Yak-9: the most massive Soviet fighter of World War II

The first two years of the war were a difficult test for the Red Army and the entire Soviet state. The military equipment created in the pre-war period — tanks, artillery systems, airplanes — underwent a serious exam. Only in 1942, Soviet industry was able to switch to military rails and significantly increase output. Evacuated plants began to work, and supplies of strategic materials and equipment for Lend-Lease were arranged.

In the first months of the war, only one task was set before the heads of defense plants: to maximize the number of manufactured products, any changes in the design of weapons and military equipment were rejected if they reduced their output. Despite such an attitude, it was already impossible to ignore the experience gained at the front and during mass production.

The Yak-9 became the fourth (after Yak-1, Yak-3, and Yak-7) fighter of the Second World War period, developed by the designers of the Yakovlev Design Bureau. When it was created, the whole experience of using fighter aircraft at the initial stage of the war was taken into account. In fact, the Yak-9 aircraft was a continuation of the Yak-7 fighter (it was very similar in appearance), but structurally this machine was much more perfect.

In 1944, there were more different Yak-9 aircraft of various modifications at the front than any other fighters combined. Production of the machine was established at four aircraft factories: No. 153 (Novosibirsk), No. 166 (Omsk), and No. 82 (Moscow). At its peak, fighter production at Plant No. 153 reached twenty aircraft per day.

During the period of mass production, more than twenty modifications of the fighter were made, fifteen of which went into series. The Yak-9 was good for its versatility: various modifications of this aircraft could perform various tasks, including a fighter-bomber, a front-line fighter, a high-altitude interceptor, and a long-range fighter. Five different types of engines were installed on the Yak-9 fighter; the aircraft had six modifications with different volumes of fuel tanks and seven weapons options.

Yak-9 took part in all the most important battles of the war, starting with the Battle of Stalingrad. It is almost impossible to overestimate the contribution of this machine to the victory over Nazi Germany. Simplicity in control, high firepower, and good flight performance of this fighter in many ways contributed to the gain of air supremacy by the Soviet Air Force. On the Yak-9, most of the structural and technological defects that were characteristic of its predecessors were eliminated. Yak-9 also took part in the war on the Korean Peninsula.

History

The experience of the initial period of the war clearly showed that the main problem of the Yak fighters is the lack of power supply compared to German fighters (the ratio of the power plant to the mass of the aircraft). For this reason, they lost to their opponents Bf-109F and Bf-109G in vertical maneuver and climb.

There were two ways to solve this problem: reduce the weight of the aircraft or install a more powerful engine on it. It increased the speed characteristics of the aircraft and improved the aerodynamic qualities of the machine. We took the first path when creating the Yak-3 fighter; it was made as light as possible by reducing the volume of fuel tanks and a shortened wing. However, such an upgrade dramatically reduced the practical range of the aircraft and the time it was in the air.

Another effective and simple way to lighten the fighter was the maximum replacement in its design of all wooden elements with metal (duralumin). However, at the beginning of the war, the USSR experienced a severe deficit of “winged metal”. The situation began to change for the better only by the end of 1942. Which allowed the designers of the Yakovlev Design Bureau to begin to create a new, more high-speed fighter.

It was based on the production aircraft Yak-7B, on which the M-105PF engine was installed. The designers carefully analyzed the elements of the fighter for possible weight reduction and improve the aerodynamic qualities of the machine. Wooden wing spars were replaced by duralumin ones. Only this change allowed to reduce the total weight of the structure by 150 kg. To further lighten the car, one UBS machine gun was removed from it, and to improve visibility from the cab, the garrot was lowered and a new flashlight was installed.

June 26, 1942, a prototype aircraft, designated the Yak-7DI, first flew into the sky. The test results encouraged the designers: the new fighter was superior to the Yak-7B in flight range, showed better maneuverability and rate of climb. State tests were completed on August 5, the fighter was adopted under the name Yak-9.

