The Yak-141, the development prototype of the Yak-41, was an attempt by the Soviet Union to produce a supersonic VTOL aircraft. The program was initiated in 1975 as the Yak-141, a development of the Yakovlev Yak-38. The first conventional flight of the Yak-41 was on 9 March 1987, and the first hovering flight on 29 December 1989. The Yak-41M designation was adopted around 1991 to reflect a shift to a multi-role configuration.
The Yak-141 gained VTOL ability through a combination of a lift and lift/cruise engines, as did earlier Yak VTOL designs. The two lift jets were mounted behind the cockpit. These contributed only to take-off and once in horizontal flight were switched off. The main engine was installed in the rear fuselage area, with a swivelling nozzle and an afterburner. For take off and hovering the exhaust from the jet was vectored downwards through 90° working in conjunction with the forward lift jets. To obtain sufficient power for vertical take off, the afterburner had to be used, which imposed serious limitations on the types of runway surfaces that could be used.
The Yak-141M was supposed to fly at speeds of Mach 1.7, and was claimed to have had a maneuverability comparable to the Mikoyan MiG-29. It was designed for the Soviet Air Force (VVS), not for the Soviet Navy (VMF), as was the original Yak-41.
In August 1991 the program was stopped because of the shrinking military budget of the Soviet Union. The Yakovlev design bureau has attempted to generate interest in reviving the program, including the proposal for an advanced version known as the Yak-43, but has yet to find interest.