Yakovlev Yak-1: Wikis


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Early-model Yak-1 of Soviet Air Force
Role Fighter
Manufacturer Yakovlev OKB
Designed by Alexander Sergeevich Yakovlev
First flight 13 January 1940
Introduced 1940
Retired 1950
Primary user Soviet Air Force
Produced 1940-1944
Number built 8,700
Variants Yak-3

The Yakovlev Yak-1 was a World War II Soviet fighter aircraft. Produced from early 1940, it was the founder of a family of aircraft, with some 30,000 being built. As a reward, the designer was awarded the Order of Lenin (Russian: Орден Ленина, Orden Lenina) - the highest decoration bestowed by the Soviet Union - a 100,000 rouble prize, plus a car. [1]


Design and development

Prior to World War II Yakovlev best known for building light sports aircraft, his Yak-4 light bomber impressed the Soviet government enough to order the OKB to design a new fighter with a Klimov M-106 V-12 liquid-cooled engine. Formal specifications released on 29 July 1939, called for two prototypes - I-26-1 with a top speed of 620 km/h (385 mph) at 6,000 m (16,685 ft), combat range of 600 km (375 mi), a climb to 10,000 m (32,808 ft) of under 11 minutes, and armament of 2 × 7.62 mm ShKAS machine guns and 1 × 12.7 mm (0.5 in) Berezin BS heavy machine gun, and I-26-2 with a turbocharged M-106 engine with a top speed of 650 km/h (404 mph) at 10,000 m (32,808 ft) and armament of 2 × 7.62 mm (.3 in) ShKAS machine guns. The design took full advantage of Yakovlev OKB's experience with sports aircraft and promised agility as well as high top speed. Since the M-106 was delayed, the design was changed to incorporate the Klimov M-105P V-12 engine, with a 20 mm (.8 in) ShVAK cannon in the "vee" of the engine block.

I-26-I first flew on 13 January 1940. The prototype suffered from oil overheating problems which were never completely resolved resulting in 15 emergency landings during early testing. Then, on 27 April 1940, I-26-1 crashed, killing its test pilot Yu.I. Piontkovskiy. The investigation of the crash found that the pilot performed two consecutive barrel rolls at low altitude which was in violation of test flight plan. It was believed that during the first roll, the main landing gear became unlocked, causing it to crash through the wing during the second roll. It has been hypothesized that Piontkovskiy's deviation from the flight plan was caused by frustration that his aircraft was being used for engine testing while I-26-2, built with the lessons of I-26-1 in mind, was already performing aerobatics.

Technical issues with subassemblies provided by different suppliers raised the I-26-2's weight 400 kg (882 lb) above projected figures, which restricted the airframe to only 4.4 G while overheating oil was still a problem. The many defects caused I-26-2 to fail government testing in 1940. Fortunately for Yakovlev, its competitors I-200 (future Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-3) and I-301 (future LaGG-3) also failed testing. Requested improvements were incorporated into I-26-3 which was delivered for testing on 13 October 1940. Although it passed on 9 December 1940, the aircraft was still very much unfinished with unresolved engine problems.

Troublesome and slow testing and development must have been quite worrisome for Soviet officials considering the fact that the I-26 was ordered into production under the name Yak-1 on 19 February 1940, a mere month after I-26-1 made its maiden flight. The goal of this gamble was to reduce lag time between prototype and production aircraft. As a backup, the I-200 and I-301 were also ordered into production. Although the Yak-1 was slower than the I-200 and less heavily armed than the I-301, it enjoyed the advantage of having been started earlier which gave it a consistent lead in testing and development over its competitors. Beginning of the Great Patriotic War on 22 June 1941 made development and implementation of several other upcoming promising designs like Polikarpov I-185 unfeasible. The fact that Yakovlev might have been Stalin's personal favorite may have also played in the Yak-1's favor.

