Vietnam Ministry of National Defence (Bộ Quốc phòng) has signed a $350 million deal last year to buy Yakovlev Yak-130 combat training aircraft from Russian aircraft designer and manufacturer JSC A.S. Yakovlev Design Bureau. Russia is the biggest arms supplier to Vietnam and deploys Russian-made fighter jets, surface ships and submarines. JSC A.S. Vietnam stepped up its imports amid China’s increasingly aggressive territorial claims in the South China Sea, where the neighbors have long-standing rival claims. Vietnam would be the sixth country to import the Yak-130, Russia has previously sold the jets to Algeria, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Laos and Belarus.
The Vietnam People’s Air Force (VPAF) operates 22 Yak-52 and 34 L-39C/Z. The operational conversion of pilots after their graduation therefore places a challenge on the combat units. The VPAF announced its intention to set up a new division dedicated to Yak-130 subsonic advanced trainer and light fighter. It appears they are going to be equipped with air-to-surface weapons including guided missiles and bombs. In prior years the VPAF has been sending their student jet pilots to Russian Air Force for training but last year signed and agreement with the country of Indian Air Force to provide training.
The Yakovlev Yak-130 (NATO reporting name: Mitten) is a subsonic two-seat advanced jet trainer and light fighter originally developed by Yakovlev and Aermacchi. It has also been marketed as a potential light attack aircraft. Development of the plane began in 1991 and the maiden flight was conducted on 25 April 1996. In 2002, it won a Russian government tender for training aircraft and in 2009 the aircraft entered service with the Russian Air Force. As an advanced training aircraft, the Yak-130 is able to replicate the characteristics of several 4+ generation fighters as well as the fifth-generation Sukhoi Su-57. It can also perform light-attack and reconnaissance duties, carrying a combat load of 3,000 kg.