The Yakovlev 38, code-named “Forger” by NATO, was the Soviet Union’s only VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) aircraft for Kiev-class carriers. It is an unusual design, to say the least, with small wings mounted high on the fuselage and only four weapons-mounting points under the wings. Even with a performance envelope similar to the Harrier (the obvious Western counterpart) in regards to speed and range, the Forger had a much smaller load capacity and must be considered to be a less successful design. In fact, it performed so poorly in hot weather that in early tests it was unable to fly and carry stores at the same time! It also featured an automatic ejection seat that operated if the lift engines failed and the aircraft rolled more than 60 degrees. This saved several pilots’ lives, as the engines did have reliability issues. The Forger first flew in 1971 and was retired in 1991 after 231 had been built.
HobbyBoss has given us the first injection-molded Yak-38 in 1/48 scale. It comprises 160 cleanly molded parts (nine of which are clear) and a nice decal sheet with markings for three aircraft. Instructions consist of 15 clear, concise steps. Several build options are included: open or closed canopy; open or closed lift engine auxiliary air inlet and outlet doors; and a nice, if small, variety of weapons. The wings can be folded with a little bit of extra effort. So, this kit could produce several distinct Forgers for your collection.
The cockpit is adequate if a little indistinct and lacking in detail. The ejection seat is, however, probably the nicest representation of the K-36 seat in an injection-molded kit to date. Jet exhaust nozzles can be posed either full aft or full down, and you can leave them out until after construction and painting are complete. The parts fit around the jet nozzles was somewhat tricky, but I’m sure a little more patience and trimming would give better results.
Folding the wings would involve cutting the wing panels on lines engraved inside the parts, then assembling wing ribs inside the ends on the cutouts. The biggest issue would be in mounting the wingtips, as there is no mechanism to align or support them. I built my model with the wings in flying position.
The same lack of positive location is a problem with the canopy, too. In fact, there is no indication of just how the canopy should open. Photo research on the Internet confirmed it opened to the side.
I painted my Yak with my own mixes of green and blue using Testors Model Master enamel paint. Photos show that these aircraft were well-kept in service, and I painted mine accordingly. The kit decals behaved well, settling into a gloss coat of Pledge Future floor polish with no use of setting solutions required.
HobbyBoss has done a nice job with this kit. I spent approximately 30 hours on it and enjoyed every minute. There is sufficient detail to provide an interesting and attractive model out of the box, but also plenty of room for those who want to “go to town” with extra detail. I may well purchase another to represent an aircraft that has been in storage for some years. The weathering potential would be enormous!
Note: A version of this review appeared in the February 2012 issue of FSM.