Iran Receives Russian Yak-130 Advanced Trainer Jets

Russia has reportedly delivered Yak-130 “Mitten” trainer jets to Iran in the latest example of Moscow and Tehran’s increasing military ties and the associated arms trades that have come with them.

Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-linked Tasnim News Agency reported Saturday that the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force (IRIAF) received the trainers. The story includes a picture of a Yak-130 in a hangar displaying a high-visibility IRIAF paint scheme. A video on Twitter shows a Yak-130 with the same paint job reportedly taxiing at Iran’s Isfahan Air Base.

An Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force (IRIAF) Yak-130 inside a hangar. Tasnim News Agency.

The Yak-130’s arrival in Iran fits with past reporting on Tehran securing new Russian equipment in exchange for supplying Moscow’s war effort in Ukraine. Russia went shopping for Iranian drones in 2022, the prelude to ongoing raids against Ukraine using Iranian-made Shahed-136 kamikaze drones that began in October.

In exchange for drones and other supplies, Russia would provide more advanced weapons systems, among them a batch of Su-35 “Flanker-E” fighters. We reported on the claimed Su-35 deal when Iranian state media said Moscow and Tehran finalized the agreement in March. White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters in February that the exchange also included Yak-130s, attack helicopters, and radars.

An Su-35 landing at Russia’s airbase in Syria. Andrei Shmatko/wikicommons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Originally a joint design between Yakolev and the former Italian manufacturer Aermacchi, the project collapsed and led to two remarkably similar designs, one Russian, and one Italian. While Aermacchi and its eventual successor Leonardo produced the M-346 Master, the Yak-130 entered service in 2010 as Russia worked to replace its aging fleet of Czechoslovakian Aero L-39 Albatros trainers.

A Yak-130 “Mitten” of the Russian Air Force. Russian Ministry of Defense.

Not only a trainer aircraft, the Yak-130 has a secondary light attack capability. Its nine hardpoints can carry gun pods, rockets, the R-73 (AA-11 “Archer”) air-to-air missile, and both guided and unguided bombs.

A Russian Yak-130 on display at the 2013 MAKS airshow alongside its potential armaments and a MiG-31 Foxhound. Wikimedia Commons.

Although not an absolutely definitive step toward IRIAF Su-35s, the Yak-130 definitely brings Iran closer to operating modern Russian fighter aircraft. The Yak-130 is arguably the most advanced fast jet in service with Iran overall, which will have other impacts when it comes to modernizing the very geriatric IRIAF. Iran may also see value in the Yak-130 in a light attack role. The military junta in Myanmar has used its Yak-130s for airstrikes, for instance. 

Now we will have to wait and see if the Su-35s follow in the Yak-130’s footsteps. It sure seems like Iran is prepping to receive the type, with reports that Iranian pilots have already received training on the Flanker-E. Even a full-scale mock-up of an Su-35 have been spotted at Iran’s new highly fortified airbase that features extensive underground aircraft parking and support areas, named ‘Eagle 44.’

Regardless, the Yak-130 won’t be the last weapons transfer from Russia to Iran as Moscow continues to rely on Tehran to supply its war effort in Ukraine.

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