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Yakovlev Yak-36 (Freehand)

Experimental Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) Aircraft


Four Yakovlev Yak-36 Freehand aircraft were completed for testing of a viable Vertical Short Take-Off and Landing aircraft platform.

Detailing the development and operational history of the Yakovlev Yak-36 (Freehand) Experimental Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) Aircraft.  Entry last updated on 5/20/2016. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©
The road to the Yak-38 "Forger" for Yakovlev went through the Yak-36 "Freehand" technology demonstrator. This aircraft was devised as a Vertical, Short Take-Off and Landing (V/STOL) platform from its inception, intended to showcase the viability of a specially-designed propulsion lift arrangement to achieve the desired results. Four test articles were completed before project's end of which three were used in actual flight testing. The Yak-36M evolved as the prototype form to the Yak-38 which achieved operational service with the Soviet Navy in 1976.

Yakovlev engineers completed work on an early-form VSTOL aircraft through the Yak-104 during the 1960s. This, based on a modified Yak-30 jet-powered trainer, laid the framework for a more advanced form still to come. When development of the Yak-104 was abandoned due to its complex lift system, attention turned to a more condensed model.

An initial single-engine approach was dropped in favor of a twin-engine product and the primary propulsion units would be featured in a side-by-side arrangement aspirated at the nose of the aircraft through a bifurcated intake. The same engines, mounted forward in the design, would also provide the necessary lifting power by way of swiveling exhaust nozzles set about the underside of the airframe. The design held a single pilot under a bubble-style canopy with minimal framing. A single vertical fin was featured at the tail with high-mounted horizontal planes. The wing mainplanes themselves were mid-mounted, swept-back, cropped-delta elements showcasing 37-degree sweepback along their trailing edges and slight anhedral (downward angle) overall. The undercarriage was of particular note, arranged in a "bicycle" pattern in which the main legs were inline under the fuselage's centerline. Outriggers were added to the wingtips to prevent tipping when ground-running.

The initial prototype was reserved for static tests so the second prototype was used in actual hovering, landing, and take-off actions. The third prototype was a more evolved model based on experiences gained with the first and second prototypes. The fourth prototype became another flyable example. The third and fourth units eventually crashed during tests with only the third example being rebuilt to continue work.

As a fighter development, it was envisioned that the production-quality Yak-36 would carry underwing hardpoints for conventional drop bombs, rocket pods, or cannon pods. Provision for 1 x 23mm GSh-12L series cannon was also planned. However, these were never fitted due to the design's lack of power - which kept it forever as a test platform and nothing more.

A first flight, though tethered for pilot safety, was held on January 9th, 1963 and a completely untethered test flight was recorded on June 23rd of that year. A first vertical-to-horizontal action was finally had on September 16th and March 24th, 1966 marked the first vertical-to-horizontal launch with vertical landing action undertaken (successfully). In July of 1967, the aircraft was publically showcased during the celebrations surrounding the 50th anniversary of the October Revolution. When identified in the West, it received the NATO codename of "Freehand".

The Yak-36 never materialized beyond the test articles as it lacked useful-enough qualities to become a combat-worthy platform - mainly operational range and power. Thusly, the Yak-36M was designed as a separate entry influenced by experience gained in the Yak-36 program - though the two aircraft held few similarities on the whole. The Yak-38 went on to become one of the few frontline VSTOL aircraft to see operational service - joining the vaunted British "Harrier" strike fighter appearing during the Cold War.


YEAR: 1963
MANUFACTURER(S): Yakovlev OKB - Soviet Union
LENGTH: 55.77 ft (17 m)
WIDTH: 32.81 ft (10 m)
HEIGHT: 14.76 ft (4.5 m)
EMPTY WEIGHT: 11,684 lb (5,300 kg)
MTOW: 19,621 lb (8,900 kg)
POWER: 2 x Tumansky R-27-300 turbojet engines with thrust vectoring developing 11,688lb of thrust each.
SPEED: 559 mph (900 kph; 486 kts)
CEILING: 39,370 feet (12,000 m; 7.46 miles)
RANGE: 230 miles (370 km; 200 nm)
RATE-OF-CLIMB: 28,000 ft/min (8,534 m/min)
OPERATORS: Soviet Union (cancelled)

1 x 23mm GSh-12L cannon

OPTIONAL (proposed):
Externally-held ordnance carried on two hardpoints supporting conventional drop bombs, rocket pods, and cannon pods.
Graphical image of an aircrat automatic cannon
Graphical image of an aircraft cannon pod
Graphical image of an aircraft rocket pod
Graphical image of an aircraft conventional drop bomb munition
Variants / Models

• Yak-36 - Base Series Designation

Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.

Image of collection of graph types

Relative Maximum Speed
Hi: 750mph
Lo: 375mph
This entry's maximum listed speed (559mph).

Graph average of 562.5 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
Graph showcases the Yakovlev Yak-36's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production (4)
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units

  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.

Altitude Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Supported Roles
Ground Attack
Aerial Tanker
A2A=Air-to-Air; UAV=Unmanned; CAS=Close Support; ASW=Anti-Submarine; AEW=Airborne Early Warning; MEDEVAC=Medical Evac; EW=Electronic Warfare; SAR=Search-Rescue
Commitments / Honors
Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Midway
Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
Military lapel ribbon for the Chaco War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cuban Missile Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for pioneering aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the French-Indochina War
Military lapel ribbon for the Golden Age of Flight
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Iran-Iraq War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
Military lapel ribbon for the Malayan Emergency
Military lapel ribbon representing modern aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Six Day War
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Suez Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for Warsaw Pact of the Cold War-era
Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur War
Military lapel ribbon for experimental x-plane aircraft
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.

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