What Happened to the Soviet Supersonic Jump Jets?

What Happened to the Soviet Supersonic Jump Jets?

When you think of vertical take of and landing
aircraft other than helicopters, probably the first ones that spring to mind is the
now-retired Harrier Jump jet and the much more recent Lockheed F-35B and this might
make you wonder why there haven’t been more of them around.
Well, what’s not very well known here in the west is that the Soviets also made VTOL aircraft,
they even made a supersonic version back in the 1980s, the only supersonic one in the
west is the current F-35B and that also has a surprising connection to that soviet jet,
so what happened the Soviet supersonic jump jets. This video is sponsored by Brilliant.org,
why not give the gift of learning this holiday season, see the end of this video for details.
Interest in VTOL aircraft that is Vertical Takeoff and Landing by all sides increased
after WW2. In the 1950s and particularly after the Korean war there was an attempt to reduce
the reliance on conventional long runways which were vulnerable to attack. Using Vertical
Takeoff and Landing would allow strike aircraft to use simple and quickly constructed launch
areas that could be much closer to the front line and be more difficult to find by the
enemy. If we ignore propeller based craft like helicopters
and things like the Convair XFY-1 and stick with jet power most of the early work was
done in the UK, US, France and Germany. In 1954 in the UK, the Rolls-Royce Thrust
Measuring Rig which was also known as the “Flying Bedstead” became the first untethered
jet-lift aircraft to fly anywhere in the world, the data gathered from this led to the development
of the RB108 engine which was specifically designed for vertical lift and five where
used in the Short SC-1, a research aircraft designed to test the transition from vertical
take-off to horizontal flight. In this, four engines provided the lift and swivelled fore
and aft whilst the fifth provided the forward thrust
In 1960 Alexander Yakovlev was at the Farnborough Airshow and saw the Short SC.1 in action and
on his return the USSR he decided to build his own test rig. A few years earlier in 1956
two professors, Matveev and Rafaelyants had built the “turbolet” a similar test rig
the Rolls Royce flying bedstead. Yakovlev enlisted their help and quickly obtained
funding to build a prototype, the YAK-V which would be similar to the Hawker P.1127 which
would later become the Hawker Harrier. But there was a problem in that the there
was no equivalent the to Hawker P.1127’s Rolls Royce Pegasus vectored thrust engine
in the Soviet Union and without funding from the government which was still dubious about
VTOL in general, they had to come up with a simpler solution.
This comprised of two engines mounted at the centre of gravity with a steerable nozzle
on each one that could rotate the thrust downwards. Compressed air from the engine compressors
would then be directed to the wingtips, the tail and a long protuberance on the nose to
provide stabilization when hovering. This new aircraft was called the YAK-36 and
after 6 years development in February 1966, aircraft no.38 performed a vertical take,
transition to high-speed flight and then a vertical landing.
Although the YAK-36 solved the basic problems of VTOL it was never intended to be an operational
aircraft but it did provide Yakovlev with the basis for the next model the YAK-36M which
would eventually be known as the YAK-38 and would be primarily used for the USSR’s first
aircraft carriers. Although this looked rather similar to the
British Hawker Harrier it operated in very a different way. In the Harrier, one engine
provided all the thrust for both vertical flight and horizontal flight via four rotating
nozzles in the fuselage and the main engine exhaust.
The Yak-36M took the ideas from the YAK-36 and changed from two main engines to one as
it would be overpowered with two and the range would be greatly reduced. Even though the
initial design was for a supersonic aircraft, because of the technical difficulties in achieving
this is was decided to limit it’s speed to Mach 0.95.
For the vertical lift, two smaller less powerful engines were placed vertically behind the
cockpit with a door covering them which opened when they were in operation.
One of the problems with having the three-engine design was that if any one engine failed during
the hover, the aircraft would immediately pitch up or down and give the pilot very little
time to react compared the Harrier, which if it lost its main engine, then all the thrust
would be lost at the same time and the aircraft would tend to fall flat giving the pilot more
time to eject. To protect the pilot an automatic ejection
system was fitted that would eject the pilot if it detected a sudden change in the aircraft’s
attitude but this also had a habit of accidentally triggering leading to the loss of the plane
when there wasn’t actually a problem. Test flights began in 1972 and by 1975 the
first one of three aircraft had been sent to the Kiev aircraft carrier and the other
two more to special flight units. During a ferry flight, the second aircraft crashed
