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Yakovlev Yak-38 (Forger) Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) Carrier-Borne Strike Fighter (1971)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 8/8/2008

The Yak-38 Forger was the Soviet equivalent of the BAe Harrier VTOL family of aircraft.

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The Yakovlev Yak-38 Forger became the first (and last) VTOL service aircraft for the Soviet Union / Russian Federation. Attempting to fulfill the same role as did the British Aerospace Harrier VTOL (Vertical Take-Off and Landing), the Yak-38 seems to have been limited in design in some respects to prevent it from reaching its operating apex.

The first of the Yak-38 prototypes (designated as "Forger" by NATO) flew in early 1971. The fuselage took on a slim pencil-thin appearance with short stubby-like delta wings. The main thrust vectoring turbojet was held at rear of the fuselage and complimented by two smaller lift-jets mounted forwards. These lift-jets were mounted specifically to produce the downward flow of thrust, allowing the system to achieve vertical take-offs from Soviet carriers.

Take off and landing procedures features a fully automated process that was computer controlled. This system was engineered to provide the right mix of thrust to each engine system to ensure that the system would stay aloft through precise calculations. In the end, short-take off and landings became more commonplace with operators choosing to take advantage of the system in that regard as opposed to the VTOL capability.

The initial Yak-38 was a single seat aircraft designated as the "Forger-A" designed moreso to train Soviet naval aircrews in the function of piloting a VTOL aircraft. Thusly, this particular model featured an underpowered engine system. Subsequent (albeit limited) models included the Yak-38UV "Forger-B" twin-seat trainer model with extended fuselage. An improved Forger was designated as the Yak-38Mand featured improved systems and more power powerplants.

After 231 models were reportedly produced, the Yak-38 Forger was removed from Russian naval service in early 1992. Attempts to replace the Yak-38 in the carrier VTOL role in the forms of the Tak-41 and Yak-43 were unsuccessful. As of this writing, there has been no named model successor.

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Specifications for the
Yakovlev Yak-38 (Forger)
Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) Carrier-Borne Strike Fighter


Focus Model: Yakovlev Yak-38 (Forger-A)
Country of Origin: Soviet Union
Manufacturer: Yakovlev - Soviet Union
Initial Year of Service: 1971
Production: 231


Crew: 1


Length: 50.85 ft (15.5 m)
Width: 23.95 ft (7.30 m)
Height: 0.00ft (0.00 m)
Weight (Empty): 0 lb (0 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 25,794 lb (11,700 kg)


Powerplant: 1 x Soyuz R-28V-300 vectored-thrust turbojet engines generating 14,770lbs of thrust; 2 x Rybinsk RD-36 lift turbofans generating 7,165lbs thrust.


Maximum Speed: 723 mph (1,164kmh; 629 kts)
Maximum Range: 231 miles (371km)
Service Ceiling: 39,370 ft (12,000 m; 7.5 miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 0 feet per minute (0 m/min)


Hardpoints: 4
Armament Suite:
2 x AA-8 Aphid air-to-air missiles

Up to 4,409lbs of external ordnance.


Variants:
Yak-38 "Forger" - Series Model Designation


Yak-36M - Prototype Model Designation

Yak-38 "Forger-A" - Single-Seat Initial Production Model designed to provide Soviet carrier groups experience in operating VTOL craft.

Yak-38M - "Improved Model" with more powerful powerplants.

Yak-38UV "Forger-B" - Two-Seat Conversion Trainer with lengthened fuselage for second cockpit seating area.


Operators:
Soviet Union