The YAK-41: The Soviet Attempt at a VTOL Aircraft

The YAK-41: The Soviet Attempt at a VTOL Aircraft

hello everybody welcome back to another episode of megaprojects just to get the obvious out of the way why am i wearing a sling i broke my collarbone mountain biking it was painful and uh i i need the sling to not be in pain also i couldn’t change into a shirt because i didn’t want to take the sling off anyway let’s get into it the yak 41 but not quite yet because this video is brought to you by squarespace whether it’s your new professional just a life long passion style your journey to website glory with squarespace check out there awesome all in one platform through the link in the description below more on them in just a bit [Music] our story today begins on a sunny july day much like the day i crash my mouth it’s on my mind it’s very painful and there’s now a big metal plate in there i’m on my way to becoming my own mega project a cyborg the year is 1960 and the location is a small town called farnborough england the home of an internationally round air show and the site of the world’s first public demonstrations of the west’s newest stride in the field of aviation a fully functional vetol jet called the short sc-1 which at the time was serving as a proof of concept for the soon-to-follow hawker harrier jump jet on this day a large crowd of spectators is watching astounded by its apparent ability to take off like a helicopter and fly like a jet of all the people present in the crowd that day the last person you might expect to see would be a high-ranking soviet official well not if he was a spy however that is precisely where mr alexander sergio vichyakila found himself on that very july morning watching with the rest of the crowd this astonishing feat of engineering as the founder of the yakulev design bureau this spectacle must have meant something significantly different to him than the other spectators around him after all he was a soviet citizen and this was the height of the cold war he was fully aware of the military applications of such an aircraft and to him it could represent just another step closer to well utter destruction on the other hand he was an engineer and where some soviet leaders saw a threat he saw a challenge and a significant development in his own field whether this moment inspired fear or simply inspired him or we just don’t know what we do know is that it would drive yakuleb for the next two decades in his attempts to develop a soviet vetol jet and though he didn’t know it he would end up creating a design that would serve the americans better than it ever served the soviets [Music] upon returning to the soviet union yakulev would immediately set about designing his new soviet version of this jet though the soviets were aware of the west’s vtol program they showed little enthusiasm for creating a comparable jet of their own however yakulev went ahead with his development and only a year later would end up convincing the soviet leadership of the serious potential that would come with a fleet of vetol capable jets this led to them issuing the yakulev design bureau with a directive to produce a single-seat fighter bomber jet they gave it the provisional in-house designation of yak v and that beat doesn’t mean five it’s short for oh god something in russia vertically guess that makes sense vertical maybe i don’t know russian very well i even see there’s the rush with the cyrillic alphabet in the script in front of me which uh is not helpful at all and i have a note from the writer telling me they just did it to torture me why anyway this new directive stipulated the following requirements the jet could be no heavier than 9150 kilograms capable of supersonic flight able to carry a payload of 500 kilograms and capable of vertical takeoff and landing that last one’s a bit of a given isn’t it this was no small task for even someone like jacqueline who had taken a natural interest in beat or flight long before the project had ever begun this job was made all the more difficult owing to the soviet union’s distinct lack of any engines capable of thrust vectoring which simply means having engines that could point both downwards and also horizontally nor the power delivery needed for vertical takeoff and landing because well you need a lot of power if you recall from the first video of this series if you’re unaware of this series we’ve done a whole series of videos on different veto aircraft so go check those out if you want to no pressure the development of the hawker harrier could only begin once a jet engine powerful and capable enough to produce the necessary thrust was developed this was the rolls-royce pegasus engine but as the old saying goes necessity is the mother of all invention and when you live in the ussr you would better believe that you’re gonna make your government issue directives lest you end up in the gulag no pressure and so in that spirit the spirit of the gulag mr yakulev came up with the tadpole configuration of engine simply but this was two r27300s to mansky engines set side by side with two adjustable nozzles attached to the exhaust these engines would be placed on the forward portion of the jet so as to ensure that when the engines were in their downward position any thrust produced would be directed along the jet’s center mass and so you might now be asking why is this called a tadpole configuration we have no idea and we couldn’t figure it out this was about as simple as solution as you could get and it came with its caveats one of which was a serious lack of stability to understand