The Soviet Yak fighter (Yakovlev Yak-3) was a Soviet dog-fighter that was used in World War 2. This was a robust craft, and its maintenance was very easy therefore making it liked by all ground-crew and pilots. They were first developed in 1941 but didn’t see service until three years later, 1944. 4848 of these fighters were manufactured in total. Their main use was as tactical fighters, engaging in dogfights in the lower sky (13,000 ft and lower).
The Yak was considered to be one of the lightest and smallest fighters to be used as a major combat fighter from all the other combat fighters that were used within World War 2, It provided excellent performance due to its power-to-weight ratio, which was extremely high
The very first 197 Yak’s came fully armed with one 20mm cannon (ShVAK) and a 12.7mm machine gun (UBS). Yak’s made after this batch came armed with a second UBS gun to provide a 6.0lb per second rate of fire.
The first bout of combat the Yak saw was in June, 1944 when it was assigned to the 2nd Air Army (91st IAP). This regiment flew many missions – during which they downed 20 Luftwaffe fighters and 3 Ju 87’s whilst only losing 2 Yak’s.
On June 16th, 1944 a large dog-fight came about when 24 German craft went against 18 Yak’s. The Yak fighters managed to shoot down 15 aircraft whilst only losing one of their own craft and another becoming damaged. Following this clash with the Luftwaffe, the Germans activities in that area ceased the following day.
On July 17th, 1944 the Yaks found a group of 60 German aircraft and attacked. There were only 8 Yaks yet the managed to shoot down 3 Ju 87’s and 4 Bf 109G’s whilst losing none of their own fighters. Following this skirmish, the Luftwaffe released an order to their fighters ‘avoid combat below 5,000 meters with Yakovlev fighters.’
World War 2 French ace, Marcel Albert, considered the Yak to be a far superior aircraft to the Spitfire and P-51D Mustang, having flown the Yak in the USSR.
Following the end of the War, the Yak flew with the Polish and Yugoslav Air Forces and then, in 1952, retired from service.
This video shows two of these amazing Yak’s at a display in Wanaka, New Zealand (The Warbirds Over Wanaka 2012 airshow)