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Alexandr Sergeevich Yakovlev

Aleksandr Sergeevich Yakovlev [April 1, 1906 – August 22, 1989] was an outstanding Soviet aeronautical engineer, aircraft designer, General designer of aircraft, academician of Academy of Science of the USSR, colonel-general, twice Hero of Labor, laureate of Lenin and seven State prizes and founder of Soviet aviation modeling, air gliding, and aviation sport.

Aleksandr Yakovlev was born in Moscow on 19 March 1905 [01 April 1906 new style]. His father worked in the Nobel Brothers oil company. His mother was a housewife. His family came from the Yaroslavl region.

He later wrote:

“I saw a plane for the first time when I was six years old. One day my parents went somewhere and I was left with my grandmother. So she decided to surprise me. She said that we would go to a flying balls festival. My grandmother was referring to the flights of balloons. When we arrived, the airfield was already overcrowded.

Suddenly I heard some noise. Pushing my way forward I saw a little bizarre apparatus that didn’t look like a balloon. Perhaps it was a French Farman or maybe Bleriot plane. The plane moved clumsily across the field, spreading panic among the curious spectators. It moved in different directions but for some reason didn’t take off.

Later in the evening, when we returned home, I was tired and disappointed. This was my first meeting with aviation.” (from the book Stories of the Aircraft Designer by A. Yakovlev)

In 1919-1922 he worked as a messenger and studyied in school at the same time. Beginning from 1922 he participated in flying air models construction at an aviation designer school club. From 1923 he was an activist of well known Russian aviation societies: ODVF, Aviachim and Osoaviachim.

A.S. Yakovlev is one of the pioneers of the soviet mass aircraft modelling, gliding and sport aviation. He built his first prize winner glider AVF-10 in 1924; light aircraft AIR-1 - in 1927 that set first world records under U.I. Piontkovsky piloting. The day of the AIR-1 first flight on May 12, 1927 is considered to be the day OKB Yakovlev was founded. OKB, or Opytnoe Konstructorskoe Byuro, meaning Experimental Design Bureau, was a closed institution working on the design and prototyping of advanced technology, usually for military purposes.

In 1924 he voluntarily jointed the Red Army and was on military service in the Nikolay Zhukovsky Air Force Academy of the Red Army as an aircraft fitter. He entered Zhukovsky Academy and was a student in period 1927-31 and at the same time was building light aircraft with a team of designers and workers. Yakovlev attended the Academy till 1931 and then was employed at an aviation plant as an engineer.

In 1931 he headed the light aviation group at plant #39, and in 1934 was promoted to the head of designing and production bureau of "Spetsaviatrest". The plant was created on the basis of "light aviation group" headed by A.S. Yakovlev. In 1934, as V. B. Shavrov testifies, the Light Industry Directorate of the People’s Commissariat of Heavy Industry (SUAI NKTP) established a section of light aircraft under the leadership of Yakovlev. The combination of two positions - the head of the design team and the head of the GUAP department - certainly expanded his circle of relations with the leadership of the People's Commissariat and could not but affect his successes in the design activity. It was a time of high speeds, when everyone wanted to fly the highest, farthest and fastest.

In 1934 the group split from Moscow Aviation Plant #39 named after V.R.Menzhinski. He established his lightweight aviation bureau on the same plant, becoming chief designer in 1935. From 1935 to 1956 A.S.Yakovlev was the Chief Designer of Design Bureau at plant #115 and Director of this plant at the same time until 1952.

In April 1939 Stalin posed a challenge - develop a prototype of a new high performance fighter in months. Yakovlev protested: "But the Americans take two years to produce a fighter!" Stalin replied: "Well, you are not an American! Show us what a young Russian engineer can do! Prove your mettle and, if you do, I'll have you in for a cup of tea." Yakovlev put his design bureau to work around the clock on the new fighter, which was designated "I-26" (where "I" stood for "Istrebitel / Destroyer", meaning "fighter").

The I-26 was a sleek, low-wing monoplane with retractable landing gear. Construction was simple, some might say crude, though Yakovlev was firm in his belief that "simplicity is not primitiveness". Despite the deficiencies of the Yak-1, it was still better than the old Polikarpov fighters that equipped most other fighter units, but remained inferior to the German Bf-109F [later, in the war, Yak-1s were swept out of the sky by the Luftwaffe, with German pilots achieving a kill ratio of at least ten to one].

The summer of 1939 abruptly changed the political alignment of forces on the planet. The leaders of the Soviet Union, and above all Stalin, convinced of the impossibility of reaching an agreement with Britain and France in opposing the plans of Nazi Germany were forced to go to extreme measures - the signing of non-aggression treaty with Germany. This period of history still holds many secrets yet part of the disclosure of the documents relating to cooperation between Germany and the USSR, it follows that, in addition to the redistribution of the political map of the worlds, and both sides agreed on economic cooperation.

