|REVIEWER:||Scott Van Aken|
|NOTES:||New tool kit|
In 1943, Yakovlev designed Yak-1M which was a smaller and lighter version of Yak-1. A second Yak-1M prototype was constructed later that year, differing from the first aircraft in plywood instead of fabric covering of the rear fuselage, mastless radio antenna, reflector gunsight, and improved armor and engine cooling. The chief test pilot for the project Piotr Mikhailovich Stefanovskiy was so impressed with the new aircraft that he recommended that it should completely replace Yak-1 and Yak-7 with only Yak-9 retained in production for further work with the Klimov VK-107 engine. The new fighter, designated Yak-3 entered service in 1944, later than Yak-9 in spite of the lower designation number. A total of 4,848 aircraft were produced.
Lighter and smaller than Yak-9 but powered by the same engine, Yak-3 was a very agile dogfighter and a forgiving, easy to handle aircraft loved by both rookie and veteran pilots. Early combat experience found it to be superior to all Luftwaffe fighters at altitudes below 5,000 m (16,400 ft). It could roll with the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 and its turn was far superior; a full circle in 18.6 seconds. The two biggest drawbacks of the aircraft were its short range and the tendency of the glued-on plywood covering the top of the wings to tear away under high-G loads. The pneumatic system for actuating landing gear, flaps, and brakes, typical for all Yakovlev fighters of the time was also less reliable than the hydraulic or electrical systems, but it was preferred due to significant weight savings. The first 197 Yak-3 were armed with a single 20 mm ShVAK cannon and one 12.7 mm UBS machine gun, with subsequent aircraft receiving a second UBS for a weight of fire of 2.72 kg (6.0 lb) per second using high-explosive ammunition.
The designation Yak-3 was also used for three other Yakovlev projects - a Yakovlev Yak-1 modification with all-metal wings and increased armament known as I-30, a proposed but never built heavy twin-engine fighter, and Yakovlev Yak-7A.
Since 1991, a number of Yak-3 have been newly manufactured by Yakovlev for the warbird market using the original plans and dies. These are powered by Allison V-1710 engines and have the designation Yak-3M. Several of these are airworthy today, mostly in the United States, but also in Germany and Australia. Others have been converted to "Yak-3" status from Yak-11 trainers (with the fitment of a Allison engine) for private owners, with these aircraft also being very popular worldwide.
I guess it should be no surprise that Zvezda would produce a Yak-3. To many, it is one of, if not the, finest fighters produced in the USSR during WWII. It was light, fast, nimble and very much the plane that many pilots had been wanting for years.
Zvezda has produced this kit with a great deal of detail, and that includes a full engine and forward fuselage framework. However, unlike Eduard, they offer a non-exposed engine version that does not rely on any of the exposed engine parts. In fact, there is not even a hint that you might be able to install engine cowling panels. None for the open engine option are provided. Instead, you get a two piece cowling to install in place of the engine and all of the other framework bits.
By not building up the engine and forward fuselage framework along with the nose guns that sit atop the engine, you are basically omitting a full sprue and a great deal of a second one. Well over half of the kit instructions go into building up the engine, gun area and the mounts and framing. Those of you who have built the Eduard Yak-3 will recall how simple a kit that really is. Same here, without the exposed engine. In addition to the engine option, Zvezda offers an in-flight option where you are provided with closed gear doors. The stand is, like with Airfix, an optional item that you need to buy separately, but it is great that this is offered. It is also great that you do not have to cut the 'gear up' gear doors as separated door segments are provided.
The interior on a Yak is pretty basic so it is not surprising that Zvezda is able to provide the builder with all the various bits and pieces. The only thing really missing is a seat harness. For the instrument panel there are decals should you so wish to use them. For the canopy open option, there is a separate rear section that has somewhat 'flatter' sides so that the canopy section will properly fit atop it. A great idea that still allows for fairly thick clear plastic parts. Other features are separate ailerons and a nicely done pilot figure, something that those doing an in-flight display will find useful.
The instructions are quite well done with an initial explanation that there are three ways to build this kit. Each method is provided a number and construction steps are separate for some of those options. That way, if you are building it without the exposed engine, you will not pursue a number of steps that are unnecessary. Markings are for three planes, all in the AMT-11/AMT-12 over AMT-7 color scheme. The instructions gives Humbrol paint references for these. First is the box art plane with the red nose as piloted by Lt. Savely Nosov in 1945. In fact, all of the options are from 1945, hence the addition of color where it would not have been used earlier in the war. Next is the expected Normandie-Niemen plane of Lt. Marcel Albert, to be followed by the plane of Capt. Semion Rogovny, this one from 1944 and with a large badge on the fuselage. The decals are well done and I did not notice any registration issues with them. I should point out that Zvezda provides the prop spinner stripes for the Normandie-Niemen option, for those of us who hate to paint spinner stripes.
So you now have yet another Yak-3 to choose from in 1/48 and one that looks to be quite nice. Zvezda is to be commended for not putting the modeler who does not want an exposed engine through the additional work I suffered through on the Eduard 109. It is a nicely done kit and will make into an excellent model, no matter how you decide to display it.
Thanks to www.dragonmodelsusa.com for the preview kit. You can find this kit at your favorite hobby shop or on-line retailer.
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