The first fighter to be designed by Alexander S Yakovlev, dubbed the Krasavec (Beauty) and initially designated I-26, was flown for the first time in March 1939, being displayed publicly during the course of the 1939 May Day fly-past over Moscow. Such was the success of the prototype that Yakovlev was awarded the Order of Lenin, a Zis car and 100,000 roubles. Redesignated Yak-1, the fighter entered production during the summer of 1939, and began to enter service late in 1941 with operational units of the VVS-RKKA.
The Yak-1 was of mixed construction with a two-spar wooden wing, a mixed steel-tube and wood fuselage and a plywood skin, which was covered with fabric and coated with a thick layer of polish. A Klimov M-105PA drove a VISh-61P three bladed metal airscrew, and fuel was housed in four wing tanks with a total capacity of 90 Imp.gal. Armament comprised a single 20-mm, ShVAK engine-mounted cannon and two fuselage-mounted 7.62-mm ShKAS machine guns. The initial production model differed little externally from the prototype, apart from having the oil cooler moved forward under the nose, the cockpit canopy redesigned and a modified undercarriage, but improvements were progressively introduced on the production line. One of the first changes were the replacement of the twin ShKAS machine guns with a 12.7-mm Berisin BS gun and an increase in the capacity of the cannon shell tanks from 120 to 140 rounds. An automatic VISh-105SV then supplanted the VISh61P airscrew, and subsequently the 1,260 h.p. M-105-PF engine replaced the lower-powered M-105PA.
At an early stage in the development of the design a tandem two-seat variant was evolved for conversion training and originally designated UTI-26; this entered production as the Yak-7V. Various control improvements and minor structural modifications were incorporated in the Yak-7V, and these, together with the progressive changes made during production of the Yak-1, were standardised in a new single-seat model, the Yak-7A. This was supplemented by the Yak-7B with an all-round vision canopy. The performance of the Yak-7B single-seat fighter was generally similar to that of the later Yak-9.
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