Development of this aircraft began in 1975. It had to become the first supersonic aircraft with vertical take off and landing capability. In addition it should have had weapons and radar, equal to those of the frontline fighters. It is worth mentioning, that Yakovlev Design Bureau already had a great experience in creating aircraft with vertical take off and landing capability, such as the Yak-36 and Yak-38. The last mentioned has been successfully tested during the Soviet War in Afghanistan. However Soviet government and military officials were not entirely satisfied with its performance, especially due to its short operational range and poor electronic systems. Also the Yak-38 was inferior to the British Harrier. So in 1975 Yakovlev Design Bureau was ordered to develop a more powerful and unprecedented plane with supersonic speed, vertical take-off and landing capability, longer range and a powerful armament, that could take-off from aircraft carriers.
Designers from the Yakovlev bureau found out, that the double engine scheme of the Yak-38 and Harrier was not suitable for the new plane. Instead they created a layout with a single engine, that could turn 95° down with two additional vertical thrust engines, located in the middle of the fuselage, just behind the center of gravity. These would turn on only during vertical take-off, vertical landing and hovering. Engineers had to stretch body of the aircraft for aerodynamic stability. This is why the Yak-141 is larger than its predecessor, the Yak-38.
Initially a “duck” configuration with a single square-shaped engine was discussed, however soon this idea was declined because of low maneuverability and technical problems, even though such scheme was low observable. After nearly 20 years a plane with such kind of layout and propulsion, the X-32, lost tender in the USA during the Joint Strike Fighter program to the F-35.
The first prototypes of the Yak-141 were completed in 1987. Altogether 4 planes were built, two for static tests and two for flight tests. Aircraft made its first flight and test flights began the same year. Flight tests were successfully conducted in 1990, when aircraft made passed a full test program, including vertical take-off and landing, short take-off, flying at supersonic speed then slowing down to hovering and so on. In 1991 during a single flight the new aircraft set 12 world records in its class. One of the records was achieving a 12 km vertical take-off. After this flight the new plane received the Yak-141 designation.
In 1991 two prototype aircraft performed their first vertical landing on Baku (later renamed Admiral Gorshkov) Kiev class light aircraft carrier.
The Yak-141 was intended both for naval aviation and air force. Primary user was the Soviet Navy. A futuristic and innovative idea was bound with this airplane. Idea was to create a mobile take-off and landing platform, which had small dimensions and could withstand aircraft’s weight and hot jets from the engines. This platform would be mounted on the DT-30 Vityaz articulated all-terrain tracked carrier (which was also under development at that time). The Vityaz could transport the platform to such territories, that could not be reached by usual off-road vehicles and were no opportunities to build an airfield. The Yak-141 could land on this mobile platform, fill the fuel from another DT-30 tanker and continue its mission. Payload capacity of the DT-30 is 30 t, so such kind of mission was no problem for it. Actual tests of the Yak-141, based on the DT-30 were made, however development of the Vityaz was protracted and soon the Yak-141 program appeared to be on the brink of failure. So this unprecedented idea, which could give advantage to the Soviet Union was not implemented.
The Yak-141 multi-role fighter did not enter production. The funding for this program ceased in 1991 after a landing accident on the aircraft carrier, when one prototype landed during excessive side wind and was badly damaged. After collapse of the Soviet Union military funding was limited. In 1992 the Yak-141 program was canceled as it happened with many other promising weapon systems. Also by 1995 Russia decommissioned all Kiev class aircraft carriers, this plane was intended for.
In 1992 the Yak-141 was presented at Farnborough international air show and Le Bourget in 1993. Visitors and appraisers gave highest marks to this unique aircraft. Some countries showed interest in acquiring this plane, however no actual orders were made.
It the early 1990s Lockheed Martin entered into partnership with Yakovlev Design Bureau for further development of this aircraft. Results of this partnership is unknown, however Lockheed Martin possibly used experience gained from this project developing their own F-35 multi-role fighter. Vertical lift system of the F-35B is very similar to that of the Yak-141. The F-35B multi-role fighter with short take-off and vertical landing capability achieved initial operational capability with the US Marine Corps (USMC) in 2015. In the near future USA will operate a large number of these stealthy fighters.
Some sources report that in 1996 a prototype of the Yak-141 engine was sold to China. Also it is reported that in 1998 Russia transferred technology related to the engine nozzles. It is possible that in the near future China will also develop an indigenous VTOL aircraft, based on the Yak-141 technology.
DESIGN AND CHARACTERISTICS
 Crew: 1
Length: 18.36 m (60 ft 3 in)
Wingspan: 10.105 m (33 ft 2 in)
Height: 5 m (16 ft 5 in)
Wing area: 31.7 m2 (341 sq ft)
Empty weight: 11,650 kg (25,684 lb)
Max takeoff weight: 19,500 kg (42,990 lb)
Powerplant: 1 × Soyuz R-79V-300 afterburning vectoring-nozzle turbofan, 108 kN (24,000 lbf) thrust dry, 152 kN (34,000 lbf) with afterburner
Powerplant: 2 × RKBM RD-41 turbojets, 41.7 kN (9,400 lbf) thrust each canted rearwards from vertical
POWER AND PERFORMANCE:
Zhuk M002 Doppler radar, laser-TV ranging and aiming, HUD
1x Soyuz R-79V-300 and 2 x RKBM RD-41 turbojets (9400 lbf each)
Max Cruise Speed:
1,100 Nautical Miles
Rate of Climb:
49000 feet / minute
248.92metre / second
 STANDARD: 1 x 30mm GSh-30-1 internal cannon
4 x R-73 (AA-11) Archer short-range IR-guided air-to-air missiles.
4 x R-60 (AA-8) Aphid short-range IR-guided air-to-air missiles.
4 x R-77 (AA-12) Adder radar-guided medium-range air-to-air missiles.
4 x R-27 (AA-10) Alamo radar-guided medium-range air-to-air missiles.
Kh-35 anti-ship missiles
Kh-31P anti-radar missiles
Kh-58 (AS-11) Kilter anti-radar missiles
Conventional Drop Bombs
Unguided Rockets (in launch pods)
1 x Fuel Tank on fuselage centerline
Up to 2600kg of external ordnance on four underwing pylons and a single centerline fuselage hardpoint. Vertical take-off max is 999kg while Standard Take-Off max was 2 599kg.
 weapons options:
A few tidbits
thread in wip