Zvezda 1/48 Lavochkin La-5
2,600 Yen at HobbyLink
The Lavochkin La-5 was developed from the earlier LaGG-1 and LaGG-3
fighters, which had suffered from too-heavy airframes and lack of a
suitably-powerful engine. They were
among the least popular fighters used by the V-VS during the Great Patriotic War
and were known by a play on the aircraft designation which translated as
“varnished guaranteed coffin,” which said everything one wanted to know about
By late 1941, Stalin was commenting negatively on the LaGG-3 and the
factories previously committed to the production of the LaGG-3 were turned over
to Yakovlev for the production of the Yak-1 and Yak-7 fighters, which were
notably superior designs. Motivated
by fear of being imprisoned for sabotage by the NKVD for the failure of the
LaGG-3, two of the designers - Semyon Lavochkin and Vladimir Gorbunov - decided
to make a radical attempt at giving the fighter sufficient power, experimentally
fitting a LaGG-3 with the Shvetsov ASh-82 radial engine.
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.
Ultimately, Lavochkin accomplished his goal by grafting the nose section
of a Sukhoi Su-2 to the narrow fuselage of the LaGG-3.
When the prototype took flight in March, 1942, the results were
gratifying. The fighter finally had
a powerplant powerful enough to perform well in the air.
The LaG-5 - the designation change noting that one of the original
designers was no longer involved - was declared superior to the Yak-7, by the
initial test pilots. Intensive
flight tests began in April, and while the design was still inferior to German
fighters at altitudes over 15,000 feet, it was faster than both the Bf-109 and
the Fw-190 at altitudes below 15,000 feet and was more maneuverable than either
German fighter at low altitude; given that nearly all air combat on the Eastern
Front took place at altitudes under 15,000 ft, the new design
was very much in its element.
With the additional power of the new engine, armament was upgraded to two
20mm Berezin B-20 cannon, making it the most heavily-armed Soviet fighter. With
the test results so good, Stalin ordered maximum-rate production in July, 1942.
Known as the La-5 after the departure of Gorbunov, production also
included conversion of incomplete LaGG-3 airframes to the new design.
The La-5 entered combat against the Luftwaffe over
in the fall of 1942 and its combat performance more than lived up to test
Spanish Republican Pilots On The
It is a little-known bit of history that several Spanish Republican
pilots, veterans of combat in the Spanish Civil War, made significant
contributions in combat over the Eastern Front.
The second-ranked Spanish ace of the Great Patriotic War was Francisco
Meroño Pellicer, who scored 20 victories between the fall of 1942 and the end of
the war, atop 20 victories scored against the Spanish Nationalists, the Italians
and the Germans during the Spanish Civil War.
June 17, 1917,
Meroño finished his degree at the Topographic Institute in
just before the outbreak of war in 1936.
He fought as an infantryman in the Republican Army from the first day of
the Civil War, and joined the Communist Party.
In late 1936, he was one of 100 Spaniards selected to be sent to the
for flight training. Meroño
completed his training at the
in November 1937 and returned to
that December. In January 1938, he
was flying I-16s with the 1st
Escuadrilla de Moscas.
By July, 1938, Meroño was credited with 7 victories.
That month, he was promoted Jefe de Escuadrilla (squadron
commander) of the 6th Escuadrilla de Moscas, which he led
that summer and fall, and through the struggle in
through the remainder of the war.
October 3, 1938,
Meroño led the 6th Escuadrilla into combat with Fiat C.R.32s
flown by the Spanish Nationalist Patrulla Azul.
Both Gabriel García Morato and Julio Salvador Díaz-Benjumea -
respectively the first and second-ranked Spanish Nationalist aces of the Civil
War - were in the Patrulla Azul formation.
In the fight, Julio Salvador shot down two enemy aircraft and was then in
turn shot down by Francisco Meroño and taken prisoner by the Republican Army.
By the end of the civil war in March 1939, Meroño was credited with 20
victories. With other Spanish
Republicans, he made his way to
where he was arrested and interned in a prison camp.
With several others, Meroño managed to escape that summer before they
were returned to the tender mercies of Franco’s fascist regime, and they made
their way to the Soviet Union shortly after the outbreak of war in September
At first, Meroño and the others were not well-received by their former
allies, though they were allowed to settle in the
Meroño took work in an auto factory in
When the Germans attacked the
June 22, 1941,
Meroño and other Spanish Republican pilots contacted their old flying comrades
from the V-VS who had survived Stalin’s purges, to volunteer to fight.
Here were experienced combat
who knew how to fight the Luftwaffe.
Given the situation, the usual Russian xenophobia gave way and they were
enlisted in the V-VS.
Meroño entered combat against the Germans in his second war in October
1941, taking part in the defense of
and being credited with shooting down one He-111.
In the spring of 1942, he was trained on the new Yak-1.
By October 1942, he was involved in combat over
where he scored three additional victories by the time of the German surrender
in January 1943. Assigned to the
190th IAP in the spring of 1943, Meroño began flying the new La-5
fighter. He took part in the
that summer, where he shot down several more Luftwaffe fighters.
By the end of the war, Francisco Meroño was credited with 20 victories in
the Great Patriotic War, the second-ranking Spaniard of the conflict.
Interestingly, in October 1942, Meroño may have entered combat a second
time against Julio Salvador Díaz-Benjumea.
