In 1962 the Yakolev bureau was chosen to produce the first Soviet vertical take-off and landing aeroplane for the Soviet navy's new 'Kiev' class of aircraft-carriers. Initial consideration was given to a composite arrangement of lift jets and a cruise engine, but it was finally decided to use two 36.78kN Koliesov engines with vectoring nozzles on the centre of gravity to provide direct lift or forward thrust as required. The airframe designed for the new Yak-36 was necessarily broad to accommodate the side-by-side engines, used the now-standard arrangement of tandem main units on the centreline together with stabilizing outriggers at the wingtips, and was completely conventional as only high subsonic speeds were envisaged. Hovering control was provided by reaction jets in the wingtip pods, the tail and the long nose boom. The type first flew in the mid-1960s, and trials with at least 12 such prototypes paved the way for the Yak-38 VTOL naval aeroplane, which has a composite powerplant with one vectored thrust turbojet in the rear fuselage, and two lift turbojets in the forward fuselage.
Displayed publicly at the Domodedovo, Moscow, flying display in July 1967, this single-seater appeared to be powered by two turbojets installed side by side in the belly, each discharging through a. louvred and gridded swivelling nozzle. The nose was occupied by large lateral air ducts from a bifurcated pitot inlet. Freehand had no lift jets, and pipes from the main engine served reac-tion-control nozzles at the tips of the wing, at the tail and on the end of an outsize nose boom. The wing was mounted in the mid-position directly above the engine nozzles. The verti-cal tail was sharply swept, and two ventral fins were fitted under the rear fuselage. A large surface under the nose, double-hinged to function as an airbrake, was also hinged at the rear, and was judged to reduce reinges-tion of hot gas in the low-level hovering mode.
Two Freehands took part at Domodedovo, one No 37 and the other No 38, the latter carrying two UV-16-57 rocket pods. Fitting the latter was considered chiefly a public relations exercise. There is no evidence to suggest that it was ever an operational type, though at least eight were built, and one went aboard the helicopter ASW cruiser Moskva where it conducted flying trials from an elevated platform not quite the same as those often used by Ka-25 helicopters.
Engines: 2 x RD-27-300, 53.0kN
Max take-off weight: 8900 kg / 19621 lb
Wingspan: 10.5 m / 34 ft 5 in
Length: 17.0 m / 56 ft 9 in
Height: 4.5 m / 15 ft 9 in
Max. speed: 1010 km/h / 628 mph
Ceiling: 12000 m / 39350 ft