What would it take a Yak to make?
article and model by Alexei Matvienko

translation by Alex Ruchkowsky
Updated on April 20, 2005                        file name: yak-matvienko.html
back to Sovietwarplanes Pages index

This article is merely for scale modelers and for modeling purposes and in no way pretends to be an academic research in history that would eat up 40Gb of your disk space and more. What we try to do is to put together all several bits of info available on the Yaks, and to present the way to proceed for those wishing to accomplish a pair or two of the famous Yakovlev WWII fighter models.
Existing Airframes


Of 36,000 planes turned out those days, only few survived, among those we find one Yak-1b, three Yak-3s, one Yak-9 and three Yak-9Ps.

These aircraft are scattered over the world and it is quite a job to get access to those.
Speaking of restored aircraft or such in process of restoration, it is worth mentioning a Yak-9U of Champlin Fighter Aircraft Museum (which is by far not a perfect restoration but at least the worlds only original 9U model), as well as a Yak-1 of Hawker Restorations LTD  that is being rebuilt strictly under the original technology and information.
A thorough search in the Internet will produce a number of photos of other museum aircraft that will grossly be of little genuine benefit to a modeler.

Scale drawings

Yak family has been represented in drawings a lot of times.
The Russian Modelist-Konstruktor (M-K) modeling magazine published the following scale drawings,

Yak-1b in 1/1975
Yak-3 in 4/1975
Yak-9 in 5/1976
Yak-7 in 5/1983

The Yak-9R drawings published in the same magazine a bit later were only a minor modification of the earlier work.

Anything printed before is probably not worth mentioning due to their primitiveness and errors.
It must also be said that a whole lot of scale drawings published at a later date were based on the M-K work.
Of newer efforts, the Yak-1 drawings from the Sergey Kuznetsovs Pervyi Yak (Yak the First) book can arguably qualify for the best Yak drawings ever published, although they do have their share of errors too.
Sketches from Dmitriy Leipniks Yak-9: Ryadovye nebes (Yak-9: Soldiers in the Sky) deserve attention for useful detail information although the blurry handmade way they are finished make me wonder if these can be called scale drawings at all.
I will revert to these publications below in order to suggest the way to use them in the modeling process.

Kits in 1/48


The announced scale is the one I operate in. It is believed any Yak kits in larger scales are hardly probable, and never existed before.
Pity but the choice of Yak kits in the quarter scale is not a broad one. It includes Accurate Miniatures Yak-1 and -1b, ICMs Yak-9T and K, once again ICMs Yak-7A/B/V/DI, LTDs Yak-9T, and, finally, Eduards Yak-3. Once upon a time there also lived a Yak-9 of an unnamed manufacturer from Donetsk(Ukraine), but this one is impossible to find and really unwanted due to its awful quality.

Accurate Miniatures Yak-1 is most detailed and most expensive of all. The kits is obviously based on the drawings from Pervyi Yak but does not correspond to those well enough, for some reason. The fuselage is the most flawed thing in this kit, being too short and a bit out of proportion it gives the model a weirdly stumpy look. What roused the accurate engineers to reproduce the fuselages framework by tubes with a square cross-section escapes me. Speaking of the transparent details, we discussed it with my friend and he asked if the window is open to throw them out right away. Transparencies, however, is a weak point for all Yak kits except Eduards Yak-3 that features a decent canopy part.

Accurate Miniatures really fell victim to multi-variant effort with their Yak-1b, it retained all shape and outline errors of its elder brother and got a number of new parts that are not at all better than the old ones. I do not feel too much comfortable to do surgery of the kit that is quite pricey, although this kit seems to be the easiest of all to correct.
ICMs Yak-9T/K raised a wave of delight among VVS modelers well, you bet, they said the kit was based on the M-K drawings! Well, the kit proved to be inaccurate when compared to the said artwork, virtually all details have hard-to-fix inaccuracies. The fuselage is much longer and rather corresponds to the Yak-9U length.
Whats worse, all fuselage sections are gone, which is not easy to fix and might well be compared to scratchbuilding.
The wing profile reminds the one of the TB-3 vintage bomber, the ailerons are not Frize type, and have a chord of some 33 percent excessive length.
Well, the kit does resemble a Yak-9, but only to a certain extent as seen from this drawing.
The upper drawing is an outline of the kit, the lower one is the target outline.

ICM's Yak-7

Controversially, The Yak-7 done by the same company is much better. It corresponds to the M-K drawings well enough, save for the front upper part sections, the XXL-size spinner, and the canopy. The fuselage is a bit too short. The upper cowl has elliptical section whereas the original one had a flattened top, similarly to the Spitfire or Mustang, a prerequisite for the V-engine with tight equipment installation around it. Such details are well noticeable on the photographs.
The wing has a true Clark YH profile. Ailerons, once again, are not of Frize type but at least they are correct for the top view. Imitation of the fuselage framework in the cockpit is fair but the rest of detailing is good for nothing. Not unexpected, eh?..
LTDs Yak-9 screams with every line that is has been based on the M-K drawings, Right, all outlines are spot on, but the kit is a bit overscale and its length is adequate for the Yak-9U. Its assembly is time- and effort-consuming, no surprise for a short run kit. The parts are fragile, in spite of their considerable thickness, and glue together poorly. The vacu canopy is opaque and cannot be used. This kit is now hard to find as its production apparently stopped.
Eduards Yak-3 is an ideal representation of the M-K drawings of the subject its a shame these drawings are not correct!! Gosh, the Yaks never had those beautiful curves in the fuselage outlines, all lines are straight with a restricted number of single curvature surfaces. Plywood is plywood, after all So, it is about time we spoke about the outlines and sections.
What we need to know on outlines and sections


An entire Yak fighter tree with the whole lot of its branches takes its birth from the I-26 and the forefathers of the Yak-1/3 and 7/9 families differ in a minimum of details dictated by the purpose of the respective planes, the Yak-1 being the fighter and the Yak-7 being its trainer version. Family members went ahead and acquired their specific features such as new armament, cowling etc. However all these changes failed to change the airframes outline to any considerable extent.The drawings below illustrate the fact that the outlines of all models remained unchanged throughout the Yak production.

