The Perfect Soldier: Special Operations, Commandos, and the Future of Us Warfare by James F. Dunnigan
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Dirty Little Secrets
A Russian Warplane That Is Best in Class
Discussion Board on this DLS topic
by James Dunnigan
January 1, 2007
Last year, Russia decided to standardize on the Yak-130 jet trainer, and will buy over 200 of them. This aircraft first flew ten years ago, but the Russian air force could not afford to buy it back then. When money became available in the last few years, there developed a further complication. Another Russian manufacturer had a trainer, the MiG-AT. Political influence was deployed and it wasn't until this year that the air force generals were able to get permission to go forward with the Yak-130 purchase.
This aircraft is capable to performing many of the tricky maneuvers of Russias top fighters (like the Su-27, MiG-29 and many modern Western fighters). The Yak-130 can also perform as a light bomber. The nine ton aircraft has a max speed of 1,000 kilometers an hour and a flight lifetime of 10,000 hours in the air. The two pilots sit one behind the other, and two engines make it a safer aircraft to fly. The Yak-130 can carry an external load of three tons (of bombs, missiles or fuel tanks). Max range, on internal fuel, is 2200 kilometers. Russia is selling the aircraft to foreign customers for about $15 million. The Yak-130 replaces the 1960s era L-29 (and a 1970s upgrade, the L-39). The Russian air force received its first Yak-130s this year.
The Yak-130 is the most capable combat trainer in service, and its ability to operate as alight attack jet is a major bonus for many potential buyers. Irkut, the Russian manufacturer, is also pushing plans to use the Yak-130, as the basis for a UCAV (combat UAV). The Yak-130 already has some variants in development. There is the single seat fighter version (Yak-131), plus a reconnaissance variant and even a four seat VIP transport.
Russia is making a major sales push for the Yak-130. Sixteen were sold to Algeria earlier this year, and Indonesia has shown interest. For countries like Algeria and Indonesia, the ability to use the Yak-130 for combat missions, and lower (than regular combat aircraft) operating costs, are a major draw.
The Yak-130 was developed in cooperation with Italian firm Aermacchi, which went on to develop it's own version, and sell it as the M-346. But the Italian version will be more expensive, because of higher production costs.