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Yakovlev fighters 1940-46

By Sakhal

The prolific family of Yakovlev fighters and fighter-bombers amounted for more than 36700 units built of the models designed during the Second World War. They were really successful aircraft, surpassing in this regard the Mikoyan-Gurevich fighters built in that time.

Yakovlev Yak-1

The I-26, precursor of a long family of single-seater fighters, flew for the first time in the early 1940, entering service with the designation Yak-1 late that year, so that when the German invasion started there were already circa 400 units in the Soviet fighter squadrons. The Yak-1 equipped the first fighter regiment entirely composed of women, in October 1941, the unit of French volunteers Normandie-Niemen, from January to November 1943, and the first unit of Polish volunteers, from 1943 to 1945. The prototype and pre-series models were equipped with two ShKAS 7.62 -millimeter machine guns, that were replaced later by one Beresin UBS 12.7-millimeter machine gun in the initial series model Yak-1. The power of the propulsion plant was increased as well by replacing the Klimov M-105PA 1100 HP engine by the overpowered VK-105PF 1210 HP. The version Yak-1M had an improved cockpit canopy that allowed 360 degrees view to the pilot. Total production for the Yak-1 amounted for circa 8720 exemplars.

Yakovlev Yak-7

Derivative of the Yak-1, the Yak-7 entered service in 1942, being very used as low altitude fighter and ground attack aircraft in the intermediate years of the war. Displaced by the numerically superior Yak-9, it was dedicated to second line missions, training and liaison. The Yak-7V, formerly designated UTI-26, was the two-seater training version, used by the French volunteers of the Normandie-Niemen to familiarize themselves with the equipment before using the Yak-1M. The Yak-7A was a night fighter armed with one ShVAK 20-millimeter cannon and two Beresin UBS 12.7 millimeters machine guns, with capability for carrying bombs and rockets. The Yak-7B had improved visibility in the cockpit and revised equipment. The Yak-7DI was a prototype for a long-range fighter, modified from the Yak-7B; it had increased fuel capacity and the wooden stringers of the wings were replaced by duralumin ones. This version would be mass-produced with the designation Yak-9. Total production for the Yak-7 amounted for 6399 exemplars.

Yakovlev Yak-9

The Yak-9 was the most numerous in number of units built and the most prolific in number of versions developed in the entire series of Yakovlev fighters, following the basic development of the Yak-1, in different types of applications. It entered service in the late 1942, during the Battle of Stalingrad. The Yak-9D and Yak-9DD were used to escort the USAAF heavy bombers in their back and forth missions to the URSS. A regiment of Yak-9DD was based in Italy in the winter 1944-45 to give support to Yugoslavian partisans. The Yak-9 was used as well by the French regiment Normandie- Niemen during the second campaign of 1944 and by four units of Polish volunteers. After the war the Yak-9P was used by diverse countries of the communist block, as well as by communist China and North Korea. At least one exemplar from this last country was captured during the Korean War and sent to United States for evaluation.

A notable characteristic in the Yak-9 fighters was the supression of one of the 12.7-millimeter machine guns; however the fighter-bomber version Yak-9B was equipped with three 12.7 millimeters machine guns. The Yak-9R was the reconnaissance version of the Yak-9B. The Yak-9D had increased fuel capacity and some of them - the Yak-9DD - were fitted with external tanks. The Yak-9DK was a special anti-tank version fitted with a NS-45 45-millimeter cannon installed in the axis of the propeller. The Yak-9T-37 was the tactical support version, armed with a NS-37 37-millimeter cannon and one Beresin UBS 12.7-millimeter machine gun, with capability for carrying PTAB anti-tank bombs under the wings. The Yak-9T-45 had the NS-37 37-millimeter cannon replaced by the NS-45 45 -millimeter cannon. The Yak-9U was an improvement over the basic Yak-9, with entirely metallic construction, elongated fuselage, redesigned canopy and fitted with the engine VK-107A 1650 HP; armament consisted of one ShVAK 20-millimeter cannon and one Beresin UBS 12.7-millimeter machine gun. The Yak-9UF was the reconnaissance version of the Yak-9U. The U-Yak-9U was the training version with dual control. Total production for the Yak-9 amounted for 16769 exemplars.

Yakovlev Yak-3

The Yak-3 was the high altitude interceptor variant of the Yak-1M, entering service in the second half of 1943, and although produced in small quantity, in comparison with the Yak-9, it soon gained an excellent reputation, surpassing in many aspects even the Bf 109 and Fw 190 of the Luftwaffe. It remained in service during the rest of the war and even later, being used by the French unit Normandie-Niemen during the third and last campaign in East Prussia, in 1945. Ended the war, this unit returned to France with 37 of the 40 Yak-3 gifted by the Soviet government as reward for the 273 victories achieved. The Yak-3 was a redesign of the Yak-1M, with lesser wingspan, new position for the radiator, improved cockpit visibility and reduced weight. Further improvements of the Yak-3 introduced a version fitted with more powerful engines, the VK-107A 1650 HP and the VK-108 1850 HP. The version Yak-3U was fitted with a radial engine, the Shvetsov ASh-82FN 1850 HP, and built with a reinforced and entirely metallic structure. The anti-tank version Yak-3T was armed with one N-37 37-millimeter cannon and two ShVAK 20-millimeter cannons. Total production for the Yak-3 amounted for 4848 exemplars.

