Kagero's Lavochkin La-5 Vol.1


Dariusz Paduch




$33.95 from Casemate Publishing


Scott Van Aken

Notes: 3075. ISBN 978-83-66673-46-5, 96 pages

This latest volume in Kagero's Monograph series is on the Lavochkin La-5. This is the first of what I assume will be two volumes. The author goes into considerable detail on the early stages of the development of this aircraft and this includes the rather fluid political circumstances that seem to accompany any Soviet military product of the time. When you have a nation run by a paranoid dictator such as Stalin, it becomes fairly obvious that there is more to the development of an aircraft, for instance, than simply designing it.

One has to appease a mass of political toadies who are all trying to curry favor with 'Uncle Joe' as so not to be sent to a gulag or shot. When you have a system that demands things be mistake free, especially when much of the talent needed has been executed or imprisoned, it puts a lot of strain on the developers. Such was very much the case when it came to the development of the La-5.

What the Soviets needed was a plane that could outperform the German Bf-109. Fighter design was as much dependent on a good engine as it was a good airframe. The Soviets' liquid cooled and air cooled engines were all based on the designs of others at first. Engine manufacturers basically did what they could to improve on what was provided. True, the engines put into later fighters like the La-5 and Yak-1/7 were not the same as the original, but the effort to obtain more power from them, even if all the castings were improved or enlarged, required a lot of development time, something the Soviets did not have.

Two of the main fighters of early 1942 were the Yak-1 and the LaGG-3. Each were competent, but not on the same level as the Bf-109. What was needed was a more powerful engine. The hoped for improved liquid cooled engine was having design difficulties and was eventually cancelled. This left two radials, the M-71 and M-82. These were also fraught with design problems, but ones that could be and were overcome. The M-71 was a smaller diameter engine that was championed by Polikarpov in his I-185. The M-82 was the engine adapted to the LaGG-3 airframe that eventually became the La-5. While the I-185 eventually turned out to be the better aircraft over the La-5, the Lavochkin aircraft was already in production and the Soviets could not justify the newer aircraft.

Like all newly developed aircraft, the La-5 had its issues. For the most part these were ironed out, but not all and the need for the planes superseded the absolute perfection of the airframe. Improvements were made on the production line and an improved M-82F that provided more power was fitted to the La-5, producing the La-5F. It is with the development of this aircraft that this volume ends.

The author has done a fine job researching this book. The political machinations alone make for fascinating reading. Kagero books have always provided a nice selection of full color profiles and this one is no exception. In addition there are a ton of period photos as well as 14 pages of plans in both 1/72 and 1/48 within the book. A book that is well worth picking up. 

November 2021

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