Big Gun Fighters

Part I

Amongst the family of the Yakovlev fighters, the Yak-9T and -9K models stand alone. Designed quite literally as 'flying artillery', the NS-37 cannon mounted by the -9T in fact fired the very same 37mm shell as the wheel-and-carriage mounted infantry anti-tank gun of the same caliber used by the Red Army until 1943. This fearsome weapon could penetrate a 30mm plate of face hardened steel mounted at 45 deg. from 500 meters; it could penetrate 45mm of armor at a 90 deg. angle. Fired from above--as aircraft were of course want to do--no vehicle in the German inventory was safe from such attack. Later, quantities of the Yak-9K were produced, this carrying the even bigger 45mm NS-45 cannon. The larger gun was requested by units at the front, noting the heavier armor protection of tanks like the Tiger II.

Interestingly, however, a number of pilots throughout the VVS thought that the proper employment role for the big cannon-armed Yaks was to use them as fighters; i.e. against enemy aircraft. A single strike was all that was required to down any adversary--even a bomber--and with this capability many pilots argued that the -9T was the perfect air-superiority interceptor. Indeed, the performance of the big-gun Yaks was not very much reduced from that of their lighter cousins, except in the climb, and the Yak-9 was always a very accomplished gun platform.

In the end, the matter went unsettled. The Yak-9T and -K were used in both roles (albeit, the -K usually as an anti-tank platform), and it seems likely that the employment of the -9T was essentially split down the middle between ground and air work. The major proponents of the Yak-9T/-K in the anti-tank role included Polk. Pologov and his 274 IAP, Maj. Mozirev of the 148 IAP, and Maj. D.I. Rodin's 520 IAP. The earliest champion of the Yak-9T in the aerial role was probably Grigoriy German of the 42 IAP, who, to the skepticism of the famous Regimental commander Shinkarenko, demonstrated the air fighting qualities of this machine around Smolensk during 1943. German was quite brilliant in the air with his -9T, and Shinkarenko was converted to supporting the idea at once. Other high scoring aces in the -9T included Vibornov, Osipov, Malakhov, and Stepanenko.

In this series we will try to demonstrate some of the more colorful Yak-9T and -9K fighters of the Patriotic War, many of which are probably as yet unknown to Western readers.
This article has been updated with newer artwork and research. The original text will be left "as-is". This helps to track the progress of newer and better information, discoveries, and thoughts about VVS camouflage. Also it is fascinating to see how, or if, perceptions evolve. The updated text will appear in a box like this, and this should be seen when in contradiction to the original to be the correct current interpretation, supplanting the former.


Yak-9T "White 92"
pilot u/k
u/k IAP, 3 IAK
ca. autumn 1943

Yak-9T "92" was photographed after having been downed and captured some time in the Fall of 1943. The pilot of this machine is unknown, and the only service information available suggests that the machine was operated by a regiment of the 3 IAK when lost.

"White 92" is clearly an early -9T example and is finished in the common 1943 livery of AMT-6 (black) over AMT-4 (green). The color demarcations are semi-soft, as per the usual style of the time, and the pattern looks to be a standard Zavod 153 application. Remarkably, "92" wears obsolete black bordered stars on the fuselage sides, and it appears on the wing undersurfaces as well. No view of the starboard side is known.

Yak-9K "White 23"
pilot u/k
274 IAP
ca. spring 1944

This aircraft served in the famed 274 IAP and was photographed during the Spring/Summer of 1944. The pilot of "23" is unknown.

Yak-9s of the 274 wore a neat Regimental badge on the nose, this consisting of a winged sword emblazoned with a red star spearing a swastika. The usual Regimental trim also typically included a white spinner tip and a white flash along the fin/rudder; "White 23" features both items. The scheme is a rather common 1944 application in AMT-11/-12, complete with typical upper/lower color demarcation, and white bordered stars are carried in all six positions.

Yak-9K "White 86"
274 IAP
Mld.Lt. Ivan Golubin (?)
ca. summer 1944

"White 86" is a much photographed Yak-9K of the 274 IAP, seen here in the Summer of 1944. "86" is widely thought to be the personal mount of M.Lt. Ivan Golubin, one of the notable tank-killing aces of the unit with 33 tanks to his credit, but confirmation of that fact has yet to be uncovered.

This aircraft is quite interesting in detail, and much repainting and refinishing is in evidence. The basic color scheme is an AMT-12 over AMT-11 application, and over most of the aircrfat this seems to have been accomplished in a factory-finish manner. However, the nose has clearly been repainted with applications of AMT-11 for reasons unkown (perhaps damage repair, or?..), mostly underneath the Regimental badge. The rear fuselage is also curious, and sports an extremely odd upper/lower color demarcation ahead of the stabilizer. This portion of the paint scheme was almost certainly not applied at the Novosibirsk factory, and is probably related to the curious color application on the fin.

The fin and rudder on "83" shows a very strange pattern feature of unkown colors. many interpretations of this coloration have appeared in art form, two of the more common variations are shown at the right.

