The Yak-11 Advanced Trainer
|In the several years since I last
wrote concerning this topic, a very considerable amount of new
documentation has emerged on the Yak-11 programme. The new research
reveals all manner of details about Yak-11 manufacture, and quite
interestingly as well, a formidable amount of data regarding the
painting and finish of these aircraft. As a result, it is high time to
revisit the subject of Yak-11 and C-11 colouration and update our
knowledge of their respective appearance.|
A.S. Yakovlev was always a designer keenly interested in training aircraft.
It is perhaps for this reason that all of his Yak family
of fighters were developed into training variants of one form or another.
It was also undoubtedly true that Yakovlev's fighters were all possessed
of outstanding handling and control properties; features which made them
idea for the training role. It was fitting that the last last of the Yak
family of fighters, the wonderful Yak-3, was also duly so developed.
on an advanced fighter trainer based on the Yak-3 had already started
at the Yakovlev OKB by 1946. Following detailed investigations of the
Yak-3U ASh-82FN and the matter of installing a radial engine in the
basic Yak-3 airframe, Chief Engineer Shavrin began work on a two-seat
training variant powered by the 700 hp ASh-21 radial. The
prototype, originally called "Yak-U" (U= uchebnii
, or 'trainer'), was
completed in May 1946 at Factory 292 in Saratov and commenced
manufacturer's testing under OKB Test Pilot Klimushkin. All aspects of
flight behaviour and maintenance were found to be very satisfactory,
and the trainer passed its State examinations in the same year as
the 'Yak-11'.Post-War Colouration
has now become evident, the rate at which the VVS revised its ideas and
practices regarding aircraft finish and camouflage in the immediate
period was extraordinary. It seems clear that the Army and the
Government were not at all satisfied with the somewhat 'haphazard'
nature of many wartime finishes. After all, it is a central tenant of
all military forces, everywhere, to insist upon uniformity and
regulation, two words which had virtually no relevance whatever to the
1941-45 appearance of most of the aircraft in the VVS. However, that
being the case, there was also at the same time an evident re-emergence
of the Sky Camouflage
within the VVS (which we should recall dominated such thinking in the
late 1930s). New fighter designs which entered series manufacture from
1947, for example, all demonstrated this type of finish, and used newly
developed lacquers which were very clearly intended for this type of
Additionally, the Government and the Army now faced the
considerably different prospect of operating a peacetime military
force, the priorities for which were rather different to that of a
wartime service. Economy played a major role, naturally, and so such
factors as the longevity of aircraft finish came to the fore. During
the war, no airframe was expected to last as much as two years; in
peacetime, the Government hoped that aircraft structures would last ten
Wood, and wood-laminate construction, which had played such a superb
role in aircraft manufacture under wartime conditions, was suddenly
seen to be hugely undesirable. Such structures would not last anything
like the desired amount of time when exposed to the elements, and so
a general policy took hold of replacing all wooden (or mixed) VVS
aircraft with ones of all-metal construction.
With respect to
aircraft colouration, the VVS reverted its behaviour to that of a
peacetime service, as well, very much as it had done prior to 1941.
From late 1945, it was no longer required that military aircraft should
be camouflaged, and particularly those in rear areas or training
formations could once more employ single-colour upper surface
'non-camouflage' type liveries. The green finishes (AMT-4 or A-24m,
depending upon the construction method) were seen to be the most
suitable for this application, but some use was also made of AMT-12
Dark Grey and other similar colours. Moreover, a new series of gloss
finish paints called AGT were developed alongside the AMT (matte
finish) line, with identical nomenclatures and colours to the lacquers
in that system (e.g. AGT-4 Green was identical to AMT-4, but featured a
gloss finish). VIAM had determined that a gloss finish would make these
lacquers more durable and hard wearing, and so training aircraft and
other similar types (transport, sport types, etc) were thusly
recommended to make use of the new finishes (a gloss finish was
obviously not suitable for front-line combat machines).Early Yak-11 Manufacture
first Yak-11s were completed at Saratov during 1946-47, totalling 68
examples altogether. These early machines were of all-metal
construction internally, but did feature wood-laminate sheeting around
the cockpit and the aft fuselage, as with the wartime Yak-3, as well
as fabric covered fuselage sides. Perhaps for this reason, the MAP
(Aviation Ministry) decided that the new AGT lacquers would be suitable
production employing a non-camouflage AGT-4 over AGT-7 livery. For the
purposes of 'UV protection', the MAP also specified that lacquer AII
Aluminium should be used as an external primer over all surfaces,
supplanting the more usual ALG-1 primer. Various other minutia were
described in the new finishing instructions, such as the 'standard'
dimensions of the national insignia, the placement of tactical numbers,
and other such like; clearly, the enhanced regulation of a peacetime
Air Force was manifestly evident.
