The Yakovlev Yak-28 was a versatile, twin-seat multirole aircraft that served as a bomber, interceptor, and specialized platform for the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Its development was influenced by post-World War II research on swept-wing designs and advancements in jet engine technology. The aircraft evolved to cater to various requirements of the Soviet military aviation, including training, interception, high-speed reconnaissance, and electronic warfare (EWA) / electronic countermeasures (ECM) platforms.
Development of the Yakovlev Yak-28
Yakovlev, an established aircraft manufacturer, began operations in 1934 and produced well-known military aircraft, including the piston-engine fighters Yak-1, Yak-3, and Yak-9. They also developed the vertical/short takeoff and landing (V/STOL) Yak-38 “Forger” for the Soviet Navy. The prototype Yak-28, known as the “Yak-129,” first flew on March 5, 1958, and entered the Soviet Air Force inventory in 1960. The aircraft was later adopted by the Soviet air defense forces and post-Cold War Russian, Ukrainian, and Turkmenistan air forces. A total of 1,180 units were produced.
Design and Configuration of the Yak-28
The Yak-28 featured a conventional design with external engine nacelles placed beneath the wing’s swept appendages. This arrangement facilitated maintenance and engine replacement but increased drag compared to aircraft with engines embedded within the fuselage. The wings were high-mounted monoplanes, and the fuselage was tubular with a pointed nose, framed canopy, and a swept tail with high-mounted horizontal planes. The unconventional aspect of the Yak-28 was its landing gear, which utilized a two-wheel nose leg and a two-wheel rear fuselage leg, with single-wheel rods supporting each wing.
Variants of the Yakovlev Yak-28
The Yak-28 initially served as a medium-class tactical bomber, with the limited-production base Yak-28 as the first variant. Subsequent bomber variants included the Yak-28B (Brewer-A), Yak-28L (Brewer-B), and Yak-28I (Brewer-C), each with progressively advanced radar and targeting systems. The Yak-28P served as a long-range, missile-armed interceptor, capable of engaging Western bombers or spy planes at short notice. This version featured additional internal fuel capacity due to the removal of the bomb bay and was equipped with an interception radar and missile-only payload. A total of 435 units were produced.
Other variants included the two-seat Yak-28U (Maestro) trainer aircraft, the Yak-28R (Brewer-D) tactical reconnaissance variant, and the Yak-28PP electronic countermeasures (ECM) version. These platforms served specialized roles and contributed to the versatility of the Yak-28 line.
Experimental Projects and Final Use of the Yak-28
Several experimental projects were undertaken using the Yak-28 as a testbed, including the Yak-28UVP for short takeoff and landing (STOL) operations, the Yak-28SR for chemical spraying, the Yak-28VV for vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL), and the Yak-28PM for an upgraded interceptor role. Most of these projects were not adopted for official service, and some were canceled due to technical issues or competition from other aircraft manufacturers.
The last Yak-28s were retired from the Russian Air Force in the early 1990s, with the remaining units transferred to the post-Soviet Russian, Ukrainian, and Turkmenistan air forces.
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