The Yakovlev Yak-9 was the best and most iconic fighter plane produced by the Soviet Union during World War II. It was also the most produced Soviet fighter of the war as well as the most produced Soviet fighter plane ever, with 14,579 units produced during the war and 16,769 built in total from 1942 to 1948. On March 22, 1945, a Yak-9 piloted by L.I. Sivko from 812.IAP became the first Soviet aircraft to shoot down a Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter.
Designed by Soviet aircraft designer Alexander Sergeevich Yakovlev and based on the successful Yak-7 model (which in turn was based on the less successful Yak-1), the Yak-9 made several advances over the Yak-7 and in particularly drastically reduced the weight of the aircraft by taking advantage of the greater availability of duralumin. Testing began in the summer of 1942 and the first combat missions were flown in October.
Although often under-armored and under-armed, the Yak-9 consistently proved itself the equal or superior of any German fighter in terms of flight characteristics, and retained these advantages through several iterations right up through the end of the war. By the time the Yak-9U variant appeared in 1944, both German and Russian pilots agreed that it was the finest fighter plane flown by any party on the Eastern Front, and the Germans did anything they could to avoid fighting it.
The Yak-9 proved so successful that the Soviets continued to mass-produce it after the war concluded and even after better technology appeared on the scene, primarily for export to Soviet dominated Eastern Bloc nations. The Yak-9 was also exported in large numbers to North Korea, who used it extensively against the United States in the Korean War.
Specifications for the Yak-9U VK-107:
Length: 28 ft 0 in (8.55 m)
Wingspan: 31 ft 11 in (9.74 m)
Height: 9 ft 10 in (3.00 m)
Wing area: 185.1 ft² (17.2 m²)
Empty weight: 5,526 lb (2,512 kg)
Loaded weight: 7,049 lb (3,204 kg)
Powerplant: 1 × Klimov VK-107A V-12 liquid-cooled piston engine, 1,500 hp (1,120 kW)
Maximum speed: 417 mph at altitude (672 km/h)
Range: 420 miles (675 km)
Service ceiling: 35,000 ft (10,650 m)
Rate of climb: 3,280 ft/min (16.7 m/s)
Wing loading: 38 lb/ft² (186 kg/m²)
Power/mass: 0.21 hp/lb (0.35 kW/kg)
Armament: 1 × 20 mm ShVAK cannon, 120 rounds; 2 × 12.7 mm UBS machine guns, 170 rounds each