Russia is to fund an avionics upgrade to some of the Czech-made Aero Vodochody L-39 trainers still in service at its air force flight schools.

Noting that the replacement Yakovlev Yak-130 will not be purchased in sufficient numbers to replace the L-39 fleet on a one-for-one basis, an air force source says the upgrade is needed because "it is totally unacceptable to train cadets in aircraft fitted with 20-year-old avionics while modern combat aircraft are fitted with LCD displays".

Each L-39 will cost around Rb30-45 million ($1.1-1.7 million) to modernise, according to the air force source, with the work expected to extend the type's operational life by five to 10 years. However, the service's efforts to determine the scope for the proposed modernisation programme have been complicated by the fact that the upgrade is not included in Moscow's state armaments programme to 2015.

A draft version of the armaments plan detailed last year included a proposal to acquire at least 48-50 Yak-130s to equip two aviation regiments by 2015. The platforms will form part of an eventual air force requirement for around 250 of the new-generation aircraft. However, just 12 have been ordered so far, with the service's first four Yak-130s currently undergoing flight test near Moscow.

Source: Flight International