As a result, the first series Yak-11s built at Saratov looked like this example.
numerals, when applied at the factory, were specified to have been
placed aft of the star marking on the fuselage. The gloss finish of the
AGT lacquer is notable, as are the 'regulation' size and parameters of
the national insignia.
dark examples of these early 'mixed' Yak-11s are notable in the
photographic record. Although it is generally impossible to distinguish
between lacquers A-24m and AMT-12 on b/w photographs, it is my own
thought that these examples were painted with the latter, grey colour.
The MAP's instruction for the Yak-11 finish were extensive, and while
AMT finishes were discussed on an 'in case of' basis, A-m lacquers were
conspicuously not mentioned at all. Therefore, the following profile depicts and early 'mixed' Yak-11 in AMT-12/-7 colouration.Yak-11 Production Increases
1947 manufacture of the Yak-11 was increased. The new series replaced
the wooden sheeting around the cockpit and upper rear fuselage with
dural sheet, so that-- minus the fuselage's fabric sides-- the aircraft
was effectively an 'all metal' design. At the same time, the Government
became increasingly frustrated by the costs associated with maintaining
wooden aircraft structures in the VVS. Teams of carpenters and aircraft
painters were dispatched from the large wartime fighter manufacturing
plants (Saratov, Gorki, Novosibirsk, etc) to units in the field to help
to restore airframes which had become compromised by moisture (and poor
maintenance practices, one assumes). These repairs ran into the several
thousands of units, and much discussion took place in Moscow about
Somewhat ironically, the Government soon came
to question the wisdom of its decision regarding the use of primers on
the Yak-11 programme. While AII Aluminium was no doubt effective
against UV rays, it was certainly inferior to the usual primer, ALG-1,
as regards protection against moisture. Therefore, with the MAP in a
state over the costs of fighting moisture deterioration in the VVS, the
use of proper ALG-1 priming was immediately reinstated. Surface
finishes remained as before, primarily making use of AGT-4 and -7.
Early examples were often seen without maintenance stencils, but by the spring of 1947 these were common.
1947-- New Ideas and Lacquers
A number of developments occurred in Soviet aviation manufacture during
1947 which were to have a significant impact on the Yak-11 programme.
In the first instance, the arrival of two new all-metal fighters for
the VVS (La-9 and Yak-9P) seems to have been the catalyst for a
formal re-introduction of Sky Camouflage
Two new lacquers were
introduced, AMT-16 Blue-Grey and A-36m Grey, which were clearly
intended for this type of scheme, harkening back to identical ideas of
late 1930s. AMT-16 was a soft grey colour with a slight blue tint,
while A-36m was extremely similar in colour to the old finish AEh-9
(light grey), which was the very paint used for 'sky' colouration
before the war. Moreover, not only were the two new colours introduced,
but new formulations of each exibiting a gloss surface finish (when
new, of course) appeared as AGT-16
At the same time, the Government's dissatisfaction with the current
aviation lacquer situation boiled over. There had already been letters
issued by the Chief of the Air Force to the industry regarding aviation
painting, the first in July 1946 (regarding the use of gloss finishes),
and subsequently again in January 1947 (regarding all-metal aircraft
finish). Apparently these were not sufficient, for in August 1947 the
MAP issued Order No.549 which demanded that, henceforth, the Yak-11
would be finished with a single-colour application, preferably using
AGT-16 (the use of A-36g was also discussed). On the heels of such a
strongly worded Government edict, there followed the usual bureaucratic
fumbling to enact the new regulation down to the factory level. In this
effort both VIAM and the MKhP (Ministry for the Chemical Industry)
became involved, looking to assure that quantities of the new paints
with sufficient quality control would be available for use in
manufacture. Meanwhile, the Directorate at Factory 292 assured the MAP
that Yak-11s would leave the facility wearing the new finish no later
than October 1.
