Building Yakovlev Yak-17
A Model from A-Model
The Yakovlev Yak-17 was the second-generation jet fighter from the Yakovlev bureau. While it still closely resembled the Yak-15 and its piston-powered predecessors, one big change was the addition of tricycle undercarriage which put an end to problems with burning the runway and the aircraft's own tail on take-off... The nose wheel was only partially retractable because most of the nose was occupied by the engine, and many other problems remained only partially solved. Around 430 aircraft were built.
The Yakovlev Yak 17 became the first jet-powered fighter of several Eastern European countries outside of the Soviet Union. Poland’s Wojska Lotnicze received three aircraft of this type in July 1950. Such small delivery was perhaps a wise move, because Yak 17’s very limited endurance rendered it unsuitable for first-line service. The aircraft carried just enough fuel for 25-30 minutes of flight.
For a short while, the Poles contemplated licence production of the type in Mielec under the designation G-1. In the end nothing of these plans materialised, but the three aircraft, especially the two-seater Yak 17W, played an important part of spearheading the transition of the Polish Air Force into the jet age.
Following along the heels of the Yak-17 was the Yak-23, which further refined the shape of the plane, streamlining the canopy more and changing the shape yet again. It was the first truly modern Soviet jet aircraft, 100 of which were used in by the Poles between 1951 and 1959.
In scale, Yak 17 used to be available only as crude vacuum-formed kits from obscure garage manufacturers. Now we have two kits in injection-moulded plastic, one from Special Hobby of Czech Republic and another from Ukrainian A-Model. The latter is dimensionally superior to the Czech offering, and having collected both kits, I chose to base this project on the A-Model kit with occasional bits and pieces „borrowed” from the Special Hobby box.
A-Model has thankfully produced kits of many early Soviet jets, and this kit is similar to other short-run offerings from this company. In other words it rather requires experience to complete. The parts were moulded quite roughly with prominent flash and partially washed-out surface detail. The kit canopy was really bad. I wished the tooling was better, but then considering the value of this subject to Soviet aircraft fans perhaps one shouldn't complain!
Construction began with the engine. I put as much lead shot inside it as I could in the hope of getting the model to balance properly on its wheels – as it turned out, a task missed by a wide margin! The engine itself was pretty nicely detailed, I only hollowed out a small circular hole in the intake cone for the starter ring as it was missing in the kit.
At this point I have decided to do the assembly my own way and cut off the fuselage nose. This way the front fuselage could be assembled separately and the engine intake sanded to a perfect circular hole before inserting the engine itself.
Attention turned now to the cockpit interior. Side consoles, stick, seat and gun sight were taken from the Special Hobby kit. After some painting, these parts were assembled and the fuselage components joined together. Small amounts of superglue were used to fill joins where required, followed by gentle sanding and rescribing of a few panel lines. Wing-to-fuselage joint required also a minimal amount of filling.
With main airframe components complete, I went about painting. The biggest dilemma turned out to be the colour inside the wheel wells, as some sources state a yellowish shade, other grey. I first painted the wells yellow, then repainted grey, which I regret now as I suppose they were yellow after all... Anyway, the undercarriage legs were well detailed and look good when ready.
As I mentioned before, the A-model canopy was confined to the trash bin, and I was happy to have a luxury of snatching the clear part from the Special Hobby kit.
I know of only one photograph showing Yak-17 in Polish colours, one showing the aircraft in flight during the military parade on August 20th, 1950. Like many early post-war fighters in Poland, it was painted light grey overall. There is an unsolved controversy about the colour of number „29” on the nose – yellow or blue. I opted for the blue, taking the decals from the old ORB vacuum-formed kit. The national markings came from a Techmod sheet.
After painting and decaling, I added the remaining details: antenna wires and gun barrels. Although I couldn’t find a positive proof of this aircraft carrying the fuselage-to-tail IFF antenna, I added it, too, because this device was used on Yak 9Ps and Yak 23s serving during the same period.
Well, this is a nice little model of a very cool looking plane. The A-Model kit is defiantly not of the “shake and bake” variety, but it is the only accurate one, and if you have some experience and are prepared to put in a bit of effort you will end up with a highly interesting model.