Yakovlev Yak-18 (Max) Trainer Aircraft / Light Bomber
The Soviet-era Yakovlev Yak-18 lived a long and storied operational life with fewer than 50 reportedly flying today.
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During World War 2 (1939-1945), the Yakovlev UT-2 served as the standardized, primary aircraft trainer/fighter-trainer of Soviet airmen. The UT-2 was first flown in July of 1937 and ended production with 7,243 units with operators in Europe and Asia. From this, in May of 1945 with the war in Europe winding down, Alexander Yakovlev began design of a successor under the designation of Yak-18. First flight was quickly achieved and the aircraft was accepted into service in 1946, beginning a stellar production run that reached into 1956 and a service run that went much further than that. Operators proved plenty and ranged from Asia, Europe and Africa - mostly with Soviet-aligned nations and satellite states. Its simplicity allowed local licensed Chinese production under the designation CJ-5 by Nanchang.
The Yak-18 utilized a conventional configuration with a front-mounted engine (driving a two-bladed propeller assembly), single-finned tail unit and low-set monoplane wings. The main wings were fitted ahead of midships. The two crew sat in tandem under a long-running canopy. The undercarriage of early forms was partially retractable, the main legs semi-recessed under the wings and the tail wheel fixed in place.
Original production forms were designated simply as Yak-18. The Yak-18A utilized the Ivchenko AI-14 FR series engine of 260 horsepower and overtook production lines, becoming the definitive Yak-18 form. The Yak-18U was a limited-run model utilizing a retractable tricycle undercarriage. The Yak-18P ("Mouse") was a single-seat acrobatic platform, the Yak-18PM of similar scope though with retractable tricycle undercarriage and the Yak-18PS following suit but incorporating a retractable tailwheel. The sole foreign mark included the Nanchang CJ-5 of China and 379 aircraft of these were produced into 1958. China originally received the aircraft in 1950 as kits delivered from the Soviet Union for assembly before eventually turning to local factories for outright production of the design in the mid-1950s.
While a trainer by design, the Yak-18 was pressed into service as a light bomber by North Korea during the Korean War (1950-1953). Changes to the airframe were minimal for bomb racks were simply added to the fuselage centerline. Due to their slow speed, these light bomber Yak-18s were utilized by the North Koreans in night sorties - and this with limited effect. The United Nations assigned the reporting name of "Max" to the series.
Yak-18 numbers have increasingly dwindled over time, beginning to close the door on the storied Soviet-era design for good. Fewer than 50 make up the flyable stable today (2014).