Yak 38. A Soviet ship strike aircraft with vertical take-off and landing

Yak 38. A Soviet ship strike aircraft with vertical take-off and landing from 1970.

The Yakovlev Yak-38 (NATO reporting name: “Forger”) was Soviet Naval Aviation’s only operational VTOL strike fighter aircraft in addition to being its first operational carrier-based fixed-wing aircraft. It was developed specifically for, and served almost exclusively on, the Kiev-class aircraft carriers (heavy aviation cruiser in Russian classification).

Designed by the A.S. Yakovlev Design Bureau, the first drawings showed a supersonic aircraft strongly resembling the Hawker P.1154 in study in the United Kingdom, but with two R27-300 engines. Supersonic performance 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 takeoff and landing.

The Yak-38 had an automatic ejection seat. If one of the takeoff engines failed or the aircraft rolled past 60 degrees the pilot was automatically ejected from the aircraft.

General characteristics

Crew: 1
Length: 16.37 m (53 ft 8 in)
Wingspan: 7.32 m (24 ft 0 in)
Height: 4.25 m (13 ft 11 in)
Wing area: 18.5 m2 (199 sq ft)
Empty weight: 7,385 kg (16,281 lb)
Max takeoff weight: 11,300 kg (24,912 lb)
Powerplant: 1 × Tumansky R-28 V-300 Vectored-thrust turbofan engine, 66.7 kN (15,000 lbf) thrust for lift and cruise thrust
Powerplant: 2 × Rybinsk (RKBM) RD-38 turbojet engines, 31.9 kN (7,200 lbf) thrust each lift-jets


Maximum speed: 1,280 km/h (800 mph, 690 kn)
Range: 1,300 km (810 mi, 700 nmi)
Service ceiling: 11,000 m (36,000 ft)
Rate of climb: 75 m/s (14,800 ft/min)


Guns: GSh-23L 23mm gun pod (GP-9). Carried in one or two pairs of UPK-23-250 pods fixed under the external pylons of wings.
Hardpoints: 4 with a capacity of 2,000 kg (4,400 lb), with provisions to carry combinations of:
Rockets: various types of rockets (up to 240 mm)
Missiles: 2 anti-ship or air-to-surface Kh-23 (AS-7 Kerry). R-60 or R-60M (AA-8 Aphid) air-to-air missiles could be carried under the external pylons.
Bombs: two FAB-500 or four FAB-250 general-purpose bombs under pylons, two incendiary ZB-500, or two nuclear RN-28 bombs.
Other: external tanks.

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