Early Soviet Jets II

Ilyushin Il-28

After a slow start the Soviets had by 1953 caught up on Western jet fighters mainly due to the copying of British Rolls-Royce engines. MiG had now become the dominant aircraft designer and its fighters would see service round the world for more than 40 years. This lead in aircraft design would not last and by the end of the Cold War western aircraft design and technology would once more be more than a match for the Soviets.

Yak-15

Its development started at the end of World War II, when the Soviet Union captured numerous German components, including Junkers Jumo-004 jet engines. This engine was studied in the USSR, and the Klimov OKB created a domestic counterpart under the designation RD-10. In turn, the Yakovlev OKB used the design to produce a jet fighter based on the latest version of the well-liked Yak-3.

The designers decided in favor of the pod-and-boom layout. A turbojet engine with 900 kg thrust was mounted instead of the old VK-107A piston engine. The engine was inclined so that the jet stream exited underneath the fuselage and wing. The rest of the airframe was left almost unchanged, except for an additional heat shield, made of refractory steel, located in the exhaust section. The aircraft’s armament included two Nudelman-Suranov NS-23KM cannons with 60 rounds each. The cannons were housed in the forward fuselage above the engine. The new Yakovlev fighter was originally called the Yak-Jumo but later obtained the designation Yak-15.

The first flight of the Yak-15 was on April 24, 1946, and the plane was launched into full-scale production in the autumn of the same year. Production Yak-15 planes had a different engine, the RD-10, manufactured in the USSR. The service life of the earliest engines was officially claimed to be 25 hours, but in reality it was 17 hours at best. Nevertheless, the Yak-15 was very easy to pilot, and its steering was similar to that of the Yak-3, which had been the basis of its development. As a result, it was decided that although the Yak-15 did not meet the requirements of the Air Force for a modern combat fighter, it was perfectly suitable as a transition from prop to jet aircraft.

In addition to its engine’s limited service life, the Yak-15 had a number of distinctive disadvantages. The most commonly encountered defects during its operation included hydraulic fluid leaks (through the sealing rings of the landing gear shock struts), the rupturing of rudder control cable threads, and the deterioration of tail wheel springs (probably caused by overheating). But the Yak-15’s main disadvantage was its very short flight range.

Nevertheless, the significance of the Yak-15 in the history of Soviet aviation should not be underestimated. Hundreds of pilots underwent training on planes of this type, and it was the Yak-15 that became the first Soviet jet aircraft officially accepted for service in the Air Force as well as the first jet fighter that enabled military pilots to master advanced aerobatics.

Production of the Yak-15 was discontinued in 1947. In all, 280 planes were constructed.

MiG-9

An all-metal, single-seat cantilever monoplane with two turbojet engines, mid-mounted wings, and retractable tricycle landing gear. It was clear by the end of World War II that the piston-engine-and-propeller combo had reached the limit of its potential. Soon it would be necessary to switch to new engine types.

Jet aviation in the USSR changed for the better at the very end of the war when captured German turbojet engines, particularly the BMW-003, arrived in the Soviet Union. The aforementioned engine was studied in the shortest time possible, and a Soviet copy, the RD-20, was launched into mass production.

In the end of 1945, the Mikoyan Design Bureau began the development of a jet fighter with two BMW-003 engines (producing 800 kg of thrust). On 24 April 1946, test pilot A.N. Grinchik first flew the prototype I-300 (F-1), the first Soviet fighter with a turbojet engine. The plane reached a speed of 920 km/h and had powerful armament: a 57mm N-57 cannon and two 23mm NS-23 cannons.

In 1946, the I-300 began full-scale production and was accepted for service with the Air Force under the designation of MiG-9 (Product FS). Before producing it on a full-scale basis, the designers of the Mikoyan Design Bureau reworked the fighter’s construction (particularly its fuselage) from scratch to adapt it to production in large quantities.

The power unit of production MiG-9s consisted of two RD-20 turbojet engines producing 800 kg of thrust apiece. At first, planes of this model had RD-20A-1 engines, with a service life of 10 hours. Actually, these engines were captured BMW-003s, reassembled in the USSR. Subsequently, MiG-9s featured only Soviet-produced turbojet engines: the RD-20A-2, with a service life of 25 and 50 hours, and later the RD-20B, with a service life of 75 hours.

The armament of the production planes differed from that of the prototypes. The MiG-9 (Product FS) had one 37mm Nudelman N-37 cannon with 40 rounds and two 23mm Nudelman-Suranov NS-23K cannons with 80 rounds each.

In 1947, it was decided to equip the MiG-9 with RD-21 uprated engines producing 1,000 kg of thrust. The engine was uprated due to increased gas temperature and turbine revolutions.

