Alexander Velovich and Andrzej Jeziorski/MOSCOW
THE INFLUENTIAL Russian Central Institute of Aviation Motors (TsIAM) is pushing for a higher-thrust version of the Snecma/Turbom,ca Larzac 04- R20 engine to be fitted to the new MAPO MiG-AT advanced trainer.
"The aircraft is underpowered and needs another 200kg [1.9kN (440lb)] of thrust," claims TsIAM chief Donat Ogorodnikov.
Snecma rejects the criticism, saying that the twin-turbofan AT's thrust-to-weight ratio is sufficient, and higher than that of the Larzac-powered Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jet. While the company has no immediate plans to boost power beyond the present level of 14kN, two options for a possible 20% thrust increase are under discussion, says Serge Bermond, Snecma's marketing and development manager of military engines.
The first option is to use different materials in the engine, allowing it to be run at a higher temperature work, which could be done by Snecma. The second would be a redesign of the low-pressure components undertaken by a Russian partner as part of an agreement on licence production.
Ogorodnikov is a known opponent of the use of the Larzac in the aircraft, believing it to be outdated - an opinion not shared by MAPO MiG designers.
It is likely, however, that a higher-thrust development of the engine will be used on future combat-capable versions of the MiG-AT, says Snecma.
The first, called the MiG-ATC, will be the third prototype of the planned series of five, and will have the current tandem two-seat configuration. Plans also exist for a future single-seat combat variant, to be known as the MiG-AC.
Negotiations on licence-production of the Larzac in Russia remain unresolved and MAPO MiG has decided to purchase the engines for its five prototypes directly from France.
It is unlikely that Russia will conclude an engine-licence deal before any order for the MiG-AT is placed by the Russian air force.
Export discussions are continuing with India and South Africa, and pilots from both countries have flown the aircraft.
In 21 flights since 21 March, a 4.7G load factor, 20¡ angle of attack, 490kt (900km/h) airspeed and 42,000ft (12,800m) altitude have been achieved. Take-off and landing characteristics have been close to design estimates.
The MiG-AT's rival for the all-important Russian order is poised to have its maiden flight, according to Aermacchi's technical director for the programme, Pierclaudio Iaia. The Italian company is teamed with Yakovlev, on Yak-130 development.
Iaia says that he is "confident" that the aircraft will succeed in the fly-off, which has been ordered by the Russian air force, but he adds that, "...there is still the possibility that, for political reasons, they will choose both aircraft".
Aermacchi signed a co-operation deal with Yakovlev in 1992, giving it the right to modify the Yak-130, produce it outside Russia and to market it outside the former Soviet Union. Aermacchi is providing technical support and funding.
The Russian air force has driven the Yak-130 configuration, but Iaia says that there has been some success in adapting the design for the export market. "We're trying as hard as we can to get the design right for Western customers from the start," he says.
If the Yak-130 is selected, Iaia says that Aermacchi will fly a Western-configured export version "before the end of the decade".
He adds that Aermacchi is "extremely impressed" with Yakovlev's advanced design concept for a trainer which simulates other aircraft's flight characteristics by reconfiguring the fly-by-wire flight-control system.
Iaia also says that studies have demonstrated that the production aircraft could be about 15% lighter than the design concept and have a smaller wing.