on landing when one of the lift engines failed. In 1976 during the liftoff phase, another
Yak-36M accidentally ejected the pilot but continued to fly on automatic control in a
wide circle, half hovering and half flying for 18 minutes before it crashed into a farmyard.
When the aircraft was finally commissioned it was given the designation Yak-38. Over
200 were produced by the Soviet Union but one of the biggest differences between it
and the Harrier was the small payload, lack of radar and that is was also adversely affected
by high temperatures. During tests in 1976 in the Black Sea, it
was found that the hot weather reduced it efficiency so much that no weapons could be
carried even with very light fuel load. This greatly affected planes which were sent to
Afghanistan and effectively grounded them during the hot summer months. It also lacked
a high-performance radar which severely limited its usefulness as a fleet defence fighter.
But even before the YAK-38 the Soviet Navy had wanted a more capable VTOL aircraft and
again Yakovlev had seen it as an intermediate design to gain more experience and knowledge.
In 1975 the contract for a supersonic design with the radar, much greater weapons load
and manoeuvrability of the current front line fighters was given to Yakovlev. With is they
would achieve something the west had not done, a supersonic VTOL. There was a supersonic
version of the Harrier jump jet on the drawing board, the Hawker P.1154 but service in flighting,
government delays and political decisions within NATO meant it was cancelled in 1965
along with the TSR.2. During the late 1970s over 50 designs were
considered and Alexander Yakovlev assigned most of his OKB design team to the project.
One of the biggest challenges was how to make a vectored thrust engine that also had an
afterburner, this would be essential for supersonic performance.
Again a three-engine design was used similar to the YAK-38 and would be controlled with
an interlinked electronic control system that would handle startup, landing and hovering.
Because the main engine would only be used for part of the vertical thrust it could be
optimised for supercruise to use less fuel and increase its range.
The fuselage had a twin beam construction at the rear past the main engine nozzle, this
was to protect the complicated steerable nozzle and to pass cool air to the ends of the beams
where it could mask the hot exhaust gas and reduce the aircraft’s infrared signature.
Funding was obtained for four prototypes and in 1987 the first conventional flight was
performed and in 1990 the first vertical takeoff, transition to horizontal flight and vertical
landing. Shortly after in 1991 it set 12 world records
in the VTOL CTOL aircraft category. Because the designation of YAK-41 was classified,
a new one of YAK-141 was created for the use in the west.
However in September 1991 the now Russian Navy which was severely cash strapped after
the fall of the Soviet Union cancelled the YAK-41 project and retired the remaining YAK-38’s
in favour of conventional aircraft and this marked the end for VTOL aircraft in the Russian
services. Yakovlev had anticipated this and didn’t
make the tooling for production but instead looked for foreign partners for the continued
development of the project. This is where in 1992, Lockheed who were in
the process of designing the X-35, the prototype F-35, came to an agreement to buy three new
non-flyable YAK-141 prototypes for $400 Million, though the deal was not revealed by Lockheed
until 1994. Part of the design from the YAK’s can be
seen in the F-35B which uses a vectored main exhaust similar to the YAK-141 and a lifting
fan behind the cockpit with the opening door above it. However, in the F-35B its driven
by a single main engine like a Harrier via a drive shaft instead of the two vertical
lift engines of the YAK-141 and as such the F-35B could be said to be built on the advances
of both the Harrier and YAK aircraft whilst being brought into the 21st century with advanced
stealth, avionics and information gathering. Now just as the former adversaries and manufacturers
Yakovlev and Lockheed got together to share information, you can do a similar thing this
holiday season by giving a premium subscription of Brilliant to your loved ones as a gift.
Brilliant is a problem-solving website that can help you develop your learning skills
by breaking complex problems down to small easily understandable parts then putting back
together to show the overall solution build-up to an interesting conclusion.
There are loads of great totally interactive courses, — explore physics of the everyday
and how planes use lift to fly and how ballistics can explain what happens to stray bullets
and much, much. This hands-on active learning approach is
great for curious people like you who want to understand the world.
If you want to support Curious Droid and give the gift of learning or just treat your self
and get unlimited access to all of Brilliant’s in-depth math and science courses, head over
to brilliant.org/curiousdroid/ to get 20% off their annual Premium subscription.

