Russian Basic Trainers, Part 2

As a category, basic training aircraft are perhaps the most widely ignored of the various machines of the 1930-50 period. This is a shame, really, as there are several exceedingly important and interestingly designs amongst this group, aircraft which absolutely deserve more attention than they have received hitherto.Indeed, with that observation in mind, this series will look to highlight a few of the more significant examples.

Many readers will be familiar with the various advanced training aircraft of the Soviet VVS during the period 1930-50. These include various UTIs for fighter instruction, -U model trainers for machines like the Il-2, developments of the Ar-2 and SB for instruction and so forth. All such aircraft, of course, were military trainers, designed for more advanced students having been assigned a more specialised role within their respective service. But what of less advanced student pilots? Or, indeed, of civilian flight instruction of the time? In which aircraft did budding aviators learn the complexities of aerial navigation and technique?

In this series we will look to examine and spotlight some of these basic training aircraft. Additionally, we will look at these machines in a somewhat backwards manner-- in reverse order of progression. That is to say, we will first examine the aircraft which would have been used by student pilots just before assignment to specialised flight instruction in the Army.

An Intermediate Primary Trainer:  The Yakovlev UT-2

The two-seat AIR-10 was developed simultaneously to the more advanced single-seat AIR-14, which would enter production as the UT-1. Yakovlev foresaw the need for a less advanced training aeroplane with dual-pilot capabilities, and indeed produced a number of prototypes of such machines. The AIR-7 and then -9 could be seen as predecessors to the AIR-10, sharing with it the classification of intermediate trainer, a concept which Yakovlev put forward with great determination (once more in the face of considerable scepticism). These aircraft were to offer the student pilot an aircraft with superior performance and capabilities to the venerable U-2 biplane, not to mention a modern low-wing monoplane layout, but at the same time making use of the same M-11 engine.

The AIR-10 was structurally similar to the UT-1 in most respects, but featured a ply-and-fabric covered forward fuselage and turtle-decking. State examinations of the type began early in 1936, and again under the direction of Senior Pilot-Engineer Piontkovskii. Handling and performance were found to be commendable, but for aerobatic flying increased structural stiffening was required. Taking on board these recommendations, the Yakovlev OKB built two new AIR-10 prototypes, these dubbed the Ya-20. The first machine was powered by a 150 hp M-11E radial, while the No.2 example featured a 140 hp Renault Bengali 4 six cylinder in-line engine. Performance and behaviour on both motors was comperable, but license manufacture of the French Renault was not taken up, and production of the Ya-20 M-11 was authorised as the UT-2.

All intital series UT-2 trainers were powered by the 115 hp M-11V or -G engine, and featured large spats covering the gear struts.
As with their single-seat cousins, UT-2s were painted at the factory in one of three finishes: AII Aluminium, AEh-8 or AEh-9 grey lacquers. Red and white striped rudders-- or even the entire fin and rudder-- were common.


This UT-2 was photographed at the Yak OKB while being tested during 1937. It has been suggested that this machine might be the No.1 Ya-20 following minor modifications. While possible, the engine on balance looks to be an M-11V version, and presumably this is an early production example undergoing routine testing. The finish was an over-all AEh-9 application with red fin stripes and spats trim, and many early UT-2s must have looked virtually identical to this aircraft when built.

UT-2 "White 1"

This rather handsome UT-2 was seen along with a collection of Yakovlev types on display, one presumes outside the OKB or at some kind of flying meet. The forward cockpit had been sealed over, and the pilot was seen receiving instructions from a somewhat 'insistent' looking photographer!

The UT-2 in Service

As with the concurrent UT-1 trainer, UT-2s served in both civil and military aviation. Many UT-2s were operated primarily by the
Osoaviakhim organisation, and in the main these examples carried civil USSR registrations. However, as with most aircraft operated by Osoaviakhim, military pilots were photographed flying such examples when required, and their employment might be described as 'mixed-purpose' really, even being made available for Government filming and other work.

UT-2 USSR S3571

S3571 [see below] was a typical early UT-2 which had been finished at the factory in bright AII Aluminium lacquer. Curiously, the dural sheet areas of the scheme appear to be dissimilarly painted, not only featuring tonal differences but also a matte surface. These areas have been interpreted here as AEh-8 grey, but understanding the correct appearance of these cine still images can be very difficult. Likewise, the colouration of the civil registrations might realistically be either red or black; here seen as the former. The civil code on the wing surfaces of S3571 were exceedingly small, and thereby quite unusual.

A flight of Osoaviakhim operated UT-2s photographed near Moscow, 1938. The iamge is a still taken from a well known 16 mm cine film relating to Soviet pre-War aviation.

UT-2 SSSR S3582

S3582 is seen [above] in another mostly AII Alum scheme, but again with differently painted dural sheet areas, and in this case including the cockpit doors and the cargo hatch aft of the rear cockpit. The civil registration was completed in a very attractive 'Pravda-like' font, an observation which may be no mere co-incidence. Pravda did indeed sponsor and operate two UT-2s in the 1938-41 period, but whether this example is one such is unknown [mind, this example does not feature any PRAVDA logo, as would be expected].