why this is we’ll actually use the harrier jump jet as a comparison first off the center of mass is a theoretical point within an object that simply notes the point which an object can balance without tipping or tilting and less acted upon with regard to our current topic consider the harrier which had four separate exhaust nozzles two in front of the vehicle center of mass and two behind it now this provides a much larger platform on which to rest compared to the yak-36 which had only two supports both which rested directly on the center of mass it meant any small fluctuations like just a gust of wind could greatly destabilize the whole system a good way to visualize this is to get something like a ruler and hold it out in front of you with one finger supporting each end i originally wanted to demonstrate this when i went through the script before but now i can’t even do it because the the the hand okay so imagine this represents the harrier now try and hold the ruler with just one finger and you’ll see how difficult it would be to control a jet the solution to this instability problem was to use something very similar to what we’ve already seen on the harriet jets and this was to set a reaction valve on both wings and the tail and the nose of the jet and used this as a means to control and direct the jet while in vertical flight however with the jet engines being so far forward the engineers had to rely on a bit of mechanical advantage to ensure that the valve on the nose was strong enough and you’ll see what i mean about that if you don’t understand it in just a moment after only two years of development the yakulev design bureau released something resembling a finished product in the form of the yak-36 unfortunately this jet would meet a premature enduring the testing phases and ultimately only four jets were ever produced the final product of this development process was a pretty strange looking vehicle with two enormous circular air intakes beneath the body and a conspicuous pipe protruding from the nose and that is what we meant by mechanical advantage it also came with a particularly unusual feature due to the instability of the vehicle when in vertical flight and the uncertainty as to whether or not it would be able to consistently transition from one flight mode to another the engineers made the decision to incorporate a proprietary automatic ejection system into the jet if the jet’s on board system detected a sharp change in pitch during veto mode the automatic ejection sequence would be activated in which the pilot’s hands would be yanked from the throttle and steer and forcibly restrained after which the jet would automatically eject the pilot regardless of whether they wanted it or not which sounds absolutely terrifying after several months of testing at two significant crashes the program for this jet was cancelled however this was not the end of the line for yakulev or his jets as we’ll soon find out but before we find out about all of that oh yes it’s time for you guys to hear about today’s excellent sponsor squarespace you know what’s great about summer vacation time off crashing mountain bikes it’s a perfect time to spend lying on the beach or in the park or crashing mountain places daydreaming about the next project that you want to start fortunately squarespace gives you every possible tool that you might want to make your dreams a reality whether it’s a small business 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commercial options three positive customer support everything you could ever need is in one place so when you’re ready to get started on the next project of yours big or small it involves a website do it with squarespace right now just go to squarespace.com for a free trial and when you’re ready to launch your new site go to squarespace.com forward slash mega projects to save 10 of your first purchase of a website or a domain and let’s get back into it with the program meeting a premature end it would be easy to think that the jet had been a complete failure for yakulev however the soviet navy who had originally resisted the idea of a veto jet were impressed by the yak-36 for some reason and now saw it as a potentially feasible concept given another round of development and so on the 27th of september 1967 the yakulev design bureau was given a second directive to develop a new vitol aircraft but this time it would be a solely attack aircraft now with a bit more time available for development yakulev could devote more time and thought to the mechanism upon which this new jet operated at first development focused on perfecting the dad bowl design however after much discussion it was eventually decided to use a different power plant configuration electing this time to go for a mixed power plant design what that means is that instead of having two engines with variable thrust vectoring as we’ve seen in the likes of the harrier and the original yak-36 they would have a set of secondary engines installed specifically for vertical lift and one large primary engine at the back this would have a variable thrust vector these secondary engines would be detached from the rest of the system in regular flight and would only become activated when carrying out a veto maneuver now that might seem a little familiar to those of you who already seen our previous video on the f35 lightning which if you have and i would suggest you give it a watch because it’s an amazing video containing possibly some of the best writing available on youtube angus the writer of this script is give me a raise simon the best writing