Following his release at the end of the Civil War, Julio Salvador
rejoined the 22nd Fighter Regiment at Tablada, and - as the
top-scoring surviving Spanish Nationalist fighter pilot of the war - was named
head of the
Following the Nazi invasion of the
Franco sent Spanish “volunteers” to fight with the Germans.
The new “Patrulla Azul” became 15.(Span)/JG 51, entering combat on
the Central Front in the spring of 1942.
In March 1942, Salvador relieved Julio Salas as squadron commander,
leading the unit until November
1942 when the Spanish expeditionary force was withdrawn from the Soviet Union
after suffering appalling losses during the fighting in Stalingrad.
Salvador engaged in combat in the Stalingrad region that fall, and on
October 3, 1942, was involved in combat with a squadron of Yaks supported by
LaGG-3s, of which he shot down one.
No one can say for certain who was in the V-VS formation, but the possibility
exists the two old enemies had tangled in the new war.
Following the end of the war, Meroño remained in the Soviet Union as an
officer in the V-VS until 1948, when he joined Aeroflot.
Returning to the V-VS in 1963, he served from 1964-69 as an advisor to
the Cuban Air Force. In 1970 he
retired due to medical conditions and remained in the USSR.
In 1985, the Spanish government made Meroño a Colonel in the Ejercito
del Aire (an event that must have given Julio Salvador indigestion, given
that at the time he was a senior general of the Spanish Air Force) in
recognition of his service to the Republic.
Colonel Francisco Meroño died in Moscow on July 17, 1995.
He is the author of “In The Sky of Spain,” a memoir of the Spanish Civil
War and “Spanish Aviators in the Great Patriotic War,” a history of the Spanish
Republican pilots who flew with the V-VS.
There have been very few kits ever done of the early La-5.
Most recently, Sergey Korshakov of Vector did one in resin that was very
well-received. One can get an
indication of the quality of this latest release from Zvezda by the fact Sergey
told me earlier this summer that the new Zvezda kit was better than his now out
of production resin kit.
The kit is highly detailed with a very complete interior.
As with many plastic kits that have a complete interior, the best way to
build the model if you want to display all that detail is to open it up.
It’s not Tami-gawa production quality, but it is far from a “limited run”
kit either. While one does need to
clean up flash here and there, the good news is that all the parts fit right and
assembly can be done with a minimum of hassle.
Decals are provided for one aircraft.
These aren’t great but “they’ll do” if you do not have access to
aftermarket decals. The only
aftermarket sheet I know of that ever did an La-5 was Aeromaster’s early 48-086,
“Fighting Lavochkins I,” which is long out of production.
There was a “Part II” to that series, which I believe may have done
another La-5, but I am not certain of that.
For a look at the sprues and more on the kit itself,
visit the preview.
At the outset of assembly, the modeler has to ask themselves what the
ultimate result will be. If all the
parts are going to be used, then one has to do it opened up.
If you decide to do it “buttoned up” then all those nice detail parts
should be put aside.
I did find in assembly that using the fuselage interior pieces in the
rear fuselage did a great job of insuring accurate final assembly.
I did cut off the engine mounts and only used the very front of the
engine in the assembly, since you cannot see much - if any - of it once you have
the spinner and fan in position.
I painted the interior a greenish shade that was a mixture of Xtracrylix
RLM63 Grey-Green and RLM62 Green suggested to my by Bill Bosworth as being close
to the color he had found when he examined the Il-2 that Accurate Miniatures
researched for their kit.
Eduard makes a very nice photo-etch set for the La-5FN kit that is also
useful for the La-5 kit, and I made use of the photo-etch instrument panels and
the seat belts. I found photos of a
whole group of La-5s with their elevators cocked up from having the lap belt
wrapped around the control stick, and decided to do the same with this model.
All the control surfaces - ailerons, slats, elevators and rudder - are
separate. These fit very nicely but
if you are going to pose them in other than the neutral position you will have
to sand them a bit to modify the shape correctly at the hinge lines.
The La-5 originally had automatic slats, which would have been “down”
while sitting on the ground.
However, by 1943 it had been discovered that the airplane had better
maneuverability with the slats wired shut (the later La-5F and La-5FN came from
the factory with the slats permanently closed), so I attached those in the
I used Gunze-Sangyo FS34102 Green for the upper camouflage color, with
Tamiya “NATO Black.” The decal
sheet I was using said to paint the entire upper surfaces green, but research at
Erik Pilawski’s site “Modeling the V-VS” leads me to believe that La-5s were
done in the 2-color scheme (though one can never say “never” with Soviet
aircraft of the war). The lower color is a blue I mixed myself to match the
colors found at Erik’s site “Modeling the V-VS.”
This was all done freehand using the camouflage pattern also found at
Being the owner of Aeromaster 48-086, I decided to use the decals for the
La-5 flown by Francisco Meroño. Not
knowing a thing about him, I Googled his name and came up with the very
interesting unknown history told above (thank goodness for the Google
translation capability, since it was all in Spanish).
The decals went down as nicely as Aeromaster decals are known to.
The model received a coat of Xtracrylix “Satin” varnish, and then the
canopy was unmasked and the landing gear and prop attached.
Tamiya “Smoke” was used for the exhaust staining.
I really like the Lavochkin La-5 series; they are in fact my favorite
Soviet fighters of the Great Patriotic War.
This kit is easy to assemble and presents no problems the average modeler
cannot deal with. The result is a
really nice-looking addition to any collection of famous aircraft of the Second
Thanks to HobbyLink Japan for the review kit.
Get yours at www.hlj.com
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