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    RUSSIA TO TEST NEW AIR-FORCE TRAINER IN MID-APRIL

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    NIZHNY NOVGOROD, MARCH 9 (RIA NOVOSTI - VOLGA REGION CORRESPONDENT ZHANNA VORONOVA) - It's intended to start testing Russia's new Yakovlev Yak-130 air-force trainer, which can also fly combat missions, in mid-April 2004. This was disclosed to RIA Novosti today by Igor Chernichenko, spokesman for the local Sokol (Falcon) aircraft factory.

    The Yakovlev aircraft design bureau was to have started testing this plane already in late 2003; however, that deadline was eventually postponed until March and April.

    Our factory is not responsible for this delay, Chernichenko explained. We had trouble receiving plane accessories, he added, without going into details.

    Previously, Sokol director general Mikhail Shibayev said that the Yak-130 test program would be completed over the 2004-2005 period, and that deliveries would commence already next year.

    The Yak-130 jet trainer is being developed in line with a state contract, which was signed by the Yakovlev design bureau and Russia's Defense Ministry; the latter chose the Yak-130 as its basic air-force trainer.

    The dual-purpose Yak-130 can be used as an air-force trainer or as a light-weight attack aircraft.

    As a trainer, the Yak-130 makes it possible to effectively train pilots in short periods of time, simulating the performance of fourth-generation and fifth-generation warplanes.

    Moreover, the Yak-130 can serve as a ground-attack jet, carrying up to three tons of ordnance and hitting its targets accurately enough.

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