It is the VK-107 engine introduction that caused any remarkable charges in the fuselage construction. 
For the modeling purposes, we have to bear in mind that all M-105-engined Yak-1/3/7/9s had absolutely identically outlined fuselages, except for a few details shown on the drawing below.
Yak-1/7/9 had nearly identical wings.
It is only the Yak-3 development that yielded a new substantially redesigned wing.
The difference in wings of the Yak-1 and -7 lies in the location of the undercarriage wells and is explained by differences in the u/c design for these types. External difference between the Yak-7 and 9 wings lies in the wingtip and the shape of fuel cell covers.
Wooden and metal stabilizers and elevators were a bit different, depending on the version and series of a particular aircraft.
Differences in external details of different Yaks can be seen on these pictures.

These ones show typical radiator shapes for main series of the nines and sevens.
Canopies need special attention. All kits have them done in a different way and all of them are wrong in outlines and cross-sections, which cannot be fixed. Squadron vacu canopies can improve the models look, however, these are neither accurate enough as they tend to be made to fit the cutout made on the kit part for the canopy. In reality, Yak canopies are quite identical too, and always have a cross-section with flat sloping sides and flat top with heavily rounded upper corners. Speaking of windshields, the ones for the Yak-1 and early Yak-7 were identical but you will find nothing in common if you compare the respective kit parts from the Accurate Miniatures and the ICM kits. Same story is about the late-type round-vision canopies. The purpose of the said above is to provoke a universal solution to obtain the needed correct canopies. My suggestion is to prepare two templates, one for the early canopy type with rounded windshield, and the other for the bubbletop canopy with flat windshield sides. Having these two in place, you will be able to obtain any needed combination of windshield and glazing aft of it.
Noticeable is the shape of the front glass detail, with sloping sides. Not at all a square detail, as represented by Accurate Miniatures.

How to use the scale drawings


All listed drawings have been compared to numerous photos, which allowed to conclude the most adequate drawings that could be used to build any Yak are the ones from the Pervyi Yak book and the M-K 583 magazine. Cross-sections on Pervyi Yak are preferable. All drawings and sketches (and it is nearly imperative that you make them) for other versions have to be based on these drawings and photographs, while the details can be borrowed from other sets of drawings.

For instance, for all Yak-1 and Yak-7, we take the fuel tank panels from M-K 5/83; the bomb rack lock located on the rib between the tanks from MK 1/75; canopies from Pervyi Yak; wing shift has to be borne in mind; and so on.
For the Yak-3, fuselage outline and cross-sections come from Pervyi Yak while detail comes from M-K 4/75.
Yak-9 detail can come from Leipniks drawings carefully pre-checked against photos.
Here is an example of the side views obtained for the late-series Yak-7B.
These drawings probably have their share of errors but they appear to be fairly close to the original shape. Note the stabilizer shape peculiar for the late-series Yak-7/9.

This work does not pretend to provide drawings of utmost accuracy as work to improve them is still in progress, but even at this stage they will help you understand my idea. Any input and exchange of opinions and thoughts on this subject will be more than appreciated.

Subject for my model

The kit I chose was Yak-7B by ICM, easiest to get. The subject for my model was a late-series Yak-7B tactical number 925 probably flown by Lt. Simashev of 976 IAP. I say probably because the traditional knowledge that these widely published three-digit numbered Yaks belonged to 976IAP is now under serious dispute and may require more time to confirm or disprove. Not too important for the model, though; a quality photo is much more critical. So lets look at what the photo tells us.

This is a late series Yak-7B, with a round vision canopy, Yak-9-style radiator cowls, fixed aileron and rudder trim tabs, flat windscreen sides.
An interestingfinding is the fact there is no armor glass in the canopy front armor not installed, quite typically, as photos show, and the armor headrest of metal is used instead of a transparent one. The plane is in black/green camo and carries an interesting variation of an insignia, early-type stars that had their black trimming overpained with broader white, thus exceeding any standard insignia size.

Model in progress


Man, a hell lot of work it was! Of the aftermarket bits for the type, I only used main u/c leg covers from the Part PE sheet, although those were worth scratchbuilding as well. The volume of extra work can be seen on the pictures. I must say I am happy with the result as my Yak looks quite an angry warplane near the 109s on my shelf, not as miserable as a humiliating counterfeit of Accurate Miniatures or an ICM out-of-the box assembly attempt

Images of the completed model



1) Stepanets A.T. Yak fighters of Great Patriotic War - .. .. .: , 1992.
2) Kuznetsov S. Yak the First - . . .: , 1995.
3) Stankov A V. Piston-engined Fighters of 1941-1945 in VVS units - 1941-1945 . . , 1999.
4) Liepnik D. Yak-9: Soldiers in the Sky .. -9: . .:-, 2000.
5) Yak fighters in action. Squadron Signal publication.
6) Geust, Keskinen, Stenman. Red Stars vol.1. Apali Oy, 1995.
7) Robert Bock. Jak-1/3, Jak-7/9. Monografie Lotnicze. AJ-Press, 1999.
8) Yak-9U. Peregrine Photo Essay by Steve Muth, 2000.
9) Modelist Konstruktor magazine: various issues, articles in press and the Internet.

(c) Alexey Matvienko, 2005.

All drawings, sketches and photos on this page have been done by the Author.