Yak-141 – The World’s First Supersonic Vertical Take-Off Fighter
There are a lot of experimental aircraft that don’t get off the ground, but the Yak-141 managed to in a variety of ways. Development of the Yak-141 fighter began in 1975 as a way to introduce a modern vertical takeoff aircraft to Russia.
The Russian Air Force had already experimented with vertical takeoff aircraft such as the Yak-36 and Yak-38 but now they wanted a fighter with supersonic speed. The Yak-141 made its debut in 1987, four units were built in total for flight testing. Test pilot Sinitsyn managed to set 12 world records during early trials but the Yak-141 program was canceled in 1991 due to a ruptured fuel tank causing the pilot to eject.
“The Yak-141 was capable of engaging air, ground and sea targets. It was armed with a single 30-mm cannon. Missile armament included the R-73 Archer, R-77 Adder or R-27 Alamo air-to-air missiles and Kh-31 and Kh-35 air-to-surface missiles. This multi-role fighter also had provision to carry unguided air-to-ground munitions and bombs. Wings of this warplane are folding, as it is usual for a carrier-based plane.”
Yakolev entered a partnership with Lockheed to help the program which is rumored to have been an influence on the F-35’s vertical takeoff ability. The Yak-141 made a final appearance at the Farnborough Airshow in 1992 where it attracted many willing buyers who were disappointed that it wasn’t for sale. Footage of that legendary performance can be viewed in this clip.