Iran takes delivery of Russian Yak-130 training Jets with Su-35 fighters to follow

As confirmed by official statements from the Iranian Air Force and photos released on September 2, 2023, via the ProjectMeshkat Twitter account, Iran has reportedly taken delivery of a batch of Russian-made Yakovlev Yak-130 jet trainers. This acquisition is a component of Iran's broader arms contracts with Russia and precedes the country's anticipated receipt of Russian Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets.

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Iran takes delivery of Russian Yak 130 training Jets Su 35 Fighters next up 925  The Yakovlev Yak-130 has been stationed at the Shahid Babaei Air Base in Isfahan, central Iran (Picture source: Iran MoD)

The Yakovlev Yak-130 is a Russian subsonic two-seat new-generation aircraft designed for both basic and advanced flight training. Capable of mimicking the characteristics of several fourth and fifth-generation combat aircraft, the Yak-130 will enable Iranian pilots to train for operating advanced Russian-made fighters like the Sukhoi Su-35. The aircraft has been in service since 2010 and is used by several countries, including Russia, Belarus, and Syria.

The Iranian Air Force operates a mix of domestically produced and internationally acquired fighter jets. The fleet includes American-made F-14 Tomcats and F-4 Phantoms, Russian-made MiG-29s and Su-24s, and domestically produced jets like the HESA Saeqeh and Kowsar. The addition of the Yak-130 and the forthcoming Su-35s will further diversify and modernize Iran's air capabilities.

The Yak-130s are expected to significantly improve the training and combat readiness of the Iranian Air Force. According to local media, the aircraft have been stationed at the Shahid Babaei Air Base in Isfahan, central Iran. The jets will enable Iranian pilots to undergo specialized training for operating other advanced Russian-made fighters, including the forthcoming Sukhoi Su-35s.

The acquisition of the Yak-130 and the forthcoming Su-35s come amid increasing scrutiny of Iran's defense partnership with Russia. The United States has noted that the two countries are "expanding their unprecedented defense partnership," and Iran has been accused by Ukraine and its Western allies of supplying weapons to Russia for use in its conflict with Ukraine—claims that Iran has consistently denied.

The Sukhoi Su-35 is a 4th-generation multirole fighter jet with advanced avionics, radar, and weapons systems. Capable of long-range air-to-air and air-to-ground missions, the Su-35 will significantly enhance Iran's air combat capabilities. The aircraft has been in service with the Russian Air Force since 2014 and has seen combat operations in Syria.

While the Yak-130 is renowned for its design simplicity and high reliability, it has faced issues in the past. A malfunctioning control system was blamed for several crashes, including a prototype crash in 2006 and another in Belarus in 2021. Despite these setbacks, the aircraft's high maintainability and automated onboard diagnostics and monitoring system make it a valuable asset for modern air forces.