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Yak-130 - Program

In the early 1990s, the Soviet government decided to develop a new training aircraft to replace the Aero L-29 and L-39 trainer aircraft. Four leading aircraft designers in the Soviet Union participated: Sukhoi with the S-54, Myasischev with the M-200, Mikoyan with the MiG-AT and Yakovlev with the Yak-UTS. In 1991, the S-54 and M-200 were eliminated, with only the MiG-AT and Yak-UTS remaining for prototype development. The Yak-UTS development started in 1991 and 09 May 9 1993 the prototype was completed. That same year, Yakovlev signed a cooperation agreement with the Italian company Aermacchi jet trainer developed called Yak / AEM-130 (version for Russian Yak-130 will carry the name of Italy is also M-346). For a period Aermacchi, in collaboration with the Yakovlev Design Bureau and the SOKOL Aircraft Building Plant of the Russian Federation, were developing a Western derivative called the YAK/Aem-130.

The Aermacchi M-346 is a new generation, modern technology advanced / pre-operational trainer designed to be superior to all existing products in its class. The aircraft is a fully Western derivative of the YAK/Aem-130, whose development was undertaken in collaboration with the Yakovlev Design Bureau and the SOKOL Aircraft Building Plant of the Russian Federation. Under such collaboration extremely useful results were generated, including a demonstrator prototype extensively tested and demonstrated, and led to a low risk development of the M-346. Such development had been solely undertaken by Aermacchi, due to different funding time scales in Russia and in Italy.

The M-346 was the most important program for Aermacchi, particulary in the framework of its future European alliances and in view of the future joint re-equipment of European training schools. The M-346 had been designed to provide the best possible balance between high training effectiveness and low life-cycle cost. Thrust-to-weight ratio near to 1, advanced aerodynamics, re-programmable full authority fly-by-wire control system, allow the M-346 aircraft to mimic the behaviour of modern fighters in the transonic flight envelope and up to very high angles of attack (over 40 degrees), at a small fraction of their cost.

Italy, which had already tied up with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for production of 100-seater ATR-42 aircraft for civilian use, offered a maritime version of the same aircraft for Indian Navy, besides offering its MB-339FD trainer aircraft for India's Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT).

After working with Aermacchi for most of the 1990s, Yakovlev was on its own again, as the Italian company concentrated on its M-346 design, which retained the aerodynamic formula of the Yak-130, but is an all-new, fully westernised aircraft.

In early 2002, the Russian Air Force announced the Yak-130 as the victor in the competition for new airplanes for the training mission and as general purpose light combat aircraft. The Yak-130 was selected over its main competitor, the MiG-AT, despite that aircraft also being supported by the Air Force. The Yak-130 was announced as the winner of the contest to provide Russia's new military jet trainer on 16 March 2002. The most important advantage of the type in comparison with the rival MiG-AT was the Yak's ability to carry a 3-ton weapon load. It was also a more agile aircraft with a thrust-to-weight ratio of 0.88 and a low wing load. Thanks to extended high-lift devices, long wing-root extensions and air intakes located under the wings, the angle of attack that can be achieved by the Yak in the air amounts to as much as 35 degrees.

The initial pre-series Yak-130 flew for the first time on 30 April 2004 at Nizhnyi Novgorod with Roman Taskayev at the controls. In comparison with the Yak-130D technology demonstrator that had been flight tested beginning on 25 April 1996, there were so many alterations that it was actually quite a different aircraft. The silhouette of the series aircraft was more compact, at 41 centimeters shorter than the prototype and its wingspan had also been reduced by 94 centimeters.

On 12 February 2005, the commander-in-chief of the Russian Air Force, General of the Army Vladimir Mikhailov, personally inspected the last stage of state acceptance tests of the Yak-130. This took place at the production plant's factory airfield at Nizhnyi Novgorod, where the General also made a familiarization flight with the jet. According to Mikhailov, "the aircraft includes so many new ideas that, for a long time, it will be second to none".

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov announced in early March 2005, that the Russian Armed Forces woudl begin to purchase the Yak-130 aircraft in 2005. As of mid-June 2006, Russian Air Force officials had said they were considering purchasing 250 new Yak-130 aircraft. In 2005 it had been reported that the total number of Yak-130s that were to be purchased by the Russian air arms until 2015 was ~150-200 machines. Other sources suggested a more plausible objective of some 60 aircraft. In 2006, the first series aircraft will be delivered to the Russian Air Force combat training center 4th CBPiPLS at Lipietsk, followed by allocations to the pilot training school at Krasnodar.

Employing the Yak-130 was reasonable for the Russian air force and air forces of such nations as India, China and Viet Nam. The Yakovlev design bureau was ready to mutually beneficial cooperation with foreign customers and partners. To this end other versions were proposed, including the Yak-131 fighter, Yak-133, and Yak-135. The latter 2 variants were initially unknown, but were thought to be possibly recon, single seat fighter, side by side trainer, or 4-seat VIP transport types. Aircraft carrier trainers and 4-seat COD/VIP transports had been proposed. The Yak-130's basic design could be used to develop a whole range of versions, primarily combat aircraft beginning from a simple combat trainer all the way through a dedicated light attack aircraft, as well as deck trainers and aircraft for the training of civil and military transport aviation pilots.

Combat versions of the aircraft were superior in performance to other airplanes in the same category. For example, the Yak-130's combat radius was twice that of the BAe Hawk in the same conditions. The Yak-130 performed especially good in the pair with the Su-30, the 2 aircraft featuring similar information field of the pilot cockpit. Using Yak-130s for combat exercises allows save resources of the major fighter aircraft, be it the Su-30MKI or MiG-29K. Yakovlev later submitted the Yak-133 as a potential replacement for the Su-25 series. It also developed the Yak-133IB (a fighter bomber), the Yak-133PP (a electronics countermeasure platform), and the Yak-133R (a reconnaissance aircraft; possibly initially known as the Yak-135).




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