Irkut Declines To Enter USAF T-X Program
By Maxim Pyadushkin, Amy Butler
Source: Aviation Week & Space Technology
July 23, 2012
Credit: Credit: Nigel Howarth
Maxim Pyadushkin and Amy Butler Farnborough
Though Russia's Irkut is working to expand the Yakovlev 130's role from a fast-jet trainer to an attack aircraft, a senior company official acknowledges that the aircraft will not be vying for the largest trainer competition.
The Pentagon is planning to buy at least 350 T-38C replacements beginning in fiscal 2013 or 2014, and the list of competitors is long. But, Konstantin Popovich, head of Yakovlev's engineering center, acknowledges that the Yak-130 is unlikely to be on it.
“Everything is possible [but] we are trying to be realistic. We understand that [the M-346] is the Western option of the aircraft. So, of course it most probably is the . . . M-346” that will compete, he said through a translator at a Farnborough air show briefing.
Irkut and Alenia Aermacchi teamed to design the aircraft and Alenia's version, the M-346, is a sure contender for the U.S. program. It is likely to compete against versions of the BAE Hawk and Korea Aerospace Industries/Lockheed Martin T-50. Boeing is also leaning toward designing an aircraft from the ground up (AW&ST July 16, p. 14).
Russia's military is purchasing 55 Yak-130s through 2015 and has a contract option for 10 more. The basic Yak-130 variant completed government evaluation trials in 2009. The Russian air force now operates 12 aircraft from the initial production batch. Fifteen are slated to be handed over this year; all deliveries should by complete by 2012. Last year Irkut also shipped 16 aircraft to Algeria.
The Russian air force selected the Yak-130 in 2002 as its new jet aircraft for basic and advanced pilot training to replace the aging fleet of Soviet-era Czech L-39 trainers. It is equipped with a glass cockpit and a reprogrammed fly-by-wire system that can replicate the characteristics of various Russian fighters, fourth-generation and higher.