Eugene Islam

100 thoughts on “What Happened to the Soviet Supersonic Jump Jets?

  1. A British harrier also once accidentally ejected it’s pilot, or rather the faulty ejection seat did. The pilot was killed, IIRC. After contact with the harrier was lost it flew out to sea. The nearest aircraft available to intercept was a USAF F15, which after discovering the harrier with no pilot and it’s canopy missing was eventually ordered to shoot it down.

  2. Love how every video of this channel has documentary quality! So nice to watch & very well researched

  3. Both Harrier and Yak were very unstable at take off and landing.
    Especially Yak. Because it generated a lot of hot air right under the aircraft that offer got into the air intakes. Dangerously reducing main engine thrust, this often led to catastrophic crashes on a flight deck.
    F-35 has solved this problem ingeniously.
    By using lifting fan, F-35 generates cold air, not hot. Which makes plane very stable and safe.
    It became possible due to incredibly durable main shaft metal alloy, and 2nd to none thrust of engine F-135 (40K pounds)

  4. when you think of i.t. why stop with nuking the planet, propel the future of technology and go for broke. invest in your future

  5. OMG here we go with the F-35/Yak-41 nonsense. Lockheed bought some Yak-41 data from Yakovlev. That's it. Very little of it ended up even being useful. The basic configuration of the X-35 ("lobster tail" main nozzle and lift engines behind the cockpit) are WAY older than the Yak-41. Take a look at the Convair 200. Several engineers from that program ended up working on the X-35/F-35. (Convair was part of the General Dynamics division that ended up being bought by Lockheed.) It has exactly ZERO in common with the Harrier.

    Code One: F-35B Lightning II Three-Bearing Swivel Nozzle

    "A great deal of misinformation has appeared on the Internet regarding
    the relationship of the Soviet Yak-41 (later Yak-141), NATO reporting
    name Freestyle, to the X-35 and the rest of the JSF program. The Pratt
    & Whitney 3BSD nozzle design predates the Russian work. In fact the
    3BSD was tested with a real engine almost twenty years before the first
    flight of the Yak.

    Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the Soviet Navy wanted a supersonic
    STOVL fighter to operate from its ski jump equipped carriers. At what
    point the Yakovlev Design Bureau became aware of the multi-swivel nozzle
    design is not known, but the Soyuz engine company created its own
    variant of it. The Yak-41 version of the nozzle, from published
    pictures, appears to be a three-bearing swivel duct with a significant
    offset “kink.” The Yak-141 also used two RKBM RD-41 lift engines – an
    almost identical arrangement to the Convair Model 200 design. The
    aircraft was also re-labeled as a Yak-141 to imply a production version,
    but no order for follow-on series came from the Russian Navy.

    The Yak-141 was flown at the Paris Airshow in 1991. The flight
    displays of the Yak were suspended when the heat from the lift engines
    started to dislodge asphalt from the tarmac. At the 1992 Farnborough
    show, the Yak was limited to conventional takeoffs and landings with
    hovers performed 500 feet above the runway to avoid a repeat performance
    of asphalt damage. But the Yak-141 does deserve credit for being the
    first jet fighter to fly with a three-bearing swivel nozzle –
    twenty-five years after it was first designed in the United States.

    During the early days of the JAST effort, Lockheed (accompanied by US
    government officials from the JAST program office) visited the Yakovlev
    Design Bureau along with several other suppliers of aviation equipment
    (notably also the Zvezda K-36 ejection seat) to examine the Yakovlev
    technologies and designs.

    Yakovlev was looking for money to keep its VTOL program alive, not
    having received any orders for a production version of the Yak-141.
    Lockheed provided a small amount of funding in return for obtaining
    performance data and limited design data on the Yak-141. US government
    personnel were allowed to examine the aircraft. However, the 3BSN design
    was already in place on the X-35 before these visits.

    The 3BSD was invented in America in the 1960s, proposed by Convair to
    the US Navy in the 1970s, first flown by the Russians in the late
    1980s, re-engineered from the 1960 Pratt & Whitney design for the
    X-35 in the 1990s, and put into production for the F-35 in the 2000s.
    Sometimes a good idea has to wait for the right application and set of
    circumstances to come along. One moral of this story is not to throw out
    good work done in the past. It just might be needed later on."

  6. Ugh, I just hate it when people say that the F35 is a direct carbon copy of the YAK-141. But in reality, the US has been working on the swivel engine nozzle (made of rotational bearings) since the 1960s. Way before the YAK-141 came into being.

    The only possible involvement between the F35, and the YAK-141 is that Lockheed borrowed some of their data on their 3BSD swivel nozzle design to be used by the Russian, Yakovlev design bureau. The purpose of this is to have the Russians test the American nozzle design, and acquire any data the Russians got from their tests.

