Serving on the eastern front during WWII, the La-5 is the production model of the I-301 and later LaGG-1 prototypes first initiated on 29 July 1939. The La-5’s designer was Semyon Lavochkin who would become one of the most famous Soviet aircraft designers during the war.
The request for this design was to build a fast, all-wooden fighter that could be mass produced and still compete against the German Luftwaffe fighters, such as the FW190. The design resulted in a light, capable aircraft in the first production model LaGG-3, but would be hindered in performance by a vast combination of poor materials, shoddy workmanship, heavy additions such as armor and radios, and technical problems like leakages and engines overheating. On top of the technical issues, the fighter command suffered from a lack of training with the new fighters and outdated tactics against the Germans. The resulting performance earned the LaGG the nickname “Lakirovannyi, Garantirovannyi Grob” which translates to “Guaranteed, Lacquered Coffin.”
The biggest performance issue for the LaGG-3 was the underpowered Klimov M-105P engine. To resolve this and add the necessary horsepower a radial engine, the Shvetsov M-82A was adapted into the existing airframe. This new model became the LaG-5 in March 1942. On 8 September 1942 the next generation, the La-5 was introduced with only minor modifications to the control surface and tail to account for increasing balance and control with the heavier weight of the engine and various additions. The next upgrade would be in the engine, adding a supercharger to boost the performance ceiling and the La-5F was gaining ground against the German opponents capabilities. The last version of the 5 series was the La-5FN with again upgraded the engine by the addition of a fuel injection system and better engine cooling.
The final version of the La-5(FN) had a powerplant that produced 1,850hp. The dimensions of the plane are a span of 32ft 1.78in, length of 28ft 2.75in, height of 8ft 4in and a wing area of 18.37sq ft. It weighed 6,173lb empty and was 7,407lb loaded. The speed was a decent 403mph at 20,670ft with a somewhat limited range of 360mi. The service ceiling was 31,170ft. With the limited weight design the armament consisted only of 2x20mm ShVAK cannons.
Notable to this aircraft is that it was the plane flown by the top scoring Allied fighter ace of World War II, Ivan Kozhedub. He was a three time Hero of the Soviet Union and is credited with 62 victories although he maintained that he had downed over 100 German aircraft as many were deep behind enemy lines and could not be confirmed. He never counted group kills.
Khazanov, Dmitriy, and Aleksander Medved. LA-5/7 vs Fw 190 Eastern Front 1942-45. Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2011.
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