The Yak-3 in Aces High II
The Yak-3 possesses some of the best engine characteristics in the game, especially at altitudes below 15k. Starting out at 350 mph at sea level, the aircraft speed rises to 410 mph at 12000 feet, maxing out at 430 mph 25k. Climb rate is exceptional, starting at 4000ft/sec at sea level before maxing out at 4300 ft/sec at 4k and gradually falling off after that. This is competitive with the best climbers in the game, although the Yak-3's rivals need WEP to do what it does unassisted. Lack of WEP does not really hurt the Yak-3 as it maintains stellar performance numbers at all times, giving it the potential to outlast opponents that run out of boost before the end of a fight. That said, fuel load is something of an issue with only 24 minutes at Military Power with no options for drop tanks, but in AH that's enough to transit to the nearest enemy base, furball and get home, although you are more likely to run out of ammo before you run out of fuel. The Yak-3's one major weakness with regards to the engine is acceleration. It takes a fair bit of time to get up to maximum speed in level flight, and if you get slow you need to have enough altitude to dive away and gain speed.
Aces High II Performance Charts
The Yak-3 possesses the same notoriously short clip as the Yak 9-U. The guns are effective out to about 300 yards, although hits at 400 are possible. The rates of fire are such that you will run out of machine gun bullets just before you run out of cannon shells. The nose-mounted guns make convergence a non-issue, but the lack of volume of fire and short clip limits the amount of shots you can take. The guns are effective against most fighters and can take down a bomber or two before you run out, but you need to make your shots count. You don't have the volume of fire or ammo load to take deflection shots, so make sure you get in close and land as many hits as you can. Bombing and strafing missions are beyond the Yak's mission profile. There are no options for bombs and the low ammo clip prevents sustained strafing operations.
The Yak-3 possesses good turning ability at speeds around 200-300 mph. Handling is good above 300, but turn radius increases considerably. Low-speed handling is decent, but nothing on the order of dedicated turners. Responsiveness and roll rate are exceptional at moderate to high speeds, with compression and creaking becoming an issue at around 450. Flaps are helpful in getting over the top of a loop. The Yak has a "sweet spot" in the 325-425 band, although it turns best at speeds between 200 and 300 mph. Like many Soviet aircraft, the propeller turns in the opposite direction of most western models, making right-hand turns slightly more controllable at all speeds. Overall the Yak-3 is well-mannered and easy to fly at most speeds, but in the event of a stall, remember your propeller turns in the opposite direction and adjust your recovery procedures accordingly.
Fighting in the Yak-3
The Yak-3 is one of those rare birds that is competitive in just about every category that matters. It has good speed, climbs very well, and possesses good maneuverability. It also possesses a light pilot workload in that it is stable, does not really benefit from flaps, and has no WEP to keep track of. The only real caution for a pilot is that the sharp turning ability along with good speed makes blackouts more prevalent.
In terms of pure fighter combat, the only major weakness is the lack of ammo, but that should not prevent you from landing two or three kills before exiting the fight. The gun load is something of a problem in strict boom and zooming, because you will need to set up and hold a good firing position to get a kill rather than relying on crossing shots to get the job done. Slashing tactics are probably ideal; you can zip through the furball, saddle up on a target, take it out and still have enough power to climb out and repeat the process. Catching zoomers pulling out of their dives is also a viable strategy, especially against dive-bombing Jugs and 38's. The Yak-3 can get to 10k rather quickly, and in some circumstances, it will usually have enough energy to cause a problem for Mustangs and K4's looking to pick once it gets to their altitude. Fighting in the vertical is a joy, just be careful of the handful of planes that outdo you in that category. Bomber kills are possible if you aim well, but even with accurate shooting, killing more than one or two buffs is very difficult. The best strategy is to dart in quickly, fire a quick burst, and dive away before taking too many hits.
Beware of Spitfires and C.205's looking to turn, especially the Spit 16, which is arguably the only non-perked ride capable of outperforming you. Defensively you will need to pick the right strategy for the right opponent. Given anything like equal energy, you should be able to out-climb anything except a Ki-84, Spit XIV, or a 109K4, and even then it will be a close-run thing. You have enough speed to sprint away from most planes as well, at least long enough to get help, and in a sustained chase you can take some comfort in knowing you will start to outpace your enemy if you can stay alive long enough for them to run out of WEP. You also have the benefit of good roll rate and high-speed turning ability, so flat and rolling scissors are also in your bag of tricks. The Yak-3 is a small target, so sudden hard turns will make you very difficult to hit. Finally, while not as tough as some, the Yak-3 isn't exactly fragile either. Although pilot wounds are more frequent, you can usually take enough hits to survive one bad mistake before you fall.
Fighting against the Yak-3
The Yak-3 can be a tough opponent for the unprepared pilot. The key to victory is knowing which characteristics, however marginal, your ride will have over it. If you start with an altitude advantage, it's best to try to keep the Yak down as much as you can with boom and zoom tactics. While the Yak is a good turner, especially at high speeds, a dedicated turn bird can drag it low and slow it down enough to get a shot. When attacking, try to force the Yak-3 to turn left to deny its right-hand turn advantage. Wearing the Yak down with good energy tactics is also an effective strategy. Low and slow is where the Yak-3 is weakest, but the only problem is denying it the use of its climbing ability to prevent it from regaining energy. The Yak-3 is tough, but not tough enough to survive a good crossing shot, especially if you have cannons.
Defensively the most important thing is not to assume that pure speed or climbing ability will save you, especially if the Yak-3 is anywhere near gun range. Employ evasive tactics to deny him the sustained burst he needs to finish you off, and keep jinking until you are out past 600. Better yet, try to get him to waste shots; if he turns away from a chase it's probably because he's out of ammo. Forcing overshoots are possible, and an inexperienced Yak-3 pilot might make the mistake of blacking out in a high-speed nose-low turn.
Overall, your best strategy is to wear the Yak-3 down. Keep him below you, deny him any chance at a sustained shot from dead six, and take any decent deflection shot that comes your way.