Development of a V/STOL fighter for the Soviet navy's new 'Kiev' class of aircraft-carriers began during the early 1980. Intensive studies bore fruit in the shape of a number of Yak-36 Freehand research aircraft. with a bicycle undercarriage under the fuselage augmented by wingtip outriggers. The aircraft is believed to have been rowered by a Dair of 36.78-kN (8,267-Ib) Koliesov engines, each with a rotating nozzle. These gave a tremendous thrust margin, and powerful autostabilisers gave a rock-steady hover, using reaction control 'puffer jets' in the tail, wingtips and at the tip of a long nose-probe. The Yak-36 was not an operational aircraft, although it did lead directly to the Yak-38. This first flew during 1971 (reportedly as the Yak4OUP). and was first seen during trials of the Kiev in the Black See during 1975. Required by international treaty to declare details of the vessel's complement, the USSR described the new fighters as 'Yak-38s'. leading to some confusion among Western analysts until 1984, when East European magazines began to use the type's correct Yek-38 designation.
Powered by a single 88-kN (1 5,300-Ib) LvuIka AL-21F turbojet with twin rotating nozzles, the Yak-38 also has a pair of 30-kN (6,725-IbI Koliesov/Rybinsk RD-36-35FVR lift jets mounted in tandem immediately aft of the cockpit. Initially capable of VTOL operation only, the perfection of an automatic lending system allowed rolling take-offs, with the lift jets being activated and the rear nozzles being rotated automatically at 'the optimum point in the take-off run'. If the aircraft's height, rate of descent or attitude go outside prescribed limits, the pilot is automatically ejected.
The latest estimates suggest that the Yak-38 is marginally supersonic at altitude, and in the ground attack role has a combat radius of about 100 nm (185 km/uS miles). For reconnaissance, a maximum range of about 250 nm (460 km1286 miles) is possible, while in the air defence role a one-hour CAP can be mounted 100 nm (185 km/uS miles) out from the ship. Up to four pylons can be fitted under the inboard sections of the wing, able to carry a theoretical maximum weapon load of about 2000 kg (4,409 Ib), although two pylons are normally left empty. Yak-38s have been seen carrying US-i 6-57 and UB-32-57 rocket pods, R60 CM-S 'Aphid') MMs, bombs of up to 500 kg (1,102 1W, and various cannon pods. Auxiliary fuel tanks can be carried by some modernised and late production aircraft, which bear the designation Yak-SSM.
The Yak-38's unique operating and handling characteristics made the construction of a two-seat trainer essential. The resulting Yak-36U has tandem cockpits under separate sideways-hinging canopies, with the longer nose having a pronounced 'droop'. Improvements during service included the provision of auxiliary blow-in doors in the sides of the main intakes, and fore-andaft fences on each side of the upper fuselage intake for the lift jets. The basic colour scheme worn by these aircraft is also changing. The dark green anti-corrosion paint used on the undersides is retained, but the dark blue topsides are giving way to grey upper surfaces. Production of the Forger was limited to about 90 aircraft, and of these 37 are known to have been lost. resulting in 32 ejections (19 automatic), all of which were successful. When deployed, each carrier had a squadron with 12 single-seaters and two twinstickers. Reports that the Yak-38 has bean retired from service or permanently withdrawn from deck operations are almost certainly premature since. although Minsk and Novorossiysk are being mothballed. another of the 'Kiev'class carriers (Gorshkov, formerly Baku) remains in service and Kiev itself is under repair.
Country: Soviet Union
Span: 732m (241t02in)
Length: 16.50m (5Oft 1O3in)
Payload: 1362 kg
Powerplant: 1 LvuIka AL-21F 8160kg (17.9891W st. and two Koliesov ZM, 3760kg (7,8701b) st each)
Max speed: 700 mph, at sea level
Ceiling: 12200 meters
Cruise range: 12200 meters
Armament: provision for up to 3600kg (7.537Ib) on 4 underwing hardpoints; AS-10, UV-32-57, FAB-500, AA-8