UT-2 USSR S5732

As the UT-2 carried on in both service and series manufacture, the appearance of landing gear spats became increasingly uncommon. Later examples were built with a small fairing covering the oleo mechanism, and machines in service received similar modifcation. S5732 [see below] was finished in a smart AII Aluminium livery and featured quite large civil registrations on the wing surfaces.

UT-2 "White 11"

This UT-2 survived into the post-War era in service with the Yugoslav Air Force, exact date unknown. "White 11" wears a curiously dark over-all scheme which seems out of character with the light grey livery usually seen on Yugoslav aircraft at this time. The colour is indeed unknown, and here has been interpreted as a dark olive colour which agrees with the available evidence in the image; in fact, it might be almost any shade.

UT-2 3757?

This aircraft was photographed in post-War service with the Hungarian Air Force, date unknown. The image shows a parachutist abandoning the rear cockpit, but in most respects it is dark and very unhelpful as regards any interpretation of the appearance. Following considerable examination there appears to be a four-digit number on the aft fuselage, possibly starting with "37..". The number 3757 is an educated guess here; perhaps a better image will materialise to show us the correct details? In any event, the finish is similarly dark to the Yugoslav example [see above] of roughly the same era, and one wonders if the colouration was identical?

UT-2 "White 6"

Venerable old "White 6" was seen in active service with the Polish Air Force in the early 1950s. This example showed the Polish penchant for quite light grey colour schemes, these using presumably either AEh-9 or A-36m lacquers (latter shown here). Large Polish insignia were worn in eight positions, and these along with the over-all livery made for quite an attractive appearance.

The UT-2M

Despite the fact that the UT-2 was possessed of very fine handling, it was noted that under certain conditions the aircraft could enter a dangerous flat spin. As a result, the Yakovlev OKB redesigned the aircraft yet again, sweeping the outer wing sections' leading edges back to a straight aft edge. An additional length of 20 cm was added to the rear fuselage, this in the form of increased rudder and fin area for greater directional authority. The new fin/rudder shape may also be said to feature the classic Yakovlev form, as distinct from the earlier pointed units.

The new version was known as the UT-2M (modifirovanii), and there was no prototype as such. The first converted model was handed over for State testing during the late autumn of 1940, which it passed with aplomb. Series manufacture of the UT-2M began during the spring of 1941, powered in most cases by the M-11D radial of 125 hp. The -2M was a successful and reliable trainer, not at all merely a design of the GPW, and was built in considerable numbers until phased out by the Yak-18 in 1947. UT-2Ms were seen in service well into the 1950s with the VVS, and longer still in neighboring state Air Forces, and indeed were on the active registry of DOSAAF until the 1980s.

UT-2M "Red 12"

This aircraft presents a very typical post-War appearance for the UT-2M, in this case finished with an over-all application of what was probably AGT-16 Grey-Blue (as on the Yak-11 trainer, which see). The propeller was finished with a ubiquitous green varnish (for this purpose) whose nomenclature is not known. Regulation post-War outline type stars ('Victory' types; whichever name is preferred) were worn here, and in all eight positions (e.g. upper wing surfaces as well). The tactical number "12" looks to have been in red, but great care must be exercised with post-War trim and numeral colours, which varied very widely.

UT-2M "Black 102"

Another single-colour example, "102" looked to have been very light in hue and likely was finished in lacquer AEh-9 Grey, as it was probably completed at the factory. Some very fine trim was added to this machine using a locally sourced red paint (e.g. not the usual AII Red), which was evidently lighter in appearance than the star markings. This example has been variously identified as belonging to a VVS acrobatic flight, and also to the HQ Osoaviakhim flight at Tushino. It is not currently known if either attribution is correct.

UT-2M "White 22"

"White 22" was photographed at a VVS training school during 1943. The appearance was classic for war-time models, in this case showing AMT lacquers -4/-6/-7. White border national insignia were carried, except for the under-wing star which was clearly in view and was a pain red type marking. The locally applied disruptive scheme, white band and tactical number on the rudder were absolutely typical of such specimens, and this example must have resembled many, many such UTs during the GPW.

UT-2M "Yellow 3"

This example was seen in a flight of -2M trainers all wearing two-colour 'non-camouflage' schemes, suggesting a date later in the War or just after it. The surface finish is certainly matte, this suggesting lacquers AMT-4 Green over AMT-7 Blue. The image shows four examples, numbers "4", "3", "10" and "8", but as with all such post-War trim one simply cannot be certain as to the colour used without additional evidence, and yellow is shown here as an educated guess only. The numeral was completed in a very attractive font style, and a band of identical colour is seen on the aft fuselage.

UT-2MV, NII VVS, 1942

As with other training aircraft, the UT-2M was examined during the crisis months of 1941-42 with respect to producing an 'emergency' attack machine. This example was tested at the NII VVS during 1942 wearing full military camouflage and markings as suitable for that date. Images are known with the front cockpit intact and with this sealed over, presumably as a weight savings. Four FAB-50 bombs were carried, and later testing included a fixed 7.62 mm ShKAS gun as on the UT-1B. No production was undertaken of the UT-2MV, whose performance must have been quite pedestrian.