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Russian air force to order Su-25 replacement

Russia's air force will acquire a new ground attack aircraft similar in concept to the Sukhoi Su-25, but has dropped plans to field an armed version of the Yakovlev Yak-130 jet/combat trainer.

"This new type of ground attack aircraft has been included in the state arms procurement programme," says Col Gen Alexander Zelin, an aide to Russian defence minister Anatoly Serdyukov and until May the commander of its air force. "It will be put in service by 2020."

The new aircraft will be equipped with an advanced radar, feature elements of stealth technology and also be able to use short runways. It will replace the modernised Su-25SM. Moscow plans to upgrade 80 of its Su-25s to the improved standard, and has so far received more than 30.

The Russian military has abandoned plans to develop a light attack aircraft based on the Yak-130, as Zelin says a prototype dubbed the Yak-131 did not demonstrate a high enough level of protection for its pilot.

Meanwhile, Zelin says the air force will receive the first batch of prototypes of its Sukhoi PAK-FA/T-50 fighter for performance testing in 2013.

"The work on the fifth-generation fighter is going according to schedule. The third prototype has joined the testing programme and a fourth is being built."

The T-50 made its first flight in January 2010 and Zelin has previously said 14 of the aircraft would be involved in testing by 2015.

In a separate development, the air force has received its first three upgraded Antonov An-124-100M transports. The service plans to have about 10 more aircraft modified to the new configuration, in addition to buying up to 10 new-build -300 variants with an increased payload of up to 150,000kg (330,000lb).

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