Cold War Era

Video gives an overview of the Yak-141, Russian’s first supersonic V/STOL combat aircraft that never was

The Yak-141 was the world’s second supersonic V/STOL combat aircraft, after the experimental Dassault Mirage IIIV of 1965.

The interesting video in this post is an overview of the Yakovlev Yak-141, Vertical/Short Take Off and Landing (V/STOL) Supersonic Combat Aircraft.

Designed to meet a 1975 Soviet Navy requirement for an advanced successor to the Yak-38 under the designation Yak-41, what became known as the Yak-141 (NATO reporting name ‘Freestyle’) fell victim to Russian funding problems and was cancelled in 1993. The Yak-141 was the world’s second supersonic V/STOL combat aircraft, after the experimental Dassault Mirage IIIV of 1965.

As explained by Stewart Wilson in his book Combat Aircraft since 1945, two versions were proposed: the basic Yak-41 interceptor and the Yak-41M with added air-to-surface/anti ship missile capability. This was subsequently given the designation Yak-141. A further developed land based variant with a revised and lower radar signature airframe plus greater weapons carrying capability was also discussed in the mid 1990s.

The Yak-141 retained the single main engine/two lift engines configuration of the Yak-38 but differs in having only one thrust vectoring nozzle located at the rear of the fuselage, between the two short tailbooms. The lift engines were mounted immediately behind the cockpit. The Yak-141 incorporated modern design features such a digital fly-by-wire flight control system (with manual backup) and extensive use of aluminium-lithium alloys in the structure with composites accounting for 26 per cent of the airframe weight.

The first of two flying prototypes took to the air on Mar. 9, 1987 this representative of the air defence version with secondary attack capability. The second prototype (Yak-41M) flew in April 1989 and supersonic flight was achieved for the first time shortly afterwards.

Flight testing revealed problems with hot gas ingestion while performing vertical takeoffs and the afterburning main powerplant’s efflux tended to melt the runway! The first shipboard trials were performed in September 1991 with a landing on the carrier Admiral Gorshkov. The program faltered in November 1991 when the Russian Government stopped financial support and work was terminated in 1993.

Noteworthy following the announcement by the Russian Governemnt that it could no longer fund development of the Yak-41M, Yakovlev entered into discussions with several foreign partners who could help fund the program. Lockheed Corporation, which was in the process of developing the X-35 for the US Joint Strike Fighter program, stepped forward, and with their assistance the Freestyle was displayed at the Farnborough Airshow in September 1992. Yakovlev announced that they had reached an agreement with Lockheed for funds of $385 to $400 million for three new prototypes and an additional static test aircraft to test improvements in design and avionics. Planned modifications for the proposed Yak-41M included an increase in STOL weight to 21,500 kg (47,400 lb). One of the prototypes would have been a dual-control trainer. The partnership began in late 1991, though it was not publicly revealed by Yakovlev until Sep. 6, 1992, and was not revealed by Lockheed until June 1994.

Plans to revive the Yak-141 program have so far come to nought.

Photo credit: Wal Nelowkin/ via Wikipedia

Gabriele Barison

Gabriele Barison is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Co-Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. He has flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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