Yakovlev Yak-38
The Yakovlev
The Yak Aircraft Corporation is a Russian aircraft designer and manufacturer...

' onMouseout='HidePop("22166")' href="/topics/NATO_reporting_name">NATO reporting name
NATO reporting name
NATO reporting names are classified code names for military equipment of the Eastern Bloc...

: Forger) was Soviet Naval Aviation
Soviet Naval Aviation
Soviet Naval Aviation was a part of the Soviet Navy.- Origins :...

's first and only operational VTOL
A vertical take-off and landing aircraft is one that can hover, take off and land vertically. This classification includes fixed-wing aircraft as well as helicopters and other aircraft with powered rotors, such as cyclogyros/cyclocopters and tiltrotors...

 strike fighter aircraft, in addition to being its first operational carrier-based fixed-wing aircraft. It was developed specifically for and served exclusively on the Kiev class aircraft carrier
Kiev class aircraft carrier
The Kiev class carriers were the first class of fixed-wing aircraft carriers built in the Soviet Union....


Design and development

The first drawings showed a supersonic aircraft strongly resembling the Hawker P.1154 in study in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 but with two R27-300 engines. Supersonic performances would have implied many difficulties of development, and it was decided to initially develop a relatively simple aircraft limited to Mach 0.95. Although the Yak-38 and Yak-38M were developed from the land-based Yakovlev Yak-36, the aircraft had almost nothing in common.

The prototype VM-01 was finished on 14 April 1970. Though outwardly similar to the British Hawker Siddeley Harrier, it followed a completely different configuration. Together with a vectorable thrust engine in the rear used during flight, two smaller, and less powerful, engines were housed in the front portion of the fuselage and used purely for take-off and landing.The Harrier has only one engine, the thrust being vectored through nozzles fore and aft. The aircraft used a similar layout to the German experimental VTOL strike fighter, the VFW VAK 191B
|-See also:-References:NotesBibliography* Jackson, Paul A. German Military Aviation 1956-1976. Hinckley, Leicestershire, UK: Midland Counties Publications, 1976. ISBN 0-904597-03-2.-External links:* * * *...

, which began development in 1961, and the contemporary Dassault Mirage IIIV
Dassault Mirage IIIV
|-See also:-Bibliography:* Breffort, Dominique and Andre Jouineau. "The Mirage III, 5, 50 and derivatives from 1955 to 2000." Planes and Pilots 6. Paris: Histoire et Collections, 2004. ISBN 2-913903-92-4....

The Yak 36 was sent for tests in May and June 1970. Mikhail Deksbakh carried out the first flight of the VM-02 in conventional flight mode on 15 January 1971. The VM-03 made its first flight in short take-off mode on 25 May 1971. Sea trials aboard the aircraft carrier
Aircraft carrier
An aircraft carrier is a warship designed with a primary mission of deploying and recovering aircraft, acting as a seagoing airbase. Aircraft carriers thus allow a naval force to project air power worldwide without having to depend on local bases for staging aircraft operations...

 ("aviation cruiser") were observed in 1975. A total of 231 Yak-38 aircraft were produced, including 38 two-seat trainers (Yak-38U). These were based on the four Kievs.

The Yak-38 used a hands-free landing system. The aircraft could negotiate a telemetry
Telemetry is a technology that allows measurements to be made at a distance, usually via radio wave transmission and reception of the information. The word is derived from Greek roots: tele = remote, and metron = measure...

A telecommand is a command sent to control a remote system or systems not directly connected to the place from which the telecommand is sent. The word is derived from tele = remote , and command = to entrust/order...

 link with a computer system in the aircraft carrier which would allow it to be guided onto the deck with no interaction from the pilot.

Another advanced feature that Yak-38 possessed was an automatic ejection seat. When one of the take-off engines failed, once the aircraft rolled past 60 degrees the pilot was automatically ejected from the aircraft. The take-off engines did suffer some reliability problems while in service and this system saved the lives of a few Russian naval aviators.


The initial colour scheme worn by the AV-MF Yak-38 consisted of dark green anti-corrosion paint on the undersides of the aircraft, with dark blue upper surfaces. This was later replaced by a light grey over dark grey scheme, frequently associated with the Yak-38M. An unusual green-over-silver "tiger" camouflage scheme, reportedly seen on an aircraft onboard Leningrad in 1986, was probably applied for one cruise only. Special camouflage schemes may also have been applied to aircraft involved in the Romb-1 trials in Afghanistan in 1980.

