If you’ve seen the above photograph, it was in February 2013 when I wrote a posting about the Museum of Flying in Santa Monica. At the time, I was impressed by the Yakovlev Yak 3 fighter. When Martine and I looked for it today, we were told that the museum gave it as a gift to the Russian people. Did the Russian people give anything in exchange? Not really, but the Russian Consulate in San Francisco did send a Christmas card.
According to one aviation website:
Design began at the end of 1941 of a single-seat fighter using the new VK-107 engine, requiring the least-possible drag, smallest dimensions and weight consistent with a manoeuvrable and tough machine. Due to delays with the new engine and pressure to build the maximum number of aircraft already on the production lines, this new Yak-3 programme was shelved. A new small wing was developed and tested along with other changes on a Yak-1M in late 1942, and the first Yak-3 prototype was flown in late 1943. Although evaluation aircraft flew in combat, the first series Yak-3s did not enter operation with the 91st IAP until July 1944. The Yak-3 was found to be an exceptional dogfighter at altitudes up to 4000m. Its improved performance was remarkable, particularly as the initial non-availability of the VK-107 engine forced reliance to be placed on the VK-105PF-2 that had powered earlier Yaks. Built to a total of 4,848, the Yak-3 achieved fame and a very high score rate against German aircraft in 1944-45. The Yak-3 equipped the famous Free French ‘Normandie-Niemen’ unit, and achieved its peak of perfection when the VK-107A engine of 1268kW became available in limited numbers from August 1944, the type’s maximum speed then improving to 720km/h at 6000m.
Russian fighter pilots and ground crews actually preferred the Yak 3s to the P-51s and Spitfires being sent via Lend Lease. Could it be because the instructions were in Russian?