The design of the Yak-3 started in 1941, with the I-30 prototype. The I-30 was an all-metal fighter, but it suffered from a bad power to weight ratio. This eventually led to the abandonment of the project. A while later, in 1943, the Yakovlev design bureau made improvements to the already proven Yak-1. This new variant was a lighter version, with smaller wing area and further aerodynamic improvements, it was called the Yak-1M. A notable feature was the relocation of the oil cooler from under the nose to the wing root. The second prototype of the Yak-1M was so good that the test pilots recommended to put it into production and replace the Yak-1 and Yak-7.
The Yak-3 began to make it's way to front line battlegroups in 1944.