During a Soviet Air Force flight test, the Yak-7 emerged among the best in stability and controllability when compared with German, Soviet, British, and American fighters. According to Major Ivan S. Morozov, the Yak-7 A out performed the German Bf 109F in battle.
The Yak-7B achieved notice on the Stalingrad Front on 26 July, 1942, when the 434th Fighter Regiment claimed 34 kills. The 288th Fighter Division, flying Yak-7Bs, destroyed two Ju-88 bombers and four Bf 109 fighters while losing only three of their own.
Bubble canopy equipped Yak-7Bs engaged German aircraft on the Kalinin Front in November and December 1942. Many units flew the ‘bubble canopy’ aircraft with the ‘razor back’ machines finding that such a mix provided noticeably enhanced visibility in combat.
During the battle for the Kursk Salient the 1st Guards Fighter Regiment, flying Yak-7Bs, operated in the Orel area as part of the 7th Fighter Division. In this battle, the 2nd and the 16th Air Armies together operated 659 Yak-1s and Yak-7s. The Luftwaffe, operating Fw 190A-5s and Bf 109G-6s, held air superiority over the northern flank of the Kursk Salient for only a few days. After that the air belonged to the Soviets.
Notables among Yak fighter aces include Vasilii Petrovich Babkov who scored 23 individual and 11 shared victories, two thirds of them in Yaks. Sergei Fyodorovich Dogushin downed 17 enemy aircraft individually and shared 11. Ten of these were achieved in Yakovlev fighters.
The following example indicates the intensity of the fighting on the Soviet front. Pavel Ignat’evich Murav’yov took part in the March 1943 offensive near Demyansk and Velikie Luki against the Lorat River crossing. His formation of six Yak-7s was attacked by eight Focke Wulf 190s. In the ensuing combat, Murav’yov’s formation shot down six enemy aircraft for no loss. At mid-day Murav’yov, with eight Yak-7s, encountered eighteen Ju-88s escorted by ten Fw 190s and four Bf 109s. Six German aircraft went down, again without Soviet loss. That evening Murav’yov’s formation of eight Yaks fought six Fw 190s, shooting down three for no loss. This action earned the unit the coveted Guards status.
During the battle for Kiev, capital of Ukraine, Arsenii Valil’evich Vorozheikin and his wingman painted their aircraft red from the nose back to the cockpit in honor of the November revolution. On 4 November, 1943, they engaged a formation of Fw 190s. Vorozheikin achieved his thirteenth kill of the war. He scored all of these victories in four months – ten during the battle for Kiev alone.
Most inspiring of all is the 586th Fighter Regiment, composed entirely of women, including the ground crew. First seeing action during the battle for Stalingrad in 1942, this unit flew 4,419 sorties in Yakovlev aircraft and claimed 38 victories over German aircraft of all types. Olga Yamshchikova flew 93 sorties and achieved three kills.
Women also flew combat missions in Yak fighter units made up primarily of men. Ekaterina Budanova achieved eleven victories. Lydia Litvak, whose commander had to be persuaded to accept her into his unit, scored twelve.
The Yak-7 remained in combat until 1944.
Sources: Yakovlev Fighters of World War Two, Yefim Gordon, Sergey Komissarov, and Dmitriy Komissarov, Hikoki Publications, Manchester, England, 2015
Yakovlev Aces of World War 2, Osprey Aircraft of the Aces 64, George Mellinger, Osprey Publishing, Oxford, UK, 2005
The Soviet Air Force in World War II, Translated by Leland Fetzer, Edited by Ray Wagner, Doubleday & Company, Inc., Garden City, New York, 1973