Design began at the end of 1941 of a single-seat fighter using the new VK-107 engine, requiring the least-possible drag, smallest dimensions and weight consistent with a manoeuvrable and tough machine. Due to delays with the new engine and pressure to build the maximum number of aircraft already on the production lines, this new Yak-3 programme was shelved.
A new small wing was developed and tested along with other changes on a Yak-1M in late 1942, and the first Yak-3 prototype was flown in late 1943. Although evaluation aircraft flew in combat, the first series Yak-3s did not enter operation with the 91st IAP until July 1944.
The first all-metal - steel spar wings with light alloy stressed skinned wings and fuselage - the production Yak-3U rolled out in late autumn 1944 and deliveries were just being made to front line squadrons when the war ended. The fastest of all Yakolev production piston-engined fighters, the Yak-3U was comparable with the Spitfire XIV and XVIII.
Initial non-availability of the VK-107 engine forced reliance to be placed on the VK-105PF-2 that had powered earlier Yaks. The Russian fighter achieved a maximum speed of 447 mph at 19,685 feet when fitted with the VK-107A of 1700 hp as from August 1944, easily outpacing the latest marks of Bf 109 and FW 190.
Built to a total of 4,848, the Yak-3 achieved fame and a very high score rate against German aircraft in 1944-45. The Yak-3 equipped the famous Free French 'Normandie-Niemen' unit, and achieved its peak of perfection when the VK-107A engine of 1268kW became available in limited numbers from August 1944, the type's maximum speed then improving to 720km/h at 6000m.
Armed with an engine-mounted 20-mm ShVAK cannon and two synchronised 12.7 (0,5 inch) UBS machine guns mounted in the upper decking of the forward fuselage.
Designed specifically for low altitude combat and army co-operation the Yak-3 fighter usually operated at altitudes below 8-10,000 ft. where it was markedly superior to the Ger-man Bf 109G and Fw 190A and was extensively used for ground strafing.
A Yak-3 airframe was modified to produce the Yak-15 jet fighter in 1945, developed subsequently as the Yak-17.
After discussions with interested American groups in 1991, the Yakolev Design Bureau used the original drawings and some of the original jigs to recommence production for the international warbird market. This resulted in the Yak-3M. The 1993 brand new Yak-3 differs only from the original Red Air Force examples in the engine department, a World War 2 Allison V-1710-99 providing more reliability than the now extremely rare Klimov VIKA05PF and modern avionics. Modifications to accept the Allison were made by the Yakolev engineers, an in-house re-engining. The Yakolev factory personnel simply opened the bottom drawer, took out the 1944 plans, blew off the dust, and went to work on a new production batch. The production line was simply restarted. A number of the original jigs were in existence to facilitate the work.
Five Yak-3UPW were built in Romania in 1994. They were powered by Pratt & Whitney R-1834 Twin Wasp with a new Hamilton Standard three blade prop.
Garric Warbirds Yak-3
Engine: 1 x : Klimov VK-105PF, 870kW / 1,200 hp
Max take-off weight: 2650 kg / 5842 lb
Wingspan: 9.2 m / 30 ft 2 in
Length: 8.5 m / 28 ft 11 in
Height: 2.4 m / 8 ft 10 in
Wing area: 14.8 sq.m / 159.31 sq ft
Max. speed: 660 km/h / 410 mph
Cruise speed: 560 km/h / 348 mph
Ceiling: 10700 m / 35100 ft
Range: 900 km / 559 miles
Armament: 1 x 20mm machine-guns, 2 x 12.7mm machine-guns,
Engine: Allison V-1710-99
Prop: Hamilton 23E50
Cruise: 250 mph
Fuel burn: 240 lt/hr