Yakovlev Yak-7 Single-Seat Fighter / Advanced Two-Seat Trainer Aircraft
The Yakovlev Yak-7 formed a valuable portion of the capable Yakovlev stable of fighter aircraft for the Soviet Air Force during World War 2.
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The Yak-9 piston-engine fighter was one of the more important fighters to serve the Soviet Air Force during World War 2 (1939-1945). Some 16,769 of the type were built in a healthy number of battlefield configurations from 1942 to 1948. Post-war export usage only added to the Yak-9 story before the end. However, the Yak-9 was held a lineage in an early-war fighter design designated Yak-1 and this was itself a highly maneuverable gunnery platform of which 8,700 were produced into 1944. The Yak-1 line evolved to become the Yak-9 but not before laying the foundation for what would become the Yak-7 intermediate fighter design.
The Yak-7 was born from work on the Yak-1. It originally existed as a two-seat trainer intended to serve the Yak-1 line and given the facilities of only one machine gun (7.62mm) for gunnery practice and dual-control cockpits for student and instructor. Some forms left the factory during 1941 with fixed landing gear (Yak-7V) to help simplifying the production process while others retained retractable sets (Yak-7UTI). 510 Yak-7V models were built along with 186 Yak-7UTI aircraft. A further 87 V-models were formed by converting existing Yak-7B fighters (B-models detailed later).
Engineers at the Yak-7 factory then began work on a possible single-seat fighter conversion of the twin-seat design. This was accomplished through a single example fitted with a propeller-mounted 20mm cannon, 2 x 7.62mm machine guns in the engine cowling, support for underwing rockets, self-sealing fuel tanks, and cockpit armoring. Rather than delete the rear instructor's space, this area was held for the prospect of future versatility - transporting a messenger or carrying fuel stores.
The new aircraft - designated Yak-7/M-105P (M-105P was the engine series fitted) - was quickly evaluated and proved a better offering than even the in-action Yak-1 series. When showcased to Soviet authorities, the type was adopted at speed and production ordered before the end of 1941. The German advance disrupted the initiative and fewer than 65 were available by the end of the year.
In practice, the fighters quickly became strong performers. Their maneuverability was a prized quality and armament was suitable for most encounters with German aircraft. Beyond its service as a traditional fighter/interceptor, the aircraft made for a stable ground-attack platform through cannon/machine gun strafing, rocket attacks, and conventional bomb dropping. Many were pressed as Close Air Support (CAS) platforms against the hordes of Axis forces. The installation of a fuel tank (unarmored) in the second cockpit served well in increasing the aircraft's range at the expense of a second set of eyes.
The Yak-7 continued the smooth design lines of the Yak-1 before it. The cockpit was fitted just ahead of midships and aft of the long-running nose. The dorsal spine eliminated what good views to the rear there were but increased internal storage space. The engine drove a three-bladed propeller unit which featured a spinner housing the hub cannon armament. The wing mainplanes were low-mounted assemblies and also fitted ahead of midships. The tail utilized a conventional arrangement including a single, rounded fin and low-mounted horizontal planes. The undercarriage was of a "tail-dragger" arrangement sporting two main legs (retractable) under the wings and a tail wheel.