“Last week, on the sidelines of the Farnborough Air Show in Britain, the deputy head of Russia’s military-technicial cooperation commission, Vyacheslav Dzirkaln, said Russia had decided to suspend the Yak-130 contract to Syria while the country was in a state of internal conflict. “Until the situation stabilizes, we will not deliver any new weapons [to Syria],” he said.”
First Libya, then Syria. This is certainly a new behavior for the Russians.
July 17/12: Irkut arming Yak-130s. the Russian military may not be interested in developing a Yak-131 light attack version, but Irkut thinks there’s a market for the existing Yak-130, and is working to give it a full strike fighter’s array. At present, the Yak-130′s 3,000 kg/ 6,600 pounds of payload can includes AA-11/R-73 short range air-to-air missiles for defense, and KAB-500 guided bombs, in addition to unguided bombs, rockets and 23mm gun pods.
Irkut VP Komstantin Popovich told Aviation Week that work on in-flight refueling capability, and efforts to add an optronic surveillance and targeting pod, are expected to be complete in 2013. That would give the Yak-130 the ability to laser-designate its own targets, which is especially useful in counterinsurgency operations. It may also help in designating targets for TV, infrared, and laser guided versions of the Kh-38 family of short-medium range strike missiles, and Kh-29 (AS-14 Kedge) short-range heavy strike missile.
The next step would involve a radar capable of ground scans and targeting. This would let the plane work with radar-guided missiles like the Kh-29MP, or even heavy strike missiles like the supersonic Kh-31 (AS-17 Krypton). The VVF hasn’t requested precision strike missiles, but Popovich says that the aircraft’s inherent stability allows the plane to carry even heavy loads like the Kh-31. A Yak-130 that could fire such missiles would become a much more dangerous threat to defended targets, and greatly expand the plane’s versatility beyond counter-insurgency.
The enabling radar could come from Phazotron-NIIR (“FK-130″) or their competitor Tikhomirov-NIIP, or it could even arrive as a radar pod from St. Petersburg’s Leninetz. Irkut expects to pick a design by the end of 2012, with development continuing into 2014. Aviation Week.
July 4/12: Farnborough. The Yak-130 will fly at Farnborough 2012, as part of the Russian exhibit. It’s the 1st time the trainer has taken part in the #1 international air show. RIA Novosti.
May 21/12: No armed Yak-131. The Yak-130 can be armed, and its combination of visibility, speed, and good handling characteristics could make it an attractive light attack aircraft. There was even said to be some consideration of making it a substitute for the heavily-armored SU-25 close support jet, which may need to start some production lines to keep its upgraded variants in good shape. Unfortunately, Flight International reports that the Russian air force won’t be fielding it in that role:
“The Russian military has abandoned plans to develop a light attack aircraft based on the Yak-130, as Zelin says a prototype dubbed the Yak-131 did not demonstrate a high enough level of protection for its pilot.”
The VVS will continue to use modernized SU-25 SM close air support planes for this role, and eventually plans to order a total of 80 upgrades. They’re also talking about designing and fielding a successor aircraft to the heavily-armored SU-25 fleet, but that’s a project for 2020 at the earliest.
Jan 23/12: Syria. Russian media are reporting that Syria has signed a $550-million contract with Russia’s state-owned Rosoboronexport arms export agency, involving 36 Yak-130 trainer and light attack jets. The deal was reportedly struck in December 2011, with the Yakolev Design Bureau as the type owner, Irkut as the builder, and jets to be supplied once Syria makes a pre-payment.
That could be very useful to the Assad regime, which is receiving open Russian support against strong domestic unrest – if, and only if, the regime survives long enough to take delivery.
Neighboring Turkey has quietly but firmly placed itself on the other side of that bet, partly as a form of payback for Syria’s long support of Kurdish PKK insurgents. Russian analyst Ruslan Pukhov is correct that this situation introduces a strong element of risk for Russia, but he is less correct when he says that counterinsurgency (COIN) support is a job for cheaper planes. In terms of sellers willing to deal with Syria, the Yak-130 is the low-budget, low-risk fixed-wing COIN alternative, which also patches a potentially serious training hole that could deliver a coup de grace to the existing Syrian Air Force. See also: Russia’s RIA Novosti | Saudi Arabia’s Arab News | Israel’s Arutz Sheva | Bloomberg | CNN | Turkey’s Zaman.
2010 – 2011
Big Russian order; Libya makes deal, then falls; Libyan Yaks to Kazakhstan?; Losses in Indonesia, India; Guided weapon tests; Crash stalls program for a year.
