Yak-1. One of the most massive fighters of World War II

The Yak-1 is a Soviet piston fighter during the Second World War. He became the first combat vehicle developed at the Yakovlev Design Bureau and laid the foundation for a series of aircraft that became the basis of Soviet fighter aircraft during the Great Patriotic War.

The Yak-1 fighter was put into service in 1940, its production continued until 1944. During this period, more than 8.7 thousand aircraft were built and several modifications of this combat vehicle were developed.

The haste with which the serial production of the aircraft began, led to many shortcomings in the design of the Yak-1. However, despite this, the pilots loved this car. The Yak-1 aircraft began to beat the enemy from the first days of the war. This fighter was easy to fly and quite unpretentious in maintenance, and its high flight performance allowed it to withstand the German Bf.109 and Fw.190.

Such famous Soviet aces as Pokryshkin, Koldunov, Alelyukhin, Akhmet-Khan Sultan fought on the Yak-1. It was on this plane that the pilots from the famous Normandy-Niemen regiment joined the battle.

The only female fighter aviation regiment (586th IAP) fought on Yak-1, which can be called a confirmation of the lightness of this machine for the pilot.

History of creation

At the end of the 30s, it became clear that the fighter fleet of Soviet aviation was outdated and urgently needed to be updated. The country’s air forces needed a new high-speed fighter that could compete on equal terms with foreign counterparts. Polikarpovskiy I-16 was a real “star” of the mid-30s, and the USSR was the first country in the world to adopt a high-speed monoplane fighter.

“Ishachok” (so affectionately called the I-16 pilots) for a long time had no equal in the sky of Spain until in 1937 the newest German fighter Bf.109 was sent there. It cannot be said that the Me-109 of the first series was an ideal machine, but it was a new aircraft and had a significant modernization resource, in which the I-16 was almost completely exhausted. In the 30s, aviation developed rapidly, an aircraft released five years ago was considered obsolete. Despite the relatively small difference in the release date, the German Bf.109 could be safely called the next-generation fighter.

Several design teams took up work on the creation of a new fighter: under the leadership of Lavochkin, Yakovlev, and Polikarpov. True, the design bureau was taken away from the latter in 1940 along with an almost ready aircraft, which later became the MiG-1.

At that time, the leadership of the Soviet Air Force believed that the main air battles would take place at high altitudes, so the designers were required to create fighters capable of showing their best characteristics at a height of at least five kilometers. The maximum speed of the future car was supposed to be about 600 km / h, the landing – 120 km / h, the ceiling – 11-12 km, and the maximum range – at least 600 km.

In those years, engines were a serious problem facing the domestic aviation industry. Serious problems arose with their development in the USSR, many aircraft engines were produced by the Soviet industry under license, but before the war, it became increasingly difficult to obtain them. Also in the USSR, there was a serious shortage of duralumin. A large number of it went to the manufacture of heavy bombers, the designers of small fighters and attack aircraft had to use wood, plywood, and canvas in the design.

Yakovlev Design Bureau began designing a fighter in May 1939, before which the designer was engaged in the creation of sports and training aircraft. The new machine was created on the basis of the sports aircraft Y-7, work was carried out at plant number 115.

The prototype of the fighter received the designation I-26, its first flight took place on January 13, 1940. At the helm was test pilot Yu. I. Piontkovsky. During the second flight, an accident occurred, the pilot died, and the car crashed. It was later revealed that the disaster was due to a manufacturing defect. However, despite the disaster, no one doubted that the new aircraft was really good.

It was decided to launch the I-26 in mass production before the end of state tests. The fighter received the designation Yak-1.

At that time, the world war was already in full swing in Europe, so the desire to get a new fighter as soon as possible was understandable, but the rush led to the fact that the production aircraft turned out to be very “raw” and many modifications had to be made to its design right during production. This led to constant changes in the working drawings, the manufacture of new equipment, and sometimes to the alteration of ready-made units and assemblies of constructed aircraft.

