When this Yak-9 kit (ICM 4812) was released by the Ukrainian company ICM about a few years ago it was considered quite good, although it's not totally without falts. Yak-9DD, T or K version can be built. First thing I had to do was to wash all plastic parts in Fairy-solution because they were covered by sticky mould silicone. The parts fit together quite well but also putty was needed, and in some places you had to use plenty of it. Fabric covered rear fuselage and the control units are nicely captured in plastic. For some reason the fabric covering is missing under the rear fuselage of the model. Someone might think that the fabric covering is too visible, but I think there's no need to sand it down, it's a matter of taste. A Klimov M-105 PF engine, which can be left visible without the engine coverings, is also included in the kit. But in my model the Klimov engine is under the fairings. The kit has a little roughly inscribed panel lines. Also the rivets are described too large, but in fact the real Yak-9 was also a roughly made workhorse of the war.
Compared to the line drawings on the Robert Bock's book Jak-7 and Jak-9, which was published in Poland in a series Monografie Lotnicze, the main dimensions and the shape of the model is OK. That means that the dimensions are within one millimeter except in one item. The ailerons are too broad, over two millimeters on upper side and over one millimeter on underside. I just noticed that when I had started to paint the model so I left the ailerons untouched. There are few small differences compared to the line drawings, for example the shape of the wing roots and the coolers which are too angular. Rudders are a little small, but I didn't do enything to them. Thickness of the wing is right from the wing root to the inner end of the ailerons, but tip of the wings are 1 mm too thick. Yak-9 wings thinned out stongly from wing roots towards the tips, which were extremely thin. According to the drawings the Yak-9 T didn't have blister for the machine gun, neither did the "lengthened" M, D, DD or K versions, a thing which the kit depicts right.
The wing profile needs also some repairing, leading edge is thinner and the thickest point of the wing profile is further back than that of the model. Though it's quite easy to sand the profile to proper shape. Also the coolers which are too angular, has to be sand little streamlined. I made the missing fabric covering under the rear fuselage by gluing thin plastic ribs in place of the longitude stiffeners, when the glue had dried I sanded down the gaps between the stiffeners and voilá. Under the fuselage, between the coolers, the panel lines are described wrong. The panel lines have to fill up and rescribe new ones in correct places. Two small blisters are missing from both sides of the engine fairing. A small air intake gap just behind the spinner is also missing from the left side. I scratch builded the blisters and drilled out a small hole in the nose. Pitot tube has to be placed four millimeters towards the wing root were it belongs. Aerial mast is two millimeters too short. I filed and sanded a new one from a thoothpick. The wooden mast is also stronger than the plastic one and lasts better draught of the aerial filament. Exhausts are too prominent and bends too much backwards, they also seems to be too thin. I made new exhausts according to the drawings from a round plastic rod.
The cocpit is quite spartan and needs some improvement. I added there three missing trim wheels, an oxygen bottle and a few levers to the side panels. The kits sight and its base bow are unusable so I made a new bow from a thin metal thread to where I fastened a new gunsight which I made. Instrument panel is carried out as a decal, which is almost imbossible to place without breaking it like I did. I finished the instrument panel by painting. For a change I decided to do something different and built up the model as airborne. That's why I had to cut off the spinner to be able to add and aim a transparent disc which represents a spinning propeller. The pilot which was missing from the kit was captured from Tamiya's Beaufighter. The chap had to be modified hard to fit in to the narrow cocpit of the Yak-9.
When the surface detailing was ready I sprayed a base coat of matt white to the model which makes visible all shortcomings of the surface. After finishing the surface I repainted the model with white and then come the pre-shading with black to all panel lines. The original plane had so called "lighter two greys scheme", where the darker grey was "Wood Aerolak" (FS 6176 - 6320) and the lighter grey was "Medium Grey" (FS 6493), the under surfaces were painted light blue "AII Blue" (FS 5466). I used Humbrols range to mix the shades. Wood Aerolak = 9 part Hu 128 + 1 part Hu 34, Medium Grey = 9 part Hu 34 + 2 part Hu 28 + 1 part Hu 156. AII Blue = Hu 65 tinted slightly to greenish and a little bit darker. Here you can find more information about the paints, colors and schemes of the Soviet planes during WW II. The much praised decal sheet of the kit had been cut and half of the plane options that were in the instruction sheet were missing !? So I ordered AML Decal's sheet N:o 48001 from Tmi. Kuivalainen, it included four plane options. The plane I chose was the Guard Captain Vyetrov Ivan Ivannovitch's Yak-9 T, he was commander of 1. AE, 66. GIAP, 4. GIAD in May 1944, when the unit was in Anichovo airfield near the Balt front. He flew 117 missions, participated in 32 air battles and achieved 12 kills.
