Hobby Boss 1/48 Lavochkin La-11 Fang
KIT #: 81760
PRICE: $42.00 delivered
DECALS: Four  options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken
NOTES: 2021 tooling


One of the recommendations from the government testing of Lavochkin La-130 (Lavochkin La-9 prototype) was to further develop it into a long-range escort fighter. The resultant La-134 prototype (also sometimes referred to as La-9M) featured increased fuel and oil capacity. Armament was reduced to three cannons. The prototype flew in May 1947. The second prototype, La-134D had fuel capacity increased by an additional 275 l (73 US gal) with wing and external fuel tanks. The aircraft was fitted with larger tires to accommodate the increased weight and amenities for long flights such as increased padding in the seat, armrests, and a urinal. In addition, a full radio navigation suite was installed. Not surprisingly, combat performance with a full fuel load suffered. However, as the fuel load approached that of La-9, so did the performance. The aircraft was found to be poorly suited for combat above 7,000 m (23,000 ft). The new fighter, designated La-11 (OKB designation La-140) entered production in 1947. By the end of production in 1951, a total of 1,182 aircraft were built.

The La-11 was used extensively by the North Korean Air Force during the Korean War. Once they had been cleared from Korean skies, they still operated nocturnal raids from bases in China and were quite difficult to shoot down.

I have always liked the last of the Lavochkin piston engine fighters and a couple of years back built the Ark Model 1/48 kit. That one was a bit of a challenge as is often the case with short run kits, but the result was pleasing to the eye and I was satisfied with the outcome.

Hobby Boss kits have generally been a pleasure to build as they are fairly well engineered so I ordered this one from Hong Kong. The kit is pretty standard stuff with a nicely done cockpit that has inserts for the lumpy bits on the side consoles. A decal is provided for the instrument panel and there is harness detail molded into the seat.

The kit provides just an engine face which will be hidden once the cooling fan is attached, but it does provide a base for this item. Main gear well is separate and has several pieces which are attached to the lower wing. This assembly along with the clear bits are then attached to the closed fuselage halves, followed by the upper wing.

Next the landing gear are attached to the gear wells, though most of us will leave this off until after painting. This is followed by the rudder, horizontal tailplanes and the inner gear doors. Then the outer doors are glued in place. There are options to have the flaps raised or lowered so separate pieces are provided for this. Lastly the tail gear doors, wheels and cowling pieces are attached followed by the prop, pitot and other smaller bits.

Instructions are well done and provide Gunze paint references. Four schemes are provided with three of them in overall light grey and one in a dark maroon/cocoa brown. There are two Soviet aircraft, one Chinese, and one North Korean. Decals are crisply printed and there are aftermarket if you don't like what is in the kit.

Despite being told that this was not a good kit, I like the aircraft so decided to build it anyway. One thing I do know about HobbyBoss/Trumpeter kits is that they are fairly well engineered so are not a pain to build. This proved to be the case for the most part.

Throwing caution to the wind, I started by building up the cockpit. This was painted in a fairly light grey with decals taking care of the instrument panel. As usual, the fit was good and while it would have been nice to have p.e. seat belts, there are some molded in on the seat surface which will do in a pinch. The kit provides a nice engine, but it will be invisible on the completed kit due to the nearly full face fan that was used to keep it cool. It does need to be installed as that is what you use to attach the prop.

When closing the fuselage halves, you do need to install the tail gear so it would be wise to build a small protective dam out of thin cardboard to keep from breaking it during handling. With the fuselage together, the wings were assembled. Instructions would have you attach the lower wing piece first after installing the gear wells and then attach the upper sections. This is what I did and fit is generally quite good. Then the tailplanes were installed and again, it has a good fit. The kit supplies a second set of flaps for the 'flaps up' option. I attached these to the wing with Silly Putty as a mask after painting the flap insides. These flaps are actually too long for the opening so if you do this option, you'll need to trim them.

When it came to installing the clear bits, one has to be careful. The best way to do this is to install the aft section first then work your way forward. If you simply install the windscreen where you think it goes, you won't be able to get all the pieces to fit. I also found that the fuselage is a tad wide for the back piece. Thanks to the thickness of the clear bits, you cannot pose the canopy open. With those in place, I installed the fan piece in the front, followed by the back section of the prop spinner. Landing light cover was installed (no light is included), clear bits were masked, and it was off to the paint shop.
When I built the MikroMir kit, I used Colourcoats AMT-11 and it turned out to be the right shade. Unfortunately, that tinlet had dried out so I used Hataka's equivalent. This turned out to be too dark, so I mixed up some light aircraft grey with a little bit of Hataka's AMT-11 and that did the trick. This went on beautifully and is one reason that I like their paint. The exhaust area was painted using Tamiya X-18 black. With the airframe painted, I returned to the bench. Gear wells, inner gear doors and landing gear were painted a dark grey. 

Next the landing gear were assembled. This is a bit fiddly and a tad wobbly as well until the cement properly sets. I found that there are not any positive attachment points for the landing gear doors on the main gear so basically attached them where I thought it looked OK. The inner gear doors do have positive locators. I discovered that the retraction mechanism for these doors was quite a task to get everything properly aligned, but eventually, it was glued solidly in place. Wheels were next followed by the pitot tube and the radio mast. The prop and the forward portion of the spinner were then attached. This was followed by the flaps in the lowered position.

The next step was to clear coat the airframe in preparation for the decals. For this one, I decided to use another option from a very large Begemot sheet that I bought for the MicroMir kit. In this case, I chose the Indonesian Air Force option. A dozen of these aircraft were donated to Indonesia from China. Apparently they were not in the best of shape so only lasted a short time in service. The Begemot decals worked just great. They are fairly thin so even somewhat weak setting solutions like Microsol were sufficient. For the metal bands around the cowling, I used Fantasy Printshop's silver stripes sheet.

With the decals in place, the airframe was treated to a clear semi-matte using Tamiya matte clear thinned with a bit of Future. Next the masking was removed and the clear wing tip lenses were attached using Cementine clear glue. A bit of exhaust staining was added and that was it.

I have to say that overall, I'm pretty happy with this one. The build time was a fraction of what it took with the Ark Model kit. Yes, it does have a few items that should have been in with the kit including a clear armor section behind the pilot and a landing light. I'd also have liked the outer main gear doors to have some sort of positive locator instead of just a butt join. However, the result looks pretty nice and while I don't have another to build at the moment, I'd not cross out the possibility that another is in my future.



19 April 2024

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