Yakovlev “Yak-3M”
Russian WWII single-engine single-seat monoplane fighter

Archive Photos

Yakovlev “Yak-3M” (N529SB, s/n 0470104) on display 8/27/2005 at the 2005 Camarillo Air Show, Camarillo, California (John Shupek photo)

Overview 2

The Yakovlev Yak-3 was a World War II Soviet fighter aircraft regarded as one of the best fighters of the war. As one of the smallest and lightest major combat fighters fielded by any combatant during the war, its high power-to-weight ratio gave it excellent performance.

Design and Development 2

The origins of the Yak-3 went Back to 1941 when the I-30 prototype was offered along with the I-26 as an alternate design to the Yak-1. The I-30, powered by a Klimov M-105P engine, was of all-metal construction, using a wing with dihedral on the outer panels. Like the early Yak-1, it had a ShVAK 20 mm cannon firing through the prop spinner and twin ShKAS 7.62 mm machine guns in the nose, but was also fitted with a ShVAK cannon in each wing. The first of two prototypes was fitted with a slatted wing to improve handling and short-field performance while the second prototype had a wooden wing without slats, in order to simplify production. The second prototype crashed during flight tests and was written off. Although there were plans to put the Yak-3 into production, the scarcity of aviation aluminum and the pressure of the Nazi invasion led to abandoning work on the first Yak-3 in the late fall of 1941.

In 1943, Yakovlev designed the Yak-1M which was a smaller and lighter version of the Yak-1. A second Yak-1M prototype was constructed later that year, differing from the first aircraft in plywood instead of fabric covering of the rear fuselage, mastless radio antenna, reflector gunsight and improved armor and engine cooling. The chief test pilot for the project Piotr Mikhailovich Stefanovskiy was so impressed with the new aircraft that he recommended that it should completely replace Yak-1 and Yak-7 with only the Yak-9 retained in production for further work with the Klimov VK-107 engine. The new fighter, designated the Yak-3 entered service in 1944, later than the Yak-9 in spite of the lower designation number. A total of 4,848 aircraft were produced.

The designation Yak-3 was also used for other Yakovlev projects - a proposed but never built, heavy twin-engine fighter and the Yakovlev Yak-7A.

Operational History 2

Lighter and smaller than the Yak-9 but powered by the same engine, Yak-3 was a very agile dogfighter and a forgiving, easy-to-handle aircraft loved by both rookie and veteran pilots. Early combat experience found it to be superior to all Luftwaffe fighters at altitudes below 5,000 m (16,400 ft). It could roll with the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 and its turn rate was far superior; a full circle in 18.6 seconds. The two biggest drawBacks of the aircraft were its short range and the tendency of the glued-on plywood covering the top of the wings to tear away under high-G loads. The pneumatic system for actuating landing gear, flaps and brakes, typical for all Yakovlev fighters of the time was also less reliable than the hydraulic or electrical systems, but it was preferred due to significant weight savings. The first 197 Yak-3 were armed with a single 20 mm ShVAK cannon and one 12.7 mm UBS machine gun, with subsequent aircraft receiving a second UBS for a weight of fire of 2.72 kg (6.0 lb) per second using high-explosive ammunition.

Variants 2

Operators 2

Modern Recreations 2

In addition, since 1991, a number of Yak-3s have been newly manufactured by Yakovlev for the warbird market using the original plans and dies. These are powered by Allison V-1710 engines and have the designation Yak-3M. Several of these are airworthy today, mostly in the United States, but also in Germany and Australia. Others have been converted to "Yak-3" status from Yak-11 trainers (with the fitting of a Allison engine) for private owners, with these aircraft also being very popular worldwide.

Specifications and Performance Data 3, 4

General Characteristics



Tail Unit

Landing Gear

Power Plant








  1. Photos: John Shupek
  2. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yakovlev_Yak-3
  3. Bridgman, Leonard, Grey, C. G., Jane's All the WorlD’s Aircraft 1949/50, Sampson Low, London, England, 1950
  4. Green, William and Swanbourough, Gordon, The Complete Book of Fighters, Smithmark Publishers Inc., New York, NY, 1994, ISBN 0-8317-3939-8

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