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What These Pictures Of Two Russian Yak-130 Jets That Crash Landed Almost Simultaneously in Russia Say About The Causes Of The Mishaps

Two Yak-130 Jets Have Crashed Simultaneously in Armavir and Borisoglebsk Last Month. And Here’s An Investigation On The Root Causes.

According to several reports, two Russian Air Force Yak-130 Trainer/Light Attack (LA) Aircraft (Tail number 43white/RF-44496 from Borisoglebsk airbase and 55red/RF-44583 from Armavir) crashed almost simultaneously in two different places on Wednesday June 21, 2017. Information about incident has not released by the RuAF (Russian Air Force).

The Yakovlev Yak-130 is a subsonic two-seat advanced trainer originally developed by Yakovlev and Aermacchi (now Leonardo).

Along with the advanced jet trainer role, the “Mitten” (Yak-130 NATO’s nickname), able to replicate the characteristics of Russian Gen. 4 and 4++  combat aircraft, is capable of fulfill Light Attack (LA) and Reconnaissance tasks and it can carry a payload of 3,000 kilograms, including guided and unguided weapons, external fuel tanks and electronic pods.

The LA version, dubbed YAK-131 and equipped with mechanical radar (Phazotron) or Passive Electronically Scanned Array (PESA), is planned to replace the Su-25 Frogfoot.The Russian Air Force has also developed a reconnaissance variant of the Mitten, dubbed  Yak-133.

The Yak-130 bear a significant resemblance with Italian M-346 “Master”, produced by Leonardo Company and already operated by the ItAF (Italian Air force), IAF (Israeli Air Force), RSAF (republic Singapore Air Force) and Polish Air Force. This Author has been one of the first pilots and IP (Instructor Pilot) on the Italian T-346 (ItAF designation of the baseline M-346).

At the moment, the RuAF has not given any official information about the dual accident and the possible causes are still under investigation. However, local sources reported the first crash occurred during a normal flying training and has involved the Yak-130 (55 red/RF-44583) that belong to the Armavir Flying School.

Soon after the first crash, a second Yak-130 (43 white/RF-44496) belonging to the Borisoglebsk Air Force Base was forced to land on the runway.

INVESTIGATION ON GEAR UP LANDING. (55 red/RF-44583 Armavir)

In my career as a combat pilot, I’ve had the opportunity to undertake many different training courses. One of those was the Flight Safety Office (FSO) which include the investigation section with a simulated crash to “solve.”

By means of the methodology and approach used to investigate real incidents I’ll  drive you in a very simple and basic investigation. We will analyze all the available details and see whether it is possible to determine the causes of these crashes.

55 red/RF-44583 from Armavir after the crash landing (via Ilya.A—Petya.A’s bro)

Close up view of the left air intake of the Yak-130 (via Ilya.A—Petya.A’s bro)

First of all, what we can do is a “picture analysis” and looking at the picture of 55 red/RF-44583 you can notice some of important details useful to understand the landing or crash dynamics:

  1. The aircraft landed on the belly without any other damage or structural breaks: this means the aircraft touched the ground with a correct and normal attitude used during a normal landing. Therefore, we can assume the pilot “planned” to land on the grass;
  2. The aircraft had the LEF (Leading Edge Flap) in down position: this means the pilot lowered the LEF with the intent to land like he was on the runway;
  3. The canopy seems to be open in a normal way (no damage or glass rupture): in other words the two pilots abandoned the aircraft “normally” soon after the jet stopped. This detail suggests the pilot purposely landed there and did a soft touch down with no other consequence;
  4. Looking at the air intake, you can see the internal section extremely clean without any FOD: this means the engine was not running and it didn’t suck anything. One possible reason is a flame out or the pilot decided to shut down the engine seconds before the touchdown to avoid any fire.

After a FIR (First Impression Report), the second step is to merge all the above consideration in order to elaborate a possible scenario. Based on the above points, the two pilots most probably attempted an emergency landing with one or both engines not operating.

Now let’s move to the possible causes that forced the Yak-130 to land out of the runway and let’s try to understand WHY the pilot did take the decision to land on grass field.