The long story of the Yak-9 begun in 1939 when Stalin asked young Yakovlev to design a new high-performance fighter, which has to be ready within a few months. Yakovlev put his design bureau to work around the clock on the new fighter, which was designated I-26 (where "I" stood for "Istrebitel", or "fighter"). The I-26 would be powered by new Klimov M-105 engine, which was a Russian version of the French Hispano-Suiza HS-12Y engine. Yakovlev was given top priority for resources by Stalin's orders to get the new plane in serial production as soon as possible. Russia was clearly headed for war with Germany and experiences from the Spanish Civil War clearly showed, that the Red Air Force (VVS) didn't have a fighter capable of taking on the new Messerschmitt Bf 109.
Serial production started before the design was completely ready and many improvements and modifications were under construction on the drawing boards. The test pilots found the I-26 to have exellent handling characteristics and being extremely agile, but it was seriously underpowered. The first pre-production I-26 fighters, which had a fixed armanent of one ShVAK 20 mm cannon and two ShKAS 7.62 machine guns, were passed on to a field evaluation unit. The feedback from the evaluation unit was very negative. The aircraft was underpowered, underarmed and dangerously unreliable. The confidence to the plane was very poor, but the Soviet Union had to have new fighters immediately, so the new aircraft went into production anyway. Yakovlev and his team worked hard on fixing the problems. By the end of 1940 the type was redesignated Yak-1 under Stalin's orders. By the time of the German invasion on 22 June 1941, almost 400 Yak-1s had been delivered. Despite the deficiencies of the Yak-1, it was still beter than the old Polikarpov fighters, but it remained inferior to the Bf-109.
Development of the Yak-1 didn't stop, on June 1941 an improved lightweight Yak-1 took to the air. It had an improved Klimov M-105PF engine, which offered 1210 hp at take-off and was substantially lighter. This increased performance considerably, offering a maximum speed of about 585 km/h. The two 7.62 mm machine guns were replaced by a single 12.7 mm Berezin gun. The new Yak-1 had exellent maneuverability which was superior to that off the Messerschmitts or Focke-Fulfs. It was also durable and could operate under austere field conditions. By early 1942, the Yak-1 was the best-liked of all the new Soviet fighters.
By the fall of 1942 the new Yak-1M (with "M" for "Modifikatsirovanny", or "Modified") entered in service. It incorporated many improvements, the most significant was a three-piece all-round vision canopy. Other main improvements were multi-channel radio which were provided more or less as standard and a clear armour plate some 75 millimeters thick behind the pilot's head and shoulders. The aircraft could also be fitted with with a camera for battlefield reconnaissance and the tailwheel was made retractable. Production of the Yak-1 series was phased out in the fall of 1943. By that time, some 8721 planes had been built. The Yak-1M remained in front-line service until the end of the war. One of the well known Yak-1 pilot was a Russian woman Lilya Litvak, she was flight commander of an otherwise male air regiment. She scored 12 kills before her death on 1 September 1943, at the age of 21.
The Yak-1 was taken out of production to make way for a improved variant, the Yak-3. Confusingly, however, there were two essentially different aircraft with the designation Yak-3. The original Yak-3 (I-30) which was powered by Klimov M-105P engine generally resembled the Yak-1, but it was of all-metal construction. Armament was increased, in addition to one 20 mm ShVAK cannon firing through the prop spinner and twin 7.62 mm ShKAS mg in the nose the Yak-3 had one ShVAK cannon in each wing. The increase in weight over the Yak-1 due to all-metal construction and the heavy armament, while still using the same engine, meant that the performance of the new fighter was unacceptable and the first Yak-3 was abandoned in the late fall of 1941. The Soviets recycled the name and the second Yak-3 was not really a new aircraft but a continued evolution of the Yak-1. The powerplant was intended to be the new Klimov M-107 engine, offering 1500 hp, but due to its devepment problems the Klimov M-105PF was retained.
