AvStop Magazine Online
Nicknamed "Dogfighter Supreme", the Yakovlev Yak-3 was the ultimate refinement in Soviet wartime fighter development. The smallest and lightest combat fighter of World War II, it possessed quick acceleration, light and responsive controls and an excellent rate of climb. Its sleek lines, aerodynamic cleanliness, wide landing gear and spacious cockpit made it very popular with all of its Russian pilots. So well liked, it was also chosen by the Free French Normandy-Niemen Squadron who flew with the Russians. This group of pilots had the choice of any allied fighter aircraft - and chose the Yak-3. First flown in 1943, trials showed a speed of 410 mph at 9,840 ft and 422 mph at 12,140 ft. It could complete a 360 degree turn within 18.5 seconds.
Reaching quantity production in 1944, a total of 4848 were produced. Upon entering combat with the Luftwaffe it was fund to be markedly superior to both the Focke Wulf 190 and the Messerschmitt Me-109 at lower altitudes. Such was the panic amongst Luftwaffe staff upon the appearance of the Yak-3 that they sent a signal to all squadrons saying "Avoid all combat below 10,000 ft with any Yak fighter lacking an oil cooler under the nose". This aircraft was built in 1992! In the late 1980's the Yakoviev Design Bureau started the Yak-3 production line in the Ural Mountains again.
The main difference between the original aircraft and the new models is the change of engine. The originals were powered by a Klimov engine - the new models by an Allison (same as the P-40 Kittyhawk). So far three of these Yak-3M aircraft have been built. The original is in Russia for testing, one is based with the Museum of Flying in Santa Monica and the third is here. This aircraft was test flown in Russia and the USA before being shipped to New Zealand late in 1994. It was reassembled here at Wanaka where some improvements were made to it and test flown in January 1995. It is shown in the museum as an example of similar types used by our Russian allies during World War II. Armament: Six .50 calibre machine guns External bombload: One 227 kg (500 lb) and two 45 kg (100 lb) bombs