First consideration is that the emergency was TIME CRITICAL, otherwise they could have enough time to fly and steer toward a suitable airfield. Based on my experience the most important hint comes from the picture of the air intake: this picture seems to suggest engines or thrust problems that forced the pilot to perform a forced landing out of the runway. Let’s explore possible reasons:

  1. The aircraft was completely out of fuel. This situation seems quite unlikely, almost impossible, unless aircraft showed false fuel indications (a case of multiple emergencies, that is to say fuel transfer failure combined with false fuel indication) because pilots use to plan the fuel required for all training tasks: the fuel to recovery to the base with enough fuel in case they need or to practice some visual pattern; and the fuel to divert to the alternate in case of problem with the home base;
  2. The aircraft had a fuel transfer failure and the crew suddenly found to have less fuel available to return home or to the nearest suitable airfield;
  3. The aircraft had a double engine flame out (this option can be also caused by the point 1 and 2) and the pilots were forced to find a suitable “strip” to land.

Of course I don’t know the RuAF SOP (Standard Operations Procedures) and the YAK-130 emergency check list procedures for the above emergencies.

In case of double engine flame out, due to fuel or engines malfunction, most of the military aircraft procedures require the pilots to eject unless they can safely recover or land the aircraft. Landing on the grass without gear is not a safe recovery but in this case (I want to remember that we don’t know too many details about the reason of crash and we are conducting an investigation based on a picture) pilots took a very brave decision and the option to land without landing gear was in the end a smart decision to soften as much as possible the touchdown on an “unprepared field”. In this case pilots took a huge risk but they were extremely lucky to land without further problems (such as fire, structural damage, unintentional ejection seat activation and so on.)

Although we can’t rule out multiple failures, such as engine flame out and landing gear system failure, my instinct and experience suggest that the gear up landing was done on purpose.

INVESTIGATION ON NOSE GEAR UP LANDING (43 white/RF-44496 Borisoglebsk)

The 43white/RF-44496 from Borisoglebsk (via Ilya.A—Petya.A’s bro)

Looking at the picture, the aircraft seems to have landed normally with few damages. This assessment helps limiting the range of possible failures that may have caused the gear up landing, because we can assume the aircraft was operating efficiently.

Since the plane seems to have landed normally (making engine failure less likely unless this has happened in the vicinity of the airfield) we can focus on a possible landing gear system malfunction. Therefore, let’s have a look at some details:

  1. The aircraft has the LEF down and we already know why and what this may mean;
  2. Only the main landing gear is down: this may have been caused by nose landing gear malfunction, structural damage due to bird strike, nose landing gear not completely locked or hydraulics malfunction;
  3. The main gear doors seem to be in open position. Most of the military jets, when reporting landing gear malfunction or hydraulics system failure, have the option to use the emergency gear lowering system. When the pilot activates the Emergency lowering system this overrides the normal gear system using enough pressure to lower the gear but not enough to close the gear doors. On the other side I cannot be 100% sure about this because of the picture resolution; still, during incident investigations it is important to take how systems work into proper consideration.

At this point, merging all the above points we can assume that the aircraft had some problem with landing gear system or hydraulics system and the pilot decided to land without nose gear.

During a nose gear-up landing it is paramount for the pilot to comply with the following action list:

  • Be very precise on approach with speed and attitude;
  • Perform aerodynamic braking during landing roll;
  • Before the HT (Horizontal Tail) loses lift, the pilot needs to gradually reduce the back pressure on the stick to allow a soft touchdown between the ground and the airframe;
  • Re-apply again the back pressure on the stick as soon as the nose touches the ground to reduce the weight on the nose trying to minimize the damage.
  • Avoid to use the brakes;
  • Shut down the engine in order to avoid engine mechanical failure and reduce thrust and, consequently, the landing distance.

According to my experience most of the aircraft are allowed to land with a symmetric configuration like: NO GEAR, ONLY MAIN GEAR, ONLY NOSE GEAR.

Summing up, based on a few pictures we can conclude that:

  • the aircraft 55 red/RF-44583 from Armavir had some problem with fuel quantity/transfer or with both engine and the pilot was forced to land on the grass
  • the aircraft 43 white/RF-44496 from Borisoglebsk had some problems with landing gear system or hydraulics system.

