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Yakovlev Yak-41 (Freestyle / Yak-141)

Prototype VTOL Fleet Defense Fighter Aircraft

Yakovlev Yak-41 (Freestyle / Yak-141)

Prototype VTOL Fleet Defense Fighter Aircraft

OVERVIEW
SPECIFICATIONS
ARMAMENT
VARIANTS
HISTORY
MEDIA
OVERVIEW



The Yakovlev Yak-41 Freestyle was a promising VTOL naval fighter derailed by Soviet events of the late 1980s and early 1990s.
National Flag Graphic
ORIGIN: Soviet Union
YEAR: 1987
STATUS: Cancelled
MANUFACTURER(S): Yakovlev - Soviet Union
PRODUCTION: 4
OPERATORS: Russia; Soviet Union
SPECIFICATIONS



Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the Yakovlev Yak-41 (Freestyle) model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.
CREW: 1
LENGTH: 60.24 feet (18.36 meters)
WIDTH: 33.17 feet (10.11 meters)
HEIGHT: 16.40 feet (5 meters)
WEIGHT (EMPTY): 25,684 pounds (11,650 kilograms)
WEIGHT (MTOW): 42,990 pounds (19,500 kilograms)
ENGINE: 1 x MNPK Soyuz/Kobchenko R-79V-300 vectored-thrust turbofan cruise engine developing 34,170lbf thrust with afterburning; 2 x Rybinski/Kuznetsov (RKBM) RD-41 turbojet lift engines of 9,300lbf thrust each.
SPEED (MAX): 1,118 miles-per-hour (1800 kilometers-per-hour; 972 knots)
RANGE: 1,305 miles (2,100 kilometers; 1,134 nautical miles)
CEILING: 50,853 feet (15,500 meters; 9.63 miles)
RATE-OF-CLIMB: 49,213 feet-per-minute (15,000 meters-per-minute)




ARMAMENT



STANDARD:
1 x 30mm GSh-30-1 internal cannon

OPTIONAL:
4 x R-73 (AA-11) Archer short-range IR-guided air-to-air missiles.
4 x R-77 (AA-12) Adder radar-guided medium-range air-to-air missiles.
4 x R-27 (AA-10) Alamo radar-guided medium-range air-to-air missiles.
Kh-35 anti-ship missiles
Kh-31P anti-radar missiles
Kh-58 (AS-11) Kilter anti-radar missiles
Conventional Drop Bombs
Unguided Rockets (in launch pods)
1 x Fuel Tank on fuselage centerline

Up to 5,733lbs of external ordnance on four underwing pylons and a single centerline fuselage hardpoint. Vertical take-off max is 2,204lbs while Standard Take-Off max was 5,732lb.
VARIANTS



Series Model Variants
• Yak-41 (Freestyle) - Base Series Designation
• 48-0 - Static airframe testbed
• 48-1 - Engine testbed
• 48-2 - Flyable prototype
• 48-3 - Flyable prototype; damaged by fire and reclaimed as static showpiece.
• Yak-41M - Initial Project Designation and internal Soviet military designation; developmental model; single vectoring jet nozzle; directional afterburner exhaust.
• Yak-41M - Proposed production model designation; to be finished with LERXs and improved avionics package.
• Yak-41U - Abandoned Two-Seat Trainer Prototype; tandem-seat cockpit.
• Yak-43 - Proposed version of the Yak-41M but fitting Kuznetsov/Samara NK-321 engines from Tupolev Tu-160 bomber with 2 x RD-41 lift engines instead; revised trapezoidal wings on lengthened fuselage; limited stealth characteristics; increased internal payload capacity and fuel load, the latter for improved range.
• Yak-141 - Western designation applied to Yak-41


HISTORY



Detailing the development and operational history of the Yakovlev Yak-41 (Freestyle / Yak-141) Prototype VTOL Fleet Defense Fighter Aircraft.  Entry last updated on 2/21/2018. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com.
Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) flight of fixed-wing fighter aircraft eluded aeronautical engineers for decades until several of the many initiatives of the 1960s ultimately yielded viable forms. The most famous of these became the British "Harrier" which was produced in two distinct marks - a land-based attack form and the "Sea Harrier" navalized form, the latter seeing combat service during the Falkland War of 1982. For the Soviet Union, the concept only ever truly materialized in the Yakovlev Yak-38 "Forger" which served the Soviet Navy from 1976 to 1991. 231 of the type were produced but these aircraft were limited in their ordnance-carrying capabilities and overall performance - as such not an outright success. Other programs, such as the Yak-36 "Freehand" of 1963 (the program yielding four prototypes), helped to further the Soviet goal of VTOL fighter flight.

In 1975, Yakovlev OKB was directly given the task of broadening the capabilities of its Yak-36 design with a formal government contract. The product was envisioned to become a fleet defense fighter for the Soviet Navy with inherent supersonic capabilities to keep pace with fighters of the West. This meant that the aircraft would have to display fighter-like qualities such as agility, sound weapons integration, and performance for the ranged interception role needed against incoming aerial threats. The new VTOL fighter program was born under the "Product 48" name and came to be known by the Soviet Navy as "Yak-41".

