SkyMax Models SM2002 Soviet Lavochkin La-5FN Fighter - Captain Vitalii Ivanovich Popkov, 5 GIAP, 295th Air Division, Autumn 1944 (1:72 Scale)
"I requested a transfer to the front more than once. But the front required well-trained fliers. While training them for future battles, I was also training myself. At the same time, it felt good to hear of their exploits at the front. In late 1942, I was sent to learn to fly a new plane, the Lavochkin LaG-5. After March 1943, I was finally in active service."
- Ivan Kozhedub, recalling his first exploits as a combat pilot on the Eastern Front
The Lavochkin La-5 was a Soviet fighter aircraft of World War II. It was a development and refinement of the LaGG-3 and was one of the Soviet Air Force's most capable types of warplane.
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 programme), 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 (16,400 ft), the La-5 was very much in its element. Its rate of roll was excellent.
Further refinement of the aircraft involved a fuel-injected engine, further lightening of the aircraft, and fixed slats to improve all-round performance. This was designated the La-5FN and would become the definitive version of the aircraft. A full circle turn took 18-19 seconds - a beautiful dogfighter. Altogether, 9,920 La-5s of all variants were built, including a number of dedicated trainer versions, designated La-5UTI. Further refinements of the aircraft would lead to the Lavochkin La-7 with a reputation for the aileron turn. Some had three new B-20 cannon in the cowl with a salvo of 3.4 kg per second weight of fire.
Pictured here is a 1:72 scale replica of a Soviet Lavochkin La-5FN fighter that was piloted by Captain Vitalii Ivanovich Popkov, who was attached to the 5 GIAP, 295th Air Division during the autumn of 1944.
Wingspan: 5 inches
Length: 5 inches
Release Date: April 2009
Historical Account: "Aced Out" - By August 1943, Vitalii Popkov had flown 168 missions and shot down 17 aircraft in 45 aerial combats. One of his July victories was scored in a particularly difficult duel with a Bf 109 from JG 53. Popkov tussled with his opponent long enough at close range to notice that his aircraft had a white spiral on an orange spinner, orange wingtips and two insignia -- an ace of spades (the geschwader emblem) and a small boat blown by the wind (probably the gruppe or staffel marking). He noted in his post-mission report that these markings probably indicated that his foe was a major German ace, hence the pilot's exceptional flying skill.
On August 3rd, Popkov again tussled with Bf 109s, shooting one down just prior to his own fighter being mortally damaged by his victim's wingman. With his La 5 on fire, the ace baled out, but not before he had suffered burns. After returning from a brief convalescence, Popkov was promoted to captain and made commander of the first squadron. On August 28th, he scored two more victories, but narrowly missed the honor of claiming 5 GIAP's 500th kill. He was awarded the HSU on September 8th, 1943. (courtesy Lagg and Lavochkin Aces of World War 2)