A Look at Eduard's 1/48 Profi-Pack Yak-3
By Tom Cleaver
Throughout most of the Second World War, the aviation industry of the Soviet Union suffered from the fact that there was virtually no experience within the industry of all metal aircraft construction, not to mention that there was a complete scarcity of aluminum and other light-alloy resources to support a high-tech industry. Thus, the overwhelming majority of the Red Air Force fighters that saw combat during the war were made of wood; as the war progressed and the strategic materials shortage lessened, such things as main spars were made of metal, but by and large, V-VS fighters were wooden warriors. This was coupled with the fact that the only realy modern fighter powerplant available through most of the war was the M-105 series, based on the French Hispano-Suiza 12Y. Power was limited to around 1,000-1,200 h.p. Combining the low power with the higher weight of the airframe (commonly 40% heavier than the equivalent airframe built of aluminum), there was a severe power-to-weight ratio. It was this more than anything else that led to the relatively light armament of Soviet fighters of a cannon with one or two machine guns. The one exception to this was the Lavochkin La-5 series, with a radial engine of 1,600 h.p., which gave a sparkling performance and allowed for a relatively heavy armament of two 20mm cannon.
The power-to-weight problem was particularly severe with the most-prolific of Soviet fighters of the war, the products of the design bureau led by Alexander Yakovlev. The original Yak-1 was powered by the 1,100 h.p. M-105, and armed with two 7.72mm machine guns and one cannon. With the advent of the Yak-1b, armament was revised to include one 20mm cannon and one 12.7mm Beresin machine gun, the heavier weight of the Beresin being compensated for by the reduction in total armement. This armament continued in the so-called "heavy fighters," the Yak-7 and Yak-9 series, which are primarily distinguishable at a distance from their Yak-1 forebears by the increased-span wing with squared wingtips and larger wing area; the Yak-9 series being the first of the Yak fighters to be produced with a light-alloy spar, which contributed to a significant weight saving that was taken up by increased fuel. The final version of the Yak-9, the Yak-9U, had power increased by use of the new M-107A which provided 1,620 h.p. for take-ff, and was of all-metal construction. The Yak-9U arrived in combat at the end of the war, and also saw combat with the North Korean Air Force in 1950-51.
However, in 1942, the possibility of an M-107 engine and an all-metal structure was in the far distant future. What was needed right then was a high-performance lightweight fighter to counter the later versions of the Bf-109G and the Fw-190A over the battlefield. This second line of development from the basic Yak-1 series aimed at obtaining the highest possible performance with the M-105PF engine. The rear fuselage was cut down in the manner of the Yak-1b, and the wing spand and area reduced from 32 ft., 9 3/4 in. and 184.5 sq.ft. for the Yak-1b to 30 ft., 2 1/2 in., and 159.9 sq.ft.; total weight was reduced by 660 pounds. This aircraft, the Yak-1M, led in the spring of 1943 to the development of the Yak-3, which was placed in production that summer. With the smaller wing of the Yak-1M, the Yak-3 was powered by an M-105PF-2 engine rated at 1,222 h.p. for take-off. The oil cooler was tranferred from its previous position under the nose to the port wing root, and the raido mast was eliminated. An exceptionally fine finish was obtained by a thick layer of polish which proved to stand up well in service.
Performance of the Yak-3 was superior to the early Yak-9s, a maximum speed of 403 m.p.h. being attained at 16,400 ft., that altitude being reached in 4.1 minutes. Range was 506 miles at a cruising speed of 305 m.p.h., and loaded weight was 5,864 lbs. With a wing loading of 36.35 lb./sq. ft., stalling speed was high and take-off and landing could present the novice with difficulty. Armament comprised on 20mm ShVAK cannon with 120 rounds and two 12.7mm Beresin machine guns with 250 rounds per gun. Handling characteristics of the new Yak-3 were excellent, and pilots who flew both it and early versions of the Spitfire said the Yak-3 was lighter on the controls and smoother to fly.
The Yak-3 made its operational debut during the Battle of Kursk in July 1943; by the early spring of 1944, several V-VS fighter regiments had re-equipped with the type. Such was the success of the Yak-3 that Luftwaffe pilots received instructions to avoid combat below 5,000 meters with Yakovlev fighers lacking an oil cooler under the nose. On July 14, 1944, eight Yak-3s fought a running battle with a formation of 60 Ju-87s and escorting Bf-109Gs, destroying three Ju-87s and four Bf-109Gs for no loss. On July 15, 1944, 18 Yak-3s encountered a mixed formation of Bf-109Gs and Fw-190As, and destroyed 15 for the loss of one Yak. In August 1944, the Normandie-Niemen Regiment, composed of Free French pilots flying with the V-VS, was offered their choice of any Russian or Western lend-lease aircraft, and selected the Yak-3. They re-equipped with the fighter in October 1944, subsequently scoring the majority of their total 273 victories while mounted on the Yak-3.
In January 1944, the M-107A engine was installed in a Yak-3, which resulted in a top speed of 447 m.p.h. at 18,865 ft.; at 16,400 ft., the re-engined Yak-3 was 60-70 m.p.h. faster than the Bf-109G-2 or Fw-190A-4. Production of the Yak-3 with the M-107A egning began in November 1944, but it did not reach front-line units in time to see action during the war.
Ever since the introduction of the Pfalx D.III in 1996, Eduard has had a method of injection-molded production that has allowed their limited-run kits to approach the products of the mainstream manufacturers in quality. This has steadily improved, with the recent Nieuport 17, Albatros D.III and Hanriot H.D.1 kits being almost indistinguishable as limited-run kits. The Yak-3 can be said to end the question of quality - Eduard has definitely achieved parity with such as Accurate Miniatures. In fact, the engineering of the Eduard Yak will likely result in an easier build for the average modeler than the A-M Yak. In terms of quality, the only area where the A-M kit is superior is in the cockpit, where the A-M kit provides more detail than the Eduard presentation. What is there, is perfectly acceptable, and few modelers will complain.
The canopy glass provides the option of a closed canopy or an open one in three parts. The injection-molded clear plastic is only slightly thicker than a vacuformed canopy would be, and is at least as clear as the A-M canopies.
In the higher-priced Profi-pack version, Eduard provides a photo-etch fret that includes the instrument panel, radiators, landing gear detail, seat belts, and all the control levers for various items in the cockpit.
Decals are provided for four options: a Normandie-Niemen aircraft flown by Robert Marchi, and V-VS Yaks flown by Hero of the Soviet Union Maj. Gen. Georgi N. Zakhanov, C.O., 303rd Guards Fighter Regiment; Hero of the Soviet Union S. W. Nosov of the 150th Guards Fighter Regiment; and Semyon Rogow, 1st Guards Fighter Division. These are far superior in quality than the previous Propagteam decals Eduard has used in their kits.
Overall, this looks to be an excellent contribution to the growing ranks of Yak fighters available in 1/48 for the modeler interested in the fighters of the Eastern Front of the Second World War.
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