Simultaneous manufacturing and testing of a design that required as many improvements as I-26 wreaked havoc on the production lines. Almost 8,000 changes were made to the aircraft's blueprints by 1941 with an additional 7,000 implemented the following year with 5,000 more changes coming in 1942. Production was further slowed by shortages of engines, propellers, radiators, wheels and cannons. Shortages of quality materials resulted in plywood being torn off the wings on several aircraft. To make matters worse, Factory No.292 which was the main manufacturer of Yak-1s was bombed on 23 June 1943 and burned to the ground. Amazingly, production resumed among the ruins on 29 June. Due to loose tolerances, each aircraft was essentially unique with workers performing the final assembly having the unenviable task of mating what often proved to be somewhat dissimilar components. For example, left and right main landing gear could be of different lengths and different angles relative to the aircraft which required adjusting their attachments to ensure an even stance for the completed aircraft. Parts were often non-interchangeable between aircraft. Production of Yak-1 ended in July 1944 with somewhere around 8,700 built.

Operational history

At the onset of Great Patriotic War on 22 June 1941, 425 Yak-1 were built, although many of these were en route or still disassembled. Yak-1 was designed with the goal of providing direct coverage of the Il-2 attack planes from enemy fighters. Thus, most of the air combat took place below 4,000 m (13,123 ft), at low altitudes where Yak-1 performed the best. The Yak-1 proved to have a significant advantage over its Soviet competitors. A full circle turn took just 17 seconds in the Yak-1M. The MiG-3, which had the best high-altitude performance, did poorly at low and medium altitudes and its light armament made it unsuitable even for ground attack. The LaGG-3 experienced a significant degradation in performance (as much as 100 km/h/62 mph on some aircraft) compared to its prototypes due to the manufacturer's inexperience with its special wooden construction which suffered from warping and rotting when exposed to the elements. The Yak-1's plywood covering also suffered from the weather but the steel frame kept the aircraft largely intact.

The aircraft's major problem early in deployment was fuel leaks caused by failure of spot-welded fuel tanks from vibration. Also troublesome was the fact that the canopy could not be opened under certain conditions in earlier models, potentially trapping the pilot in a falling aircraft. As the result, some pilots had the sliding portion of the canopy removed altogether. The first 1,000 Yak-1 had no radios at all. Installation of radio equipment became common by spring 1942 and obligatory by August 1942 .[2] But Soviet radios were notoriously unreliable and short-ranged so they were frequently removed to save weight.

Like most early carburetor-equipped engines, the M-105 could not tolerate negative G forces which starved it of fuel. The Yak-1 was inferior to the Messerschmitt Bf 109 - its main opponent - in rate of climb at all altitudes. And although it could complete a circle at the same speed as a Bf 109, its lack of automation made dogfights a complicated task, demanding high levels of concentration. In comparison, a Bf 109, with its automatic flaps, had a lower stall speed and was more stable in sharp turns and vertical aerobatic figures. [2] Nonetheless, the Yak-1 was well-liked by its pilots. For Soviet pilot Nikolai G. Golodnikov, overall, in its tactical and technical characteristic, the Yak-1B was equal to the Messerschmitt Bf 109G. [3] French Normandie-Niemen squadron selected the primitive model Yak-1M (that had a cut-down fuselage to allow all-round vision) when it was formed, in March 1943. [4]Twenty-four of these aircraft were sent to the elite all-female 586 IAP whose pilots included the world's only female aces: Katya Budanova, with 11, and Lydia Litvyak (11 plus three shared). Litvyak, the most famous fighter pilot woman of all times, flew Yak-1 “Yellow 44”, with aerial mast, at first in 296.IAP and then with 73.Gv.IAP, until her death in combat, on 1 August 1943. [5]Yak-1s were also the first aircraft of the 1st Polish Fighter Regiment "Warsaw" (Polish: 1 Pułk Lotnictwa Myśliwskiego "Warszawa"). The importance of this type in World War II is usually underestimated; the Yak-1's successors: the Yak-7, Yak-9 and Yak-3 were essentially the same aircraft design with modifications, it was simply the Soviet naming conventions which saw them labelled as different types; but judged by the same standards by which one names all Spitfires, Bf 109s or Fw 190s, they were the same type. Were this naming convention used, the Yak piston engined fighter would rank as the most produced fighter aircraft type in history, at over 36,000 in total exceeding by a few hundred its partner on the Eastern Front the IL-2 Shturmovik.