The most significant changes were a shorter wing span, a new canopy with better all-round visibility, and a modified oil cooler scheme. Early production Yak-3's had the same armament as the Yak-1M, but most production would have two 12.7 mm guns in the nose with a single 20 mm ShVAK cannon firing through the propeller hub. Flight tests began in early 1943 and the performance of the Yak-3 proved even more impressive than had been anticipated. The new fighter was capable of 680 km/h at 3700 meters altitude and it had marvelous maneuverability at low altitude. The Yak-3 went to operational service in June 1943 and confronted first time the Luftwaffe fighters during Operation Citadel, the tremendous battle for the Kursk salient. VVS pilots were extremely enthusiastic about the type, for the first time they had better fighter than the opponent could put against them. However, various teething problems, particularly weak landing gear, kept the Yak-3 out of full production for another year.
A small nymber of Yak-3Us were built, delivering began in the late fall of 1944. Originally the Yak-3U was designed to be all metal construction, but the great majority that rolled out from production lines were mixed construction. It was powered by Klimov M-107 offering 1650 hp. The Yak-3U had an airframe similar to that of the current Yak-3 with minor modifications needed for the uprated Klimov engine. Yak-3 was one of the smallest and lightest major combat fighters fielded by any combatant during the war. It's high power-to-weight ratio gave it excellent performance. Luftwaffe gave a warning to it's fighter units in Eastern Front "not to attack against the new Yak-fighters that lacks the cooler under it's nose! " The last Yak-3s were built in 1946. 4848 were built in all.
The Yak-1 and Yak-3 variants represented one branch of the evolution of the Yakovlev piston fighters, known as the "lightweight" fighters. Another branch of "heavy" fighters evolved in parallel, beginning with the Yak-7. The Yak-7 was actually designed as advanced trainer to familiarize pilots with a fast and "hot" aircraft before they went on to fly the single-seaters. It was also intended for liason and fast transport duties. The trainer was a modification of a pre-series I-26 with a second cocpit and dual controls added. Other main changes were wider wing, a taller vertical stabilizer and fixed undercarriage, armament was redused to a single 20-millimeter canon firing through the propeller spinner. The prototype of the UTI-26 first flew on 4 July 1940 and it actually demonstrated better handling characteristics than the I-26. The two-seat UTI-26 was different enough from the I-26 to make production of the two types on the same production line impractical. For this reason, and then the pressure of the German invasion, the Yakovlev bureau proposed that the trainer version be modified into a single-seat fighter with the same general configuration. This would allow trainers and fighters to be built on the same production line.
In the single-seat fighter configuration, the aircraft was fitted with retractable landing gear, and the instructor's seat in the back was removed and replaced with a 100 liter removeable fuel tank, giving the fighter an extended range of 820 kilometers. With the fuel tank taken out, the fighter could be used for courier or transport duties. The fighter was designated Yak-7A. It was fitted with two Berezin UB 12,7 millimeter machine guns and one 20 millimeter ShVAK cannon. It could also carry six RS-82 rockets or two 100 kilogram FAB bombs. The first Yak-7A fighters reached the front-line units in late 1941. Pilots appreciated the heavier armament and found the aircraft to have good handling characteristics. Many of the initial production patch were still two-seat trainers build under the designation Yak-7V ("Vyvozoni", or "familiarization"). The fixed undercarriage of the two-seaters could be fitted with skis for winter operations. However, by early 1942 production Yak-7Vs were being delivered with retractable landing gear. Some were used for combat reconnaissance by the simple measure of giving the back-seater a camera and telling him to take pictures. Later on, the trainer configuration would be modified as specific high-speed courier by removal of the rear seat of controls, and would be designed Yak-7K ("Kuryerski" or "courier").
Nonetheless, the bulk of Yak-7 production was of single-seat fighters, particularly of the Yak-7B that began rolling out of the factories in early 1942. The main differences of the Yak-7B were shorter wings, carriage of an RSI-4 radio, and a number of aerodynamic modifications. By the summer of 1942, the Yak-7B was also being produced with the improved M-105PF engine. The increased availability of aviation metals presently allowed the Yak engineers to replace the wooden wing spars of the Yak-7B with metal H-section spars, allowing a modest increase in fuel tank capacity. The result was the Yak-7D ("Dal'ny", or "endurance"), and it began trials in July 1942. The Yakovlev group then addressed concerns raised by front-line pilots, who didn't like the poor rear vision and the non-jettisonable canopy. The result was the Yak-7DI (for "Dal'ny Istrebitel", or "long-range fighter"), with a new three-piece canopy. Relatively few of the Yak-7Ds and Yak-7DIs were built, however, as production was to quickly move on to the next series of Yak fighters. A total of 6399 Yak-7s of all types were built before production ended in early 1943, with more than 5000 of this total being Yak-7Bs.
