Post-War Props Series, No.2

The Yak-11 and LET C.11

" Not unknown... not forgotten... and not Green!"

It seems always to be the same old thing... if one looks at any profile of post-War VVS piston-engined fighters, they are "green". Some kind of green colour... who knows which one? But, why so? Is it only because of the appearance of certain examples in modern museum collections? How odd that would be, if true. Can you image, for example, someone running off to Henden with a colour wheel and making profiles of Me 410s based on the museum's example? Lunacy....

So, perhaps it is high time to re-examine some of these old ideas. It is certainly true that post-War examples of many fighters were by far less colourful than their GPW cousins. So much is clear. But, they were also finished according to revised ideas in colouration; some would suggest that they were a throw-back to earlier ideas in colouration, in fact. During the 1930s the VVS mooted at length ideas about 'sky' camouflage. The best shades for these schemes were seen to be AEh-9 Grey and AII Aluminum, both of which were widely used on the I-16, I-153, and SB bomber. Is it a mere coincidence that the post-War colour AMT-16, and it's all-metal version A-36m (even more so), were quite similar to the paints AEh-8/-9 of the 1930's? Hmmm....

The Trainer Arrives

A.S. Yakovlev was always a designer keenly interested in training aircraft. It is perhaps this reason, more than any other, why 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.

The resulting training aircraft, the Yak-11, became an instant classic. Its handing is quite outstanding, fully representative of it's wartime cousin. Powered by the 700 hp ASh-21 radial, the aircraft exhibits performance that is more than representative of a front-line fighter. The sheer number of performance records held In Class by the Yak-11 is too large to mention here. The Yak-11 was built in significant quantities, and it served for very many years successfully in its training mission.

License Production

In Czechoslovakia, a license was obtained to manufacture the Yak-11 in 1953. These aircraft, built by LET, were designated C.11. Interestingly, C.11s were very widely exported, even more so than Soviet built Yak-11s. Some 707 examples were manufactured by LET over the course of approximately four years.

Many Yak-11s and even more C.11s can still be seen today. The aircraft is the most commonly encountered ex-Soviet-Bloc machine at air shows, and has been modified in innumerable ways. Some Yak-11s have even been equipped with huge Pratt & Whitney engines for sport racing at Reno!

VVS Yak-11s

With over 3,000 completed examples, the Yak-11 in Soviet service wore a number of colouration schemes. However, at the time of manufacture two types of finish seemed to have predominated. Of these, the most common looks to have a been an over-all livery of AMT-16 Grey lacquer.

Typical Yak-11
At the Omsk Factory 
AMT-16 over-all colouration

The other common factory finish consisted of a single upper surface of AMT-12 Dark Grey with AMT-7 Blue undersurfaces. This type of colouration was usually seen on the earlier series aircraft, after which AMT-16 predominated.

Typical Yak-11
At the Omsk Factory 
AMT-12 over AMT-7 colouration

In service units, a number of Yak-11s received a two-colour camouflage application harkening back to the days of the Great Patriotic War. The lacquers were inevitably AMT-11 and -12 over AMT-7, and the scheme in the case of "White 52" looks to have been roughly similar to an NKAP type pattern.

Yak-11 "White 52"
Monino Airfield, Moscow
ca. 1951
AMT-11/-12/-7 colouration

One further example in Soviet service was this delightful aircraft of the VVS Aerobatic Demonstration Team.

Yak-11 no number
Kodinka Airfield, Moscow
ca. 1962
AEh-9 over-all colouration

The photograph captions gives the date of 1962, and the aircraft looks to be sitting at Kodinka. The finish looks lighter than usual, and here I have estimated that this aircraft was painted with A-36m (as the Yak-3s in the Demonstration Team were, also). The delightful red trim was well shown, and there were no national stars on the wing upper surfaces.

