Kit No. 72230
Decals: Four versions – all Yakovlev Design Bureau aircraft
Comments: Re-box of Master UA kit; limited run; engraved panel lines; one-piece injection molded canopy
The Yak-30 has an interesting history in that it was a superior aircraft that probably should have won a 1961 jet trainer competition and contract, but was denied its victory for what appear to have been purely political reasons. Originally designated the Yak-104, the Yak-30 trainer was Yakovlev’s entry in a Soviet Air Force competition for the first purpose-built military jet trainer designed for Warsaw Pact nations. Before the Yak-30, all Soviet jet trainers had been modified from existing fighter designs (for example the MiG-15 UTI). The winner of the competition would succeed the Yak-17 UTI.
Taxiing, engine run-up and flight tests took place from May 1960 through March 1961. A total of 82 flights were made with 43 hours 36 minutes of flight time, revealing no difficulties in operating the aircraft. The competition ultimately came down to three aircraft, with the Yak-30’s rivals being the Czechoslovak L-29 Delfin, and the Polish TS-11 Iskra. The Iskra was quickly eliminated and sent back to Poland, leaving the Yak-30 in a head-to-head competition with the L-29.
The Yak design showed far better performance, including lower weight, better maneuverability and lower production costs. However, in the end, a political decision was reached to select the more robust Czechoslovak L-29 in August 1961 to serve as the primary jet trainer for all Soviet and Warsaw Pact nations except for Poland. With this decision, the Yak-30 was destined never to enter mass production, and remained largely unknown in the West.
Given the Soviet Union’s degree of control over both the Warsaw Pact and the jet trainer competition, it is surprising that the Soviet-designed Yak-30, which in objective tests proved the superior aircraft, was not selected. While the L-29 proceeded to serve the Warsaw Pact quite well for the next four decades, gradually being phased out in favor of the L-39 Albatros, the initial decision to award the contract to a Czech manufacturer may have been motivated by a Soviet desire to further cement its relations with its Eastern European satellite. The contract thus achieved political as well as military objectives.
As if to underscore this, immediately after the decision awarding the contract to the Aero L-29, OKB pilot Smirnov set several official light jet world records in the Yak-30. These included best speed over a 25-kilometer course (767.308 kph), and maximum altitude of 16,128 meters. One of the surviving prototypes is on display at the Central Air Force Museum, at Monino, outside of Moscow.
One thing immediately obvious is that some real care and effort went into this kit, perhaps out of a sense of pride in the original aircraft, which, though not well known, could easily have been a staple of Eastern bloc aviation for the past 50 years. If it seems that the quality is somewhat better than that seen on a standard Amodel kit, it’s because it is a Master UA kit re-issued under the Amodel label. It has very little flash, and none of the imperfections in the plastic previously seen in many Amodel kits, specifically unexplained discoloration of the plastic. Also, the engraved panel lines are quite definite and should not need reinforcement with a scribing tool. The kit is injection molded in grey plastic and consists of 57 parts. It comes on three sprues in a zip lock clear plastic bag. There is a separate such bag for the one-piece canopy.
It is not clear why its designation of Yak-30 is nowhere in evidence on the box or the kit instructions — and it took a little online research to determine the proper designation of this aircraft. This could be due to the fact that there was more than one Yak-30, the first being an experimental jet fighter design from the late 1940’s, bearing some resemblance to the MiG-15, which never entered production due to the MiG’s superior performance. Officially, that earlier aircraft never took on the Yak-30 designation, so it was free when the jet trainer that is the subject of this kit appeared about 1960.
The overall level of detail is above average for 1/72 scale kits. The cockpit includes engraved detail on both instrument panels and seats, individual control yokes, and separate sidewalls that add a small measure of work but are curiously plain — they contain no detail whatsover, unlike most of the rest of the kit. There are fairly well detailed landing gear, and a five-piece jet exhaust assembly that may prove rather fiddly to get completed. Finally, there are two small, finely detailed dorsal antennae that will have to be handled with care.
The kit decals are perfectly in register and feature realistic color. However, they are typical of Amodel in that their finish is extremely flat, which may make it difficult for modelers to achieve that “painted on” look, even with state-of-the-art preparation, application, and post-operative coating. For that reason modelers may want to consider using aftermarket decals. Amodel provides a total of four different versions, all for Yakovlev Design Bureau aircraft, since the Yak-30 never entered service with any air force. Three of the versions feature an overall natural metal finish, but one features a more dynamic paint scheme involving black and three different shades of grey as seen on the box art.
A very nice kit of an aesthetically pleasing jet trainer that unfortunately was little more than a footnote in Cold War history.