Yakovlev Yak-28 (Brewer / Firebar) Multirole Aircraft
The Yakovlev Yak-28 proved a useful multirole performer for the Soviet Union during the Cold War years, seeing service as a bomber, interceptor and specialist platform.
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Post-World War 2 swept-wing research - coupled with advanced in turbojet technology - allowed the Soviet Union to field many capable aircraft types during the Cold War decades. One, often overlooked, multi-role performer became the Yakovlev Yak-28 which began operational service as a high-speed, medium tactical bomber. The line eventually evolved to cover a wide variety of Soviet military aviation requirements including trainer, interceptor, fast reconnaissance and Electronic Warfare Aircraft (EWA) / Electronic CounterMeasures (ECM) platforms. Due to the multiple guises presented, NATO provided three distinct codenames for each of the major variants - "Brewer" (A, B, and C marks for the tactical bomber forms), "Maestro" (for the two-seat trainer) and "Firebar" (interceptor form). The reconnaissance variants fell under the Brewer-D marker and EWA/ECM versions retained the original Brewer name as Brewer-E.
The Yakovlev concern began formal operations in 1934, just prior to World War 2, and produced several well-known military aircraft in its time including the wartime Yak-1, Yak-3, Yak-3 and Yak-9 piston-engined fighters. It also developed the Yak-38 "Forger" Vertical/Short Take-Off and Landing (V/STOL) fighter for the Soviet Navy.
First flight of a Yak-28 prototype - known under the model designation of "Yak-129") - occurred on Match 5th, 1958 and, upon passing the requisite trials, the aircraft was adopted into the inventory of the Soviet Air Force beginning in 1960. Eventual use spanned into general Soviet air defense branches and service in the post-Cold War/post-Soviet Empire service with a new emerging Russia, independent Ukraine and independent Turkmenistan. Production yielded 1,180 examples and initial delivered examples were the tactical bomber types, though in limited numbers and lacking any radar facilities.
As was the case throughout the Cold War years, the Yak-28 was not known to Western observers until its public display at the 1961 Tushino Air Show. The West incorrectly identified the aircraft as a further evolution of the Yak-25 "Flashlight" interceptor/reconnaissance line and granted the same codename. Despite some physical similarities, the aircraft was later revealed to be an all-new design and granted the "Brewer" codename.
The Yak-28's design continued the highly traditional, no-frills approach consistent with other Soviet turbojet-powered aircraft of the period. It was conventional in its layout, utilizing external engine nacelles slung under the swept-wing appendages. This assisted with general maintenance and replacement but added drag when compared to airframes who buried their powerplants within the fuselage. The wings were high-mounted monoplanes with good clearance for underwing stores across two hardpoints outboard of the engine nacelles. The fuselage was tubular in its general shape with a pointed nosecone assembly, framed canopy set ahead of midships and a swept tail unit with high-mounted horizontal planes. The planes were also swept in their appearance to promote maximum aerodynamic efficiency at the expected higher operating speeds. If there was one facet of the Yak-28 that was unconventional it was in its undercarriage which utilized a twin-wheeled nose leg and a twin-wheeled rear fuselage leg. Support for each wing during ground running was facilitated by single-wheeled stems near the wingtips. Overall, the undercarriage gave the aircraft a pronounced "nose-up" appearance with the fuselage sitting quit close to the ground.
Yak-28 Bomber Variants
The Yak-28 was born as a medium-class tactical bomber and initially delivered in the basic, limited production Yak-28-designated form. This was followed by the Yak-28B ("Brewer-A") bomber variant which added weapon-assisted radar functionality and support for Jet-Assisted Take-Off (JATO) pods, the latter for quick-reaction take-offs. Another tactical bomber form was the Yak-28L ("Brewer-B") which installed a ground-based targeting system, production of this model peaking at 111 examples. The Yak-28I ("Brewer-C") integrated an onboard ground mapping radar with targeting system for improved tactical value. Production of this mark totaled 223 units.