Operational history

The majority of Yak-36M initial production deliveries were to the 279 OKShAP (Otdelnyi Korabelnyi Shturmovoi Aviatsionnyi Polk, Independent Shipboard Attack Air Regiment), initially based at Saki, the AV-MF’s training centre in Crimea
Crimea , or the Autonomous Republic of Crimea , is a sub-national unit, an autonomous republic, of Ukraine. It is located on the northern coast of the Black Sea, occupying a peninsula of the same name...

. Pilots for this unit were drawn from the Yakovlev OKB and the LII at Zhukovskii, as well as from the AV-MF. Established as early as December 1973, the 279 OKShAP of the Black Sea Fleet
Black Sea Fleet
The Black Sea Fleet is a large operational-strategic sub-unit of the Russian Navy, operating in the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea since the late 18th century. It is based in various harbors of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov....

 made use of a dummy Kiev-class flight deck
Flight deck
The flight deck of an aircraft carrier is the surface from which its aircraft take off and land, essentially a miniature airfield at sea. On smaller naval ships which do not have aviation as a primary mission, the landing area for helicopters and other VTOL aircraft is also referred to as the...

, and also operated a pair of MiG-21
Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21
The Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 is a supersonic jet fighter aircraft, designed by the Mikoyan-Gurevich Design Bureau in the Soviet Union. It was popularly nicknamed "balalaika", from the aircraft's planform-view resemblance to the Russian stringed musical instrument or ołówek by Polish pilots due to...

UMs (and, briefly, Kamov Ka-25
Kamov Ka-25
|-See also:-Bibliography:* Gunston, Bill. “The Osprey Encyclopaedia of Russian Aircraft 1875–1995”. London, Osprey. 1995. ISBN 1 85532 405 9-External links:* http://www.aviation.ru/Ka/#25* http://www.aviastar.org/helicopters_eng/ka-25.php...

s) for training. The first AV-MF squadron embarked on Kiev in July 1976. On the conclusion of acceptance trials for the initial Yak-36Ms in August 1976 (Kiev was underway in the Atlantic at this point), the aircraft was formally accepted by the AV-MF in October, under the new designation Yak-38.

On its arrival in Murmansk, the 279 OKShAP was transferred to the Northern Fleet, with subsequent flying operations mainly being conducted from Severomorsk-3. The 299 IIAP (Issledovatlesko-Instruktorskiy Aviatsionnyi Polk, Research and Instructor Air Regiment) had been formed as a training unit at Saki in September 1976 to replace the previous unit within the Black Sea Fleet.

The February 1978 entry into service of , the second Kiev-class ship, was accompanied by a further series of Yak-38 shipboard trials, beginning in April 1978, and with the emphasis now placed on developing procedure for STOL
STOL is an acronym for short take-off and landing, a term used to describe aircraft with very short runway requirements.-Definitions:There is no one accepted definition of STOL and many different definitions have been used by different authorities and nations at various times and for a myriad of...

 operations. The passage of Minsk out of the Black Sea in February 1979 was duly followed by a major exercise involving two Kievs in the Mediterranean. On this occasion, five aircraft from each vessel conducted formation exercises in proximity to NATO observers.

The Yak-38’s limited useful payload was always its Achilles’ heel, but the high ambient temperatures that had been encountered in the Black Sea during the summer 1976 trials frequently prevented the aircraft from carrying any external stores at all, despite a reduced fuel load. Similar problems were then encountered when Minsk sailed off the coast of West Africa
West Africa
West Africa or Western Africa is the westernmost region of the African continent. Geopolitically, the UN definition of Western Africa includes the following 16 countries and an area of approximately 5 million square km:-Flags of West Africa:...

 and then in the Indian Ocean
Indian Ocean
The Indian Ocean is the third largest of the world's oceanic divisions, covering approximately 20% of the water on the Earth's surface. It is bounded on the north by the Indian Subcontinent and Arabian Peninsula ; on the west by eastern Africa; on the east by Indochina, the Sunda Islands, and...

