The Belarusian military has received a new batch of Yak-130 combat jet trainers from Russia.
On May 11, 2019, Belarus received its third grouping of Yak-130s from Russia. The four aircraft were handed over at a ceremony that took place at the 116th Guards Attack Airbase, in Lida, Belarus. Defense Minister Andrei Ravkov, who took part in the event, noted that the aircraft were procured under the military’s plan of developing the Armed Forces through the year 2020.
Belarus previously took delivery of four Yak-130s in 2015 and another batch of four in 2016.
Defense Minister Ravkov commented on the importance of the Yak-130s to the Air Force, saying, “First of all, the aircraft allow training pilots how to also fly the aircraft we intend to buy, in particular, Su-30SM.” The Air Force aims to procure at least a dozen Su-30SMs to replace older fighter jets. Deliveries of these could begin before the end of 2019, though this remains dependent on the completion of financing for the aircraft. The price tag for the jets has been reported at $600 million in total.
Ravkov continued, “Second, despite its training designation, the aircraft can carry up to three tonnes of ordnance.” Whereas Russia has not yet indicated plans to use its Yak-130 fleet in an attack role, Belarus has actively tested its Yak-130s with onboard armaments and may well envision a use for the aircraft for combat duties. The defense minister compared the Yak-130’s combat capabilities to those of the Su-25, a ground attack jet.
The First Deputy Commander of the 116th Guards Attack Airbase, Oleg Oleinik, praised the aircraft, saying, “Yak-130 is a cutting-edge, extremely maneuverable aircraft, which allows performing all kinds of aerobatic maneuvers. It is perfect for training novice pilots. For many of them, Yak-130 is their first aircraft.”