on youtube anyway yeah that single engine configuration had a large resemblance to a certain u.s jet but we’ll get to that just a bit later for now development was going ahead on this new configuration and by the early 1970s the first prototypes were in production with the first completed test flight being carried out in 1971 after several more years of testing and tweaking the final designation yak-38 was applied and the jet went into production seeing this new jet it’s difficult not to notice the similarities it shares with a harrier however those were really only skin deep in fact the previous generation the yak-36 shed far more in common with the harrier with regard to engine design and operation this new jet may have looked similar to the harrier but its engine operations were in some ways many decades ahead of the harrier and in other ways were many decades behind but more on that later suffice it to say this jet was capable of supersonic flight her feat the harrier was originally supposed to accomplish but never did this jet was also far more dangerous than the harrier dangerous to the pilot that is there was a reason the british elected against using the mixed power plant design the issue was that on a fundamental level jet aerodynamics do not suit three-dimensional travel in other words you can travel efficiently in one direction or the other but just not both the best way to understand this is to think about an engineer designing a conventional jet they will know what direction the air will be coming from and they’ll make that jet as aerodynamic as possible in that one direction that process unavoidably makes the aerodynamics in every other direction just a bit shite think about looking at a jet from nose point on and then the top down point of view is two very different silhouettes in a conventional jet never an issue but in vitol well you start to see the problem now pretty much all vertical maneuvers don’t need to be made at speed so the efficiency is not the issue the real issue is that the jet which needs to be very narrow in order to reduce resistance in forward flight does not provide a lot of space for installing a jet engine that would be pointed at the ground any engine that you could fit in that area would have to be tiny and would produce a miniscule amount of thrust relative to the amount needed to lift the jet off the ground the harrier avoided this issue with the use of one huge engine with adjustable nozzles that way it could take advantage of the lateral space available to it only now are we even coming close to the kind of technology that would allow a powerful enough jet to be packed into that small of a space in soviet russia back in the 1970s well let’s just say they didn’t have the technology 50 years ahead of time not even close the solution it seemed was to use two jet engines for lift and make the main jet engine able to adjust its angle to assist with the remainder of the lift the engine gimbal feature would be no small feat either and would require a very precise and complex bit of engineering but it was achievable and they did achieve it however even though they’d now had the main engine adding to the lift those smaller engines would still have to be pushed to their absolute limit to just meet the basic lift requirements so tying this whole giant tangent back together those over-strained engines had an unfortunate habit of simply cutting out when under significant stress so it just so happens that these moments of significant stress also occurred at times when you needed the engines to work most like when you were coming into a landing at a faster speed than usual going to the fact that this would be happening at high speed these accidents would occur too fast for the pilot to react thankfully mr yakulev had a solution to that remember that trusty automatic ejection system which sounded absolutely terrifying well after several years of development they weren’t as temperamental as they had been in earlier models and they were put to better use now you might be surprised here that that wasn’t even the biggest issue with this jet that prize goes to its inability to perform in certain weather conditions it’s a simple fact of jet engine design that cooler air increases engine efficiency and warmer air decreases it as with most jet engines the goal is to push that threshold up as high as possible to make the engines as efficient as possible in all conditions however with those overworked lift engines there wasn’t really much room to improve the efficiency in fact that threshold was so low that during the summer months the jet would frequently be incapable of carrying out a vertical takeoff unless completely stripped of its weaponry and when the soviets went to war in afghanistan the jet was completely incapable of taking off at all not brilliant despite this the soviet navy ordered a total of 200 of these jets during the entire production run of the aircraft and throughout this time the jet served its purpose as long as the sun wasn’t out in one of the most memorable incidents regarding the yak-38 a pilot was carrying out a routine vertical takeoff when the jet malfunctioned and automatically ejected the pilot there was however nothing wrong with the jet and it simply continued to rise without the presence of the pilot and eventually crashed into a farm building it’s unclear if anyone was killed in the crash but this being soviet russia we could be pretty certain that if the owner did survive they were probably sent to the gulag for building their farm building in way of a government crash site or