The Soviet Union in those years, badly needed to acquire new technologies and concomitant latest equipment, and Germany - for food and raw materials for its industries. As a result, in the fall of 1939, Germany was visited by the first Soviet trade and industrial delegation, which included the young, not burdened with a cargo of "well-established views on the development of the aircraft". Yakovlev was appointed the head of the aviation group. After touring the main aircraft factories in Germany most of the group, including Yakovlev, returned to Moscow.

In early 1940, Yakovlev unexpectedly appointed Deputy People's Commissar of the aviation industry for new technology, and on 27 March 1940, as mentioned above, the Resolution of the Central Committee of the CPSU (b) and SNK is both the head of department of experimental aircraft. At the same time he continued to combine work at the new location with the duties of chief designer. Under the guidance of Yakovlev there were created many well-known aircraft, including mass training aircraft UT-2 and UT-1, Yak-4 bomber Yak-1 fighters, Yak-7, Yak-9, and Yak-3. These amounted to about 60% of the fighter planes (more than 36 thousand copies), built during the Great Patriotic War, and were among the best aircraft in its class.

In the same month in Germany sent a second delegation for the purchase of equipment, machines and aircraft, seen in the first trip. This time it was headed by Yakovlev - Deputy People's Commissar. Yakovlev was entrusted with the purchase equipment not specified in the approved list, with a million marks in cash. And he lived up to that trust. After reviewing the aviation industry in Germany, the young Deputy Commissar began its activities in the new position with the "cleansing" of questionable projects of aircraft.

Yakovlev understood that as Deputy People's Commissar for experimental aircraft design, he may be subject to accusations of bias and "mashing" of aircraft of others. It has been argued that Yakovlev, fearing competition, "rolled up" some possible long-term operation of other aircraft designers, among which are mentioned SK-1 and SK-2 AM R. Bisnovatyi , RC-800 (Sliding wing of 800 km / h) GI Bakshaeva (1940), and so on. Designer A.S.Moskalev in his memoirs blamed Yakovlev cessation of work on their projects ultra-light fighter SAM-13 (Spring 1941) and supersonic RM-1 (1946).

Very often in contemporary sources Yakovlev approved the "fatal" role in the fate of fighters I-180 and I-185, constructed by N.N.Polikarpov . This version is in doubt simply because of the mismatch of dates. Yakovlev could not be responsible for the problems of the program I-180 in 1939, because at that time he had no relation to the management of the aviation industry of the USSR and served as a small Bureau chief designer of the plant number 115. The version of Yakovlev's action against work on the I-185 is also not documented. A letter to Yakovlev from A.I.Shakhurin on March 4 1943 included the recommendation immediately begin mass production of the I-185.

By decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR on October 28, 1940 year Alexander Sergeyevich Yakovlev was awarded the title of hero of Socialist Labor with the order of Lenin and the gold medal "hammer and sickle" for outstanding achievements in the field of new types of weapons, raising the defensive power of the Soviet Union. He was Major-General Engineering-aviation service (10.11.1942), and Lieutenant-General Engineering-aviation service (27.12.1943).

As Deputy Commissar of Aviation Industry, Alexander worked from January 11, 1940 to 1946 as deputy head of the People's Commissariat of Military Aviation. In 1946 commissariats were transformed into the Ministry and the aviation industry was headed by MV Khrunichev, replacing AI Shakhurin who had been repressed.

A. Yakovlev wrote: “When Stalin called me to the Kremlin to participate in the discussion of aviation issues - whether they related to my design activities, whether it was about the combat use of aircraft at the front or about the prospects for the development of aviation after the war - I always came to him and with excitement, but without fear. During the meeting and in a personal conversation, he freely expressed his opinion. I talked to him on aviation topics easily, without experiencing stress.

I felt his unfailing confidence ...

In the summer of 1946, due to the large employment in the design bureau, I decided to request that I be relieved of my duties as deputy minister (by this time the people's commissariats had already been transformed into ministries) of the aviation industry. This required the consent of Stalin. I was worried, not knowing how he would react to my request.

I said that I had been working in the People's Commissariat for a long time, that while the war was going on and immediately after it ended, I did not consider it possible to raise the question of leaving. But now, when the fundamentals of the post-war restructuring of our aviation on the basis of jet planes are defined, I ask you to satisfy my request. It is very difficult to combine design and ministerial work, and if I continue to stay in the ministry, I will inevitably fall aside as a designer ..."

From 1956 to 1984, he was the chief designer of OKB Yakovlev. During his work at the design bureau, more than 200 types of flying machines were invented, with over 100 of them introduced into serial production.

