Here’s a thing you may not know: Many modern militaries still operate planes similar to the ones used during World War II. Surprised? Don’t be. Just like how babies aren’t born with the natural ability to run marathons, new pilots can’t just hop into a F-16 or F-22 and fly it well from the get-go.
Austin Daniel, an Airman with the New Jersey Air National Guard’s 177th Fighter Wing, flies with the Raiders Demonstration Team in his Yak-52 demonstration aircraft over the the beaches of Atlantic City, N.J.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Matt Hecht)
The first step on the long road to becoming a Sierra-Hotel fighter pilot is to learn on a trainer. Specifically, on a single-engine, propeller-driven plane. For this, America currently uses the T-6 Texan II.
The Russians have a primary trainer, too. After all, Russian pilots can’t just hop into a Su-27 and reflexively do a Pugachev Cobra. No, instead, they start on a trainer that’s been around for years: the Yakovlev Yak-52.
Four Yak-52s carry out some formation aerobatic maneuvers during the 104th anniversary of the birth of President Ronald Reagan.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Ismael E. Ortega)
The Yak-52 doesn’t have a NATO code name like the MiG-29 “Fulcrum” or the Su-27 “Flanker.” What it does have, however, is a crew of two — a student and an instructor. It has a top speed of 177 miles per hour and a maximum unrefueled range of 342 miles. The highest this plane can go is just over 13,000 feet. That might not sound like much, but when you have a guy just out of ground school, you don’t need the plane to go Mach 2 near the edge of space.
The Yak-52 actually was about four decades ahead of the T-6 in one respect: there’s been an armed version, the Yak-52B, from the get-go. Its weapon suite is all of two rocket pods, each holding 32 57mm rockets.
The AT-6 Wolverine, the modern version of the T-6 that is competing in the OA-X program, packs a much more varied punch, including laser-guided bombs, Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs), and AGM-114 Hellfire missiles.
Learn more about Russia’s trainer in the video below.