perhaps just breathing too loudly despite these minor issues the jet was kept in regular use by the navy for 15 years and seemingly happy with the gents performance they put in another request for the yakulev design bureau to create a second more modern version of the yak-38 shortly after the request was accepted however alexander yakulev died in 1989 never seeing the end of this final development but the show must go on as they say by 1991 this new jet given the designation of yak 41 was nearing completion they had done away with the large ovular air intakes adopted instead for the classic square intakes and all that of the russian migs everything seemed to be going very smoothly and they were almost ready to begin testing when a small hiccup occurred in the form of the soviet union collapsing overnight all demands for weapons manufacturing and development disappeared and well that was the end of the russian veto program but it wasn’t the end of the yak-41 alright so you know that old saying the enemy of my enemy is my friends well that has absolutely nothing to do with this however we are going to explain all of those hints about the americans finding a use for the yak-41 because once the iron curtain fell on the 26th of december 1991 a certain us-based jet manufacturer got word of a certain russia-based design bureau that just so happened to have a great deal of research and knowledge on a certain veto jet engine configuration it also just so happens that this russian company recently lost their entire revenue stream and was trying to find a way to just not go bankrupt we are of course talking about lockheed martin specifically a small development team in the world renowned lockheed skunk works who were working on a jet called the x-35 which if you saw our previous video would later become the f-35 lightning america’s flagship jet in a deal of around 300 to 400 million dollars the yakulev design bureau agreed to provide lockheed martin with three jets and vital research in the design and operation of that kind of engine layout yak-41 was just another evolution of the previous yak-38 better tuned with more efficient and most importantly more reliable lift engines this new iteration also had a radar system which was a feature the previous generation lacked and most significant of all its design criteria had been altered originally an attack aircraft the chair to become solely focused on air superiority and defending the soviet naval fleet we don’t really know how well the yak 41 actually fulfilled these requirements and it didn’t really matter because that was not what lockheed martin was interested in no lockheed martin was interested in how the yakulev design bureau had managed to engineer their lyft fan and vectoring engine configuration and you can see just how much of an influence this jet had on the f-35 up today with that weird moving engine exhaust being one of the jets most recognizable features depending on how you look at it this jet was either a partial success or a complete failure it was inefficient it was unsafe and it was incapable of even taking off in certain conditions like sunny weather however despite all of that it was still the first jet capable of surpassing the speed of sound and then carrying out a vertical landing all in the same journey no small feat and whether yakulev would like it or not his jet engine design would become a crucial mechanism in america’s premier military jet it’s difficult to know whether yakulev would have been happy with the fate of his life’s work he undoubtedly had a love for engineering and development of jet aircraft in general but he was also a soviet citizen and a property of the cold war over his many years of service he distinguished himself and he was the recipient of great many awards from the soviet states so it was clearly at the very least supportive of the soviet regime when he looked like that it’s pretty easy to conclude that yakulev would not have been happy with his life’s work in the hands of his enemies however that’s maybe not looking at the whole picture consider this would you say that the yak 36 was a success or a failure perhaps it was a failure it certainly lacked in some crucial aspects like safety and simple operational effectiveness but perhaps it was a success not in the ways that would matter to military personnel but would matter to someone who took value in advancements in engineering such as yakulev few jets from that era still have their technology in the machines of today let alone being a fundamental part of the most advanced jet of our time in the same way concluding that yakulev would have been unhappy with the fate of his work perhaps does not take the whole situation into account and overlooks one of his most significant traits that being the fact that above all else he did not want the world to end in a nuclear holocaust despite how the media might depict the soviet union and its inhabitants they were just as opposed to nuclear war as any average western citizen from this we could conclude that yakulev would be glad that the world of the future is not a barren nuclear wasteland a fact that i think well we can all be pretty pleased about so i really hope you found this video interesting if you did please do hit that thumbs up button below and don’t forget to subscribe please do also check out our fantastic sponsor squarespace they’re linked to below and thank you for watching [Music] you
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The YAK-41: The Soviet Attempt at a VTOL Aircraft

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