 

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Italian Air Force T-346A and RAF Hawk T2 jet trainers conduct joint training at Decimomannu airbase

The Italian and British most advanced jets conducted some Air-to-Air sortie in 1vs1 and 2vs1 scenarios combined with rear seat exchange for a cross training and experience sharing during their firing campaigns in Italy.

On Mar. 31, the 212° Gruppo (Squadron) of the 61° Stormo (Wing) from Lecce Galatina airbase, has completed the first Air-to-Air and Air-to-Ground training campaign of the year at Decimomannu airbase in Sardinia.

The deployment lasted two weeks and involved six examples of the most advanced jet trainer in the world, the T-346A (as the M-346 is designated in Italy) “Master” operated by the ItAF as well as the Israeli, Polish and Republic of Singapore Air Force.

The pictures in this post, taken by Gian Luca Onnis (one of the most active aviation photographers in Sardinia), show the T-346As carrying two BRD 4-250 (Bomb and Rockets Training Dispenser) loaded with four Low-drag BDU-33D/B bombs for use in the ranges.

3-ship formation departs the range

The image at the top of the article shows the Master at the Apex of a PUP attack (is the top point of the Pull Up Attack).

The 212° Gruppo is responsible for Phase IV pilot jet training and this deployment represents the last part of the LIFT (Lead In Fighter Training) track, the most advanced and challenging segment of the fighter jock training during which trainees are called to perform air-to-air as well as air-to-ground sorties with multiple threats and complex set ups, to deliver state-of-the-art multirole training.

Every scenario can be used thanks to the advanced ETTS (Embedded Tactical Training Simulation) which simulates air-to-air and ground-to-air threats and moving targets, and it is also capable to generate synthetic targets overlapped with real features on the ground allowing a realist Targeting Pod usage.

Drop of a practice bomb

The 212° Gruppo is also involved in the Aggressor role, taking part in the TLP (Tactical Leadership Programme) at Albacete, Spain, with a state-of-the-art trainer and its accompanying simulation system to deliver the perfect “Bandit”: fast, maneuverable and very well equipped.

The Aggressor also dubbed “Red Baron” is part of the TLP’s “Game plan” and together with the Red Forces is also one of the most important “training tool” in the exercise.

In my experience as Instructor Pilot of 212° Gruppo in charge of advanced tactics and combat of the LIFT course, I have taken part in TLP exercise as part of Red Forces. The Aggressor role isn’t easy: pilots need to use all their experience to adhere as much as possible to the requested threat profile in order to make the scenario as realistic as possible and be useful to the Blue Forces training. Many time people think to the Aggressor as a fighter pilot tasked to engage all aircraft and shot them down; in reality, with new scenarios, sometimes border line and not well-defined, the Aggressor’s task is to “incite or harass” the Blue Forces in the right place, in the right moment, with the correct “numbers” (speed, Aspect Angle – AA – etc). In order to do that, the Aggressor is requested to know in-depth the Blue plan, how and where the “package” is flying second by second.

Among all the missions that I’ve flown I’ve had the possibility to face several different scenarios: for instance, one of my task has been to “POP UP”, undetected, just before the attack to disrupt the strike package’s plans and force the attackers to look after me.

Hawk formation take-off

Decimomannu AWTI (Air Weapons Training Installation) provides a full integrated training installation with air-to-air and air-to-ground as well as an EW (Electronic Warfare) range. For this reason, is one of the best places for trainees who need to gain experience at planning and executing missions tactically.

As the Italians carried out their missions with the T-346s, the Royal Air Force’s No. 4 (Reserve) Sqn from RAF Valley was also deployed to Decimomannu for the first time.

Part of the 4 Flying Training School (4 FTS) also known as the fast-jet ATTU (Advanced Training and Tactics Unit), No. 4 (R) Sqn is responsible for tactical weapons training, a role carried out with the Hawk T2.