  7. I would give anything to see the reactions of the Soviet Officers watching from the ground, the aircraft flying by itself for 18 minutes! 😂🤣😂

  8. Јак-141 was intended as an aircraft for the new Soviet small aircraft carrier

    which were supposed to be put into use in the late 90's

    But the Russians have realized that the jak-141 engines are too strong for any aircraft carrier deck.Аnd therefore developed a special small deck made of composite materials into which pipes were placed through through which cold water flowed to cool the same plate.

    Also they realized that 1/3 of the fuel at 141 is used to lift the aircraft itself.
    and that is why the Russian navy in 1991 came up with the thinking for"STOL (Short Take Off and Landing) of 141
    that is, to abandon the two front engines and use the rear engine only at an angle of 20 to 30 degrees
    in order to reduce the take-off distance
    also 141 had to be fitted with stronger equipment for landing on rough terrain or ice.But a Yeltsin decree banning the use of single-engine aircraft in Russian aviation.Јаkolev was left without any funds for the development of this aircraft.

    What is interesting is that the French have a similar design with a Dassault Balzac V when it used a similar configuration of the 3 engines as at the jak-36 and jak-141

  9. The P1154 supersonic Harrier was a flawed concept. Test Pilot John Farley said he was glad when it was cancelled because the engineering challenges were all but insurmountable and would have led to an aircraft that wouldn't have been practical in service, similar to the Yak-38.

  10. Yeah! That’s it! What happened to the Russian jump jets! That’s just the question I need before sleeping. //Exchange sleep for Russian jump jet information.

  11. It was only sold to LM because of the corruption in the 1990s. If Boeing sold something to the UAC, all hell would break loose in DC.

  12. 5:30 – "… had a habit of accidentally triggering, leading to the loss of the aircraft when there wasn't actually a problem." 🤦 Excuse me but how is that not a problem?

  13. An accidental automated eject must have been awful.
    The idea of your cockpit suddenly being ripped away from you- I can only imagine the danger to hands and legs.

  14. wow, never thought i would see someone covering the Yak-141. As a project it was pure insanity, but it was just sucked into the soviet collapse memory hole.

  15. intertesing stuff. Thank you. but content is too little and brilliant org too much. If you want that ratio you are somewhat sinister. But good for you. My opinion, you MUST make longer videos for that amount of non content. 11 mins – 2 mins advert (not including google ad's) or you need to make more videos. you're really busy but the infrequency and borderline content/sponsorship ration is rubbish, and is not impressive. even Electroboom at least gets blown up and his ads are humourous too. first time, but i had to down vote this vid. no offence

  16. The Yak-38 was working decoy and manned target for the enemy. Even two two carriers, actually cruisers, were designed and built to work with these weakling aircraft.

  17. 1:48 The bedstead was also used to train Apollo lander pilots, oh that's right we never went to the moon.
    Thank you for educating the sheep.

  18. To be fair, the Harrier didn't have radar until the AV-8B+, and the low payload of the Yak-38 was heavily due to the fact that the Soviets almost never practiced the "rolling takeoff" that the British did, relying almost exclusively on vertical take-offs. Even the Harrier had poor payload under such restrictions.

  19. interesting to note that the YAK seems to maintain slow controlled descent all the way to touchdown, whereas this I believe was considered too risky with Harriers, hence why you would see a sudden acceleration in descent during the last few feet.

  20. Three "new" non flyable Yak 141 for four hundred million dollars LOL, I don't think so!!! The price would be more like forty million dollars if that, Soviet designs were good but they were left wanting when it came to manufacturing their plains but this was mostly by design lol…

  21. You're going to make the case that Lockheed relied on Yak airframes as the basis for the F-35?

    So we'll just ignore the Lockheed XV-4… which used both redirected jet exhaust and lift jets.

  22. The Apollo program from the NAZI…
    The F22 and F35 from the Russians…
    The Spirit bomber from the NAZI…
    Is there anything of importance done by Americans with no assistance from abroad?

  23. Usually when this topic comes up an army of spineless dipshits log onto YouTube and argue that the Yak and F35 have nothing to do with each other

  24. The military industrial complex is for profit and not for a certain nations gain, so why and when will they wake up to this fact.

    It's just all too convenient,

  25. The F-35B lift fan helped solve another problem – VTOL designs with forward lift jets sometimes experienced thrust collapse on the ground and takeoff when hot air from the forward jets got into the main intake.