Serial production of the Yak-9 began in October 1942, the first production was launched at the Novosibirsk plant No. 153 (it went in parallel with the Yak-7B), and later the Omsk factory No. 166 also began production of the Yak-9.

The first experience of operating a fighter revealed some shortcomings, most of which were associated with low-quality manufacturing machines. In particular, there were frequent cases of separation of the wooden wing cladding from the power frame. Brigades of repairmen were sent to the front, who, together with the technical personnel of the combat units, eliminated the problems.

By the beginning of the Kursk battle, the Yak-9 was armed with five fighter air divisions, and by the end of July 1943, the 11th mixed air corps were added to them, which included three regiments armed with the Yak-9. The aircraft possessed good aerobatic qualities and excellent maneuverability and was easy to fly. However, in terms of speed characteristics, he lost to the best German fighters Bf 109G and Fw 190A. The reason was simple – German engines had more powerful engines. Another shortcoming of the Yak-9 was its lack of armament, as many famous pilots mentioned in their memoirs.

Already in the summer of 1943, two new modifications of the machine were created – the Yak-9D and Yak-9T. About the last of them, it is necessary to say a few words separately. The letter “T” in the designation of the machine means “heavy” and this definition does not refer to the weight of the fighter, but to its armament – the 37-mm NS-37 aircraft gun. To install it on an airplane, I had to change its design, but it was worth it. Previously, in order to bring down a strong German twin-engine bomber, the pilot sometimes had to expend all the ammunition, a 37-mm gun could accomplish this task in a dozen shots. Later, the Yak-9T was very effectively used against enemy armored vehicles and ships on the Black Sea.

True, there were comments on the new weapon. Its rate of fire was unsatisfactory for an aircraft gun, and significant returns reduced accuracy. The Yak-9T was perfect for pilots who knew how to shoot well, but there weren’t so many of them.

At the time of the end of the war, the Yak-9 was the main fighter of the Soviet Air Force. After its graduation, the USSR supplied these aircraft to its allies in Eastern Europe and Asia.

Modifications

One of the main advantages of the Yak-9 was the high versatility of this aircraft. It was easily modified into military vehicles designed to perform a variety of tasks. There were a total of fifteen serial modifications of the fighter, some of them are described below:

  • Yak-9D. Modification with an increased fuel supply (480 kg, instead of 320 for the Yak-9). The aircraft had four fuel tanks – two roots and two, located in the wing consoles, the flight range was increased to 1400 km. The serial production of the machine began in the spring of 1943 and continued until mid-1944. During this time, 3068 fighters of this modification were manufactured. Reviews about this modification are quite contradictory: operation has shown that additional fuel is often simply not needed, so part of the tanks was closed with plugs.
  • Yak-9T. A variant of a fighter armed with a 37-mm gun NS-37, which was installed in the collapse of the cylinders. Because of its considerable length, the cockpit was shifted back 400 mm, and the aircraft structure was reinforced. The ammunition stock of the gun was 30-32 shells. In addition to the NS-37, a single UB synchronous machine gun was installed on the Yak-9T. This modification of the fighter quite successfully used to destroy ground targets. An armor-piercing 37 mm shell pierced 30 mm thick armor from 500 meters. Aircraft production was launched in March 1943 and continued until mid-1945, more than 2,700 aircraft were produced in total.
  • Yak-9TD. This is another modification with an increased fuel supply; mass production was started in 1944.
  • Yak-9K. Another “armor-piercing” modification of the “nine”, created on the basis of the Yak-9T. This fighter was equipped with a 45 mm NS-45 cannon. To reduce the return of the guns, a muzzle brake was installed on it. Despite this, during firing the fighter turned and threw a little, it was recommended to shoot only in short bursts. In one second, the Yak-9K threw 5.53 kg of metal. The modification was produced in April-June 1944, 53 aircraft managed to be built in total. The fighter did not go into a large series due to the unreliable operation of the gun.
  • Yak-9TK. Modification with a reinforced structure and weapon mounting system, which made it possible to install a ShVAK, NS-37, VYA-23, or NS-45 gun on it, depending on the specific tasks facing the fighter. The modification was developed in the second half of 1943.
  • Yak-9M. This model of the fighter can be called a further development of the Yak-9D. The aircraft had a fuselage with a cockpit shifted 400 mm backward (as on the Yak-9T). In 1944, a more powerful VK-105PF-2 motor began to be installed on the machine, which slightly improved its LTX. Yak-9M – one of the most popular modifications of the fighter, a total of 4239 aircraft were produced.
  • Yak-9DD. A fighter specially designed to escort long-range Tu-2 bombers. The Yak-9DD was used in joint operations with the Allied anti-Hitler coalition aircraft. The fighter had eight fuel tanks located in the wings, with a total fuel supply of 630 kg. The machine was equipped with more advanced instrumentation and navigation equipment, allowing us to fly over long distances in different weather conditions. The flight range of the Yak-9DD was 1800 km, and it weighed 3390 kg. The armament remained the same: a 12.7 mm machine gun and a 20 mm cannon.
  • Yak-9R. The basic model of the fighter converted into a close reconnaissance. Photo equipment was installed in a free compartment. It was mass-produced at aircraft factories in small batches, and serial Yak-9s were also converted into reconnaissance aircraft in aircraft repair shops. There was another reconnaissance aircraft, created on the basis of the Yak-9D fighter, which can be called a long-range reconnaissance aircraft.
  • Yak-9B. Modification of the Yak-9D, which can be called a fighter-bomber. The bomb bay was equipped behind the cockpit; it contained four hundred-kilogram bombs or four cartridges with anti-tank cumulative bombs. A total of 109 aircraft of this modification were produced.
  • Yak-9PD. High-altitude interceptor designed specifically for Moscow air defense. Work on this fighter began in 1942 after German reconnaissance aircraft Ju-86r-1 began to appear on the capital. For a very long time, it was not possible to debug the power plant of the fighter; they could achieve its normal operation only by the spring of 1944. But at that time the Germans were no longer up to reconnaissance flights over Moscow. In total, 35 cars of this modification were manufactured.
  • Yak-9U. Modification of the aircraft, which appeared at the end of 1943. In fact, there were two versions of the Yak-9U fighter – with the M-107A and M-105PF-2 engines. In addition to installing a new engine, other changes were made to the design of the fighter. The oil cooler moved from under the hood to the central part of the wing, the tail of the fuselage was covered with plywood instead of the canvas, and the sealing of the machine was improved. The armament of both fighters included a cannon in the collapse of the engine (20 or 23 mm) and two machine guns of 12.7 mm caliber. Its production began in April 1944. The cooling system was later modernized.
  • Yak-9UT. The fighter, created on the basis of the Yak-9U modification, it was distinguished by more powerful weapons. This combat vehicle was armed with three guns: the central NS-37 (37 mm) and two synchronous B-20s (20 mm). In a second, a fighter could release at an enemy 6

Features

The Yak-9 is a single-seat single-engine piston monoplane with a low-lying free-flying wing and a three-leg landing gear retractable in flight. The aircraft had a mixed structure made of wood, duralumin, plywood, and canvas.

The fuselage of the fighter had a frame made of chrome-force pipes, an engine mount was attached to the front of it. The skin of the nose of the fuselage was made of metal, the tail of the machine was sheathed with plywood. In the central part of the fuselage was the cockpit, which had a fairly rich set of equipment. The front and rear of the pilot were protected by the bulletproof glass; there was also an armored plate mounted behind the back of the seat. The central part of the lantern was resettable.

the Yak-9 snout had a modified Clark-YH profile, its design consisted of two duralumin spars, a set of wooden ribs and stringers, as well as a working plywood sheathing of rather considerable thickness. On top of the lining was glued with a cloth on epoxy glue. The wing mechanization consisted of brake flaps and ailerons. Their frame was also made of duralumin. Ailerons were controlled by rods, and shields were produced by a pneumatic system. In the wing of the aircraft, there were two (on other modifications there were four or even eight) fuel tanks, which inside had a special coating to cover the holes.