The oil system required serious improvements, the chassis design was changed, which was very hot during braking. The aircraft air system, engine, and armament also needed refinement.

In September 1940, the military accepted the first batch of ten new vehicles, after which they were immediately sent to military tests. On November 7, 1940, five Yak-1 fighters took part in a parade on Red Square. At this very time, refineries were in full swing at the plants: from June 1940 to January 1941 alone, more than 7 thousand changes were made to the drawings of the aircraft.

By the beginning of the war, the Soviet industry was able to produce a little more than four hundred Yak-1s, but not all of them were accepted by the military. Only part of these aircraft was in the western military districts and was mastered by pilots.

The fate of the other fighters that participated with the Yak-1 in the pre-war competition is interesting. All of them were adopted and put into serial production. However, the war very quickly put everything in its place.

Mikoyanovsky MiG-1 (and MiG-3) was a pretty good fighter, but he demonstrated his best qualities at considerable heights (from 5 km), while the main battles on the Soviet-German front usually took place much lower. In addition, this machine had rather weak weaponry. So soon its production was discontinued, and the existing vehicles were transferred to air defense.

The combat path of the LaGG fighter was even shorter. The machine of the designer Lavochkin was completely made of specially treated delta wood (“Lacquered Coffin Guaranteed” – that is what they called it at the front). After the outbreak of war, this aircraft began to be made from ordinary pine, which led to a significant increase in its mass. This further worsened the already not brilliant performance. The leadership of the country, seeing such a situation, ordered the production of LaGGs to be stopped, and the released capacities are given up for the release of Jacob.

The first one and a half years of the war, the Yak-1 was definitely the best Soviet fighter on the front. Simple, cheap, easy to fly, the Yak-1 fighter had good flight characteristics and powerful weapons. The largest number of fighters was released in 1942 – more than 3.5 aircraft.

In the summer of that year, the production of the Yak-1b aircraft began – modifications with a more powerful forced engine M-105PF. This allowed the fighter to accelerate to almost 600 km / h and perform a turn in 19 seconds. In addition, the aircraft’s armament was strengthened: now it consisted of a UB machine gun (12.7 mm) and two automatic ShVAK guns (20 mm). After modernization, the Yak-1 got the opportunity to adequately fight the German Me-109 of the latest modifications. The strength of the Soviet aircraft was horizontal combat, in vertical maneuvers the Me-109 was superior to the Yak-1. In addition, some changes were made to the design of the fighter: he received a new flashlight, which provided a sufficient overview of the rear hemisphere, as well as the front bulletproof glass.

The production of the Yak-1 was completed in July 1944, already manufactured machines were supplied to the troops for some time. The operation of the Yak-1 continued until the very end of the war.

Design description

The Yak-1 fighter is made according to the normal aerodynamic scheme, it is a monoplane with a low wing and a half-monocoque fuselage. The aircraft was equipped with the retractable landing gear.

The design of the aircraft was mixed, that is, it included both metal and wood with a canvas. The power frame of the fuselage consisted of steel pipes, which were integral to the motor frame. Parts of the frame were joined by welding. The main elements of the power frame of the machine were four spars connected by ten frames.

Between the first and second frames was a compartment of the cockpit, the lantern frame was welded to the upper side members. In the same compartment were the docking units of the fuselage and wing.

Sheathing the front of the fuselage was made of duralumin, the rear – of the canvas. The nose of the car was covered with a hood; on the machines of the first series, it had side openings (“gills”) through which the engine was purged.

In the rear of the aircraft, gargles were installed on top and bottom of the fuselage, which improved its aerodynamic characteristics. The upper gentle gargrot from the cockpit to the keel was a characteristic feature of the appearance of the Yak-1. Such a design solution improved the aerodynamic qualities of the fighter, but significantly worsened the visibility of the rear hemisphere for the pilot, so the upper garrot and cockpit lantern were redone for the Yak-1b modification.