Yakovlev fighters 1940-46

Upper aircraft: Yakovlev Yak-1 (number 2) of the V-VS, Leningrad Front, spring 1942. Typical camouflage in black and green, in the form of irregular stripes. Upper aircraft: Yakovlev Yak-9 (number 12) belonging to an unit of Polish volunteers.

Yakovlev fighters 1940-46

Yakovlev Yak-3 (number 11) of the first squadron of the Normandie-Niemen unit, East Prussia, Germany, March 1945. This unit was composed of French volunteers and aggregated to the V-VS; all the aircraft of the Normandie-Niemen were camouflaged with colors dark earth and olive green, with the Soviet ensigns in the fuselage and the lower side of the wings; note the tricolor French flag in the cone of the propeller, as well as the absence of the white Cross of Lorraine in the vertical tail, distinctive that was usually present in the aircraft used by this unit.

Note of the author:
The history of the Yakovlev piston fighters is a messy one, where apparently misplaced numbers can lead to confusion. The high number of modifications and experimentations suffered by these aircraft seem to lead authors to casual mistakes, since different sources of information may show incoherent details. Contrasting the information is important and sometimes I state in a same article a certain information twice, not because of a lapsus, but because of my desire to keep the two versions that I have gathered.

The Yak-3 was the most advanced model and the one that entered later in combat, while the Yak-9 was the most numerous and hence the backbone of the family. The first Yak-9 was completed in December 1942, entering service in the front of Leningrad shortly after. The Yak-9D - Distants yonnyi or long range - with increased fuel capacity was introduced in the late 1943 and was delivered to the numerous Guards regiments in 1944. A fighters regiment equipped like that was used in the operations for the rescue of Sevastopol, which fell in Russian hands the 9th May 1944; among its squadron commanders was Lieutenant Colonel M.V. Avdyeyev, with 15 victories in his record. His Ostronosyi or sharp nose - nickname that was given to the Yak - reflected his dexterity as fighter pilot, being painted the little stars corresponding to each victory around the red star ensign on the vertical tail. The reproduction of the Order of the Red Flag in the nose, along with the normal ensign of the Guards regiment, indicate an individual reward to valor and command.

Yakovlev fighters 1940-46

Yakovlev Yak-9D, piloted during 1944 by Lieutenant Colonel M.V. Avdyeyev, condecorated with the Golden Star Medal as Hero of the Soviet Union.

Experiments with rocket and turbojet engines

During the Second World War the Soviet Union lacked an effective program for the achievement of practical results in the field of turbojet propulsion. Some exemplars of the Yakovlev fighters were used as cells for making experiments with these new types of engines. The Yak-7PVRD was an experimental version fitted with two pulse jet engines DM-4C under the wings; this kind of engines were not really adequate for an airplane due to the considerable levels of noise and vibrations that they produced. The Yak-3R was another experimental version fitted with the conventional piston engine and an auxiliary propulsor, the rocket engine RD-1KhZ fed with liquid fuel. The 11th May 1945, the aircraft reached a speed of 782 kilometers/hour at an altitude of 7800 meters. But in a test flight the 16th August, the aircraft crashed for unknown reasons, killing the test pilot V.L. Rastorguev. After more than one fatal incident of this kind, the Kremlin decided that these mixed powerplant aircraft and other rocket propelled types experimentated by them - such as the BI-1 in which Captain Grigori Bajchivandzhi had lost his life in the seventh flight test - were projects that should be abandoned in favor of turbojet engines. The problem was that the Soviet industry was then incapable of designing a proper turbojet engine.

After the end of the war, the Soviets gained access to large quantities of German turbojets, which they installed in their own modified aircraft. The Junkers Jumo 004 axial-flow turbojet engine used by the fighter Me 262 and the bomber Ar 234 was then in the pinnacle of turbojet technology, with few other engines of its kind that could be compared with. These were, however, in the hands of their new rivals, the Americans, who had developed the Westinghouse J30 axial-flow turbojet engine for their brand-new naval fighter FH-1 Phantom, and the British, who constantly perfectioned their Rolls-Royce Derwent centrifugal-flow turbojet engine to extract the most from the Gloster Meteor. The Russians would learn fast from the German turbojet and get ready to make their own copies and derivatives. The 24th April 1946 the Yakovlev Yak-15, propelled by one of such engines, flew for the first time. As the illustration shows, this aircraft was totally based on the Yak-3 and its fuselage had nothing specially innovative, which made this aircraft slower than desirable. It was the first operative turbojet fighter for the Soviet Union and albeit far from perfect, a successful one, whose subsequent variants remained long time in service in the URSS and some other countries of the communist block.

