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Yak-7V & Yak-7B

by Jose R. Rodriguez


Yakovlev Yak-7V


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I have always had an itch to build VSS aircraft since I was a kid. However, before the arrival of this much-heralded golden age of modeling, WWII Soviet aircraft were not available unless you were satisfied with slapping red starts on a western aircraft. It was with great joy when I re-entered the hobby to find that Soviet aircraft were now available under our capitalist market system. Not only that, but some of these kits came from ďover thereĒ, like the ICM kits from the Ukraine.

Of course, I jumped at the opportunity to buy ICMís Yak-7V for U.S. $4.99 and the Yak-7B for less than ten bucks!

The 7 series of Yak fighters was the ďheavyĒ fighter version of the Yak-1, the ďlightĒ version (further developed into the Yak-3 series). Concerned with the high numbers of Yaks lost due to accidents on the hands of inexperienced pilots, and Iím sure that there was some concern about the pilots too, Aleksander Sergheievic Yakolev decided that a two-seater trainer might be a good idea to bring green pilots up to speed in a high performance aircraft. Out of this concern the Yak-7UTI trainer was born. It had to be bigger to accommodate a second seat, and used a more powerful engine to handle the increased weight.

Alas, the unthinkable happened, the two-seater flew better and had better performance than the Yak-1. Because the Yak-7 was different enough from the Yak-1, it would necessitate its own assembly line, at the expense of the Yak-1.

In the name of expediency and simplicity, Yakolev came with the idea of stopping Yak-1 production and converting all assembly lines to produce the seven series trainers, and most importantly, fighters. The first fighter became the Yak-7A. 261 of these aircraft were built. After upgrading to the more powerful Klimov M-105PA and some aerodynamic refinements the seven series became the 7B. In August of 1942 a yet more powerful engine was given to the 7B, the Klimov M-105PF and 5120 of these aircraft were built before production ended in July of 1944. For some reason the series continued to be the 7B even though the VSS had the habit of renaming a series with an engine upgrade occurred.


The most visible external difference from the A model was the machine gun blisters on the cowling of the B model. Because of its two-seater background, the seven series fighters had a funky looking aft section behind the canopy. Yakolev just pulled the rear seat out, replaced the rear glass with plywood, and put guns on a two-seater to create his fighter. In no time Yakolev was churning out the new ďheavyĒ fighter to the delight of the comrade pilots. The 7V was born from a request from training squadrons for a tougher and simpler airframe that could handle green pilots better, and Iím sure Yakolev was more than willing to simplify fabrication. The 7V had a reinforced airframe and fixed landing gear, and no radio. 697 of these aircraft were built.

I think it is noteworthy to say that these fighters had a 20 mm ShVAK cannon shooting through the propeller hub, a la P-39. The Germans tried something similar in their early versions of the BF109 and had to give up because the excessive heat kept on jamming the cannon. The Soviets, as low tech as they might have been, pulled it off beautifully.



ICM's Yak-7 Kits in 1/48 Scale


Because of their common origin Iím reviewing both the 7V (two-seater) and the 7B (single-seater) at the same time. I built the two-seater first and the when I started the single-seater I discovered that it was dťjŗ vu all over again.

Letís start with the box art. It is excellent and it provided me with clues about some of the details. One thing you learn about VSS aircraft is that their pictures are hard to find, and when you find them, they are usually low quality. The Soviets allowed their propaganda machine to photograph their heroes as a way of keeping the morale of those fighting in the Great Patriotic war. Every body else was barred from owing or carrying a camera in the front lines, or any where for that matter. Camera toting comrades freely snapping pictures at their pleasure under the Stalinist regime was not the norm; you would probably end up shot accused of spying.

Once you open the box, you will find sprues of light gray injected plastic. The two-seater had a very light coat of mold release grease; the single-seater had a much heavier coat. I used dish soap and an old toothbrush to take care of this problem under the kitchen sink. The amount of flash is minimal and the quality of the molding is good with beautifully engrave panel lines and a fine texture on the fabric sections of the fuselage. The plastic is soft and very amenable to cutting, gluing and sanding. The clear parts are not good and here is where Squadron comes to the rescue with their vacuum form canopies (SQ9611). ICMís canopies are thick, opaque and the frames are way too wide, and the canopies are one piece that only let you build a closed cockpit.