The fighter’s wing was made of wood, it had a trapezoidal shape with rounded ends. The power frame of the wing consisted of two spars and a set of ribs and stringers. Wing casing – working, it was made of bakelite plywood and canvas. Duralumin frames were made of ailerons and landing flaps, flaps covering the niches of the chassis, wing gaps.

The cockpit was closed by a lantern made of plexiglass, its middle part was shifted back along with special runners. The pilot’s seat was protected by a 9 mm thick armored back. On the modification of the Yak-1b fighter, the rear of the lantern was made in the form of a glass cap, which significantly improved the visibility of the rear hemisphere and the front-mounted bulletproof glass. The later series of aircraft was equipped with an emergency lamp reset system, which allowed the pilot to quickly leave the car. The pilot seat had a parachute cup.

The tail unit of the fighter also had a mixed design, the stabilizer and keel were made of wood, and the rudders and heights were made of duralumin. All steering wheels were equipped with trimmers. Steering was carried out by means of cable traction.

The Yak-1 had a tricycle retractable landing gear, consisting of two main struts and tail support. The fighter’s chassis had oil-air cushioning and air shoe brakes. The main landing gear was retracted into the wing of the wing towards the fuselage of the machine. The racks were cleaned using a pneumatic system. In-flight, the niche under the landing gear was closed by two shields. The tail landing gear was fixed with a self-orientating wheel. On the Yak-1 it was possible to install a ski chassis.

The power plant of the aircraft consisted of a water cooling engine M-105P, which in later series was replaced by more powerful engines M-105PA and M-105PF. Screw Yak-1 three-blade, variable pitch. In front, it was closed by an easily removable cook, which had a characteristic streamlined shape.

The engine (gas, gearshift, injector) was controlled by cables. The engine was started due to compressed air.

Fuel was supplied by a gasoline pump, which was driven by an airplane engine. The Yak-1 fuel system consisted of four gas tanks with a total capacity of 408 liters, they were placed in the wings of the car. All tanks were designed and equipped with gas meters.

The oil system had a tank with a capacity of 37 liters, the cooling radiator was in the front of the aircraft in a special tunnel under the engine. The Yak-1 had a closed-type engine cooling system, the coolant was water, to which antifreeze was added at low temperatures. A water radiator was located in the tunnel under the wing of the aircraft.

The equipment of the Yak-1 cockpit consisted of an altimeter, a speed indicator, a rotation indicator, a boost indicator, a water temperature sensor, and an ABP clock. From the radio equipment to the aircraft, a Baby receiver, an Eagle transmitter, and a radio meteorological reserve were installed.

The armament of the Yak-1 fighter consisted of a 20-mm ShVAK gun, which was installed in the engine collapse, fired through the gearbox hub and the hollow shaft of the screw, as well as two ShKAS machine guns (7.92 mm) located above the engine on the sides of the fuselage. The aircraft was equipped with a synchronizer, which excluded the possibility of bullets getting into the propeller. The gun and machine guns had both pneumatic and manual reloading. On the Yak-1b modification, ShKAS machine guns were replaced by a more powerful 12.7 mm UB machine gun.

The ammunition of the machine guns included armor-piercing incendiary, explosive, armor-piercing incendiary tracer and sighting cartridges.

Efficiency and combat use: conclusions

Yak-1 joined the battle from the very first day of the war. At the beginning of the conflict, this aircraft was the best fighter available to the Red Army. One of the main problems with the Yak-1 – as well as with many other aircraft of the Soviet Air Force – was its poor assimilation by personnel. It was a new machine, which began to appear in combat units just a few months before the start of the war. Pilots had to retrain for a new fighter during the fighting.

It should be noted that the Yak-1 was very “friendly” to the pilot, easy to operate, there were no problems with it during takeoff and landing. After a very strict and difficult to pilot I-16, flying on the Yak-1 was just a pleasure. In conclusion, which test pilots wrote about the new machine, it was understood that it was “available to a pilot with a lower than average qualification.” However, it’s one thing to simply raise the plane and land it, and it’s quite another to confront the German pilots on the Bf-109 in the air, which is rightly called one of the best fighters of the Second World War.