Dec 12/11: Russia. Irkut announces a big order from Russia: 55 aircraft by 2015, out of 65 Yak-130s envisaged in the current 2011-2020 armaments plans. This is a big deal for Irkut, whose customers for the last 2 decades have been export clients.
Other reports suggest that Russia may eventually place orders for as many as 300 of the planes, which can also become heavily-armed counter-insurgency and light attack planes. ITAR-TASS | Irkut Corp..
Autumn 2011: Russia begins guided weapon tests with the Yak-130. Source.
Sept 1/11: Yak-130. Algerian pilots training at the Irkutsk Aviation Plant’s airfield perform their 1st first solo flights, following 3 months of training and over 100 flights with Irkut crews. Irkut says they’ve also been training Algerian engineers and technicians on the Yak-130 aircraft, as Algeria prepared to induct the planes. JSC Irkut.
Aug 5/11: Kazakhstan? China Daily reports that Russia is looking to redirect Libya’s order for 6 Yak-130 trainer and light attack aircraft:
“Another deal will be for six Yak-130 light attack aircraft originally intended for Libya before the United Nations imposed an arms embargo on Tripoli, cutting Moscow off from $2 billion in signed deals and another $2 billion in potential contracts. The top customer for the light attack aircraft is Kazakhstan which is trying to boost its regional clout, [CAST think-tank director] Pukhov said, citing defense industry sources.”
May 5/11: Indonesia. The Yak-130 is out of the picture, as Indonesia signs a deal with South Korea for 16 T-50i armed trainers. The Yak-130 was actually eliminated on April 12/11, when Indonesia designated the T-50 as its preferred plane.
Read “Indonesia’s New Trainer & Attack Aircraft” for full coverage.
2010: Vietnam. Sketchy reports have Vietnam signing a contract for 8 Yak-130s. Source.
Confirmation is weak. Subsequent reports talk about Vietnam considering the aircraft, but don’t make it clear whether or not the initial buy has gone through. Flight International’s World Air Forces 2013 doesn’t list any serving Yak-130s in the VPAF, just 26 L-39Cs in stock. Scramble’s Orbat states that “ Yak-130UBS trainers are expected to replace the L-39 in the 2015-2025 timeframe, although no order has been signed yet.”
Aug 9/10: Indonesia. Air Forces Monthly reports that Indonesia’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration has narrowed its 16 plane advanced jet trainer and light attack aircraft order to the Czech Aero L-159B, South Korea’s T-50 Golden Eagle, and Russia’s Yak-130.
That leaves both Alenia’s M346 Master and China’s JL-9/FTC-2000 out in the cold. Interestingly, the common denominator for the 2 eliminated types is poor secondary ground attack capabilities.
July 28/10: India. BAE Systems announces a new GBP 500 million (about $773 million) order to supply India with another 57 Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT) aircraft, to be built under licence in India for the Indian Air Force (40) and Indian Navy (17).
It isn’t clear if their international competition really was serious. Read “Hawks Fly Away With India’s Jet Trainer v2 Competition” for more.
May 29/10: Crash. One of the Yak-130s from Russia’s initial prosduction order for 12 (q.v. Late 2002) crashes near Lipetsk. The crew survive, but fly-by-wire system is reportedly a problem again.
The Yak-130s fleet is grounded for a year, and deliveries are suspended. Source.
Crash grounds fleet, suspends deliveries
Feb 15/10: Libya. Russia’s Yakovlev Design Bureau offers initial specifics concerning the deal with Libya. Note that the language becomes much vaguer once it moves away from Yakovlev’s jets, and an order for tanks, which suggests that the SU-30 family and air defense purchases are still under discussion:
“Tripoli signed a $1.8-billion purchase agreement that includes acquisition of six YAK-130 advanced jet trainers for delivery in 2011-12, in addition to tanks. Libya has also expressed interest in acquiring 12 Su-35s, the latest Sukhoi fighter in production; four Su-30MK2s, as well as the advanced S-300PMU2 air-defense system.”
Jan 30/10: Libya. Reports surface that Russia has signed a $2 billion arms deal with Libya. There is no official release, and details are largely absent, except for a quote from Vladimir Putin, who said the deal was “not only for small arms and light weapons.”
1998 – 2009
From requirement to selection; Joint venture with Italy’s Aermacchi; Russia orders 12, finishes testing; Algeria orders 16; Irkut rips production from Sokol; Crash delays program for 2 years.
Dec 25/09: The Yak-130 successfully completes all Russian tests under the development contract. Source.