Whilst advanced flying training is assigned to the 208 (Reserve) Sqn, flying the Hawk T1, RAF students assigned to the 4(R) Sqn will learn how to use the Hawk as a weapons platform, flying in tactical formations at low level to attack targets. Students will basically learn how to drop bombs, strafe targets and the basics of air-to-air combat. Indeed, the Sardinian deployment was part of the A/A training.

The 4(R) Squadron chose Decimomannu for the deployment mainly for the presence of the ACMI (Air Combat Maneuvering Instrumentation) range availability and the permissive weather conditions allowing simulation of “full war” scenarios.

The ItAF and RAF training squadrons also conducted some joint training sessions: air-to-air sorties in 1vs1 and 2vs1 scenarios combined with rear seat exchange for a cross training and experience sharing. The cross-training was absolutely exciting and an important opportunity to share different aircraft performance. According to the Italian pilots, their British colleagues were extremely impressed by the T-346A’s superior thrust and agility during the fight.

RAF Hawk T2 on the ground at “Deci”

All images: Gian Luca Onnis

Dual-role M-346FT Fighter Trainer has completed first weapon tests. And here are some interesting images

The new multi-role version of the M-346 Master advanced jet trainer has completed first weapon tests to demonstrate its close air support capability.

The development of the dual-role variant of the Leonardo M-346FT continues.

Testing that took place in Italy in coordination with the Italian Air Force shown the successful deployment of two weapon systems: the Lizard LGBs (Laser Guided Bombs) and the Mk.82 ballistic bombs. Recce and cannon pods are already integrated and fully operational, according to company sources.

Unveiled at Farnborough International Air Show in July 2016, the M-346FT is the new low-cost, multi-role variant of the basic M-346 Master AJT (Advanced Jet Trainer), one of the world’s most advanced trainers in service with the Air Forces of Italy (18 ordered jets, performing training as well as aggressors tasks), Singapore (12), Israel (30) and Poland (8)

The “FT” is intended to offer both advanced training as well as urban and battlefield close air support, tactical reconnaissance and homeland security tasks. For this reason the aircraft is going to be equipped with a TDL (Tactical Data Link) and a defensive aid subsystem, to provide SA (Situational Awareness) and self-protection; a multiband secure radio and networking suite. Leonardo is also working on one more version that would also include a radar. With such an addition, the aircraft, that could easily be converted from the trainer configuration to the light attack one, could satisfy the requirements of many air arms all around the world that are looking for tactical platforms able to carry a wide array of weapons and sensors at lower costs than the current 4th (and 5th) generation’s combat planes.

The “baseline” M-346 Master platform already offers digital cockpit, HOTAS (Hands On Throttle And Stick) commands, carefree handling, VCI (Vocal Control Inputs), a Helmet Mounted Display as well as the ability to simulate the flight characteristics of other aircraft and to replicate a wide variety of sensors and weapons as if these were actually installed on the aircraft: it’s considered one of the best LIFTs (Lead-In Fighter Trainers) to train pilots destined to the next generation aircraft, thanks to its performance and cutting-edge human-machine interface.

The “Master” is also one of the candidates to replace the Air Education and Training Command’s T-38 Talons as the next-generation U.S. Air Force training plane. Leonardo is offering a specific variant of the 346, dubbed T-100, for the competition as prime contractor.  The Italian company (initially by means of its subsidiary Alenia Aermacchi) teamed up with General Dynamics, between 2013 and 2015, and with Raytheon, between 2016 and Jan. 25, 2017, to offer the T-100 for the T-X. But both U.S. company withdrew as prime contractors for the T-100 offering, leaving Leonardo without an American partner in the program where it would face the competition of some clean sheet designs, such as the Boeing T-X, as well as some modified trainers, such as the Lockheed Martin T-X, an upgraded T-50A.

On Feb. 8, 2017, Leonardo eventually announced its decision to propose the T-100 for the U.S. Air Force T-X competition,  with its U.S. subsidiary DRS as the prime contractor. Leonardo DRS will be supported by CAE USA in the design and development of the T-100 Ground-Based Training System (GBTS) whereas Honeywell will provide twin F124 turbofan propulsion engines. The new T-100 aircraft is to be built at a U.S. manufacturing facility that has not been selected yet.

