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SMER 1/72 Yakovlev Yak-3 Kit First Look

By Ray Mehlberger

Date of Review February 2008 Manufacturer SMER
Subject Yakovlev Yak-3 Scale 1/72
Kit Number 157 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Neat subject, with numerous kits available Cons Nothing noticeable
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $8.98

First Look

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The Yak-3 was a WWII Soviet fighter aircraft regarded as one of the best fighters of the war. As one of the smallest and lightest combat fighters fielded by any combatant during the war, it’s high power-to-weight ratio gave it excellent performance.

The origins of the Yak-3 went back to 1941, when the I-30 prototype was offered along with the I-26 as an alternate design to the Yak-1. The I-30, powered by a Klimov M-105P engine, was all-metal construction, using a wing with dihedral on the outer panels. Like the early Yak-1, it had a ShVAK 20 mm cannon firing through the prop spinner and twin ShKAS 7.62 mm machine-guns in the nose, but was also fitted with a ShVAK cannon in each wing. The first two prototypes were fitted with a slatted wing to improve handling and short-field performance while the second prototype had a wooden wing without slats, in order to simplify production. The second prototype crashed during flight tests and was written off. Although there were plans to put the Yak-3, into production, the scarcity of aviation aluminum and the pressure of the Nazi advance led to abandoning work on the Yak-3 in the late fall of 1941.

In 1943, Yakovlev designed the Yak-1M which was a smaller and lighter version of the 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 the Yak-1 and Yak-7 with only the Yak-9 retained in production for further work with the Klimov VK-107 engine. The new fighter, designated the Yak-3, entered service in 1944, later than the Yak-9 in spite of the lower designation number. A total of 4,848 aircraft were produced.

The designation Yak-3 was also used for other Yakovlev projects – a proposed but never built, heavy twin-engined fighter and the Yakovlev Yak-7A.

Lighter and smaller than the Yak-9, but powered by the same engine, the Yak-3 was a very agile dogfighter and a forgiving, easy-to-handle aircraft, that was 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 rate 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 the landing gear, flaps and brakes, typical for all Yakovlev fighters of the time, were also less reliable than the hydraulic or electrical systems. It was preferred due to significant weight savings however. The first 197 Yak-3’s 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 weight of fire of 2.72 kg (6.0 lb.) per second using high-explosive ammunition. The Yak-3 was built in 12 variants. It was operated by the Soviet Union, France (Normandie-Niemen Squadron) and Poland.

In addition, since 1991, a number of Yak-3’s have been newly manufactured by Yakovlev for the warbird market, using the original plans and dies. These are powered by the Allison V-1710 engine and have the designation Yak-3M. Several of these are airworthy today, mostly in the United States, but also in Germany and Austria. Others have been converted to “Yak-3” status from Yak-11 trainers (with the fitting of an Allison engine) for private owners, with these aircraft also being very popular worldwide.

This kit is produced by SMER, who was based in Prague, Czechoslovakia. They have re-popped a lot of old Heller (French company) kits under their label. This is one such kit.

The kit comes in a tray and lid type box. The box art shows a Yak-3 that has just won a dogfight with a Bf 109G that is going inverted down in flames. It carries the usual soviet red stars on the rudder, fuselage sides and under the wings. It has the white stenciled fuselage number 100, just in front of the tail. There is a logo of a winged caricature wielding a red sword that has sliced a German swastika in two on the sides of the cowling. The tip of the vertical tail is white. I haven’t a clue as to what squadron this represents. It is the only marking offered on the decal sheet. Humbrol colors are called out for the camouflage scheme, of dark green and dark brown wave pattern over light blue undersurfaces.

Inside the box is a large cello bag that holds 4 light gray parts threes. This is the most parts trees I have ever seen in a SMER kit of a fighter this sized. Usually the most has been three trees. The trees are molded in SMER’s signature light gray, that seems to be their color of choice for the parts they mold. The bag also holds a two part clear stand, used to make a desk model out of your aircraft if you desire to. This is commonly found in all of SMER’s 1/72nd scale aircraft kits too. There is a small cello that is stapled shut and Scotch-taped to the outside of the large cello. It holds the one piece clear cockpit canopy part. The decal sheet and the instructions complete the kits contents.

The instructions follow SMER’s usual layout for all their instruction sheets. It is a one page that folds into four pages.

Page one begins with a color copy of the box art, followed by the history of the Yak-3 in Czech only.

The left side of page 2 has text in Czech that has numbered sentences that tell you, step by step, how to assemble the kit.

The right side of page 2 and the left side of page 3 has seven assembly step drawings.

The right side of page 3 has a listing of the names of all the kit’s parts (again, only in Czech)

Page 4 has a three-view, full color illustrations of the only camouflage and markings scheme offered in the kit (already described above). There is a few paragraphs about this scheme in Czech next to the illustrations.

The first light gray parts tree in the SMER kit holds the two fuselage halves.

The second light gray parts tree holds: The lower wing half (full span), the horizontal tail surfaces, the cockpit floor and landing gear doors (8 parts).

The third light gray parts tree holds: the upper wing half (full span), the pilot seat, joy stick, exhaust pipes, pitot tube and 2 landing gear struts (8 parts).

The fourth light gray parts tree holds: the propeller, ventral air intake scoop, landing gear legs, dashboard, propeller retainer washer, propeller spinner, main wheels, tail wheel and the landing gear doors (16 parts).

Then, there is the usual two part clear desk stand that SMER includes in all their 1/72nd scale aircraft kits.

The single clear cockpit transparency part and the decal sheet complete the kit’s contents.

This is one sleek looking aircraft and I recommend it to modelers of WWII Soviet aircraft. With only 35 parts in the kit, it should not be beyond the capability of any modelers – experienced or beginner.

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