; in these instances the lift jets proved unwilling to start under hot and humid conditions. An oxygen-boosting intake system helped alleviate the problem, and was installed from September 1979 during routine overhauls. In July 1979, Minsk arrived in the Sea of Japan
Sea of Japan
The Sea of Japan is a marginal sea of the western Pacific Ocean, between the Asian mainland, the Japanese archipelago and Sakhalin. It is bordered by Japan, North Korea, Russia and South Korea. Like the Mediterranean Sea, it has almost no tides due to its nearly complete enclosure from the Pacific...

, where the vessel was home-ported at Strelok Bay, the Yak-38 component of its air wing thereafter being provided by the 311 OKShAP subordinate to the Pacific Fleet. The 311 OKShAP, established in March 1976, was the second AV-MF Yak-38 unit.

During its first few years of ship-borne operations, the Yak-38 was not cleared to make rolling take-offs and run-on landings, leading some Western observers to believe the fundamentals of its propulsion design restricted the type to VTOL operations. In fact, shipboard short take-off trials had begun by December 1979, while experiments with run-on landings followed aboard Minsk between September 1980 and February 1981. V/STOL
Vertical and/or short take-off and landing is a term used to describe aircraft that are able to take-off or land vertically or on short runways. Vertical takeoff and landing describes craft which do not require runways at all...

 operations were made easier by the addition of a refined automatic flight control system, linked to a thumb switch on the pilot’s stick. Rolling take-offs were conducted with the lift engines deflected aft, the main engine nozzles being rotated automatically from 60° to 25° during the take-off run, before being slowly returned to the horizontal as the lift engines were shut down.

The Kievs normally embarked 12 single-seat Yak-38s, supplemented by two or three two-seat Yak-38Us, as part of an independent aviation regiment that also included two squadrons of (mainly anti-submarine warfare) helicopters. Of the seven landing pads available on the deck of each Kiev, all but one could accommodate the Yak-38.

During April and May 1980, four Yak-38s and four AV-MF pilots were deployed to Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

 as part of a 50-day trial codenamed Romb-1, although the ‘hot and high’ conditions prevented any meaningful combat missions from being undertaken – in total, 12 combat sorties were made, but only two 100 kg (220.5 lb) bombs could be carried. In the event, any involvement would have been further limited by the ‘near-operational’ nature of the Romb-1 deployment (which also involved the first and third prototype Su-25s). The aircraft involved were not intended to be subject to combat, but rather tested under conditions that simulated the battlefield to a high degree. Despite their official non-operational nature, aircraft involved in the Romb trials could be requested to undertake combat sorties by local divisional commanders, on an ad hoc basis. The Yak-38s and prototype Su-25s operated out of a specially prepared air base near Shindand. Even with a much-reduced fuel and weapons load, the Yak-38 proved incapable of operating during the hot daylight hours (after around 0500 hrs). One aircraft was lost in Afghanistan due to non-combat causes.

In September 1982, - the third Kiev-class carrier - was commissioned. By now the V/STOL technique had been well practised, and the resulting increase in the Yak-38’s overall performance and capability was exploited during the passage of Novorossiysk from Severomorsk to join the Pacific Fleet. In a maritime context, the Yak-38 was not limited to the decks of Kievs. In September 1983, AV-MF pilots operated from the civilian Ro-Ro vessel Agostinio Neto, and NII-VVS pilots conducted further tests from another ‘Ro-Ro’, Nikolai Cherkasov. In both cases, use was made of a heat-resistant landing platform; further land-based trials tested the practicality of dispersed landing platforms, in a similar concept to the RAF’s Harrier operations in West Germany
West Germany
West Germany is the common English, but not official, name for the Federal Republic of Germany or FRG in the period between its creation in May 1949 to German reunification on 3 October 1990....


However, towards the middle of the 1980s, the Yak-38 was removed from front line service and transferred to land-based operations. The aircraft proved to have problems in conditions of high heat/high humidity, was underpowered and lacked an adequate combat radius. In fact, due to these limitations, one of the nicknames that the aircraft earned in the Soviet naval jargon was "a pigeon of peace". Another less than flattering nickname earned due to inadequate combat radius was "fok-mast defense aircraft". In 1991, the type was retired from the Soviet Navy, and transferred to storage. A large number remain preserved as memorials.