ICMís 7V, 7A, 7B and 7UTI (two-seater with retractable landing gear) share 95% of their parts. As a matter of fact, you can buy the 7V and build the 7UTI because the landing gear doors and parts required to build the 7UTI are present, and vice versa. All kits come with a basic Klimov engine, an engine cradle and the cannon. I left my engines out because I could not find a single picture of a Yak with the cowling open. I have read on other reviews that with the engine in is hard to make the cowling top fit in place, so beware.

Both kits had the option for wheels and for skies.




Building the Yak-7V Two-Seater

Let me start with the two-seater.

The cockpit provides the steel tubular structure as a separate part, a very nice detail. I attached to this tubing the usual things such as throttle quadrants and trim wheels. I added control lines running through the floor and the sides and I added the plumbing for the instructorís instrument panel. The back of the seats is too thick and out of scale so I made my own seat backs out of beer can aluminum. I glued copper wire in a vertical pattern to the seatís back and upholstered it with masking tape; the wire gave the tape the texture I needed. Seatbelts were scratch built from dental floss.

For the instrument panel I used the kitís decal. This is the trick - the decal is black and the dials are clear so if you paint your instrument panel black guess what is going to happen? Black on black doesnít look good. Paint the instrument panel white if you are going to use the decal. The gluing of the components is difficult because there are no locating pins or any hints of where stuff is supposed to go so dry fit every part before putting the glue to it Ė dry fit twice, glue once.



I painted the cockpit with RLM02 Gray. Donít let the pundits confuse you about which interior gray to use because it seems that every factory had their own flavor. The instruction sheet for the Accurate Miniaturesí Yak-1 suggests RLM02 and that is good enough for me.

ICMís suggests that the exhaust pipes be glued from the inside of the fuselage before gluing the fuselage halves together. I didnít do it because it is a real pain to paint them once they are in place so I blocked the fuselage holes with a strip of Ė what else Ė beer can aluminum. I cut the exhaust pipes from their common carrier and drilled their openings and painted them rust brown and set them apart to be glued individually after the aircraft had been painted.

The airframe assembly is easy and there are no major fit problems. An area to watch for is the chin radiator; dry fit this part to death before you bring the glue out. It will fit, but you are going to work on it. The wing root inlet ducts are the worst part of this kit. I have no idea what ICM is trying to depict in here, but it doesnít match the box art and the few grainy pictures I found. These inlets are square so get you putty and your knife and carve yourself the right shape. Hey, this ainít a Tamigawa, and what do you expect for five bucks anyway? Because of the eagerness of the plastic to react with liquid cement, be careful not to overdue the glue thing or you may mar the plasticís surface.

The landing gear in the 7V is fixed so it doesnít use a lateral brace. This makes the landing gear very delicate in the kit as there is no a solid attachment point in the wheel well for the strut to go in. I would recommend drilling the top of the strut and using brass wire to reinforce the bonding to the wing. I did this in the single-seater and it worked rather well. As a bonus, you can let this brass wire stick out pass the top of the wing to replace the plastic landing gear position indicator. The landing gear doors were nailed shut over the wheel wheels and the fit is not too good so it is time for more sanding and filler.



The propeller in these aircraft is rather odd looking. I donít think that ICM did a good job with them. These kits would greatly benefit from an aftermarket resin prop. As a matter of fact, there is a review in this site on a resin conversion kit for the ICM Yak that includes the propeller. This set is made by Gremlin. Take a look at http://www.kitreview.com/reviews/yak7correctionreviewbg_1.htm


Building the Yak-7B Single-Seater

At this point let me comment about the single-seater.

Everything that applied to the two-seater is still good for the single-seater. This time I used Extratechís photo etched set (EX48087) for the 7A. This set didnít do much for the cockpit other that it saved me having to make a seat out of beer can aluminum. It was difficult to glue flat brass parts to a plastic tubular frame. I ended up using the kitís instrument panel because I had an impossible time trying to make the Extratech panel fit.