Delivery to the fighter squadrons of the Soviet Air Force started in the early 1947, preserving the series aircraft a landing gear in rear tricycle layout and being propelled by an engine RD-10, as it was called the copy of the Jumo 004B that had been installed in the prototype. In the time of its introduction, the Yak-15 was the lightest turbojet fighter in the world, with a lighter structure than the Yak-3, compensating so the relatively low power of the RD-10 engine. Albeit the Yak-15 was a provisional aircraft until the arrival of more perfectionated turbojet fighters, it was important because it gave to the Soviet Air Force an experience in turbojet engines that they sorely needed. Despite lacking the sofistication of contemporary western models, the Yak-15 was very maneuverable. In 1948 it started to be replaced by the Yak-17, an updated variant fitted with landing gear in forward tricycle layout and redesigned tail planes; the two-seat version Yak-17 UTI was the first reconversion of a two-seater turbojet aircraft for training purposes.

Yakovlev fighters 1940-46

Yakovlev Yak-15, propelled by the turbojet engine RD-10 with 896 kilograms of thrust. Wingspan: 9.20 meters; length: 9.75 meters; weight: 2627 kilograms; maximum speed: 762 kilometers/hour at 6000 meters of altitude; armament: two NS-23 23-millimeter cannons.

Specifications for Yak-1

Type: Fighter-bomber

Propulsion plant: One Klimov M-105PA 1100 HP

Maximum speed at sea level: 500 kilometers/hour

Maximum speed at 5000 meters of altitude: 580 kilometers/hour

Time to reach 5000 meters of altitude: 4 minutes 30 seconds

Maximum range: 850 kilometers

Service ceiling: 10000 meters

Weight (empty): 2330 kilograms

Weight (full load): 2820 kilograms

Wingspan: 10 meters

Length: 8.47 meters

Height: 2.64 meters

Wing area: 17.15 square meters

Armament: One ShVAK 20-millimeter cannon firing through the cone of the propeller and either two ShKAS 7.62-millimeter machine guns or one Beresin UBS 12.7-millimeter machine gun installed above the engine; provision for 200 kilograms of bombs or six RS-82 82-millimeter rockets under the wings

Specifications for Yak-7B

Type: Fighter-bomber

Propulsion plant: One Klimov VK-105PF 1210 HP

Maximum speed at sea level: 545 kilometers/hour

Maximum speed at 5000 meters of altitude: 615 kilometers/hour

Time to reach 5000 meters of altitude: 4 minutes 55 seconds

Maximum range: 825 kilometers

Service ceiling: 10200 meters

Weight (empty): 2480 kilograms

Weight (full load): 3010 kilograms

Wingspan: 10 meters

Length: 8.47 meters

Height: 2.64 meters

Wing area: 17.15 square meters

Armament: One ShVAK 20-millimeter cannon firing through the cone of the propeller and two Beresin UBS 12.7-millimeter machine guns installed above the engine; provision for 200 kilograms of bombs or six RS-82 82-millimeter rockets under the wings

Specifications for Yak-3

Type: Interceptor fighter

Propulsion plant: One Klimov VK-105PF-2 1300 HP

Maximum speed at sea level: 595 kilometers/hour

Maximum speed at 3300 meters of altitude: 655 kilometers/hour

Time to reach 5000 meters of altitude: 4 minutes 6 seconds

Maximum range: 900 kilometers

Service ceiling: 10800 meters

Weight (empty): 2105 kilograms

Weight (full load): 2660 kilograms

Wingspan: 9.20 meters

Length: 8.49 meters

Height: 2.42 meters

Wing area: 14.83 square meters

Armament: One ShVAK 20-millimeter cannon firing through the cone of the propeller and two Beresin UBS 12.7-millimeter machine guns installed above the engine

Specifications for Yak-9D

Type: Long-range fighter

Propulsion plant: One Klimov VK-105PF-3 1360 HP

Maximum speed at sea level: 535 kilometers/hour

Maximum speed at 2000 meters of altitude: 600 kilometers/hour

Time to reach 5000 meters of altitude: 5 minutes 42 seconds

Maximum range: 1410 kilometers

Service ceiling: 10600 meters

Weight (empty): 2770 kilograms

Weight (full load): 3100 kilograms

Wingspan: 9.74 meters

Length: 8.55 meters

Height: 3 meters

Wing area: 17.2 square meters

Armament: One ShVAK 20-millimeter cannon firing through the cone of the propeller and one Beresin UBS 12.7-millimeter machine gun installed above the engine

Article updated: 2014-11-15

Categories: Aircraft - World War Two - 20th Century - [General] - [General]


Website: Military History

Article submitted: 2014-11-09

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