Type Serial Location
Yak-38 0201 Museum of Technology, Arkhangelsk
Arkhangelsk , formerly known as Archangel in English, is a city and the administrative center of Arkhangelsk Oblast, Russia. It lies on both banks of the Northern Dvina River near its exit into the White Sea in the north of European Russia. The city spreads for over along the banks of the river...

, Russia
Yak-38У 01 Lugansk Aircraft Repair Plant, Ukraine
Yak-38 71 Technical Museum, Tolyatti
Tolyatti , also known as Togliatti, is a city in Samara Oblast, Russia. It serves as the administrative center of Stavropolsky District, although it is administratively separate from it...

, Russia
Yak-38 10 Severomorsk-3
Severomorsk-3 (settlement)
Severomorsk-3 is an urban-type settlement in Murmansk Oblast, Russia, located on the Kola Peninsula on the Srednyaya River, 22 km south-east of Severomorsk. Population: 3125 .It was founded as a work settlement around 1951....

, Russia
Yak-38М 46 Ukraine State Aviation Museum
Ukraine State Aviation Museum
The State Aviation Museum is an aviation museum located next to Zhulyany Airport in Kiev, Ukraine. The museum offers both aircraft exhibits and also interactive displays. The museum opened its doors to the public on 30 September 2003, with Yuriy Ziatdinov as initial curator...

, Kiev, Ukraine
Yak-38У 03 Naval Museum, Sevastopol
Sevastopol is a city on rights of administrative division of Ukraine, located on the Black Sea coast of the Crimea peninsula. It has a population of 342,451 . Sevastopol is the second largest port in Ukraine, after the Port of Odessa....

, Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

Yak-38М 67 Naval Museum, Sevastopol, Ukraine
Yak-38М 83 Air Force HQ, Vinnitsa, Ukraine
Yak-38 87 (former s/n 90) Artyom
Artyom is a city in Primorsky Krai, Russia, situated in the northern part of the Muravyov-Amursky Peninsula. Population: Artyom is built mainly with one-, two-, and five-story panel buildings, though a comparatively large number of wooden private houses can be seen.-History:Artyom was founded in...

, Primorsky Krai
Primorsky Krai
Primorsky Krai , informally known as Primorye , is a federal subject of Russia . Primorsky means "maritime" in Russian, hence the region is sometimes referred to as Maritime Province or Maritime Territory. Its administrative center is in the city of Vladivostok...

, Russia
Yak-38 60 Khodynka Field, Moscow, Russia
Yak-38У 05 Saki, Crimea, Ukraine
Yak-38 23 Taganrog Museum of Aircraft, Taganrog
Taganrog is a seaport city in Rostov Oblast, Russia, located on the north shore of Taganrog Bay , several kilometers west of the mouth of the Don River. Population: -History of Taganrog:...

, Russia
Yak-38 38 Kubinka (air base)
Kubinka (air base)
Kubinka is an air base in Moscow Oblast, Russia located 5 km northwest of Kubinka. In close proximity to Moscow, the Kubinka facility showcases the best of the Russian Air Force to the general public....

, Moscow, Russia
Yak-38У 24 Aerodrome Zhukovsky, Moscow, Russia
Yak-38 37 Central Air Force Museum
Central Air Force Museum
The Central Air Force Museum in Monino at the site of Monino Airfield 40km east of Moscow, Russia, is one of the world's largest aviation museums, and the largest for Russian aircraft...

, Monino
Monino is an urban locality in Shchyolkovsky District of Moscow Oblast, Russia, situated east of Moscow. Population:...

, Russia
Yak-38 38 Central Air Force Museum
Central Air Force Museum
The Central Air Force Museum in Monino at the site of Monino Airfield 40km east of Moscow, Russia, is one of the world's largest aviation museums, and the largest for Russian aircraft...

, Monino
Monino is an urban locality in Shchyolkovsky District of Moscow Oblast, Russia, situated east of Moscow. Population:...

, Russia
Yak-38 04 Moscow Aviation Institute
Moscow Aviation Institute
Moscow Aviation Institute is one of several major engineering higher education establishments in Moscow .Although the school is currently offering a wide range of majors and research...