Czechoslovak C.11s

Aircraft manufactured by LET were similarly uniform in appearance after completion at the factory. The default scheme appears to have been a single-colour livery making use of an extremely ubiquitous blue-grey varnish; one which is seen throughout Czech aviation circles, civil and military. A very nicely restored example at Prague-Kbely shows the colouration well, this being s/n "1706". The aircraft is thought to be entirely original.

C.11 "1706" 
At the Czech AF Museum, Kbely
Czech blue-grey over-all colouration

Another fascinating two-colour scheme can be seen on more than one example. This aircraft, civil registration OK-JZE, belonged to a Czech aero club at the time it was photographed. It is one of several similar examples, and more than one author has suggested that this livery was employed by the Czech Air Force during their service life. I, personally, am skeptical of this claim, and await better period photography for evidence. But, in any case the scheme is without doubt visible on several currently flown C.11s. The lacquers used in this pattern are unknown.

current appearance 
unknown colouration

Colourful Export Examples

Yak-11s, and more so the Czech C.11s, were widely exported throughout the world during the 1950s and 60s. These trainers served faithfully in all manner of environments, from the deserts or Arabia to the tropics of equatorial Africa. Here we have some of the more exotic examples, hopefully which might be new to our readers.

A significant number of Yak-11s and C.11s were sent to Egypt during the latter 1950s. Indeed, as well, a number of Soviet aircrew and personnel accompanied these machines, providing advanced pilot training and other other assistance to the emerging Egyptian Air Force. One example, "White 104", was photographed in 1961 with Hero of the Soviet Union I. N. Pankov standing in front. A picture of the aircraft was printed in Krilya Rodinu magazine, and the accompanying article stated that Pankov flew this machine whilst training Egyptian pilots.

Yak-11/C.11(?) "White 104"
At Gebel al Basur, Egypt
ca. 1961
unknown colouration

This aircraft was camouflaged with a locally applied two-colour scheme. Several of the examples shown in the article were finished similarly. The colours are somewhat estimated, but in general agreement with the colour profiles in the magazine.

C.11 "Black 56"
At Gebel al Basur, Egypt
ca. 1961
Czech blue-grey over-all colouration

Many of the aircraft in the article's photographs looked to have been Czech manufactured C.11s, still in their Czech blue-grey colouration. This example, "Black 56", was one such. There were small areas of repainting on the fin and fuselage side, using a similar but unknown colour, this presumably to obscure the Czech serial number and national marking. White spinners were ubiquitous in these images, and their significance is unknown.

The Algerian Air Force operated a number of C.11 aircraft during the 1960s. Some of these were thought to be ex-Egyptian examples, and this seems quite possible. All of them are described as Czech manufactured C.11s; no Yak-11 aircraft are mentioned. The following example, "Black 37", was shown in a colour profile in Modelist Konstruktur issue 3/64.

C.11 "Black 37"
ca. early 1960s
unknown colouration

The colouration is unknown on this example. However, the national markings are of a curious type found on Algerian aircraft during the period 1962-64. These markings would not be overly obvious to a casual observer working without a photograph, I feel, and so suggest a certain degree of authenticity (in my view). Based on that supposition, what see looks to be a completely repainted example with creamy white undersurfaces and a darker 'desert sand' colour above. The colour demarcation is very delightful; similar such demarcations have been seen on Algerian MiGs.

The national Air Forces of Mali operated several Yak-11 and C.11 aircraft. The following example was listed as a Yak-11, and was photographed in service in 1965. A partial view was printed in Krilya Rodinu, and the remainder of the scheme is based on the accompanying colour profile.

Yak-11 "Black 037"
ca. 1965
Dull Aluminum dope over-all colouration

Once again, it would appear the "037" had been completely refinished. In this case, a dull aluminum lacquer of some type was used; the reflected light from the surfaces was obvious. The surface looked to be quite worn in places, as well, although it must be said that the photo was not especially outstanding. The spinner, which was clearly in view, appeared to be very polished indeed.