Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute
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TsAGI centenary in the history of aviation: the Yakovlev Yak-141

15 March 2019

Vertical take-off and landing fighters with a combined power plant design - near-sound Yak-38 (left) and the world's first supersonic VLOT aircraft Yak-141

The Yak-141 made its first flight in March 9, 1986. It was designed as a multi-purpose supersonic all-weather carrier-capable airliner of vertical takeoff/landing (VLOT). It had to become the world’s first supersonic VTOL fighter. However, difficulties in the project financing did not let such a powerful aircraft come into mass production.

The aircraft’s development began in 1974. All the fundamental questions for such a complex machine were successfully solved during the next 9 years. There was defined the concept, developed the design of the aircraft and its power plant. But in 1984, after the death of Marshal D.F. Ustinov, who supported the development of a supersonic VTOL aircraft, the project was frozen for almost two years.

The Yakovlev Design Bureau developed all the VTOL aircraft in close cooperation the Zhukovsky Central AeroHydrodynamic Institute (TsAGI). Thus, the thrust vector control of the Yak-36, the first aircraft of this type, was tested on the full-scale aircraft at TsAGI’s largest wind tunnel. There were constructed special simulators in the Institute in the course of the work on the VLOT projects.

Further research of TsAGI’s scientists proved low efficiency of the aircraft with swiveling-nozzle engine. The Institute’s staff investigated and proposed a compromise for a vertical take-off and landing aircraft. The lift-plus-lift/cruise concept significantly reduced the aerodynamic drag. This arrangement was implemented on the experienced samples of the supersonic Yak-141.

There were built four prototypes of the new supersonic VTOL aircraft. The first and the fourth were for engine, static and fatigue testing. The second and the third were for flight testing. During the two weeks of the Yak-141 testing there were set 12 world records in the climb rate and maximum combat load for this type of the aircraft. The first tests on the deck of a ship took place in 1991.

The world’s first combat VTOL aircraft, able to overcome the speed of sound, participated in the demonstration flights at the airshow in the autumn of 1992. Later the aircraft was seen at MAKS-93, MAKS-95, but only in the static display.

In October 1991 the Yak-141 had a crash during its landing on the deck of a ship: the aircraft caught fire. The test pilot ejected from the aircraft and was not injured. Shortly after this incident, it was decided to discontinue the programme for the development and testing of new aircraft.

According to aviation analysts, the Yak-141 project was developed being ahead of foreign competitors for about a quarter of a century. However, the difficulty in its financing significantly reduced the gap.

TsAGI Press Service
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