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«Combat Aircraft» V, 2005, №6, v.6

«HOW THE YAK WON THE BATTLE OF THE RUSSIAN TRAINER»

The Russian armed forces have placed few major contracts for new aircraft in recent times, so when such an event occurs it is of particular significance. This was certainly the case when the Yakovlev Yak-130 was selected as the Russian AF's next basic combat jet training aircraft, in which role it is scheduled to serve for several decades. In so doing, it beat off the challenge of the rival MiG-AT.

Piotr Butowski

In February 12, 2005, the commander-in-chief of the Russian AF, 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". In 2006, the first series aircraft will be delivered to the Russian AF combat training center 4th CBPiPLS at Lipietsk, followed by allocations to the pilot training school at Krasnodar. The total number of Yak-130s that will be purchased by the Russian air arms until 2015 is estimated at 150-200 machines.

The Yak-130 was announced as the winner of the contest to provide Russia's new military jet trainer on March 16, 2002. The most important advantage of the type in comparison with the rival MiG-AT was the Yak's ability to carry a three-ton weapon load. It is 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 (AoA) that can be achieved by the Yak in the air amounts to as much as 35 degrees. In December 1998, during tests carried out in Italy, the Yak-130D demonstrator attained an AoA of 41 degrees!

The initial pre-series Yak-130 flew for the first time on April 30, 2004 at Nizhnyi Novgorod with Roman Taskayev at the controls. In comparison with the Yak-130D technology demonstrator that had been flight tested from April 25, 1996, there are so many alterations that it is actually quite a different aircraft. The silhouette of the series aircraft is more compact - it is 41cm shorter than the prototype and its wingspan has been reduced by 94cm. A new digital flight control system has replaced the previous analog one, and liquid crystal displays have taken the place of electromechanical instruments in the cockpit. The series aircraft is powered by Russian-Ukrainian engines of the type AI-222-25 (the demonstrator flew with Povazske Strojarne DV-2S units built in Slovakia). A second pre-series aircraft announced at the end of last year has not flown yet.

No radar will be fitted to the Russian AF aircraft, which will only be equipped with simple armament.'For export, Yakovlev offers a more advanced version with radar installed in the nose. Any lightweight radar unit may be installed - Russian-made Phazotron-NIIR Kopyo-M and Tikhomirov NIIP Osa radars are available, and foreign-built units can also be used. Of course, when equipped with radar, the aircraft can carry a much wider range of weapons, including guided air-to-ground armament.

The maximum speed of the Yak-130 is 1,050km/h. With a take-off weight of 9,000kg, the aircraft can carry 3,000kg of weapons. Its variable profile operational radius with 1,500kg of weapons is 850km. The single-seat lightweight combat aircraft version, the Yak-133 (now in the design stage) will have an additional tank for 850kg of fuel located in place of the rear cockpit. Its mission radius with a 1,500kg stores load will exceed 1,000 km. This variant will be also equipped with advanced fire control, electronic warfare and other systems.

Even before it entered the market, the Yak-130 influenced other advanced trainer projects around the world. Its design cues can clearly be seen in the EADS Mako and the KAI T-50/A-50 Golden Eagle, to say nothing of the Aermacchi M-346. The new L-15 jet trainer from China (prepared by Yakovlev's designers) also borrows much from the Yak-130.

MiG-AT update

The future of the Yak-130's former rival for the Russian contract, the MiG-AT, becomes more and more complicated. The Russian air forces did not refuse further financial support for the MiG type, provided that it is made for export only, but at present the RSK MiG Corporation is continuing work on the aircraft at its own cost.

On March 16, 2004, the MiG-AT passed the latest stage of tests at the Akhtubinsk military test center, thus obtaining approval from the Russian air forces. RSK MiG subsequently announced its intention to construct a small batch of these aircraft for initial service with the military pilot school. However, the next blow for the MiG-AT program was the change of management in the RSK MiG Corporation. In November 2004, Alexei Fyodorov, president and co-owner of Irkut Corporation, was appointed director general and designer general of RSK MiG. At the very beginning, Fyodorov declared that all MiG's programs would be reviewed and that only those standing a chance of achieving sales would be continued. In such a situation, the chance of the MiG-AT program proceeding is low, especially as Irkut Corporation is also promoting the Yak-130 since it bought the Yakovlev Design Bureau a few months ago!

Two MiG-AT aircraft with numbers 81 and 83 have accumulated about 1,000 flights between them. The type has performed a series of presentations abroad, beginning in July 2001 when Hellenic AF pilots flew it at Zhukovsky. In October and November 2001, the two aircraft were in Algeria, where they made 28 flights in very difficult operational conditions. Soon after that, six UAE AF pilots took the controls, followed by 12 familiarization flights by the Indian AF.

The aircraft numbered 81 was made as an "izdeliye 821" version, equipped with French-built Turbomeca Larzac 04R20 engines and Thales Avionique TopFlight avionics. The second prototype, 83, is in "izdeliye 823" configuration with Russian avionics developed by the Elektroavtomatika Company in St Petersburg. Two successive aircraft are being built by MiG's Voronin Production Center in Moscow. After that, the plant has still the parts to construct another 12-15 MiG-ATs. Whether they will ever see the light of day, though, is very much open to question. It certainly seems as though the Yak-130 represents the future of Russian jet trainer manufacture and service use.



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