  • I-26 (a.k.a. Ya-26[6]) - The first prototype of the Yak-1 and progenitor of all Yakiovlevs piston-engined fighters of WWII. Of mixed steel tube and wood construction the lightweight I-26 displayed promising performance and was productionised as the Yak-1.
  • UTI-26 - The third and fourth I-26's were completed as dual control trainers, produced as a fighter as the Yak-7.
  • I-28 ([7]) - High-altitude interceptor prototype with Klimov M-105PD engine developed from I-26-2. Differed from I-26 in having an all-metal fuselage and tail and automatic, leading-edge slats on slightly smaller and reshaped wings. One aircraft was built, first flying on 1 December 1940. It did not enter production due to many deficiencies of the engine but served as the basis for high-altitude versions of Yak-7 and Yak-9.
  • I-30 (Yak-3) - Development of I-26 with an all-metal wing with leading-edge slats, weight and space savings were utilized for additional armament and greater fuel capacity. Two prototypes built - I-30-1 armed with 3 × 20 mm (0.8 in) ShVAK cannons and 2 × 7.62 mm (0.3 in) ShKAS machine guns, and I-30-2 with two additional ShKAS. It did not enter production. The name Yak-3 was re-used for a different fighter. See Yakovlev Yak-3.
  • Yak-1 - Single-seat fighter aircraft. Intitial production version.
  • Yak-1b - ("b" was an unofficial designation; after October 1942, all Yak-1s were built to this standard). New bubble canopy with lowered rear fuselage, increased armor, ShKAS machine guns replaced with a single 12.7 mm (0.5 in) Berezin UBS, electrical and pneumatic firing of the weapons instead of the mechanical system, new control stick based on the Messerschmitt Bf 109 design, new gunsight, airtight fuselage, retractable tailwheel, improved engine cooling, Klimov M-105PF engine with better low-altitude performance. The first flight (aircraft No.3560) took place in June 1942, with aircraft entering production in August. A total of 4,188 were built.
  • Yak-1M - Yak-3 prototype with a smaller wing, revised cooling intakes, reduced overall weight and upgraded engine. Two were built.
  • Yak-7UTI - Initial production version of the UTI-26.
  • Yak-7 - Conversions of Yak-7UTI and new production of fighter version of Yak-7UTI.
  • Several other Yak-1 variants did not receive special designations. These include prototypes with Klimov VK-106 and Klimov VK-107 engines, production aircraft capable of carrying external fuel tanks, production aircraft with the ability to carry 6 × RS-82 rockets or 2 × 100 kg (220 lb) bombs, and lightened versions for air defense.


 Soviet Union
  • SFR Yugoslav Air Force
    • 111th Fighter Aviation Regiment (1944-1948)
    • 113th Fighter Aviation Regiment (1944-1948)
    • 112nd Fighter Aviation Regiment (1944-1945)
    • 2nd Training Aviation Regiment (1946-1948)
    • 101st Training-Fighter Aviation Regiment (1948-1950)
    • 104th Training Aviation Regiment (1948-1950)

Specifications (Yak-1b)

General characteristics

  • Crew: One
  • Length: 8.5 m (27 ft 11 in)
  • Wingspan: 10.0 m (32 ft 10 in)
  • Height: m (ft)
  • Wing area: 17.2 m² (185.1 ft²)
  • Empty weight: 2,394 kg (5,267 lb)
  • Loaded weight: 2,883 kg (6,343 lb)
  • Max takeoff weight: kg (lb)
  • Powerplant:Klimov M-105PF V-12 liquid-cooled engine, 880 kW (1,180 hp)



  • 1 × 20 mm (0.8 in) ShVAK cannon, 1 × 12.7 mm (0.5 in) Berezin UBS machine gun. One-second salvo weight of fire 2 kg (4.4 lb) with both the cannon and the machine gun using high-explosive ammunition.