Me-109 was the main enemy of the Yakovlev fighter. The Yak-1 of the initial period of the war was heavier than the Bf-109E and had a less powerful engine, it lost to its German opponent in the rate of climb and speed, but this lag was not as significant as that of the I-16.

The problem was not only a lag in the basic flight performance but also a large number of “childhood” diseases that were inherent in the first-series Yak-1 fighters. The rush with the introduction of the machine into production did not pass without a trace. Here is the main list of disadvantages that were characteristic of the Yak-1:

  • Frequent overheating of oil and water during operation of the power plant at rated power. Spraying oil through poor-quality seals in the engine. In-flight, the entire fuselage of the fighter, up to its tail, could be smeared with oil. But the biggest problem was getting oil on the cockpit lantern, as a result of which the pilot simply did not see anything. Almost all the pilots who fought on it tell about this “feature” of Yak.
  • Fuel from different tanks was produced unevenly.
  • The air system of the aircraft often leaked.
  • Skews and jamming of machine gun cartridges were frequent. -Vibration led to self-inversion of the case screws.

A few words should be said about the problems with the fighter’s oil system. Oil leaks led not only to slap the car body but also worsened the operation of the engine cooling system. Therefore, the pilot had to periodically slow down the gas and cool the engine, in a real battle, such an airplane flaw could cost the pilot life. It should also be noted that at the beginning of the war the Yak-1 did not have a walkie-talkie, it began to be installed only in 1942.

Gradually, the fighter got rid of most of its shortcomings, however, no one can say how many pilots paid with their lives for the decision to adopt an unfinished vehicle.

To be honest, during almost the entire war the Yak-1 was inferior to its main opponent Me-109. German designers also did not sit idly by, “Messers” were constantly modernized and improved. True, the later modifications of the Me-109 had a significant mass and could no longer compete with the Yak-1 in terms of maneuverability.

It should be remembered that the outcome of air combat was often decided not by the characteristics of the aircraft, but by the skills of the pilot and the adequate tactical use of fighters. At the initial stage of the war, this was a disaster, however, with each month of fighting, the Soviet Air Force gained experience, and the situation gradually leaned in their direction.

There is one more point: on the scale of such gigantic conflicts as World War II, the characteristics of an individual aircraft (as well as other types of military equipment) are not the most important thing. It is important to be able to quickly make up for losses in equipment and personnel. In this regard, the USSR outplayed Germany outright. It is much more profitable to have a hundred average pilots than a dozen aces, and a cheap, simple Yak-1 fighter with slightly worse performance than the expensive and resource-intensive Me-109. The following can be safely attributed to the advantages of the Yak-1 fighter:

  • low cost and ease of production;
  • full compliance of the design of the fighter with the technological base available at that time in the USSR;
  • acceptable aircraft performance;
  • ease of piloting and accessibility for wartime pilots who were trained on an accelerated program;
  • significant modernization resource;
  • unpretentiousness in service and high maintainability; -wide-track chassis, which made it possible to use unpaved airfields.
Simple, cheap, easy to fly, the Yak-1 fighter


  • wing span – 10 m;
  • length – 8.48 m;
  • height – 1.7 m;
  • wing area – 17.15 square meters. m .;
  • normal take-off weight – 2700 kg;
  • engine type – M-105PF;
  • power – 1180 l. from.;
  • Max. speed, km / h – 592;
  • practical range – 850 km;
  • Max. rate of climb – 926 m / min;
  • practical ceiling – 10,000 m;
  • crew – 1 person

Graduated from Embry-Riddle Aviation University with a master's degree in aviation science. He began his career as an aviation researcher in local periodicals. Has a pilot license. Now are the author and developer of the Plane Worlds.