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Last Yak - ICM's 1/48 YAK-7

By Tom Cleaver

 

THE AIRPLANE

The Yakovlev series of fighters were considerably higher-powered than the I-16 and I-153 aircraft they replaced in service in 1941-42. The V-VS had a very intelligent policy of ordering two-seat conversion trainers, starting with the I-16UTI; the same thing was done with the new Yak series. The trainer was the Yak-7V, which had the radio gear removed from the rear fuselage and a second seat installed with a rudimentary cockpit for the instructor. This included a sliding clear canopy installed behind the standard canopy from the early Yak-1. In addition, the rear fuselage line was raised to provide increased headroom for the instructor. To save weight from this installation, the landing gear was non-retractable.

The need for single-seat fighters was greater than the need for the two-seat conversion trainer. Since the Yak-7 production line already existed, it was decided to turn the two-seater back to a single-seater by removing the rear seat and installing a metal cover where the second sliding canopy had been. Thus, while sufficient trainers would be produced, there would be additional single-seaters for the operational units. With retractable landing gear, and the same armament of a single 20mm cannon firing through the propeller hub and two synchronized 7.62mm machine guns in the upper cowling deck as the Yak-1, the resulting Yak-7a was indistinguishable at a distance from its predecessor, other than the raised line of the rear upper fuselage decking. 245 of these makeshift fighters were produced in the first half of 1942, adding their weight to that of the Yak-1s in the desperate fighting that marked the first half of the Great Patriotic War.

THE KIT

It has been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If that is true, Bill Bosworth at Accurate Miniatures should be feeling very flattered as he looks at this second 1/48 airplane model from the Ukrainian manufacturer ICM. I think a more accurate description of what is seen here comes from the advice I received from my writing mentor, whose credits included "The Spirit of St. Louis," "The Hunters," and "The Enemy Below." "When you are first trying to find your voice, copy from the best, so that when you find that voice that is yours, you'll have picked up good knowledge along the way."

At any rate, ICM's second essay into the products of the Yakovlev design bureau is very different from its first, the "heavy fighter" Yak-9, in late 1997. At the time of its release, it was definitely the best Yak fighter in 1/48, but its only competition was the LTD limited run kit, and in truth it was primitive in comparison with what else was out there in terms of production quality. With a little effort and a yet-to-be-created cast resin cockpit, this can make up into a fairly nice model. The new Yak-7 plainly shows that ICM's designers have taken a good long look at the Accurate Miniatures Yak-1 series. Various areas are far more detailed than the earlier kit, though not yet to A-M standards; this is probably due to the designer having to take into consideration what is possible with the production process ICM has access to. While the surface detail is heavier than the A-M counterpart, it is not so heavy that it won't look good under a coat of paint. ICM has definitely come up with a better solution to the problem of the oil-cooler under the nose than A-M did, with a separate molding that gets rid of the problems associated with getting the centerline joint to line up on the Yak-1 kits.

The cockpit has separate fuselage frames and side panels, with a seat that is not as good as the A-M Yak, but very acceptable. The cockpit canopy, which is molded in one piece, is clear but thick. Dipping it in Future would allow a modeler to make a very acceptable model with the canopy closed; a better solution is to vacuform the canopy, which then allows you to open up the forward portion.

The best part of the Yak-9 was the comprehensive and well-printed decal sheet; the only problem was that the decals were thin and wanted to set right down unless you put them on a small lake of water until final placement was achieved. The new sheet, which covers three different airplanes - two from the same unit - is printed in matte finish, which means the decals will need to be closely trimmed to avoid a lot of silvering when they are applied.

Overall

For those modelers who like to have the complete line of a famous fighter in their collection, this kit of the Yak-7a will fill in the last gasp of the wartime Yakovlev series, which was numerically the most important Soviet fighter of the Second World War. The only version left for someone to come up with is now the all-metal Yak-9U, the only Yak fighter the U.S. Air Force met in combat, when it served in the North Korean Air Force in 1950-51.

With the obvious learning curve ICM shows with this model, I am looking forward to the MiG-3 shown on the side art of the box this kit comes in. The model is recommended.

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Air Intelligence
1999 Modelers'
Reference Guides

1/32 Scale Guide $18.00
1/48 Scale Guide $25.00
1/72 Scale Guide $25.00
HH-43 Huskie Color
Reference Guide $15.00

Please add $3.20 Postage in the US.

TacAir Publications

PO Box 90933
Albuquerque NM
87199-0933
USA
(505) 881-9621

E-Mail Us!

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