In the latter stages of the Cold War (1947-1991), the Soviet Air Force relied on the Yakovlev Yak-52 to fulfill the primary trainer role. This all-metal aircraft followed conventional design wisdom as primary trainers went, seating its crew of two in tandem (under a framed canopy), showcasing straight monoplane wings, and driven by a propeller at the nose. After the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the Yak-52's value to the new Russian Air Force dwindled and stocks of the aircraft witnessed export to former Soviet allies and private buyers. About 1,800 were produced by the Soviets with some license production having been had in Romania (Aerostar). A first-flight was recorded in 1976 and service entry occurred in 1979.
The Yak-52 had origins in the earlier Yak-50 product of 1975. These trainer / aerobatic aircraft appeared in 314 examples of their own and were themselves offspring of the Yak-18 line introduced in 1946. At any rate, all three of the designs shared many similarities in both form and function - they were easy to fly and relatively inexpensive to procure and maintain in the long term - true Soviet design staples. The Yak-52 was designed as a military trainer from the outset which meant greater tolerances had to be adhered to. The benefit was that, when coupled with a lightweight frame, the aircraft could also serve quite well as an aerobatics platform and racer.
Initial production yielded the basic "Yak-52" mark and these carried a Vedeneyev M-14P series 9-cylinder radial air-cooled radial piston engines of 360 horsepower driving a two-bladed propeller unit at the nose. A ground-attack model was formed from this framework as the "Yak-52B" and these could be armed through 2 x UB-32-57 series rocket pods (32 rockets each) for ground target saturation. The Yak-52 series was then modernized with the introduction of the "Yak-52M" and this form shifted the family line to using the Vedeneyev M-14Kh radial piston engine now driving a three-bladed propeller unit. In addition to this, the M-models were given upgraded avionics.
Romania went on to produce the product (legally, under license) under its Aerostar brand label and these aircraft are designated "Iak-52". A "westernized" version of the product emerged known under the name of "Condor" and it was powered by an American Lycoming O-540 series engine. The "Iak-52W", another western-minded variant, is powered by either the M-14P or M-14Kh engine and its cockpit sports western-style gauges. The "Iak-52TW" follows suit though with newer wings and extra internal fuel. It also has a tailwheel as opposed to a nosewheel.
Operators of the Yak-52 have included Armenia, Belarus, Bulgaria, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Russia (Soviet Union), Ukraine, Turkmenistan and Vietnam. Some of these powers still actively field the type.
As built, the Yak-52 was given a length of 25.4 feet, a wingspan of 30.6 feet and a height of 8.10 feet. Empty weight was 2,240lb against an MTOW of 2,900lb. The M-14P engine provided a maximum speed of 177 mph, a cruise speed of 118 mph and a range out to 340 miles. The aircraft's service ceiling neared 13,125 feet and rate-of-climb was 1,380 feet-per-minute.