Staff Writer (Updated: 5/20/2016):
The Yakovlev Yak-38 (NATO codename of "Forger") became the first (and last) VSTOL (Vertical, Short Take-Off and Landing) service aircraft for the Soviet Union. The vehicle attempted to fulfill roughly the same role as the competing British Aerospace "Harrier" series but proved a more limiting design that prevented the aircraft from reaching a greater operational service career. 231 examples were built in all across a few notable marks including a two-seat trainer-minded form. The line was officially retired from service in 1991 following the collapse of the Soviet Empire (1947-1991) and its shipborne role was not taken over by another product.
Yakovlev Yak-38 (Forger-A) (1976)
Type: Carrier-Borne VSTOL Strike Fighter / Fleet Defense Aircraft
National Origin: Soviet Union
Manufacturer(s): Yakovlev OKB - Soviet Union
Production Total: 231
50.85 feet (15.5 meters)
23.95 feet (7.30 meters)
13.94 feet (4.25 meters)
16,281 lb (7,385 kg)
25,794 lb (11,700 kg)
1 x Soyuz R-28V-300 vectored-thrust turbojet engines developing 14,770 lb of thrust; 2 x Rybinsk RD-36 lift turbofans developing 7,165 lb thrust.
723 mph (1,164 kmh; 629 knots)
231 miles (371 km)
39,370 feet (12,000 meters; 7.5 miles)
4,500 feet-per-minute (1,372 m/min)
Armament / Mission Payload:
Up to 4,400 lb of externally-mounted ordnance across four underwing hardpoints with support for the following:
1 OR 2 x 23mm GSh-23L (GP-9) gunpod(s)
R-60 (AA-8 "Aphid") Air-to-Air Missiles (AAMs)
Kh-23 (AS-7 "Kerry") Anti-Ship / Anti-Surface Missiles (ASMs).
2 x FAB-500 General Purpose Bombs
4 x FAM 250 General Purpose Bombs
2 x ZB-500 Incendiary Bombs
2 x RN-28 nuclear bombs
Jettisonable external fuel tanks
While the British were busy developing their Harrier jump jet, the Soviets endeavored to bring about their own VTOL system. Yakovlev began work on such a form in the 1960s, producing the Yak-104. When this initiative was abandoned, a new project emerged that eventually became the Yak-36. The Yak-36 "Freehand" ended its days as a test article through four prototypes but proved instrumental in producing the Yak-38's prototype - the "Yak-36M".
The Yak-36M actually held little in common with the earlier Yak-36 and featured a slimmer fuselage with shorter wing mainplanes. A single vertical tail surface was retained and downward-canted horizontal planes added. A split-air intake was used to aspirate the engine installations. Primary propulsion for forward flight was handled by a dedicated turbojet engine of considerable output power while two smaller, lower-powered turbojet units were used for lift-thrust and fitted vertically in a housing aft of the cockpit. The cockpit seated one and this was itself placed aft of a short nosecone. Intended for Soviet Navy service aboard the Kiev-class aircraft carriers, the finalized version of this aircraft was given the usual carrier-friendly qualities such as folding wings and a reinforced undercarriage. The undercarriage was of a retractable, tricycle design arrangement.
First flight of the Yak-38 prototype was recorded during early 1971. Take off and landing procedures were made fully-automated to help take some responsibility off of the pilot. The ejection seat was integrated to the lift engines for, should they fail and the aircraft begin to roll, the pilot was ejected "safely" away from the doomed aircraft. The computer-controlled engine system was designed to provide the proper mix of thrust to each lift unit to ensure that the aircraft stay aloft by way of precise calculations. In the end, Short Take-Off and Landings became more commonplace to the aircraft as opposed to relying on true vertical take-off and landing actions. The lift jets behind the pilot's seat were exposed during vertical flight while the primary engine's exhaust ports (seated under the aft-section of the aircraft) swiveled down to balance out lift power. ©www.MilitaryFactory.com
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