A prototype I-307 (Product FF) aircraft was built and tested with these engines in 1947. The testing showed that the I-307 had higher flight characteristics than production MiG-9s. The I-307 remained a prototype, since in March 1948 a decision was made to start the full-scale production of the more advanced MiG-15.

The last production aircraft were handed over to the Air Force in December 1948, and in factories they were supplanted by a new plane from the Mikoyan Design Bureau, the MiG-15. A total of 602 MiG-9 fighters were produced.

The MiG-9 was the beginning of the jet MiG’s history. The success of the MiG-15 fighter all over the world would have been impossible without the experience gained in the processes of design, building, testing, mass production, and operation of the first Soviet jet fighter, the MiG-9.

As new fighters were received by the Air Force, some MiG-9s would be delivered to China. These planes became the first jet fighters of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force of China.

La-200

In 1948, Soviet high command issued a requirement for a two man, all-weather, twin -engined jet interceptor that would be capable of carrying a new type of radar system called “Toriy” (Thorium). All three Soviet design bureaus (Lavochkin, MiG, and Sukhoi) developed a prototype for testing.

Lavochkin’s design, the La-200, had a long fuselage to accommodate its two turbojet engines, swept wings, and a large cockpit for two men. The La-200 took its maiden flight on September 9th, 1949. It was the only aircraft of the three designs to pass initial trials.

By the early 1950s, the La-200 was ready to enter production under the official designation La-17. However, due to the appearance of the Yak-120 (later known as Yak-25), which surpassed the La-200’s performance in testing, the La-200 order was cancelled in favor of the Yakovlev design.

Only a single prototype of the La-200 was ever built, and it was modified several times during development to improve performance, correct flaws, and test other radar systems.

Il-28

The IL-28 was created to meet a requirement for a bomber to carry a 3,000-kilogram payload at 800 kph (500 mph). Although there were several previous attempts to create such an aircraft the IL-28 was the first successful design. It incorporated the new Rolls-Royce Nene engines, produced as the unlicensed “RD-45”. After the completion of testing in 1949, the aircraft was ordered into production on 14 May 1949, with the new Klimov VK-1, an improved version of the previous RD-45. The IL-28 was widely exported and was utilized by almost all of the Warsaw Pact nations along with various Middle Eastern and African nations. It was license-built in China as the Harbin H-5 and in Czechoslovakia as the Avia B-228. It is known to still be in service today in the Korean People’s Air Force (KPAF). Although few in number, they provide North Korea with a means of strategically bombing targets.

An all-metal cantilever monoplane with a crew of three. Created at OKB S.V. Ilyushin.

S.V. Ilyushin put forward his preliminary design for the Il-28 on 12 January 1948. By 8 July 1948, the test pilot V.K. Kokkinaki took the Il-28 out for its maiden flight. It was equipped with two turbojet Rolls-Royce Nene engines. On 30 December 1948, the Il-28 underwent in-plant tests with the Russian series-produced RD-45F engine – a licensed version of the English engine.

But the decision on the aircraft’s fate was delayed until 14 May 1949, when the Council of Ministers decided to increase the Il-28’s speed to 900 km/h by installing more powerful VK-1 engines with a maximum thrust of 2,700 kgf. In only three months, on 8 August 1949, the Il-28 took its maiden flight with the VK-1 engines.

The turbojet VK-1 engines were located under the wing in streamlined engine nacelles.

The Il-28’s armament included two turrets – one to the fore and one to the rear. Two frontal 23 mm Nudelman-Rikhter NR-23 cannons with 100 shells each were mounted in a fixed position in side compartments in the front fuselage. The pilot acted as gunner for the frontal cannons.

The movable Il-K6 tail turret also contained two 23 mm Nudelman-Rikhter NR-23 cannons, these with 225 shells each.

The aircraft could carry bombs of various calibers internally, up to and including the FAB-3000. Its bomb compartment could contain 12 FAB-100 bombs or eight FAB-250s, or between two and four FAB-500s, or a single FAB-1500 or FAB-3000.

The Il-28 became the most mass-produced jet-powered bomber. The aircraft was easy to manufacture and reliable in use. It was in series production between the years of 1950 and 1956. The Il-28 reached peak production during the Korean War: in 1953, six plants were building them at once. In total, 4,405 Il-28 bombers were produced. In the 50s, the Il-28 was the main front-line bomber in the Soviet Air Forces.

The Il-28 was widely distributed beyond the borders of the USSR. It served in the air forces or air-defense forces of: Algeria, Afghanistan, Bulgaria, Hungary, Vietnam, East Germany, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Yemen, China, North Korea, Morocco, Nigeria, Poland, Romania, Syria, Somalia, Finland and Czechoslovakia. The People’s Republic of China and Czechoslovakia produced them under license (with the designation B-228).

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