Zvezda 1/48 Lavochkin La-5

KIT #: 4803
PRICE: $19.95 from http://www.scale-model-kits.com
DECALS: Three Options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken
NOTES: A very nicely detailed kit.

HISTORY

The La-5's heritage began even before the outbreak of war, with the LaGG-1, a promising yet underpowered aircraft turning a full circle, for example, took 20 seconds. The LaGG-3 was a modification of that design that attempted to correct this by both lightening the airframe and fitting a more powerful engine. Nevertheless, this was not enough, and the lack of power remained a significant problem.

In early 1942, two of the LaGG-1 and -3's designers, Semyon Lavochkin and Vladimir Gorbunov, attempted to correct this deficiency by experimentally fitting a LaGG-3 with the more powerful Shvetsov ASh-82 radial engine. Since the LaGG-3 was powered by an inline engine, they accomplished this by grafting on the nose section of a Sukhoi Su-2 (which used this engine). By now, the shortcomings of the LaGG-3 had caused Lavochkin to fall out of Stalin's favour, and factories previously assigned to LaGG-3 construction had been turned over to building the rival Yakovlev Yak-1 and Yak-7. The design work required to adapt the LaGG-3 to the new engine and still maintain the aircraft's balance was undertaken by Lavochkin in a small hut beside an airfield over the winter of 1941-1942, all completely unofficially.

When the prototype took flight in March, the result was extremely pleasing - the fighter finally had a powerplant that allowed it to perform as well in the air as it had been supposed to on paper. After flying, the LaG-5 (the change in name reflecting that one of the original LaGG designers was no longer with the program, Air Force test pilots declared it superior to the Yak-7, and intensive flight tests began in April. After only a few weeks, the design was modified further, cutting down the rear fuselage to give the pilot better visibility.

By July, Stalin ordered maximum-rate production of the aircraft, now simply known as the La-5 and the conversion of any incomplete LaGG-3 airframes to the new configuration. While still inferior to the best German fighters at high altitudes, the La-5 proved to be every bit their match closer to the ground. With most of the air combat over the Eastern Front taking place at altitudes of under 5,000 m (16,404 ft), the La-5 was very much in its element. Its rate of roll was excellent.

THE KIT

As most of you know by now, Zvezda has become one of the better kit makers to come out of Russia in many years, offering a wide variety of model subjects. Their La-5 is certainly one of them and provides details that you won't find in the kits of other companies.

Molded in light grey plastic, the kit parts are very nicely detailed and free from flash and pesky ejector pin marks. I did find sink areas on the fuselage side and on the two wing root pieces. These were all due to the plastic being thicker than normal on the other side of these areas.

The designers of this kit have gone out of their way to incorporate as much detail as possible into this kit. That shows right away looking at the rather large parts count for a single engine prop fighter at 151 pieces. This goes into the full engine, exhaust, motor mount, machine gun, and accessory section detail that is provided. On the inside, even the vertical framework of the cockpit and aft of it is provided, something I've not seen in many 1/48 fighter kits. The cockpit is very nicely done with details molded on the inside of the fuselage in addition to pieces that are attached to it.

Separate ailerons and slats are provided along with separate rudder and elevators, so no need to do any cutting. There are also separate engine and upper cowling panels for those who wish to build the kit to display all the detail that goes into it. While it would be a shame not to include all that nice detail, the kit can be build with all that covered up. There is also a wheels up option though no stand is provided. For this, there is a full pilot figure that is quite well done. A multi-piece cockpit windscreen/canopy is provided as well. There are even formation lights that are in with the clear bits, all of those being provided their own zip bag for protection.

Instructions are very nicely drawn with clear illustrations. Color references are generic and Model Master, but if you are doing a Soviet aircraft, I'll have to recommend ColourCoats line of VVS shades. Markings are provided for three aircraft, all in Dark Green/Black over Light Blue. The first option is the box art plane of the 3rd IAK in May 1943. Second is white 23 of Lt Ptoka of 240 IAP in August 1942. The final option is white 04 of VM Dmitriev with 4 IAP in the summer of 1943. This one has a shark-mouth along with a white spinner and rudder. All aircraft have unpainted metal exhaust areas and panel attachment straps. The decal sheet is very nicely printed and should work just fine.

CONCLUSIONS

Though later La-5s have been kitted in 1/48, I think this is the first time we've seen one done of the initial production batch. The level of detail is a real surprise and appreciated by many who like a lot of detail in their models.

REFERENCES

http://en.wikipedia.org

June 2009

My thanks to http://www.scale-model-kits.com  for the preview kit. Get yours today from the link at a considerable savings.

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