Yak-18: Prevue

Yakovlev Yak-18 by Amodel
1/72 scale
Kit No. 7230
Cost: $9.00 - $15.00

Decals: Two versions - both for North Korean Air Force
Comments: Good exterior detail includes fine engraved panel lines throughout; good seats but otherwise basic cockpit; one-piece canopy has visible defects; white metal bombs; recommend replacing decals


The Yakovlev Yak-18 (NATO code name Max) was a tandem two-seat primary trainer for the Soviet military that entered service in 1946.  It was also used as a light bomber and utility aircraft.  In May 1945, the Yakovlev Design Bureau began design work on the Yak-18.  It was designed to replace the Yakovlev UT-2 and Yak-5 then in service with the Soviet Air Forces and DOSAAF (Voluntary Society for Collaboration with the Army, Air Force and Navy, which sponsored aero clubs throughout the USSR).  The Yak-18 has the distinction of being the primary trainer on which Yuri Gagarin, future cosmonaut and the first man in space, learned to fly.  With over 8,000 built for the Soviet military alone, it became the primary trainer for generations of Russian, Chinese. Vietnamese, Egyptian and other fliers around the world.  In its single-seat version, it was also a major influence on the world of competitive aerobatics.  It had a hybrid construction in that its fuselage consisted of a basic metal frame with standard aluminum skin covering as far back as the rear cockpit.  Aft of the rear cockpit on to the tail, it was fabric covered.

It is best known to Americans from its use during the Korean War as a night bomber in the vicinity of the front lines, for which it earned the nickname "Bedcheck Charlie" due to these North Korean night raids to ensure that U.S. troops were deprived a good night's sleep.  Due to the distinctive sound of it's 5-cylinder radial engine, the Yak-18 got a second nickname, "Washing Machine Charlie,"  but "Bedcheck" was the one that stuck.  The single most successful attack by the North Korean AIr Force during the war was the destruction of a fuel dump with nearly 5.5 million gallons of fuel in the Inchon area in June 1953 by Yak-18's.  Alongside the Polikarpov Po-2, a World War II era bi-plane employed on the same night missions, the Yak-18 proved quite a nuisance until American nightfighters were specifically directed to hunt for them. 

Maximum speed: 186 mph
Range: 435 miles
Length: 27.4 feet
Wingspan: 38.74 feet
Height: 10.99 feet
Powerplant: One Ivchenko AI-14RF radial engine of 300 hp
Armament: Two underwing hard points for two bombs of the 250 lb. range
Service ceiling: 16, 600 feet

The Kit
Amodel's Yak-18 is injection molded in white plastic and consists of 27 parts, including a one-piece "greenhouse" canopy and two white metal bombs with wing pylons attached.  There is a bit of flash throughout the kit which will require clean-up, but no major effort will be required.  The entire airframe has delicate engraved panel lines, including a stressed fabric effect on the rear fuselage consistent with the Yak-18's actual construction.  There is some discoloration visible in the wings common to East European kit moldings; to the degree this is due to unreleased agents during the injection molding process, washing the kit with warm soapy water before construction should cure this and is highly recommended.

The cockpit consists of a floorboard, two seats and two instrument panels.  The bucket seats have above average detail, but if the modeler wants seat straps, aftermarket examples will have to be purchased separately.  The instrument panels are devoid of any detail and no decals are provided.  There are no control sticks.  An attempt has been made at cockpit sidewall detail, including raised panels and faintly engraved cockpit framing on the sidewalls.  The canopy has visible striations in it and other defects, which may be partially concealed by a quick bath in Future floor wax or some other clear lacquer.  The rear portion of the canopy has a hole in it for the radio antenna, and despite its flaws the canopy has sufficiently solid engraving to allow the modeler to paint its framework without too much difficulty.

The engine cowling face and propeller are fairly well detailed and the fuselage had molded-in engine exhausts which can be brought out with a bit of detail painting.  However, once the cowling face is cemented to the fuselage, seam hiding will be necessary based on reference photos.  The wings are notable for the level of engraved detail, including textured walkways and raised fuel caps, however the landing gear are basic.  There are detailed schematics of the cockpit, which will be useful only if scratchbuilding or an aftermarket detail set are contemplated -- but given the thickness and lack of clarity of the canopy, such efforts may be worthwhile only if it too is replaced.  The elevators are unique is that their movable portions are positioned at an angle.  The kit appears generally accurate except that the box art (and reference photos) show that the Yak-18 had support struts above and below its elevators, yet the kit does not provide these -- they can easily be fashioned from Evergreen strips or if need be, sheet plastic.

The decals are in register, but they have dull color and a very flat sheen and do not look as though they will adhere well even with decal solvent.  Aftermarket replacements are recommended.  The decals provide markings for two North Korean Air Force machines of unnamed units.  The first, Yellow 3, has a paint scheme of dark green over light blue, and was flown by an unnamed light night bomber squadron in the Autumn of 1950; the second, White 15, has a paint scheme of overall black was flown by an unnamed night bomber regiment during 1952.  

This is an interesting Cold War subject that with a little effort will make a fine finished kit.  Overall, its key virtue of this kit is the amount of effort that has been put into what is very good external detailing.  A good weekend build for those interested in modeling Korean War subjects. 

  • Smithsonican National Air & Space Museum
  • Airliners.net
  • www.militaryfactory.com
  • www.wikipedia.org
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