Aleksandr Yakovlev was one of the few aircraft designers who survived the times of Stalin’s Great Purge of 1936-1938. He had a close relationship with Joseph Stalin. Later, the aircraft designer published his memoir The Purpose of Life. In this story of his life, he focuses on the major stages of Soviet aviation’s development during the war and in the post-war years. He also recalled some of the meetings held in Stalin’s office. “In 1939, Stalin called me for a meeting. I was shy but he told me, “Don’t be. We trust you despite your young age. You know well what you do and you are not connected with the mistakes of your predecessors. You can be more objective. Your predecessors led us into a mire.”

His close relationship with Stalin was behind the heavy criticism faced by Yakovlev. Some say Yakovlev was involved in the case of Andrey Tupolev. Tupolev was one of the leading aircraft designers of that time. Aircraft designer Leonid Kerber later wrote, “We were all concerned with the question: who helped to arrest Tupolev? The question still remains controversial to many of our colleagues. No doubt that without the approval of Stalin the arrest could not have happened. To make it happen the authorities had to accumulate the necessary material. The most active source of information about the 'questionable' aspects of Tupolev’s work was Yakovlev. He had his own original method: denunciations liberally sprinkled through the pages of his books. Further facts are taken from them. Scattered - they are not convinced of malicious Tupolev. Mixed by together - look in a different way.”

It should be noted that Kerber in this case is wrong, as Tupolev was arrested 21 October 1937, and Yakovlev were summoned to the Kremlin only in 1939; Yakovlev also began to write his book only in the postwar years. Therefore denunciations could not be "scattered" on their pages.

From 1956 A.S.Yakovlev was the General Designer until 1984 when he retired. During his period of activity he combined jobs of chief designer of aviation plants #47 (1934), #464 (1947), chairman of Ministry of Aviation Industry scientific board (1947-1949), Head of Moscow Aviation Institute Aircraft Design Department (1945, 1959), chairman of aviation magazine editorial board (1942-1947), Supreme Soviet Deputy (1946-1986).

It can be assumed that it was the image of "Stalin's favorite" that the cause of the demonized image of Yakovleva among employees of the aviation industry of the USSR after the death of the leader. A great aircraft designer turned out to be a bad apparatchik and managed to amass a lot of enemies among the leaders of the Soviet aircraft industry.

For 60 years of creative activity A.S.Yakovlev was at the head of nearly 200 aircraft projects of different types and modifications and 100 of them were produced serially. Among them: the liaison aircraft AIR-6 (1932), the most speedy soviet aircraft AIR-7 (332 km/h, 1932) and BB-22 (567 km/h, 1939); the first mass monoplane trainers UT-2 (1932) and UT-1 (1936); key World War II fighters Yak-1, Yak-7, Yak-9, Yak-3 and dozens of their modifications (1940-1946) that constituted two thirds of Soviet fighters fleet in the War. Yakovlev was one of the pionees of jet aviation in the USSR.

Under his leadership there were developed serial combat jets: Yak-15 (1946) - the first soviet jet fighter that entered field service; Yak-25 (1952) - the first all-weather interceptor; Yak-27R (1958)- the first supersonic reconnaissance aircraft; Yak-28 - the first soviet front bomber and interceptor and many other versions; short take-off vertical landing aircraft (STOVL): Yak-36 (1964) - the first soviet STOVL and Yak-38 (1972) - the first in the world deck STOVL; the most load-lifting landing troops serial vehicles - Yak-14 glider (1948) and Yak-24 helicopter (1952); popular trainers Yak-11 (1945), Yak-18 (1946), Yak-18T (1967), Yak-52 (1974); light general aviation aircraft Yak-12 (1947); aerobatic aircraft Yak-18P, PM,PS, Yak-50, Yak-55 (1960-1981) that were flown by the soviet pilots and won 69 first prizes at the World and Europeans aerobatic championships.

A.S.Yakovlev created his specific school in aircraft construction that is characterized by high design culture including weight economy, simplicity of design solutions and breadth of innovative thinking. A.S.Yakovlev was awarded : 10 Lenin orders, October revolution order, 2 Red Banner orders, Suvorov order 1-st and 2-d degree, 2 Patriotic War orders 1-st degree, Labor Red Banner order and Red Star order, medals, French orders - Officer of a Legion of Honour and Military crux (1939-1945),and the FAI aviation golden medal.

He was the author of "Stories of the aircraft", "The Purpose of Life", "50 years of Soviet aircraft building", "Soviet aircraft", and a number of magazine and newspaper articles. He was married twice. In the years 1934-1937 was married to Lydia Nikolayevna Rudinkinoy. In 1938 he married Catherine Matveevna Mednikova. In the second marriage he had two sons, Sergei and Alexander. Yakovlev's two sons worked for him - one would end up designing the Yak-40/42 airliners and the other would be responsible for the Yak-52 trainer. A.S.Yakovlev retired on August 21, 1984 and died on 22 of August of 1989 and buried at Novodevichie cemetery in Moscow.

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Page last modified: 10-12-2018 18:49:18 ZULU