Little remembered, however, that the Soviet Union developed its own jump jets and equipped them on its first aircraft carriers, the Yakovlev Yak-38


It has long been believed that the primary weapon of an aircraft carrier is aviation. In the early 1970s, in service of Kiev-class heavy aircraft cruiser, Project 1143, the Yakovlev Design Bureau developed a carrier-based fighter, Yak-38, the first vertical take-off and landing aircraft in Soviet Union. A total of 231 units were built, and officially decommissioned in 1991 after the fall of the Soviet Empire, and its role was not taken over by another product.

It should be remembered that VTOL technology has been tested by the Soviet Union since the 1950s, with a bizarre test rig called the Turbolet, followed by the Yak-36. The Yak-36 was a stepping stone to the carrier-based Yak-38.

Yakovlev Yak-38
Yakovlev Yak-38


The Yak-38, Nato codename Forger, first flew in 1971, and entered service in 1976. At first glance, the Yak-38’s design was quite similar to the British Harrier jump jet, but it followed a completely different configuration. The single-seat cockpit was located behind of a short nosecone. Air intakes were located on either side of the fuselage. The rear area consists of a single vertical tail fin and the horizontal planes were designed to be facing downwards.

Yak-38 has a length of 16.37 meters (53 ft 8 in), wingspan of 7.32 meters (24 ft 0 in), height of 4.25 meters (13 ft 11 in), empty weight of 7.4 tons and maximum take-off weight of 11.3 tons.


The secret to the aircraft’s unique VTOL feature was in the two dedicated RD-38 lift jets behind the cockpit in addition to a single RD-28 vector thrust turbofan engine. The two smaller, and less powerful engines used purely for takeoff and landing. The additional jets resulted in higher fuel consumption.

The Yak-38 can reach a top speed of 1,280 km/h, a range of 1,300 km (800 mph), a service ceiling of 11,000 meters (36,000 ft) and Rate of climb of 75 m/s (14,800 ft/min).


The Yak-38’s weapon load was quite limited, it only had 4 hard points, two under each wing, allowing a total of 2 tons of weapons of all kinds. Its air-to-air armament was confined to small R-60 heat-seeking missiles with a maximum range of 8 km (5 miles), as well as optional 23mm cannon pods.

For ground attack, the Yak-38 had bombs or unguided rockets. The Forger could also launch Kh-23 antiship missiles with a range of a few kilometers, but the Forger’s pilot would have had a difficult time controlling the manually guided weapons without a back seater.

The Yak-38’s weakness was that it had no radar, which limiting its potential as a fleet defense fighter, allowing it to conduct aerial combat at very close range.


(Source: Wikipedia)

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1
  • Length: 16.37 m (53 ft 8 in)
  • Wingspan: 7.32 m (24 ft 0 in)
  • Height: 4.25 m (13 ft 11 in)
  • Wing area: 18.5 m2 (199 sq ft)
  • Empty weight: 7,385 kg (16,281 lb)
  • Max takeoff weight: 11,300 kg (24,912 lb)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Tumansky R-28 V-300 Vectored-thrust turbofan engine, 66.7 kN (15,000 lbf) thrust for lift and cruise thrust
  • Powerplant: 2 × Rybinsk RD-38 turbojet engines, 31.9 kN (7,200 lbf) thrust each lift-jets in fwd fuselage behind the cockpit


  • Maximum speed: 1,280 km/h (800 mph, 690 kn)
  • Range: 1,300 km (810 mi, 700 nmi)
  • Service ceiling: 11,000 m (36,000 ft)
  • Rate of climb: 75 m/s (14,800 ft/min)


  • Guns: GSh-23L 23mm gun pod (GP-9). Carried in one or two pairs of UPK-23-250 pods fixed under the external pylons of wings. There was also a centre-mounted ventral, integrated gunpod developed, designated as the VSPU-36. This also contained a GSh-23L gun, but its ammunition supply consisted of 160 rounds instead of the 250 as on the UPK-23-250 wing pods.
  • Hardpoints: 4 with a capacity of 2,000 kg (4,400 lb),with provisions to carry combinations of:
    • Rockets: various types of rockets (up to 240 mm)
    • Missiles: 2 anti-ship or air-to-surface Kh-23 (AS-7 Kerry). The Kh-23 required a “Delta-V” guidance pod on one of the inboard pylons. R-60 or R-60M (AA-8 Aphid) air-to-air missiles could be carried under the external pylons.
    • Bombs: two FAB-500 or four FAB-250 general-purpose bombs under pylons, two incendiary ZB-500, or two nuclear RN-28 bombs.
    • Other: external tanks.


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