Aviation of WWII
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The Yak-3 from Normandie-Niemen Wing

The Yak-3 from Normandie-Niemen Wing.

A further development of the Yak 1M airframe and powered by the M-105 PF engine VISh-105 SV propeller combination, the Yak 3 was the smallest and lightest combat fighter to see large scale production and use during World War II. The Yak 3 was also the first Russian fighter with a superior performance to contemporary Luttwatle fighters in use on the Eastern Front. At this stage of the war. the Soviet Union was out producing Lultwaffe aircraft in both quantity and quality. The excellent power loading of 4.83 Ib/hp allowed exceptional performance for the Yak 3s relatively low power. A Yak 3 could complete a full 360° turn within 18.5 seconds, something the Lultwaffe pilots could only dream of!

Further attempts to improve the Yak fighter began during the summer of 1942 when K.V. Sinelshchikov was assigned the task of redesigning the Yak to improve endurance, fire power, and combat capabilities. With all modifications directed toward decreasing weight and improving performance a standard Yak 1M fuselage was used as the Yak 3 prototype, which had been fitted with a newly designed wing with a reduced span from 32 feet 9.75 inches to 30 feet 2.5 inches. Original intentions had been to mate the new M-107 powerplant with an anticipated 1500 to 1600 hp, in the event the new engine did not materialize and the M-105PF was retained. A number of aerodynamic refinements were introduced, such as a recounted red oil cooler intake and a one piece frameless windscreen which provided the pilot with excellent all-round visibility. The production version received an enlarged oil cooler under the fuselage resulting in removing the front oil cooler from beneath the nose. The first production batches were equipped with the Yak 1M standard armament of an engine mounted 20mm cannon, and a single 1 2.7mm Berezin UB machine gun in the port upper engine decking, but main production aircraft received an additional similar machine gun in the starboard decking.

Prototype flight trials began during early 1943 in Moscow with high-speed flight trials far exceeding expectations. 410 mph at 9.840 ft and 422 mph at 12.140 ft with low level characteristics being particularly pleasing. The loss of the prototype due to a structural failure during aerobatics delayed full State Acceptance until October of 1943. but demands from front line pilots for a more efficient fighter forced the Red Air Force to introduce the fighter into Service before completion of State Acceptance.

The Yak 3 saw action for the first time in June of 1943 at the end of the German OPERATION ZITADELLE in the Kursk area, and pilot's comments were enthusiastic about the combat value of the new weapon. The Yak 3 provided a real challenge to the Messerschmitt Bf 109F and G and the Focke Wulf Fw 190A Ideally suited for low altitude combat operations, light stick pressure produced fast and accurate snap rolls and all maneuvers could be performed precisely and smoothly. But it demanded careful handling at low speeds, stalling speed was high and the Yak-3 tended to drop a wing during the landing approach unless speed was kept up. It tended to swing on take off and landing, and ground loops were not uncommon among green pilots.

Large scale production of the Yak 3 was begun at GAZ 115 and GAZ 286 during the spring of 1944, only reaching front line fighter regiments in quantity during the summer of 1944. Technical and structural problems had delayed development for some time. The undercarriage in particular was considered unreliable on hard field conditions.

A total of 4560 Yak-3 was built during 1944 - 1945.

WW 2 Soviet Fighters
Yak-9 Yak-9U Yak-3 La-5 La-5FN La-7
Year of issue 1942 1944 1944 1942 1943 1944
Length, m 8.48 8.5 8.5 8.67 8.67 8.67
Wing span, m 9.74 9.74 9.2 9.8 9.8 9.8
Wing area, m2 17.15 17.15 14.85 17.5 17.5 17.56
Weight, kg:
Maximum takeoff weight 2870 3204 2697 3360 3290 3310
Engine M-105PF VK-107A VK-105PF2 M-82 M-82FN ASh-82FN
Power, hp 1210 1650 1290 1700 1850 1850
Maximum speed, km/h at sea level 520 575 567 509/535* 551/583* 579/613*
at altitude 599 672 646 580 634 661
m 4300 5000 4100 6250 6250 6000
Time to 5000 m, min 5.1 4.4-5.0 4.5 6.0/5.7* 5.3/4.7* 5.25/4.6*
Time of turn, sec 17-18 19 17 22 19-20 19
Service ceilling, m 11100 10650 10400 9500 10000 10450
Service range **, km 660 675 550 660 590 570
Cannon 1 1 1 2 2 3
Machine guns 1 2 2 - - -

* Forcing of the engine during 10 minutes.

** On speed making 90 % from maximal.

Photo Description

Drawing Yak-3

Yak-3 in flight. The cockpit test pilot V.P. Rastorguev.

The Yak 3R was fitted with an RD-1 GHSH liquid fuel rocket, developed by W.P. Glushko in 1944 and flown by V.I. Rastorguev. The aircraft reached 509.5 mph at 25,590 ft but on the third test flight, on 16 August 1945, the rocket exploded killing the pilot and destroying the sole Yak 3R.

The sleek lines of the Yak-3 are well illustrated by this example. Yakovlev was big on photographing his aircraft, leaving a tot of excellent pictures for posterity. Here the fighter is seen in standard configuration, but see the next photo...

Three views of the same Yak-3 in identical aspects following installation of ejector fairings on the exhaust stubs. This measure Increased top speed somewhat, even though it clearly did not make the fighter more aesthetically pleasing.


  • "The history of designs of planes in USSR 1938-1950" /Vadim Shavrov/
  • "Planes of Stalin falcons" /Konstantin Kosminkov and Dmitriy Grinyuk/
  • "Stories of the aircraft designer" /Alexander Yakovlev/
  • "The Soviet planes" /Alexander Yakovlev/