YaK-130 Operational Trainer Will Improve Its Export Potential
(Source: TASS-Defense; issued April 12, 2017)
Russia says that Irkut’s Yak-130 is the best-selling jet trainer on the market, with over 100 aircraft having been ordered by Russia and over 40 more by four foreign countries. (RUS MoD photo)
MOSCOW --- The YaK-130 operational jet trainer developed by the Irkut Corporation (a subsidiary of the United Aircraft Corporation) will retain its capabilities on the global market, according to defense analysts.

The volume of the global military fixed-wing trainers is supposed to reach 1,675 planes to the tune of USD21 billion, about 984 of them (USD15.3 billion) are supposed to be jet-powered, according to the Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine. The production rate is planned to reach 160 aircraft by 2020, the specialists said.

The magazine’s expert point out that the T-X contests for a new modern advanced jet trainer launched by the US Air Force is going to have a huge impact on the global market.

"The winner [of the competition] will enter a global trainer market that is already crowded," the experts of Aviation Week concluded.

Despite its importance, the T-X program constitute only a part of the global advanced trainers market. Leading aerospace companies offer their designs that could be acquired by potential customers.

As mentioned earlier, Russia’s Irkut Corporation promotes the YaK-130 operational trainer. According to the official catalogue of the company, the export-oriented YaK-130 has a length of 11.49 m, a height of 4.64 m, a wingspan of 9.86 m, a maximum take-off weight of 10,290 kg, an internal fuel capacity of 1,700 kg, a maximum combat payload of 3,000 kg, a maximum speed of 1,060 km/h (without external payload), a g-limit (without external payload) of + 8 g / - 3 g, a maximum flight altitude of 12,500 m, and a maximum flight range of 1,600 km (without external fuel tanks).

The aircraft is powered by two engines with a maximum thrust of 2,500 kgf each. YaK-130 can carry a combat payload of up to 3,000 kg (guided/unguided missiles, rockets, and bombs, aircraft cannons, etc.) attached to nine external hardpoints. It can be optionally fitted with an optic-location station, an onboard defense system, an onboard radar station, other pieces of equipment, and foreign-originated air-launched weapons at customer’s request after required operations.

To boost the export potential of YaK-130, the Irkut Corporation is developing a variant of the aircraft fitted with a laser rangefinder. The demonstrator plane in such configuration was unveiled at the MAKS-2015 airshow.

YaK-130 has been chosen as the advanced jet trainer for Russia’s Aerospace Forces (VKS). Over 100 such planes are reported to have been ordered by the service. The jet trainer is also in high demand on the global market. At present, the plane is known to have been delivered to Algeria, Bangladesh, Belarus; the deliveries of the aircraft to Myanmar have already started. 40 YaK-130s are reported to have been supplied to foreign customers.

Italy’s Leonardo company promotes the M-346 Master trainer already ordered by Israel, Italy, Poland, and Singapore (the combined volumes of order has reached 68 planes). The aircraft is already in production. At present, Leonardo is developing the armed variant of the plane that is designated M-346FT. M-346 participates in the T-X competition.

According to the official specifications of M-346 by Leonardo, the aircraft has a maximum level speed of 590 knots true airspeed (KTAS, about 1,092 km/h), a limit speed of about 572 knots equivalent airspeed (KEAS, about 1,059 km/h), a climbing rate of 22,000 ft/min, a service ceiling of 45,000 ft (about 13,600 m), limit load factors of +8 g/ -3 g, a flight endurance of 2h 45 min (internal fuel capacity), a take-off weight of 7,500 kg, and a maximum take-off weight of 9,600 kg. The aircraft is powered by two Honeywell F-124GA-200 engines of 2,800 kgf thrust each. The armed variant features five hardpoints for air-launched armaments.

Republic of Korea’s T-50 supersonic trainer is also a contender of the T-X program under T-50A designation. The aircraft is in production. The plane`s manufacturer, the Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) company has also developed the armed variant of the plane (FA-50). At present, the backlog of orders for T-50 has reached 140 aircraft acquired by South Korea, Indonesia (16 T-50 trainers), Iraq (24 T-50 trainers), the Philippines (12 FA-50 light attack aircraft) and Thailand (4 T-50 trainers). According to the official specifications of T-50 by KAI, the aircraft has a maximum take-off ground weight of 12.3 t, an empty weight of 6.47 t, a maximum speed of M=1.5, and a g-limit of +8 g / -3 g. The plane is powered by single engine.

Great Britain’s BAE Systems promotes the Hawk AJT (Advanced Trainer Jet) trainer. Over 1,000 planes of previous modification (Hawk) were sold. BAE continues the production of the enhanced trainer (Hawk AJT). At present, over 80 AJTs have been sold to the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, and Oman. BAE is developing a combat variant of the plane for the Indian Air Force (IAF) in conjunction with India’s Hindustan Aeronautic Limited (HAL) corporation.

