6 Yak-9 – 16,769
(includes 800 postwar)
When talking about Russian aircraft production during WW II, we have to totally cleanse our minds of images we usually label “aircraft production.” Forget modern (for the time) assembly lines with dozens of young men and women working in their shirt sleeves in a comfortable work environment. Russia had to rescue its aircraft-manufacturing community by moving it over the mountains, out of range of the Germans. That was no small feat, often resulting in extremely crude buildings— sometimes without heat—and always with minimal living conditions. Even more amazing is the fantastic numbers of aircraft the Russians turned out, the Yakolev series of fighters being only one example. To say the Yak-9 is number six in our list ignores the fact that the -9 is only a refinement of the -1, -3, etc. All Yak fighters had steel tubing fuselages (painted with brushes for the most part), covered with plywood and later Bakelite (an early plastic). Eventually, some of the last models had aluminum wings, but the design was still basic Yak. The total number of Yaks built is something over 36,000, which is, again, amazing considering the conditions!
The war was right in Russia’s front yard; consequently the population suffered more than any other people of WW II. More civilians in Russia died of starvation (six to seven million) than Germans died in combat (four to five million). The Soviet Union lost 14 percent of its population, with some member states, like the Ukraine, losing 25 percent. Still, they fought on and airplanes kept pouring out of their embattled factories. On top of that, the Yaks were very highly regarded by the Luftwaffe. They were good airplanes.
The entire line of Yakolev fighters was well respected. More than 30,000 were produced, with the Yak-9 being the most numerous. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)