In the event, it is hard to determine exactly how many Yak-11s were
painted this way during 1947. However, by the New Year (1948) a
single-colour AGT-16 livery was certainly the standard finish, and
essentially the Yak-11 was now to wear a Sky Camouflage
as with fighter aircraft, excepting that it was to employ gloss
versions of these paints. The classic Yak-11 appearance was thusly
born, as shown below.
And here finished with A-36g.
The proportion of aircraft completed with A-36g seems to have been
modest, and certainly was very much less than AGT-16. The exact number
of such examples, however, remains unknown.
It might also be noted that 1948 brought with it another new lacquer
for use on the Yak-11. For the first time, the MAP decided upon the
creation of special purpose internal
finish, to be used in cockpits and various crew positions. This new
paint was called DK-23 Grey, and was accompanied by an external version
(of the same appearance) with the designation A-23m. Both new lacquers,
perhaps not surprisngly, bore a remarkable similarity to the older
aviation primer ALG-5 (a pale green-grey colour), which the Goverment
has recommended for such internal use previously. Both featured a matte
finish, and from 1948 the standard interior paint on the Yak-11 was
Large Scale Manufacture and New Factories
During 1948 production of the Yak-11 at Factory 292 (Saratov) reached
871 examples. However, even this impressive total was insufficient for
the requirements of the VVS' training programs, and therefore series
manufacture of the Yak-11 was launched at Factory 272 (Leningrad) in
1949. In 1950 production of the type halted at Saratov, whereupon
Factory 151 became involved in the Yak-11 programme, but only to a
modest degree, and thereafter main centre for the Yak-11 programme
remained at Leningrad.
The finish of the Yak-11 in series manufacture at these facilities did
not change. The usual application was a single-colour AGT-16 livery,
with intermittent examples seen in A-36g. A few aircraft (some 240
examples) were completed at the end of the programme in Leningrad
(1954-55) with a new aviation lacquer named KhVEh-16, which was
identical in appearance to AGT-16 (but featuring all-new chemistry). In
all, around 3700 Yak-11s were completed in the USSR from 1946-55
[various sources give the figures 3622, 3701 and 3859, respectively].
In 1952 the Czech aviation company LET was awarded a production license to manufacture their own examples of the Yak-11 as the C-11
Czech-built C-11s were virtually identical in all respects to Soviet Yak-11s, and
indeed many of these aircraft were made against contracts placed by the
USSR for use within the VVS. Poland, as well, placed orders for Czech
C-11s as did Austria, and a further proportion of these aircraft
entered service with the Czech Air Force.
Noting that the VVS was the main customer for the C-11, it may not be
surprising that LET built aircraft were identical in appearance to
Soviet Yak-11s. The standard C-11 finish at the factory was an over-all
application of the same blue-grey colour; whether this paint was
actually AGT-16, or an identically appearing Czech equivalent, is
currently unknown. Be that as it may, Yak-11s and C-11s in service in
the VVS are indistinguishable in the photographic record. C-11s
initially enetering service with the Czech Air Force were finished
similarly, as shown here.
National insignia were not applied to the fuselage sides in Czech A.F.
service, where large four-digit codes or civil registrations appeared,
usually in black.
