Yakovlev Yak-1 Vol. II

Additionally, the all-wooden design of the LaGG-3 fuselage was poorly suited for field operations. After 10-15 days in the open air at 20-30°C, the filler, especially at the fuselage tail part, started to crack. Plywood skin warped and cracked, and the moisture getting through cracks caused wooden structural elements to rot, which substantially reduced the fuselage strength. For the Yak-1 this was less of a problem as the strength of its steel truss did not depend on the condition of the skin to such an extent. LaGGs whose plywood skin was compromised in that way had to be written off. Overhauling and repairing the LaGG-3 was complicated as spares manufactured at the Factory No. 21 did not fit the aircraft manufactured at the Factory No. 31 and vice versa – again, less of a problem for Yak-1’s, which starting with the second quarter of 1941, were manufactured at a single location.

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Finally, the Lavochkin design bureau was significantly late in responding to the Government’s request for ski undercarriage in the winter of 1941-42. Not only that, but their design was below any criticism: the skis would deploy spontaneously in flight, it was impossible to retract them at speeds above 280 km/h. However, Factory No. 21 had no wheels available and had to deliver all its fighters with skis, further reducing their combat value. All this cultivated negative attitudes toward the LaGG-3 among frontline personnel who characterized it as being heavy and even incapable of standing up to enemy fighters (TsVMA st. 12 inv. 1 file 60 p. 94).
The Yak-1, on the other hand, enjoyed more positive assessment from Soviet pilots in 1941-42. It was considered capable of fighting with all German fighters on more or less equal terms. The type still had a worse climb rate compared to the Bf 109E and was slower than the Bf 109F. The Yak-1 was also at a disadvantage in vertical maneuvers, required special flight and gunnery skills from its pilot, and needed reserves of speed or altitude before the engagement. Equipped with leading edge slats, the Bf 109 could climb higher than the Yak-1 before stalling. Furthermore, the Messerschmitt’s direct fuel injection engine operated reliably at zero or negative g’s, whereas the carburetor-equipped M-105 could easily stall. German pilots learned to use this feature to their advantage. They also avoided frontal attacks considering that both opponents had equal chances in this type of engagement (in fact, the Yak’s salvo weight was 2.138 kg per second vs. 1.562 kg/s of the Bf 109F-4). Aware of their aircraft’s shortcomings, Soviet pilots preferred horizontal maneuvers, where the Yak had a small advantage. Widespread reliance of Soviet pilots on horizontal maneuvers also stemmed from their lack of experience with new types of fighters, which replaced slow but maneuverable I-16’s and I-15/15bis/153. To make vertical maneuvers difficult for their opponents, Soviet pilots tried to fight just below cloud layers or to spread their forces by altitude. Experienced Soviet aces were able to successfully use vertical maneuvers to their advantage in the Yak-1.

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German aviators also noted the advantage of the Yak-1 over other Soviet fighter types. In the report on the JG54 combat experience it was noted:
“The Yak model was considered the best Soviet fighter plane. It had even better climbing performance and was faster than the I-18 (MiG-3 – authors), and approached the performance of the Bf 109F although it was not as fast. It was more difficult to set on fire when attacking from the rear than the Mig-3. Up to 19,100 feet it still climbed well but showed poor maneuverability”.
Some Luftwaffe pilots even considered the new Soviet fighters not inferior to their mounts:
“Major Rall confirms the above statements on the properties of the more modern Soviet fighter aircraft and also mentions their water-cooled engines and their closed cockpits. He also considers the German fighter models superior. Major Jaehne, however, admits that the new Soviet models were superior to the German Ju-88, and Colonel von Heimann supplements the picture with the statement that the new Soviet fighter models were of simple construction, fast, and maneuverable, and overall not much inferior to the German Bf 109F” (quoted from Schwabedissen W. The Russian Air Force in the Eyes of German Commanders. USAF Historical Studies №.175. Air University, 1960, p.103).

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