According to the official specifications of Hawk AJT (its second designation is T2) by BAE, the aircraft has a maximum take-off weight of 9,100 kg, an empty weight of 4,570 kg, a maximum payload of 3,000 kg, and a maximum level speed of M=0.8. It is powered by single engine.

The aforementioned planes have been ordered by both national air forces and foreign customers. Several less popular aerospace companies offer their variants of trainers on the global market.

Czech Republic’s Aero Vodohody enterprise promotes the enhanced variant of it famous L-39 Albatros aircraft (at present, over 700 L-39 remain in service) under the L-39NG designation. The L-39NG’s demonstrator plane made its maiden flight in 2015. In 2017, the manufacturer plans to fit the prototype with new avionics, engine, and lighter airframe. The upgraded plane is supposed to be offered in the global market in 2018.

According to the specifications of L-39NG by Aero Vodohody, the aircraft has an empty weight of 3,100 kg, a maximum take-off weight of 5,300 - 5,800 kg, maximum external stores of 700-1,200 kg, a maximum speed of 775 km/h, a range of 2,590 km (internal fuel), and a climbing rate of 23 m/sec. The plane is powered by single FJ44-4M engine by Williams International. Aero Vodohody also promotes the L-159 operational trainer that has an empty weight of 4,350 kg, a maximum take-off weight of 8,000 kg, a maximum speed of 936 km/h, a ferry range of 2,530 km and a service ceiling of 13,200 m and powered by single F124-GA-100 engine by Honeywell.

US Textron AirLand company promotes its Scorpion jet trainer. The aircraft has yet to secure its launch customer; however, the manufacturer has already launched its limited production. According to the specifications of Scorpion by Textron, it has a standard empty weight of 12,700 lbs (5,760 kg), a maximum take-off weight of 22,000 lbs (9,979 kg), a maximum internal payload of 3,000 lbs (1,360 kg), a maximum speed of 450 KTAS (833 km/h), a service ceiling of 45,000 ft (13,500 m), and a ferry range without auxiliary fuel of 1,600 nautical miles (2,963 km). Scorpion can be used as a light close air support aircraft. It can carry of to 6,200 lbs (2,800 kg) of combat payload attached to six hardpoints.

Thus, Russia’s operational trainer seems to be an attractive offer on the global market. The combined backlog of domestic and foreign orders for YaK-130 is the best in its class, exceeding slightly the ones for T-50 by KAI. Other trainers mentioned earlier feature significantly smaller order volumes.

The g-limit and training performance of YaK-130 do not fall behind its market competitors, while Russia’s trainer features advanced thrust-to-weight ratio and two-engine powerpack that possesses enhanced reliability. The speed of YaK-130 is at the level of most of the aforementioned aircraft excluding supersonic T-50.

It should be noted that despite harsh competition on the market, only few jet trainers have entered the stage of serial production. Even the US Air Force has to choose between only three foreign-originated planes (T-50, M-346, and a new trainer by Sweden`s Saab and US Boeing).

The dropping of Scorpion out of the T-X program reduces its market chances in a drastic manner, while Czech L-39NG and L-159 have yet to enter full-scale serial production and to find the launch customer. New variant of the Hawk trainer seems to be demanded only by several Gulf countries and India. Therefore, T-50 and M-346 aircraft remain real rivals of YaK-130 on the market.

To boost the export potential of YaK-130, the Irkut Corporation is developing a variant of the aircraft fitted with a laser rangefinder. The demonstrator plane in such configuration was unveiled at the MAKS-2015 airshow.

In such an environment, YaK-130 has all chances to win. The backlog of orders for M-346 is relatively small and is supposed to remain at the same level, should the trainer drop out from the T-X contest. Thus, T-50 may be evaluated as the only potent competitor of Russia`s trainer. The South Korean plane features a relatively high orders portfolio, supersonic speed, and good combat capabilities. It should be noted that KAI actively promotes the trainer on the Asian and the Near Eastern sub-markets.

At the same time, new opponents on the market may emerge in the nearest future. For instance, Sweden’s Saab and the US Boeing are developing a new jet trainer that might be adopted by the US Air Force. The plane was unveiled in September 2016, and it has yet to be designated. Its basic specifications are unknown. The trainer is powered by single F404-GE-102D (4,900 kgf) by General Electric Aviation and lacks underwing hardpoints. Its combat variant has not been unveiled.

The outcomes of the T-X program are going to have a tremendous effect on the global jet trainers market, as the US Air Force is planning to acquire over 300 new advanced jet trainers. The winner of the competition will undoubtedly be a troublesome rival. However, YaK-130 seems to retain its export potential even in a nastier environment.

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