, Russia
Yak-38 71 Victory Park, Saratov
-Modern Saratov:The Saratov region is highly industrialized, due in part to the rich in natural and industrial resources of the area. The region is also one of the more important and largest cultural and scientific centres in Russia...

, Russia
Yak-38 27 Murmansk
Murmansk is a city and the administrative center of Murmansk Oblast, Russia. It serves as a seaport and is located in the extreme northwest part of Russia, on the Kola Bay, from the Barents Sea on the northern shore of the Kola Peninsula, not far from Russia's borders with Norway and Finland...

, Russia
Yak-38 29 No.121 Aircraft Repair Plant, Kubinka
Kubinka is a town in Odintsovsky District of Moscow Oblast, Russia, located on the Setun River, west of Moscow. Population: Kubinka was the location of the Soviet Union's tank proving grounds, and today is the home of the Kubinka Tank Museum...

, Russia


Yak-36M "Forger":
The initial pre-production version, differing slightly from the Yak-38. It weighed only 6650 kg (14,660.7 lb) compared to the Yak-38's 7370 kg (16,248.1 lb) and the engines were slightly less powerful.

Yak-38 "Forger-A":
The Yak-38 was the first production model, it first flew on 15 January 1971, and entered service with the Soviet Naval Aviation on 11 August 1976. A total of 143 Yak-38s were produced.

Yak-38M "Forger-A":
The Yak-38M was an upgraded version of the Yak-38, the main difference being the new Tumansky R-28V-300 and Rybinsk RD-38 engines. The maximum take off weight in VTOL was increased from 10 300 kg (661.4 lb) to 11 300 kg (661.4 lb) (12000 kg (26,455.5 lb) in short take-off mode). The air intakes were slightly widened and the pylons under wings were reinforced to carry a 2000 pound weapons load. The Yak-38M entered service with the Soviet Naval Aviation
Soviet Naval Aviation
Soviet Naval Aviation was a part of the Soviet Navy.- Origins :...

 after June 1985, a total of 50 Yak-38M were produced.

Yak-38U "Forger-B":
Two-seat training version for the Soviet Naval Aviation
Soviet Naval Aviation
Soviet Naval Aviation was a part of the Soviet Navy.- Origins :...

, this version differed from the basic aircraft in having an enlarged fuselage to accommodate a two-seater cockpit. The Yak-38U entered service on 15 November 1978, a total of 38 Yak-38U have been produced with the 38th aircraft being delivered in 1981.

Unbuilt projects

Yak-36P (or Yak-36MF):
Intended supersonic follow-on to the attack-optimised Yak-36M, adding AI radar, medium-range air-to-air missiles and advanced navigation equipment. A third RD-36-35 lift jet was also added to cope with increased take-off weight.

1970 project for supersonic light fighter with a pair of afterburning (hence "F" suffix) lift/cruise engines, the forward lift engines deleted, variable intakes, bicycle undercarriage.

Project for version with R-49V lift/cruise engine and two lift engines; one fuselage completed for tests under Tu-16LL
Tupolev Tu-16
The Tupolev Tu-16 was a twin-engine jet bomber used by the Soviet Union. It has flown for more than 50 years, and the Chinese license-built Xian H-6 remains in service with the Chinese air force.-Development:...


Refined version of Yak-36M with 15,000 kgf (33,100 lbf) thrust Type 55 (or subsequently R-61V) engine in redesigned fuselage.

Yak-38L (Yak-38I?):
AL-21F lift/cruise engine replacing R-27V-300.

Yak-38M fitted with a weapons system derived from that of the Mikoyan MiG-29
Mikoyan MiG-29
The Mikoyan MiG-29 is a fourth-generation jet fighter aircraft designed in the Soviet Union for an air superiority role. Developed in the 1970s by the Mikoyan design bureau, it entered service with the Soviet Air Force in 1983, and remains in use by the Russian Air Force as well as in many other...

 and including N019 radar and advanced nav/attack suite.

Multi-role fighter/attack aircraft project dating from 1983, employing one R-28V-300 and two RD-48 engines, PRNK-39 avionics kompleks; S-41D multi-mode radar, larger wing, increased fuel capacity and expanded weapons options based around Shkval or Kaira PGM designation systems.

Specifications (Yakovlev Yak-38M)

See also

External links

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