See also

Related development

Comparable aircraft


  1. ^ Matricardi 2006, p. 77.
  2. ^ a b Drabkin 2007, p. 146.
  3. ^ Drabkin 2007, p. 135.
  4. ^ Gunston 1980, p. 203.
  5. ^ Morgan 1999, p. 31.
  6. ^ Gunston 1995, p. 461.
  7. ^ Gunston 1995, p. 462.
  • Donald, David and Jon Lake, eds. Encyclopedia of World Military Aircraft. London: AIRtime Publishing, 1996. ISBN 1-880588-24-2.
  • Drabkin, Artem. The Red Air Force at War: Barbarossa and The Retreat to Moscow – Recollections of Fighter Pilots on the Eastern Front. Barnsley, South Yorkshire, UK: Pen & Sword Military, 2007. ISBN 1-84415-563-3.
  • Gordon, Yefim and Dmitri Khazanov. Soviet Combat Aircraft of the Second World War, Volume One: Single-Engined Fighters. Earl Shilton, Leicester, UK: Midland Publishing Ltd., 1998. ISBN 1-85780-083-4.
  • Green, William. Warplanes of the Second World War, Volume Three: Fighters. London: Macdonald & Co. (Publishers) Ltd., 1961 (seventh impression 1973). ISBN 0-356-01447-9.
  • Green, William and Gordon Swanborough. WW2 Aircraft Fact Files: Soviet Air Force Fighters, Part 2. London: Macdonald and Jane's Publishers Ltd., 1978. ISBN 0-354-01088-3.
  • Gunston, Bill. Aircraft of World War 2. London: Octopus Books Limited, 1980. ISBN 0-7064-1287-7.
  • Gunston, Bill. Encyclopedia of Russian Aircraft 1875-1995. London: Osprey, 1995. ISBN 1-85532-405-9.
  • Kopenhagen, W., ed. Das große Flugzeug-Typenbuch (in German). Stuggart, Germany: Transpress, 1987. ISBN 3-344-00162-0.
  • Liss, Witold. The Yak 9 Series (Aircraft in Profile number 185). Leatherhead, Surrey, UK: Profile Publications Ltd., 1967.
  • Matricardi, Paolo. Aerei Militari: caccia e ricognitori. (in Italian) Milano, Mondadori Electa S.p.A., 2006. NO ISBN
  • Mellinger, George. Yakovlev Aces of World War 2. Botley, UK: Osprey Publishing Ltd., 2005. ISBN 1-84176-845-6.
  • Morgan, Hugh. Gli assi Sovietici della Seconda guerra mondiale. Edizioni del Prado/Osprey Aviation, 1999. ISBN 84-8372-203-8.
  • Morgan, Hugh. Soviet Aces of World War 2. London: Reed International Books Ltd., 1997. ISBN 1-85532-632-9.
  • Шавров В.Б. История конструкций самолетов в СССР 1938-1950 гг. (3 изд.). Kniga: Машиностроение, 1994 (Shavrov, V.B. Istoriia konstruktskii samoletov v SSSR, 1938-1950 gg.,3rd ed. (History of Aircraft Design in USSR: 1938-1950). Kniga, Russia: Mashinostroenie, 1994. ISBN 5-217-00477-0.
  • Stapfer, Hans-Heiri. Yak Fighters in Action (Aircraft number 78). Carrollton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publications, Inc., 1986. ISBN 0-89747-187-3.
  • Степанец А.Т. Истребители ЯК периода Великой Отечественной войны. Kniga: Машиностроение, 1992. (Stepanets, A.T. Istrebiteli Yak perioda Velikoi Otechestvennoi voiny (Yak Fighters of the Great Patriotic War). Kniga, Russia: Mashinostroenie, 1992. ISBN 5-217-01192-0.

External links

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