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Yak-41 / Yak-141 Freestyle

The Yak-141 (formerly Yak-41) was intended originally to replace Yak-38 for air defence of Kiev class carriers/cruisers, with secondary attack capabilities. Yak-141 (according to the NATO classification: Freestyle) is a Soviet multipurpose deck fighter of vertical take-off and landing, developed in the Yakovlev Design Bureau in the 1980s. The project began in 1975, but was delayed by financial constraints as well as the protracted development of the engine, which meant the prototype did not fly until March 1989. Several prototypes were manufactured, which were also tested on ships. Serially not produced.

Designed for carrier-borne operations as an air interceptor, close air combat, maritime and ground attack aircraft, the Yak-141 has the same multi-mode radar as the MiG-29, although with a slightly smaller antenna housed in the nose radome. It features a triplex full authority digital fly-by-wire system.

The Yak-141 continued previous Soviet V/STOL principles, combining a lift and propulsion jet with two fuselage mounted lift jets in tandem behind the cockpit, with cruise power provided by a single Tumansky R-79 jet engine. The R-79 has a rear lift/cruise nozzle which deflect down for take-off while the two lift engines have corresponding rearward vector to ensure stability. The airframe makes extensive use of composites materials, with some 28 percent by weight constructed of carbon-fibre, primarily in the tail assembly, while the remainder of the structure is mainly aluminum lithium alloys.

After the Second World War, the US and the USSR had different concepts of the use of aircraft carriers. For the US in the Pacific, aircraft carriers became the main weapon of victory over Japan and after the war it was the aircraft carriers that were considered the core of the fleet. In the USSR, these ships were treated with skepticism. The military doctrine was predominantly defensive and the fleet had to operate near its shores. To protect ships from the air, it was intended to use sea aviation from ground-based airfields.

However, with the advent of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and, more importantly, strategic submarines equipped with nuclear weapons, it became clear that the fleet must go further to protect the country. Shipborne helicopters Ka-10, Ka-15, Ka-25 began to appear to fight submarines (their heirs, modern Ka-27 and Ka-29 ).

In the same way, the world was gaining momentum for the creation of vertical takeoff and landing aircraft. This was very useful, since for the work of deck aircraft of the classical scheme, huge aircraft carriers were required, the creation of which was too expensive for the country. While the famous Harrier was born in the United States and Great Britain, its competitor Yak-36 was created in the USSR. In 1972 the Yak-36M landed on the deck of the RCC Moscow. Having reached serial production and upgrading, Yak-36 grew into the famous Soviet Yak-38 . But despite its unique characteristics, the aircraft was still not effective.

The work on the new aircraft began even before the Yak-38 was released for sea trials. The new aircraft was supposed to have an effective radar, fly faster than the speed of sound and have a long range of action. Officially, the project began in 1974. Initially it was planned to equip the plane with a single, powerful engine, however, it became clear with time that in such a layout the vertical flight would be extremely difficult. It was decided to move to a combined power plant. The project was called Yak-41.

By 1980, the layout was frozen. It was decided to begin assembling prototypes. It was supposed to collect 4 machines: 1 for static tests, 1 for strength tests and 2 for flight tests. Prototypes were ready for testing in 1984. By this time, new problems began to appear: delays in the creation of a special engine for the Yak-41 continued, and the Ministry of Defense expanded the requirements, wishing that the aircraft would be multi-purpose and carry a wider range of weapons - this led to the appearance of a modification of the Yak-41M.

Finally, in 1987 the Yak-41 took off for the first time. Two years later the second prototype took off. Flight tests confirmed the high flying characteristics and superiority over Harrier fighter jets - the future serial Yak-141 was to become the best in its class. In 1991, prototypes went to sea trials. On September 26, the first landing of TAKR Admiral Gorshkov was made.

But again there were problems: during the landing after the test flight, one of the prototypes fell too fast and hit the deck - the pilot ejected, but the plane was burnt. The loss of the plane was a fatal blow to the whole program. The Soviet Union collapsed, the military lost interest in aircraft with vertical take-off and landing, sending resources to the MiG-29K and Su-33, funding has practically ceased. OKB Yakovlev remained with a single flying prototype and a frozen program. Yakovlevs held a demonstration aircraft at the Farnborough air show hoping for foreign customers, but they were not found. In 1992 the project was closed.

This development program was cancelled due to termination of Defence Ministry funding. Yakolev OKB continued development in refined land-based and naval combat aircraft forms. Four prototypes were built, two continuing in flight testing until 1995, with the other two used for engine and structural testing. To facilitate sales of the Yak-141, Yeltsin issued decrees allowing tri- or quadripartite agreements with a number of interested organizations in Latin America and Asia.

Yak-141 is a free-carrying high-wing. The share of composites in the airframe is 26%. The fuselage has a rectangular cross-section. The wing is trapezoidal, arrow-shaped, designed to provide supersonic flight and maneuver combat. The chassis is three-pedestal. The power plant is represented by a single lift-engine P79V-300 and two RD-41 engines. The main engine has a swivel nozzle, which allows to deflect the vector of thrust by 95 degrees. The engine is also connected to jet rudders at the ends of the wing consoles and necessary for maneuvering at low speeds. Two lift engines are located behind the cockpit. They also have the ability to change the thrust vector by 12.5 degrees.

The aircraft is armed with a gun GSh-30-1. Additional weapons can be installed on 4 underwing pylons. The weaponry nomenclature adopted on the Yak-141 corresponds to its designation as a multipurpose aircraft. Therefore, weapons include guided small and medium-range air-to-air missiles to combat other air targets; air-to-surface missiles, anti-ship and anti-radar missiles to engage ground targets, ships, radars and enemy communications equipment; as well as NAR units, cannon containers and free-falling bombs, which allows the aircraft to act as a attack and bomber.

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