The Yak-9 had a plumage of mixed design, with metal spars, ribs, but the lining partially consisted of plywood and canvas. Steering was carried out by means of rods.

The fighter had a tricycle landing gear, the main pillars of which were removed using a pneumatic system. If it broke, the release and cleaning of the chassis could be done manually.

A water cooling engine M-105PF with twelve cylinders and a rated power of 1260 liters was installed on the Yak-9. from. The fighter was equipped with a metal three-bladed propeller VISH-61P with a variable pitch.

The armament of the Yak-9 consisted of a central gun located in the collapse of the engine and a synchronized machine gun firing through the plane of the propeller. Initially, the ShVAK gun (20 mm) and the UBS machine gun (12.7 mm) were installed on the Yak-9. On subsequent modifications of the machine, weapons were repeatedly strengthened.

In 1943, the collimator sights on the Yak-9 were replaced by primitive ring sights BB-1. They were a frame with a crosshair, made of wire, and front sight mounted on the hood of a fighter. Pilots took this “primitivization” generally positively because domestic collimator sights were of very poor quality.

Conclusions

In Soviet historiography, the position was actively advanced that the last pre-war generation of domestic fighters (MiG-3, Yak-1, and LaGG-3) exceeded the German Me-109 in its main characteristics. But, they say, there were very few of them. At the same time, the performance characteristics of Soviet aircraft were compared with the Bf 109E modification, which at the time the war began was already considered obsolete among the Germans and was practically not used on the Eastern Front. Modifications Bf 109F-1 and Bf 109F-2 exceeded the above Soviet cars in all respects.

During the first years of the war, Yakovlev was constantly improving his aircraft, but German designers did not lose time in vain. In the summer of 1942, a new fighter, the Me-109G-2, appeared, which made the gap between the characteristics of Soviet and German aircraft even greater.

There is a report of the Air Force Research Institute on the combat use of Yak fighters, dated to the end of 1942. It provides estimates of these aircraft, expressed directly by the pilots themselves. According to them, “… for a successful outcome of the air battle near Stalingrad, for every German fighter, it was necessary to have two Yak fighters.

A similar situation was observed throughout 1943. The positions of the Soviet Air Force were gradually improving, but the main reason for this was a significant increase in their numbers. At the beginning of 1942, they exceeded the German Air Force 1.8 times, and by the summer of 1943, this figure had doubled (up to 3.6).

In 1943, the Allied Aviation began systematically destroying German cities, which, on the one hand, seriously complicated the work of the German industry, and on the other made it necessary to send part of the fighter aircraft to defend its own territory.

The Yak-9 was not inferior to the German fighters at low and medium speeds but was somewhat worse than its opponents in the vertical maneuver and in climbing. The appearance of the heavily armed Bf 109G among the Germans raised the question of the lag of the Yak fighters in terms of armament power. Only the appearance of the “heavy” Yak-9T was able to restore balance, but this aircraft required a highly skilled pilot.

Yak-9, of course, can be called the best fighter of the Yak family. He had better speed and climb than the Yak-1 and Yak-7, also the “nine” had better vertical maneuverability. In general, the characteristics of this aircraft made it possible to successfully withstand German fighters.

Specifications

  • wingspan, m – 9.74;
  • length, m – 8.55 m
  • height, m – 3;
  • weight, kg – 3080;
  • engine – VK 105PF-3
  • power, l from. – 1360;
  • Max. speed, km / h – 602;
  • practical range, km – 1410;
  • Max. rate of climb, m / min. – 1020;
  • practical ceiling, m – 10600;
  • 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.