The first speculates a curious (and and in my view thoroughly improbable) error on the film negative itself, this leading to a washed out appearance and the specious appearance of the colors, which are simply AMT-11/-12 with a red fin flash. The second interpretation ( a la _ Modelist Konstruktur_) shows what I think is MK-7 white over part of the fin/rudder, perhaps left over from some winter application, and also with a red flash. However, I accept neither as probable, or perhaps even likely. In the first case, there is no other evidence in the photograph that damage to the negative has affected the appearance of the tonal characteristics of the picture, no change in tone being noted on the background behind the aircraft, for example. Secondly, no other machine in the 274 that has ever been photographed shows a red fin flash, nor do they show a flash of any color of this style (i.e. on the fin only). Thirdly, the style of the star present here is different than that on the fuselage, having a much thicker (and unusually so) border. These factors, in combination with the apparent repainting ahead of the stabilizer cause me to think that the rear end of "83" was substantially refinished (again, for reasons unknown) in the field. If one compares the appearance of the underside color to that of the lighter area on the fin, the tone is the same.

My own suspicion is that "83" was damaged and subsequently repaired, possibly with components from another derelict aircraft. As such, refinishing was in order, and on the rear fuselage this was accomplished with underside blue color (either AII or AMT-7, as appropriate) and AMT-11. It could well be that the 'flash' along the top of the fin is simply the AMT-12 colored portion of the original scheme (this area matches the rest of the AMT-12 in tone); note that there is no white flash on the spinner, and thus it seems logical that none would have appeared on the fin, as well. If true, this suggests that the rudder is from another aircraft, which would also explain the appearance of the AMT-12 area at the bottom of the rudder (being similar to a common alternate AMT-11/-12 pattern application). The unusual star with its thick border would then have been applied.

Whatever the actual case may have been, "White 86" presents a striking Yak-9K fighter.
My original imterpretation remains current theory. And additional photograph has emerged of this machine, and I regard it as further evidence for this appearance. Alas, no further evidence linking this machine to Golubin has emerged.


Yak-9T "Yellow 103"
427 IAP
pilot u/k
ca. autumn 1944

This delightful Yak-9T is shown in several well taken photographs, but alas none of them feature any useful caption information on the reverse of the print. "103" is thought, however, to belong to the 427 IAP, and was almost certainly shown in the Yassy region in the Fall of 1944. The pilot of this machine is unknown.

"Yellow 103" wears a fairly typical AMT-11/-12 pattern application with semi-soft color demarcations. The white fuselage band appears to have been fairly worn on the port side view, and not so worn to starboard. There is also a white flash on the fin/rudder. Victory type stars are seen in all 6 locations.

Yak-9T "Red 76"
pilot u/k
u/k IAP
date u/k

Yak-9T "76" is a curious old machine of unknown origin and pedigree. The pilot of this aircraft is also subsequently unknown, as is the exact date of the photograph.

This machine appears to have been finished in the older grey lacquers, Medium Grey and Wood Aerolak, and shows all of the classic indicators of this application. First, the lighter color has clearly been applied over the darker shade, in the usual manner with these two paints. The color demarcations are quite soft all around, and the upper/lower demarcation is of an earlier pattern and is atypical. The fuselage lacks any national star and features a very large numeral, while the insignia in the other four positions are thin white bordered types. The spinner is finished black, not in the AMT-11 color typical to the later finishes.

Judging by this aircraft's appearance, I would hazard a guess that it was completed in early 1944, and the extent of the weathering in the photograph leads one to think that it was in use for some time before being filmed. Some very nice trim appears on "76", red pin stripes on the spinner, and a larger stripe across the fin/rudder. It is interesting to note that some Yak-9s of the 66 GIAP carried a similar red stripe, and that the 3rd Eskadrilya of this Regiment did in fact operate Yak-9Ts.
Well, since the time of writing much more research has been done on the subject. Indeed, the aircraft does look to have been one of the curious "older" schemes using the outdated lacquers. I now suspect that this aircraft was built in 1943, and subsequently refinished by the unit, perhaps in spring 1944. Russian researcher M. Momentov has a version of this photo in his collection, and states that the unit should be the 520 IAP before the Korsun-Schevchenkovskiy pocket battle, 1944. It seems likely that this attributatiuon will be proven, and the information here will be updated when that happens. The pilot of "76" remains unknown.


Yak-9K "White 86"
274 IAP
Ivan M. Kiselev
May 1945

This absolutely gorgeous machine was photographed in service with the 274 IAP in Germany, probably in April or May 1945. The pilot was not recorded on the photo, but I am convinced that it must be the personal mount of Ivan M. Kiselev (14+2 confirmed). Both the timing of the photo and the details of the machine would be correct. "86" sports fourteen small victory stars on the fuselage, matching Kiselev's final score, and he did indeed receive twice the Order of Lenin, and also the Gold Star. Kiselev returned to duty with the 274 IAP in May 1945, after recovering from the loss of part of one leg after a combat in August 1944.

"White 86" wears a common Spring/45 scheme of overall AMT-11 grey. Beautifully applied Victory type Kremlin stars are present on the fuselage and fin; the underwing stars' type cannot be determined in the available photo. The nose carries two Order of Lenin badges, in addition to a Hero of the Soviet Union emblem, but lacks the usual 274 IAP artwork [see above]. The spinner is finished in red, and 14 small kill stars are located on the rear fuselage. No view is available to show the starboard details, alas.

On To Part 2