The lessons learned in the Yak-1, Yak-3, and Yak-7 were finally put to use in the most potent, and most heavily produced, of the Yak prop fighter family, the Yak-9. The Yak-9 was conceived as a natural progression from the late model Yak-7 fighters, with initial production in the fall of 1942 incorporating a number of changes, while remaining largely similar to its predecessor. As with other Yak fighters however, changes continued from that point. While early Yak-9 production featured the same wing as the Yak-7B, increased shipments of aviation-grade steel from the United States meant that the Yakovlev OKB could consider the use of more metal in the construction of their fighters, and Yak engineers accordingly designed an all-metal wing for the aircraft. The metal wing had a slightly shorter span than that of the Yak-7B, and allowed accommodation of additional fuel tanks, increasing total fuel capacity to 477 liters, giving the aircraft a good range of 950 kilometers. Other incremental changes included a larger vertical tail surface and a retractable tailwheel with twin doors. The 8 millimeter armour plate behind the seat was replaced by a 75 millimeter flat glass shield to provide better visibility. The changes resulted in an aircraft substantially lighter than the Yak-7. The new Yak-9 variant reached full production in late 1942 and early 1943. Early production Yak-9s had reduced armament, one 20 millimeter ShVAK cannon and a single 12,7 millimeter Berezin machine gun. Combat pilots complained bitterly about the skimpy armament, and the second 12,7 millimeter machine gun was restored. The fully armed aircraft was designated the Yak-9M. The Red Air Force (VVS) needed a fighter with longer range and which could operate far behind the enemy lines. The Yak-9D was developed based on the Yak-7DIs four-tank wing. The fuel capacity was increased to 650 litres, the range increased to 1400 kilometers. The plane has also increased oil capacity. Serial production started in March 1943.
The armament of one 20 millimeter cannon and one 12,7 millimeter machine gun was insufficient under the standards of 1943, especially when fighting bombers getting more and more armor and defensive arms. The works on installation of Nudelman-Suranov NS-37 37 millimeter cannon on Yak-9 frame begun in January 1943. Increased weight of the armament and strong recoil have required serious alterations in the fuselage design. The cabin was moved back 400 millimeters, but 160 millimeters of the muzzle protruded from the spinner. Ammo capacity comprised 30 - 32 rounds and the projectile could penetrate 48 millimeters of armour. The machine gun was mainly used to aiming the canon. The plane was designated as Yak-9T "Tyazhelowooruzheny" (Heavily Armed) and it went into combat in early summer of 1943. The handling and flight characteristics of the new aircraft little changed in comparison to lightly armed Yaks, with only vertical maneuverability decreased. As against other Yak-9 versions, Yak-9T had only two fuel tanks for 440 litres.
While some sources claim that the Yak-9T was designed as a close-support aircraft, it seems more plausible that the fit of the NS-37 cannon was mainly to correct the inadequate firepower that had dogged the Yak-series fighters, and the Yak-9T was primarily used for air combat. Only one shell from its 37 millimeters cannon could destroy an enemy fighter. The light Yak frame appeared insufficiently steady for such powerful gun. After 2-3 shots it dropped the aiming line and lowered a nose, therefore only a good air gunner could successfully use the type. Yak-9T remained in production till the end of the war. At the end of 1943 the attempt was undertaken to equip Yak-9 with even more powerful weapon, 45 millimeters NS-P-45 cannon with 15 rounds of ammunition. New type was developed on a Yak-9T basis, and has received a designation of Yak-9K. 53 machines were manufactured which were tested in field for two months in the autumn 1944 and winter 1945. 51 air combats resulted in 12 enemy fighters downed at loss of one Yak-9K. But unreliable cannon prevented its mass production.