  26. 10:12 Fun fact. British F-35 crews have affectionately named the lift fan door as "the toilet seat". No joke. It makes me proud to be a Brit 😀

  27. That bit with the Rolls Royce Liftfan test looked familiar and might be from the Indianapolis facility, just a few miles from my house

  28. I thought the thumbnail was a clickbaity fictional plane that looked like an f-35 knock-off.

    Turns out it isn't clickbait and the reason why it looked like an F-35 knock-off was because Lockheed based it off the Yak in the first place.

    I only knew that the Harrier contributed towards the F-35 but I was totally out of the blue about the other half so this was really cool.

  29. FYI, Lockheed owns Convair Model 200 designs by purchasing General Dynamics’ tactical military aircraft division and has purchased Yak 41M’s flight data.

    Yak 141 vs F-35B according to Lockheed


    A great deal of misinformation has appeared on the Internet regarding the relationship of the Soviet Yak-41 (later Yak-141), NATO reporting name Freestyle, to the X-35 and the rest of the JSF program. The Pratt & Whitney 3BSD nozzle design predates the Russian work. In fact the 3BSD was tested with a real engine almost twenty years before the first flight of the Yak.

    Yakovlev was looking for money to keep its VTOL program alive, not having received any orders for a production version of the Yak-141. Lockheed provided a small amount of funding in return for obtaining performance data and limited design data on the Yak-141. US government personnel were allowed to examine the aircraft. However, the 3BSN design was already in place on the X-35 before these visits .


  30. What happened to Russia's jump jet? Well…due to camera zoom improved so much that there's no way to hide the crane and it's wires anymore.

  31. Watch Russia cobble together some Yak-141's using ducktape and spare parts for the SU-57 before selling them to Turkey (since they obviously won't but purchasing F-35B's any time soon).

  32. A country that is 1/8 of the World and has 11 time zones, didn't need a jump jet! They made few and years latter sold the design of Yak41 to Lockheed Martin that made F35!

  33. That's misinformation. I worked in defense, and Lockheed had already developed the swivel-nozzle prior to Yak. Lock-Mart purchased them because it allowed them a very affordable way to get significant amount of data points from a similar design on how the swivel affected the airframe and flight characteristics during various modes of flight. That's it. They wanted to make their own design a lot more reliable by purchasing essentially more data points. For 400 million, that was a bargain. The Yak design in no way, inspired the design of the Pratt-Whitney's swivel engine. The ILFPS was designed actually by Pratt-Whitney (starting in the 60's in fact 10 years prior to Yak), in conjunction with BAE, Northrop, LockMart, and Rolls-Royce; completely separately from Yak's design.

    Also, the top door wasn't implemented until much further along the development of the F-35, and has nothing to do with the door covers that protected the forward engines in the Yak.

  34. Trust me, the Harrier, whether you're talking about the version the Brits flew or that which the USMC struggled with – it was a flying coffin. Just ask the pilots unfortunate enough to drive them.

  35. Engineered obsolescence…They spend billions on the next increment of technology, just to capitalize on that increment, before its superseded by the next increment … Sorry to HAVE to say this but, I HAVE seen way better technology than what is present in the current stream of technology… FULL BLOWN, OPERATIONAL, HIGH TECH, that was functional more than 25yrs ago. SUPPRESSED TECHNOLOGY that could fly circles around the crap in this video… We the people are being milked… The successes and failures are all a sham. We are being projected a image for our amusement on every front. Because the sham is not limited to this or that particular thing, its across the board.

  36. USMC still uses Harriers. And the joke about Marine Harrier drivers is… you can say any sh*t about them you want, because they can't hear you. 😂

  37. Lockheed Martin saved a bundle on that deal. That was around the time Russian communism ran out of money. Now they call it Socialism, it works great untill they run out of other people's money. Look at California…………

  38. It's probably just me ….but I think the F-35B looks like a dogs dinner of a design
    The Harrier is somehow 'right' – it's a shame the plug was pulled on the supersonic version.

  39. Makes me wonder If the F35 has more than super cruise… does it have an after burner despite being able to super cruise without it?

  40. Although not a jet, the V-22 Osprey, at first not wanted by the military, but kept alive by Congress, has found a home as a high speed medical evac transport. It's ability to land vertically to retrieve wounded and it's relatively fast horizontal flight has saved many wounded soldiers because it can get them to aid stations within the critical time to treat traumatic injuries.

  41. I think the aircraft at the 1:12 mark isn't a VTOL aircraft, but one of the American supersonic prop driven aircraft of the 1950s.

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