Most examples exported to Poland seemed to have been finished in
AGT-16. However, a slightly disproportionate number of such aircraft seem
to be finished with A-36g (as compared to the VVS), which might be a
case of preference by the Polish Air Force, and which were probably
Soviet built Yak-11s (no C-11s were known to have been finished with
Further, at some subsequent point in Czech service (which is not
currently understood), many C-11s in the Czech Air Force or serving
within SVARZAM (the State Flying Club), were finished with a grey-green
colour of local manufacture. This paint, whose nomenclature is not
known, did not exhibit such a gloss finish as AGT-16.
The photographic record suggests that LET did not complete any C-11s
at the factory with this finish, and that these examples were all painted
subsequently. The examination of aircraft delivered to Egypt shows the
application of this grey-green colour to obscure the Czech national
markings, but the base, underlying finish was AGT-16 (or equivalent).
Aircraft delivered to Austria were similarly painted with AGT-16, which
was then over-painted by a local light grey colour in Luftstreitkräfte
(factory no.171229) preserved in Graz, Austria. The application of a
local grey paint over the original AGT-16 surface is manifestly evident.
LET completed 707 C-11s by the end of manufacture in 1956. Four
C-11U trainers (with nose wheel, tripod gear arrangement and increased
fuel capacity) were also built.
Service Around the World
Yak-11s and C-11s were widely exported during the period 1955-65. Many
of these aircraft served in the same liveries with which they were
originally completed, but some seemed to have been refinished entirely,
and a few in very colourful fashion.
This C-11 number "56" was photographed in at Gebel al Basur, Egypt, ca.
1961. An unknown lacquer, perhaps a dark grey paint, was used to
obscure the original markings, but most of the finish remained AGT-16.
Aircraft with the number "37" in Algerian service, ca. early 1960s.
This worn old example (possibly a Yak-11) was photographed in the Yemen
during the 1960s, serving alongside several MiG-17s. No tactical number
or other such unit marking was in view. An appliqué of dappled colour--
perhaps green-- was present on the cowling and fin, and the port aft
most access panel appears to have been a replacement from another
machine, still in its original AGT-16 finish. The locally applied
camouflage colours are unknown, and here shown in estimation, only.
Custom and Commemorative Finishes
The Yak-11 was also one of the favourite recipients in the USSR of
"custom request" or commemorative paint finishes and schemes. Numbers
of Yak-11s were painted to represent Yak fighters of the wartime
Normandie-Niemen regiment for such feature films as "Baltic Sky
" and "Normandie-Niemen
DOSAAF routinely obtained custom finished Yak-11s, often with their
logo painted on the side and featuring various coloured trim and other
Commemorative schemes were not uncommon, these usually recalling pilots
or events from the war. A number of Yak-11s were famously painted in
wartime AMT-11/-12/-7 colouration, complete with NKAP Template
patternation, as part of the 5th Anniversary of Victory Over Fascism
celebrations at the Cadet Academy, Monino (Moscow, 1950).
Aerobatic flights also made use of brightly painted Yak-11/C-11s. Of
these, the examples seen in the DDR were probably the most striking with their over-all red colouration and bold white trim.
This example was seen in the VVS' acrobatic flight at Kodinka Airfield,
Moscow. The originally suggested date of '1962' seems to be too late
for such an example, and perhaps the year is a typo
for '1952'? Alas, despite all efforts by the author, the photograph
depicting this aircraft yas still not been re-located, and confirmation
of its various details might have to await that discovery.
C-11s as Warbirds Today
A healthy number of these lovely aircraft-- most of them LET C-11s from
the shipments made to Egypt-- are still flying today as part of the
world-wide 'Warbird' scene. Some of these examples sport colourful
civil liveries of various description, but the majority seem to be
painted in mock "Russian wartime camouflage" schemes of widely ranging
appearance. It must be said that virtually all of these "military"
finishes are completely fanciful and bear no semblance of any kind to
authentic period VVS colouration nor markings. Given the long service
life of the Yak-11 / C-11, its fascinating history, and the genuinely
colourful finishes worn by proper examples, it is difficult indeed to
understand why so many such aircraft are painted in this faux
Perhaps it is high time for a proper re-evaluation of Yak-11 finish within the Warbird community?