Development testing complete
Dec 22/09: Algeria. Irkut Corporation announces in passing that “The Irkut Corporation concluded the contract with Algeria on delivery of Yak-130 and carrying out its contractual obligations.”
March 17/09: India. The Press Trust of India reports that supply delays to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), which is supposed to assemble a number of the Hawks in India, have resulted in an international competition for India’s follow-on order of up to 57 Lead-In Fighter Trainers.
The RFP was reportedly sent to the Czech Republic’s Aero Vodochody (L-159), Italy’s Alenia (M-346), BAE (Hawk, but it would be a more advanced variant), Korea’s KAI (T-50s), and Russia (either the YAK-130 variant of the M346 joint project, or the MiG AT). PTI News | Indian Express | Flight International.
2008: Irkut manages to lobby all Yak-130 production into its facilities. They were originally slated to produce the export versions, while Sokol in Nizhniy Novgorod was suposed to make the Russian planes. The move ends Sokol’s production after just 16 units, including prototypes. Source.
June 26/06: The 3rd Yak-130 prototype off the line is lost in a crash at the Zhukovskiy airfield, and the causes are traced to the fly-by-wire system’s software. Nobody is killed.
Work to correct the problem reportedly delays the program by almost 2 years. The 4th prototype doesn’t fly until mid-2008. Source.
Crash delays program
March 14/06: Algeria. Russia and Algeria sign a deal that includes 16 Yak-130s, for a total of $200 million. That number of planes is later confirmed by Air International News at Farnborough in July 2006. Moscow Defense Brief added that there’s an option for 14-16 more Yak-130 trainers.
The Yak-130s will complement/ replace Algeria’s older L-39 ZA Albatros aircraft from Czechoslovakia.
May 30/04: First Yak-130 production prototype is rolled out at the Sokol plant. Source.
Late 2002: Initial Russian contract for 12 Yak-130s. Source.
April 10/02: Russia officially picks the Yak-130 over the MiG-AT as its future trainer, following a flyoff. The Yak’s more polished engine design is reportedly a factor in its selection.
Under the contract, the Yak-130 is supposed to completed state testing by 2006. It actually takes until Dec 25/09. Source.
Russia picks Yak-130
April 25/96: 1st flight of a Yak-130D prototype. Source.
October 1993: Yakolev signs an agreement with Italy’s Aermacchi to jointly develop the Yak/AEM-130 advanced trainer. The Soviet Union has collapsed by this point, and defense funding is in a deep freeze, so Italian financing becomes critical to the program. Source.
JV with Alenia
1988: The Soviet Air Force announces a competition for a future trainer jet to replace the (Czech) Aero Vodochody L-39 Albatros.
Yakolev’s design faced off against RAC MiG’s MiG-AT, Sukhoi’s S-54, and the Myasishchev bureau’s M-200. The S-54 and M-200 are eliminated in the 1st downselect. Source.
- A.S. Yakolev Design Bureau – Yak-130
- Airforce Technology – Yak-130 Combat Trainer, Russian Federation
- Moscow Defence Brief (#3, 2012) – Yak-130: New Russia’s Most Successful Aircraft. It adds: “Another “blood relative” of the Yak 130 is the Chinese L-15 trainer developed by Hongdu Aviation Industries Group. The Yakovlev design bureau helped the Chinese with the design; as a result the L-15 is essentially a version of the Yak 130. The aircraft also uses the Ukrainian-made AI 222 25 engines.”
- AIN (Dec 7/12) – L-15, Yak-130 Jet Trainers Compete for Asian Buyers
- News.MN – Report [in Mongolian]. Reportedly involves a limited Yak-130 purchase, but DID cannot translate it.
- BAE – Hawk Advanced Jet Training System. The world’s leading in-production jet trainer.
- Wikipedia – BAE Systems Hawk. Shows the full breadth of the Hawk family.
- Airforce Technology – JL-9 (JianLian-9 ) Trainer / Light Attack Aircraft, China. Derived at long remove from the JJ-7 MiG-21 trainer.
- Airforce Technology – Hongdu L-15 Supersonic Trainer / Attack Aircraft, China.
- Sinodefence – L-15 Advanced Jet Trainer. N.B. Not certain how a plane with a very similar design to the Yak-130, the same engines, and a slightly heavier takeoff weight is supposed to be so much faster, and hit Mach 1.4.
- DID – Czech L-159s: Cheap to Good Home
- DID FOCUS – Finmeccanica’s M-346 AJT: Who’s the Master Now?
- DID FOCUS – Korea’s T-50 Family Spreads Its Wings