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cadets-learning-fly-on-yak-13012 April 2013 made quite a stir in the Russian Air Force Borisoglebsk Bomber and Attack Aircraft Crew Training Centre: a fifth-year cadet flew his first solo mission on an advanced Yakovlev Yak-130 combat trainer. Yak-130 deliveries to the training centre in Borisoglebsk have started two years ago, and now the centre has 28 aircraft of the type, ousting the famous Czech-made L-39 'flying school desks' out of its aircraft fleet.

Irkut JSC, a subsidiary of the United Aircraft Corporation, met its commitments under last year's governmental defence procurement order, having delivered the first 15-ship Yak-130 combat trainer batch to the Russian Air Force. The aircraft were delivered to the RusAF Borisoglebsk Training Centre operating 10 Yak-130s, built by the Sokol aircraft plant in Nizhny Novgorod, since 2011. Once the 2005 contract for 12 Sokol-made Yak-130s for the Russian Defence Ministry was fulfilled in June 2011, a decision was made that all subsequent Yak-130 orders – both domestic and export ones – would be handled by the Irkutsk Aviation Plant of the Irkut corporation.

In December 2011, Irkut fulfilled its first export contract for 16 Yak-130s ordered by the Algerian Air Force. Not long before that, on 7 December 2011, the Irkut cut its first deal with the Russian Defence Ministry for 55 Yak-130s intended for RusAF during 2012–15.

The training centre's aircrews ferried first three Yak-130s from Irkutsk to Borisoglebsk on 5 October 2012. Three more aircraft followed the trio four days later, on 9 October. Another two three-ship Yak-130 batches went to Borisoglebsk from the manufacturing plant on 21 and 30 November respectively, followed by last three aircraft slated for last year's delivery on 19 December. 15 brand-new Yak-130s serialled 31 through 45 had joined the first 10 of the Borisoglebsk-based combat trainers of the type by early this year, having totalled as many as 25. The remaining 40 planes under the current order are to be delivered within the coming three years, and there is an option for 10 Yak-130s more. Another three combat trainers arrived at Borisoglebsk in May 2013. According to the Red Star daily, 19 Irkut-built Yak-130s are slated for delivery to the Centre this year.

By the kick-off of a new training year, the instructor-pilots of the Borisoglebsk-based Centre have mastered the skills relevant to flying the Yak-130, and the Russian Air Force commander tasked the Centre with training the first 25 fifth-year cadets in 2013, using the Yak-130s. Each of the cadets must log 100 flying hours on the type before graduation.

Cadets began to fly Yak-130s in Borisoglebsk on 21 March 2013, and as soon as 12 April, Sgt. Ilya Adamenko first flew a solo sortie on the advanced aircraft – the first among the cadets in his year.

"Pilots greatly enjoy flying this sophisticated aircraft", says Col. Alexander Grun, officer commanding the training airbase. "They handle any tasks with gusto. Having gotten this emotional shot in the arm, both cadets and IPs have become more exacting to themselves in preparation for flights. The new plane carries a sophisticated avionics suite calling for continuous perusing of training manuals and honing of one's flying skills. The Yak-130's capabilities in terms of weapons and thrust-to-weight ratio make it several times more capable than the L-39 is. It also has a reprogrammable control system allowing simulating the characteristics of various types of aircraft by tweaking the Yak-130's stability and controllability".

The Yak-130's combat trainer version with its weapons suite passed its official tests in December 2009. RusAF has been taking delivery of Yak-130 combat trainers since February 2010 (first they were fielded with the State Aircrew Training and Aircraft Operational Evaluation Centre of the Defence Ministry in the city of Lipetsk).

Now, Irkut is in talks with new foreign customers, particularly those from CIS countries, at the same time with the delivery of Yak-130s to RusAF.

One of the results produced by the talks was the contract for delivery of four Yak-130 combat trainers for the Belarusian Defence Ministry, signed in December 2012. The aircraft will be delivered to BelAF in 2015. The Republic of Belarus became the first CIS member state to buy Yak-130s.

Irkut also is working in further improvement of the aircraft. In the near future, the Yak-130 might be given a podded electro-optical sighting system, a mid-air refuelling system, a radar (an integral or podded one remains to be seen) and an increased number of air-to-surface guided weapons. The relevant development will be run in 2013–14, due to Irkut Vice President/Yakovlev Engineering Centre Director Konstantin Popovich.


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