Image source: Leonardo

 

The Polish Air Force has received the first two M-346 Master Advanced Jet Trainers

The first two M-346 “Bieliks” have arrived at Deblin airbase.

Late on Nov. 14, the first two examples of the M-346 AJT (Advanced Jet Trainer) aircraft arrived at the Polish Dęblin.

During their approach to Dęblin, the “Master” jets, locally named “Bielik” (Polish for white tailed eagle), flew in formation with the TS-11 Iskra trainer aircraft which were sent to welcome the new airframes.

m-346-polish-af-front

The delivery of the first two of 8 aircraft was preceded with long preparatory stages, as it required the Polish pilots to be trained at Lecce-Galatina airbase, in Italy, home of 212° Gruppo (Squadron) belonging to the 61° Stormo (Wing) of the Italian Air Force, the flight school that operates the T-346s (this is the ItAF designation) in Italy.

The first flight of the Polish jet took place on Jul. 4, 2016, while Lt. Col. Konrad Madej was the first Polish pilot to fly the jet, an Italian airframe, on Mar. 2, 2016.

m-346-polish-af

The Alenia Aermacchi M-346 “Master” is a dual-engine LIFT (Lead-In to Fighter Trainer) jet for the latest stage of a fighter pilot training which aims to develop the information management and aircraft handling skills of future pilots before they are assigned to the OCUs (Operational Conversion Units).

The aircraft has also been selected by Italy, Israel and Singapore.

m-346-polish-af-taxi

Image credit: Andrzej Rogucki

Is Poland really considering restarting production of its indigenous obsolete I-22 Iryda trainer aircraft?

Poland may resuscitate an obsolete domestic trainer in an attempt to boost the economic situation of the country.

On Oct. 3, Mateusz Morawiecki, Poland’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of development visited Chełm State Higher School of Vocational Education (PWSZ – Państwowa Wyższa Szkoła Zawodowa).

Among the things said during the visit one is particularly interesting: a claim has been made by the school officials that the Polish indigenous PZL I-22 Iryda trainer program will be reactivated, with the jets being manufactured in Chełm, alongside small UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) and drone systems.

The news is very surprising and somewhat bizarre, considering that Poland has already procured the brand new M-346 Master advanced jet trainers, with the first deliveries for the Polish Air Force Academy in Dęblin expected to take place in November. The first two examples of the M-346 Master for the Polish Air Force are already undergoing the relevant test flight program in Italy. Eight Masters have been ordered by the Polish Air Force, with an option for more aircraft.

Whereas the M-346 is one of the world’s most advanced jet trainers, that couples impressive performance with a full digital cockpit, HOTAS (Hands On Throttle And Stick) commands, carefree handling, VCI (Vocal Control Inputs), a Helmet Mounted Display as well as many other things that make the aircraft perfect to prepare pilots to the most modern combat planes, PZL Iryda is an old indigenous design dating back to the 1970s. Its main purpose was to replace the older TS-11 Iskras.

The airframe was not a successful design, and test pilot Jerzy Bachta died during the flatter tests of the jet.

Ultimately the jet was redesigned PZL M93K and M93V variants, with M96 version to follow, with modified wings (Fowler Flaps), power-plant (Rolls Royce Viper engine) and new avionics. Eight such airframes were used by the 58 Training Aviation Regiment of the Polish Air Force. Initial plans were to procure 19 aircraft, that were never built due to problems and lack of funding.

Hence, the revival of such an unsuccessful aircraft seems to be quite unlikely: in the mid-1990s, the Iryda’s avionics were already unsuitable to train the pilots for the modern jet fighters. Even more so today, the obsolete design would be completely anachronistic to train Polish pilots destined to fly 4.5 and 5th Gen. jets, such as the F-16 Block 52+ or the F-35.

The fact that Iryda’s production could be restarted may just be a part of the publicity created by the new Polish right-wing government, which strongly emphasizes the need to reactivate the domestic industry and develop its potential. As shown by the Ministry of Development’s decision to scrap the Airbus Caracals helicopter deal, announced on Oct. 4, because the offset agreement options were insufficient.

Image Credit: Wikimedia

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