Pakistan could be showing an interest in the Yak-130 trainer of Russia after concluding a deal to purchase four Mi-17 Hind helicopters.
The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) does not have a modern combat trainer though it operates advanced aircraft such as the American F-16, and the Pakistani-Chinese JF-17.
Industry sources told defenseworld.net that Pakistan Air Force officials have been talking to executives from Rosoboronexport and Irkut, the maker of the Yak-130 in various arms trade shows, though no definite intention to buy has been received.
The PAF does not have an advanced jet trainer to train its fighter pilots. It has a basic trainer, the propeller-driven Super Mushshak, which is a product of a Pakistani-Chinese partnership. For intermediate jet training it has the K-8 Karakorum and the Cessna T-17. Together with its Chinese partners, it manufactures the Super Mushak which is used as a basic trainer.
The sources said that the PAF was interested in the Yak-120 for it unique feature of mimicking the flying characteristics of a number of fighter aircraft such as the F-16 and JF-17 which will make the task of transiting from a trainer to a fighter a lot easy for pilots.
All these years, Rosoboronexport may have been cold to the idea of selling Pakistan advanced aircraft; firstly due to Russia's position of being India's dominant military equipment supplier and secondly for fear of its aircraft being falling into the hands of Chinese copycats.
However, falling defense orders from India on the one hand together with turmoil in some middle-east countries such as Libya and Syria which were among Russia's traditional customer base has forced it to hunt for alternate markets.
A significant development in Islamabad-Moscow defense ties was the decision made late last year to deal directly with Russia for importing engines of the JF-17 fighter planes.
Russian Klimov RD-93 engines sit in the JF-17 and a Chinese plan of replacing them with its home-developed engines has not met delivery schedules forcing Pakistan, which makes the JF-17 aircraft under license from China, to contact Russia directly for engines.
India in the past has voiced its displeasure with Washington over the sale of F-16 fighters to Islamabad. It similarly showed concern when Moscow decided to enter talks with Pakistan to sell the Mi-17 choppers. However, Russia responded by starting that the helicopters would be used only for cargo lift.
The Yak-130 planes have so far been sold to Algeria and a deal to sell them to Libya could not be fulfilled due to the death of Col. Qaddafi, the former strongman of Libya who was killed a bloody coup. Bangladesh, Malaysia, Philippines and Venezuela are reported to be potential customers of the advanced jet trainer aircraft.
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