Design studies began to weed out incompatible engine arrangements and configurations. The chief challenge lay in providing supersonic performance while maintaining a vectored thrust capability and this led engineers to adopt a single-engine layout for both safety and simplicity. The thrust vectoring would come from a nozzle set at amidships in the fuselage (aided by smaller "thrust jets" installed at the forward section of the airframe) and general forward thrust/lifting through a jetpipe at the rear of the aircraft. The rear jetpipe was designed to turn down to 90 degrees to further support the VTOL action at the rear of the aircraft - an arrangement now seen in the American Lockheed F-35 "Lightning II" 5th Generation strike fighter.

With this single engine layout in mind, engineers developed the airframe to include twin tailbooms straddling either side of the engine installation. The remainder of the aircraft mimicked the design lines seen in previous Soviet high-speed aircraft of the period - namely the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25 "Foxbat" and MiG-31 "Foxhound" with their slab-sided forward fuselages, large and rectangular intake openings (located to either side of the cockpit), and small-area wings clipped at their ends and showcasing sweep along their leading edges. The wing mainplanes were designed with a folding feature to aid in carrier storage and the reinforced wheeled tricycle undercarriage was retractable. Titanium was used to protect those surfaces expected to be exposed to the extreme temperatures of the list units while general areas were completed with composites where possible. The Yak-41 design ultimately utilized a three-engine layout. Its primary forward thrusting/lift unit was a Soyuz R-79V-300 turbofan engine outputting 24,300lbf on dry thrust and 34,170lbf with afterburner engaged. The lift engines comprised 2 x RKBM RD-41 turbojets delivering 9,300lbf of thrust apiece.




As a combat aircraft, the production-quality Yak-41 (Yak-41M) was slated to carry a 30mm GSh-301 series internal cannon as standard for close-in work, the cannon was fed by a 120-round cassette. Five hardpoints were integrated (four underwing, one fuselage centerline) for the carrying of various Soviet air-to-air missiles - up to 5,735lb of external stores in multiple combinations to suit short-, medium-, and long-ranged targets.

Yakovlev OKB was cleared to constructed four total prototypes during development and this lead to four aircraft designations in sequential order: 48-0, 48-1, 48-2, and 48-3. 48-0 was reserved as a static testbed and 48-1 trialed the engines so it was left to 48-2 to complete the series' first flight on March 9th, 1987 when the aircraft completed a conventional take-off and landing. The first hovering attempt was successfully completed on December 29th, 1989 with prototype 48-3 followed by the first compound action (vertical take-off with forward flight) recorded on June 13th, 1990. The first vertical carrier-based landing took place on September 26th, 1991.

In practice, the Yak-41 exhibited strong qualities and pilots reported a responsive aircraft with excellent fighter-like performance. Indeed, the prototypes claimed several aviation records though, due to the top secret development of the design, the "Yak-141" designation was submitted to the record books instead. Once this designation became known to the West, NATO assigned the design the codename of "Freestyle". During October of 1991, one of the prototypes was extensively damaged by a fire brought about from a hard carrier deck landing. Though this airframe was reclaimed, its flying days were over as it served out the rest of its tenure as a display piece.

As built, the Yak-41 was an impressive aircraft for her time. Performance specifications included a maximum speed of over Mach 1.4 (approximately 1,120 miles per hour) with a ferry range out to 1,865 miles, a service range out to 1,300 miles, a service ceiling up to 50,855 feet, and a rate-of-climb of 49,215 feet per minute.

Also in October of 1991 the Soviet Navy announced that the Yak-41 program would not be furthered (this coming during the tumultuous days of the fall of the Soviet Empire, a period in which the Soviet military suffered greatly from budget cuts). The proposed Yak-41M, expected to be the production model, was therefore not brought along. This mark would have incorporated an improved avionics suite as well as Leading-Edge Root Extensions (LERXs) at the wings. An alternatively-engined mark - the Yak-43 - also fell to naught. This would have carried a Kuznetsov/Samara NK-321 series engine (from a Tupolev Tu-160 bomber) and RD-41 lift engines. Yak-41U was to become a two-seat trainer to help reveal the intricacies of VTOL flight to incoming Russian naval pilots.

American defense-industry powerhouse Lockheed involved itself with the Yak-41 program for a short time in the early 1990s, this as the company was working on selling the USAF with its own VTOL-minded fighter product, the X-35 (to become the F-35 "Lightning II"). Beyond a last showing of prototypes 48-2 and 48-3 in 1993, the Yak-41 product fell to history after only two aircraft made up the line (not counting the two static/test members) - it was never adopted for Russian Navy service.




MEDIA









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.

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Relative Maximum Speed Rating
Hi: 1200mph
Lo: 600mph
    This entry's maximum listed speed (1,118mph).

    Graph average of 900 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
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  NYC
Graph showcases the Yakovlev Yak-41 (Freestyle)'s operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
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Unit Production Comparison
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units
4
4

  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

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


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Supported Roles
A2A
Interception
UAV
Ground Attack
CAS
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Anti-Ship
AEW
MEDEVAC
EW
Maritime/Navy
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Aerial Tanker
Utility/Transport
VIP
Passenger
Business
Recon
SPECOPS
X-Plane/Development
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
Supported Arsenal
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