Where Extratech shines is in the landing gear doors. They are beautiful and worth the money I paid for the set.

For the single-seater I decided to scratch built the split flaps out of Ė guess what Ė beer can aluminum. The flaps in these aircraft are not high lift devices but drag devices, like an air brake, and they donít reach to the trailing edge of the wing like more conventional split flaps do. I cut thin strips of aluminum to make the inner structure of the flap that was an aluminum flat piece. Superglue and aluminum go so well together that once it dries, you cannot break the bond without ripping through the metal. I carved the plastic around the bottom of the wing to make room for my creation. Iím not claiming that my flaps rival something made by any of the Czechoslovakian masters of photo etching, but they look the part. Remember, in this business everything is appearance.



I replaced the thick tail wheel door with one made out of beer can aluminum. The torsional brace on the tail wheel is also beer can aluminum.

For the single-seater exhaust pipes I used the Moskit pipes from Russia. These things are a beauty and are ready to rock-and-roll right out of the package; no painting and no drilling. I separated my pipes into individual pieces and glued them to the airframe after all the painting was done. It couldnít have been easier.



Painting and Decals


I used the kitís decals for both aircraft. For the two-seater with its light camouflage, they worked like a charm. For the single-seater with the black-on-green camouflage, the red starts could not show their red color over the dark paint. If you opt for this scheme, using aftermarket starts maybe a good idea.

The two-seater comes options for two aircraft, White One with black/green/blue camouflage from the 1st IAP Warsaw Fighter Regiment, Grigorjevskoje, winter 1943-1944. The second aircraft light gray/dark grey/blue from an unknown unit. I decided on the second option because I like the gray scheme better. The 26 ID number came from the single-seater decal sheet. Sue me for cheating.

The single-seater came with option for four aircraft: White 26, 3rd IAK, Cuban, May 1943. I stole this 26 to put in the two-seater. White One, summer 1942. White 31, 434 IAP, Stalingrad, September 1942, belonging to Sn. Lt. Orehov. All these aircraft have black/green/blue schemes. The last option is for Red 17, 434 IAP, winter 1942, white/blue scheme. I opted for Orehovís mount, with the big red nose.

The paints are as follows: two-seater, USSR light topside gray, USSR dark topside gray acrylics from Polly Scale. The single-seater used red and black acrylics from Tamiya, Russian topside green enamel from Model Master. Both aircraft used USSR underside blue acrylic from Polly Scale. I mix enamels and acrylics with no fear; just make sure that at least 24 hours of drying and curing time go in between coats.

I applied a coat of Future floor wax before decaling. The decals responded quite well to Microsolvent and Microset. I sealed the decals and the paint with a coat of polyurethane furniture varnish (let it dry for at least 48 hours) and weathered with oil pastels diluted in turpentine. Chipping was done with silver paint and a very fine brush. Yaks had wood wings covered with plywood and fabric covered fuselage sides. Aluminum was a prized Soviet commodity only used where it was absolutely necessary so be careful when you chip. The nose and parts of the tail were metal so that is where my chipping went. Dry chalk pastels finished the weathering process. A coat of semi-gloss Testor lacquer sealed everything in place.





These kits are best suited for the intermediate modeler because they lack locator pins and they donít fall together but I highly recommend them because they are interesting subjects and fun to build. Their soft plastic makes them ideal for conversion projects and scratch building ideas, and they cost just a few coins. Toss the original canopies and get the Squadron ones. ICM has done a great job in bringing these classics to life and I have their Mig-3 in my sights (who doesnít want to build a white and red aircraft?)

By the way, the aluminum I used is not from beer cans but from root beer cans. Beer cans got me through college but now as a middle aged dude, my beer comes out of imported green bottles. Here it is to the good life. Cheers!



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Text, Images and Model Copyright © 2002 by Jose R. Rodriguez
Page Created 20 March, 2002
Last Updated 04 June, 2007

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