The large variety of models required some unification to be undertaken, which resulted in appearance in May 1944 of Yak-9M model, which allowed manufacturing Yak-9T and Yak-9D around the same fuselage. It differed from standard Yak-9D by the cabin moved 400 mm aft, like on Yak-9T. Besides, the work on elimination of constructive and manufacture defects of the previous models noticed in service was carried out on Yak-9M. The standard armament consisted now two 12,7 mm machine guns and one 20 mm cannon. When even longer range fighter than Yak-9D was needed Yakovlev OKB designed the Yak-9DD (DD or "Daldego Deysvija", "Long Range"). Two more fuselage tanks was fitted resulting in a fuel capacity of 880 litres and a range of 2200 kilometers. Yak-9DD had 110 kilometres longer range than the famous long range fighter P-51D Mustang with its external drop tanks ! Very interesting was also Yak-9B fighter-bomber, it could take four 100 kg bombs immediately behind the pilots seat in four pipe-type bomb bays. Yak-9R was a reconnaissance version and Yak-9PD was a high-altitude interceptor.
In 1944 Yakovlev's design bureau developed a new modification of Yak-9, the Yak9U (U or "Uluchshenny", "Improved"). It was a new aircraft, very close in arrangements to Yak-3. The initial production of the Yak-9U used the M-105PF engine until the bugs were worked out of the 1650 horsepower M-107 engine. The Yak-9U featured a number of aerodynamic improvements, such as moving the oil cooler from the nose to the left wing and placing the cocpit even farther back. A new propeller was also fitted. Armament was a 20 millimeter or 23 millimeter cannon firing through the prop spinner, and two 12,7 millimeter machine guns. The Yak-9U was a highly effective and extremely maneuverable fighter, with a speed of 713 km/h at an altitude of 5600 meters. Increased availability of aviation-grade metals late in the war allowed the Yak-9U to receive an all-metal wing and metal skinning overall. This variant was known as the Yak-9UT, though it saw little combat as Nazi Germany was collapsing by the time it reached front-line service in early 1945.
The last version of the Yak piston fighters was the Yak-9P, which was introduced into service in 1946. The Yak-9P featured improved instrumentation, such as radio compass, and could carry two 100 kilogram bombs, one under each wing. It had improved armament with one or two fuselage mounted 20 millimeter cannon synchronized to fire through the propeller arc, in addition to the usual cannon mounted in the propeller boss. It saw first action in North Korean hands in 1950. During the early parts of the Korean war, North Korean Yak-9Ps came head-to-head with American F-51D Mustangs and F-82G Twin Mustangs. The Yak-9P seems to have come off the worse in these encounters, though apparently because of the limited North Korean pilot training rather than any great inferiority of the aircraft. The US captured and evaluated a Yak-9P, and pilot reports found it was an extremely capable aircraft, though its manufacturing and finish quality were crude by Western standards. The Yak-9P was supplied to many Soviet satellite air forces in the early postwar period. A total of 16769 Yak-9 fighters were built in all by the time production ceased in 1947. The total number of all Yak fighter variants was 36737.
The Finnish front
At the Finnish front the new Yak fighters showed themselfs for the first time at the end of 1942. Ilmari Juutilainen claimed a victory over a Spitfire that he had downed 22. of March 1942 (SIHL 1/1997). It was commonly known that the Soviet Union used Lend Lease fighters such as the Spitfire. But after the war when the Soviet archives had opened the downed plane was identified as Yak-7, which was totally unknown type for the Finns at the time. Finnish pilots claimed victories over Yak-1s and Yak-7s seldomly during 1943, but in 1944 Yak-9 was the most common version of the Yak fighters in use in the Finnish front. The Finns considered Yak fighters quite fast and modern planes. Finnish Me-109G pilots used often the better climbing of the Me 109G against the Yak fighters used in the Finnish front. During continuous spiral climbing the Yak fighters lost their speed and they had to push their nose down, then the Me-109G pilots dived after them and shot them down. When Me-109G pilots were surprisingly attacked behind by Yak fighters the best way to break out of the situation was diving, because Yaks couldn't stand the maximum diving speed of the Me-109G. Most of the production planes of the Yak-1's, Yak-3's, Yak-7's and Yak-9's were mixed construction and they couldn't stand the diving speed of the Me-109G.
Technical data of Yak-9T
Klimov M-105PF 1180 hp
Lenght 8,66 m; span 9,74 m; wing area 17,15 m2
Empty 2298 kg; max. take off 3025 kg; wing loading 176 kg/m2
533 km/h low; 597 km/h at 3930 m; ceiling 10000 m; turning speed 360 deg/19 sec
1x37mm Nudelman-Suranov; 1x12,7 mm
16769 (all Yak-9 models)