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 VVS’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.