ICM 1/48 LaGG-3 series 1-4

KIT #: 48091
PRICE: $26.00 MSRP
DECALS: Four options
REVIEWER: Tom Cleaver


     While the Red Air Force had fielded the most advanced fighter in the world in 1934 when the I-16 joined its first operational unit, it was clear by 1939 that Soviet fighter aircraft had fallen behind the international standard.  While Stalin believed that Hitler would live up to the 1939 Non-Aggression Pact, it was clear that if he did not, the V-VS would be in need of fighters that could successfully oppose the Luftwaffe.

     Unfortunately, the Soviet aviation industry was not up to Western standards.  Aluminum was in short supply and so it was determined that any new fighters would have to be made of wood.  Additionally, the only fighter engine available was the M-105, a license-built version of the Hispano-Suiza 12Y series, which was not competitive with either the German DB-601 or the British Merlin, since it only provided 1,000 h.p.

     Three designs were created by different design bureaus in 1940, and approved for production.  Given that time was of the essence, none of them had been fully tested and modified in light of testing before being ordered into mass production.  These were the Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-1, the Yakovlev Yak-1, and the Lavochkin-Gorbunov-Goudkov LaGG-1.  Only the Yak-1 was good enough in its initial form to continue into mass production, while both the MiG and the LaGG fighters were found so deficient that they were forced into further development, eventually emerging as the MiG-3 and the LaGG-3.

     The LaGG-3 suffered from a too-heavy airframe, with its proposed armament of two 50-caliber Berezin machine guns and a 20mm ShVAK cannon firing through the propeller hub.  In an effort to drop the weight, various factories engaged in production of the fighter produced aircraft armed with 1 cannon and 2 7.62mm ShKAS machine guns, 1 Berezin replacing the 20mm cannon with two ShKAS weapons, and 1 ShVAK cannon and one Berezin 50-caliber weapon.  Eventually, the LaGG-3 would see 66 different sub-types of the 6,258 that were built in the never-ending struggle to drop enough weight to remain competitive.  The one thing that could be said about the LaGG was that its heavier structure made it more resistant to enemy fire, but the opinion of the pilots can be seen in their belief that LaGG stood for Lakirovanny Garantirovanny Grob ("guaranteed varnished coffin"). Throughout its production life, the wood-laminate construction continued to be of poor quality and the airplane did not stand up to field service as did the Yak series. Some aircraft supplied to the front line were up to 40 km/h (25 mph) slower than they should have been and some were not airworthy.

     While the LaGG-3 was never “good enough,” it was close to the Bf-109F in overall performance and was superior in maneuverability. Experiments during 1942 in mating a more powerful radial engine to the basic airframe resulted in the La-5 series, which were among the best Soviet fighters of the war.


     Scott Van Aken provided an in-depth first look.  Suffice it to say that further detail examination reveals that while the kit is supposed to be able to be built as any of the first 4 sub-types, out of the box it is a mish-mash of the Series 1 and Series 4 sub-types, with the exhaust plating on the fuselage of the Series 1 and the wing intakes of the Series 4.  That said, the kit provides the raw material to build a very nice model out of the box, and a modeler who is anal about the small details should be able to make a fix with “some modeling skill required.”  While there are detail parts provided in the kit for later versions, the wing is definitely an early series without the leading edge slats, and the fuselage is definitely early series.  Since the wing and fuselage are on one sprue and the detail parts on the other, it is clear that ICM plans to release further versions of the LaGG-3.


            The kit is simple to assemble.  The only real problem I found was trying to fit all the radiator gear into position and then get the wing to mate to the fuselage correctly.  I realized that the offending part - the rear radiator face - is not really visible when the model is completed, and so I solved the problem by removing it.  Everything fit easily once that was done.  The fuselage otherwise is simple, and the detail provided for the cockpit is sufficient.  Other modelers have reported problems using the full instrument panel decal sheet, but I used the decal with provided only the instrument faces and had no trouble applying it and getting it to sit down.  I used lead foil from a wine bottle to make the Sutton-type seat harness, which was the only additional detail needed.  The clear canopy parts were much better once they had been dipped in Future. 

            The only place where the kit was deficient was in the fact that the area around the wing fairing on the fuselage was short-shot, and the upper-wing/fuselage joint was in need of filling.  I attached the wing, using rubber bands fore and aft to assure proper attachment to the fuselage, and another rubber band to assure the proper dihedral.  Once that was all set up, I filled the gaps with cyanoacrylate glue, sanded smooth when dry, and then covered these joints and the fuselage center seam with Mr. Surfacer.


            I decided to do the fourth option for markings, a Series 4 in a ragged winter camo scheme.  I first applied the standard camouflage, using Xtracrylix RLM65 Hellblau for the lower color, and RLM83 Lichtgrun and Night Black for the upper colors, which were all applied freehand.  I applied a thin coat of white to the areas of winter camouflage, being sure it was thin enough to be able to see the underlying scheme.  I then gave the model a coat of Xtracrylix Gloss Varnish.  The decals are not great, but they went down without problem under an application of Micro-Sol.

            Once that was all set, I gave the model an overall coat of Xtracrylix Satin varnish.  When that was dry, I applied a thinned coat of Xtracrylix White with a 1/8' wide flat-tip brush, which left brush strokes and allowed a “ragged” look to the “thin” areas of camouflage, which was done by dry-brushing.  I finished off by applying exhaust stains with Tamiya “Smoke.”


            I attached the main gear, the prop, and the exhaust stacks, then unmasked the canopy and attached the sliding section in the open position.


            While the LaGG-3 may have been a dog, it was an important dog, and any collection of Soviet fighters from the Second World War would be sadly lacking if it didn’t contain at least one of these.  The ICM kit is light years better than the old LTD kit Squadron produced 14 years ago, and is additionally better than the South Front kit on matters of buildability and overall final look.  The kit is inexpensive, and a modeler of average ability should be able to create a nice looking model in a month of evenings away from the “honey-do’s” without a problem.

Thanks to HobbyLink Japan for the review kit.

Tom Cleaver

November 2008

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