Kit No. 7230
Decals: Two versions, both for night bombers of the North Korean Air Force (NKAF)
Comments: Short run kit with very basic cockpit; engraved panel lines; white metal underwing stores (two 113 kg bombs); aftermarket decals strongly recommended
Advantages: Engraved panel lines, ease of construction, white metal bombs are a nice touch
Drawbacks: No real cockpit detail, scribing on canopy could be more accurate
The Yak-18, NATO code name “Max,” was a Soviet-built tandem two-seat military trainer intended to replace the World War II era UT-2 trainer. In fact, the Yak-18 had its origins in a series of modifications to the Soviet Union’s basic Yakovlev UT-2M trainer begun in 1943. These included enclosing the tandem cockpits and replacing the tailskid with a tailwheel. The new variant, designated the UT-2MV, provided the basis for the Yak-18 prototype, which first flew in 1945, when the dust from the last battle of what the Russians called The Great Patriotic War had hardly settled.
With an all-metal interior structure, mixed fabric and metal covering, and partially retractable landing gear, the Yak-18 entered service in 1946 with a comparatively small powerplant, the 160 hp Shvetsov M-11FR-1 radial engine. While a trainer by design, the Yak-18 was pressed into service as a light bomber by North Korea, one of the Soviet Union’s export clients, and first saw combat during the Korean War, where its greatest claim to fame was its role as a night intruder.
During the Korean War, these aircraft were modified with bomb racks on the wing center section and flown over United Nations troop formations by night to drop bombs and generally harass UN forces. The single most successful Yak-18 attack by the North Koreans 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.
The Yak’s five-cylinder engine reminded many American troops of the sound made by early gasoline powered washing machines, earning them the nickname “Washing Machine Charlie.” But the name “Bed Check Charlie” was the one that stuck, since the Yak-18 night missions often meant that UN troops somewhere along the front line would not be sleeping much. The Yak-18’s along with Polikarpov Po-2‘s became quite a nuisance in Korea until American night fighters began shooting them down.
Initially built in large numbers as a “tail dragger,” after Korea the Yak-18 was redesigned as the Yak-18U in 1955, with increased wing dihedral, longer fuselage and partially-retractable tricycle landing gear, for use as a jet pilot primary trainer. Despite significantly increased weight, the plane used the same old Shvetsov M-11FR radial engine as the prototype, with predictably disappointing performance. But after it was given a new engine, the 260hp Ivchenko AI-14R radial, in a revised cowling, it served for many years as the primary trainer in the Soviet Union and many client nations, under the designation Yak-18A. There were other variants, sometimes in quantity, such as the Yak-18P, a single-seat aerobatic aircraft that first flew in 1961.
Manufacture of the Yak-18 trainer was ended in 1967 with 6,670 of all versions built, many for export. However, in that same year, production was begun on a significant redesign featuring a new engine, the Yak-18T — a four-place sport/touring aircraft, with side-by-side seating for the pilot(s) and passengers. Production of the Yak-18T continued into the 1980’s, with more than 1,000 built.
Like many popular aircraft, the Yak-18 had a certain Phoenix-like quality, proven when the independently operated Smolensk aircraft factory resumed production of the Yak-18T in 1993. The Yak-18 became the standard trainer for Soviet Air Force flying schools and DOSAAF* (Volunteer Society for Cooperation with the Army, Aviation, and Fleet) and is also in wide use in China and many other countries. As of 2014, about 40 original Yak-18’s remain in flying condition around the world.
*DOSAAF was a paramilitary sport organization in the Soviet Union, concerned mainly with weapons, automobiles and aviation. The society was established in 1927 as OSOAVIAKhIM and from 1951 to 1991 carried the name of DOSAAF. In December 1991 it was reformed as the Russian Defence Sports-Technical Organization, or ROSTO, until December 2009, when it was renamed DOSAAF Russia.
Amodel’s Yak-18 is injection molded in white plastic and consists of 27 parts, two of which are white metal bombs molded onto their pylons. The spartan cockpit features seats but no control sticks, and plain instrument panels for which their are neither raised details nor decals to take their place. The kit has engraved panel lines which will help bring out surface detail.
There is no option for the positioning the landing gear up, but since the Yak-18 had no landing gear doors, and left the wheels of the main gear partially exposed even when the gear were up, it is possible with a little sanding of parts to place the gear in the up position.
As this is a short run kit, the overall fit is less than perfect but passable. You begin with the cockpit which assembles easily, has seats and control panels, but no control yokes and no other real detail — kind of a shame given the greenhouse canopy, into which a hole must be drilled at the rear for the radio aerial which protrudes through it. The rear canopy has a partially machined hole for this purpose, and a few seconds with a pin vise will finish the job.
The greenhouse canopy does not fit completely flush onto the fuselage, and there is a small gap between the upper wings and the side of the fuselage — although I used putty along the underside of the wing to hide join seams, and on the engine cowling, I left the canopy and the upper surface of the wing join alone.
The whole kit assembled rather smoothly, although I did not use the landing gear since I wanted to show the plane in flight. I sanded down the wheels so that they would still be partially exposed when I cemented their flat sides into the wheel wells, as on the actual aircraft. The bombs, being pewter, will require some clean-up which should be undertaken with care — I accidentally broke a pylon free of one of the bombs while sanding it down with a metal file. To repair this I used the same glue as I used to attach the bombs to the aircraft — Zap-a-Gap.
Painting was the main challenge with this kit. To depict it as a night intruder, it is helpful to find a shade of black that is dark enough for realism, but light enough to enable you to treat the engraved panel lines with something darker for detailing purposes and have it show through. The Yak-18 is airbrushed in Floquil Weathered Black, a railroad enamel that provided the perfect slightly beat up look for the finish on a plane that flew by night and baked in the sun and other elements all day. For the panel lines I used a wash of Testors flat black.
I strongly recommend aftermarket decals, as the kit decals are thoroughly flat in appearance, and their colors look neither vibrant nor authentic. The Yak-18’s markings are pretty generic, consisting of an aircraft number, six communist roundels, and a few odd stencils in red (these last being the only markings from the kit that appear on the model). The key in identifying appropriate aftermarket North Korean Air Force decals for this kit was to find red star markings surrounded by two broken concentric circles, the red cirle innermost with a blue outer circle. For these North Korean roundels, I used a mix of two aftermarket alternatives. For the red-star-on-white-background roundels for the upper surfaces of the wings, I used markings from a 1/72 scale RV Decals set, “MiG-15bis: Soviet Aces in Korea”, No. RVD 72017. For the red-star-on-clear-background roundels, I used markings from a Print Scale decal set, also for MiG-15’s during the Korean War period, No. 72-076. Both the RV Decals and the Print Scale markings are thin, with good color, and adhered well to the Yak-18’s ribbed contours.
This is an interesting kit of a Soviet trainer and light attack aircraft. Only Amodel has seen fit to pay any attention to this plane, which was part of a chapter of Cold War history. The kit has just enough exterior detail to satisfy many modelers, but the cockpit may be too basic for some. The scribing of the canopy frame is not entirely accurate, as it omits a cross bar that was located across the curved windshield. The addition of white metal ordnance provides an uncommon touch that adds to the kit’s realism. Overall, a fun little kit that will be good for modelers looking to round out their collection with something a little unusual.