Aleksandr Yakovlev's first fighter, the Yak-1 (originally the I-26), was developed in 1939. The low wing monoplane was constructed with wooden wings and a metal fuselage over the centre section with fabric at the rear but incorporated a number of modern features (retractable undercarriage, variable pitch propellor). It performed well, going into production in 1940. A two seat trainer variant of the Yak-1, the Yak-7 also appeared that year. These two aircraft provided the basis for the subsequent Yak-3 and Yak-9 families of fighters.
In 1941 with fighter aircraft in short supply, a stop-gap single seat fighter version of the Yak-7 was produced by fairing over the extra cockpit. In 1942, the Yak-7DI was also introduced, which incorporated a metal wing made possible by the increasing availability. This lead to the Yak-9 line of heavier front-line and long-range fighters. 6,399 Yak-7 and 16,769 Yak-9 aircraft were produced.
In 1942 Yakovlev also produced the Yak-1M which featured a smaller wing and a bubble canopy with lowered rear fuselage. This was part of a move to faster more manouverable interceptors - primarily achieved by producing a lighter aircraft. The aircraft was very successful, with 8,721 being produced. The Yak-3 was developed from the Yak-1M during 1943. The design cleaned up the lines of the Yak-1M and utilised more metal in a cleaner internal construction producing a lighter cleaner aircraft. The Yak-3 entered service in late 1943, but really came into its own the following year. Like many of the early Yak fighters, the aircraft was noted for its simplicity and robustness. Pilots favoured the Yak-3 for its acceleration, ability to climb and turn, and excellent all round visibility. The aircraft was chosen by the Normandy-Nieman regiment of the Free French who flew with the Russians. 4848 Yak-3 (of all models) were eventually produced for service with the Russian forces.
The Yak-1 to Yak-9 family continued in service until the early 1950's. New Zealand's sole example of a Yak-3M (c/n 047102) is not one of these Soviet Air Force aircraft. It is a 'new build' model produced by Yakovlev in 1992. After discussions with American interests the Yakovlev Bureau reopened the production facilty as a hard currency earner, using the original drawings and jigs. The only difference between the new production and the original production models are the substitution of the Allison V-1710 engine for the original Klimov M-107A and the inclusion of modern avionics. Aircraft are available in razorback and bubble canopy configurations.
The Alpine Fighter Collection's aircraft was shipped to the USA where it was registered as NX915LP. Certification and testing was carried out in California. Once certified, the aircraft was brought to New Zealand where it is registered ZK-YAK. Reassembled, the aircraft was first flown on January 7th 1995 by Grant Bisset. The pictures below show the aircraft at the 1998 Warbirds over Wanaka airshow, which had a Russian theme.
The aircraft was sold in 1999, being shipped to its new owner in Brisbane, Australia where it arrived on August 16.
Last Update:- 28 March, 2000
© 2000 Phillip Treweek, all rights reserved