One of the very best Soviet fighters of the war, the La-7 was the last and best of a series of wartime designs from Lavochkin.
After the jump, a look at one of the War’s great fighters.
The Lavochkin design bureau produced its first design in 1938. The LaGG-1 was one of the new, modern aircraft just entering service with the VVS (Soviet Air Force) when the war started. But it may have been the least satisfactory of that generation of fighters. It was designed to use few strategic materials, which meant its airframe was almost entirely wood. Wood is generally heavier for its strength than aluminum and requires careful surface preparation to reduce drag (lots of sanding!). Quality control was often poor on these early aircraft too. The LaGG-1 quickly gave way to an improved LaGG-3, but improvements were pretty marginal and quality remained severely deficient. This type was extremely unpopular with pilots. Supposedly the LaGG acronym stood for “Varnished Guaranteed Coffin” or something like that; dark comedy if you speak Russian.
In 1942 a radial engine was grafted to the LaGG-3 airframe. This became the La-5 which was a far superior aircraft, at least at the low altitudes where most Eastern Front combat occurred. The switch over to the new model coincided with improved quality at the responsible factories and possibly saved chief engineer Lavochkin from a gulag, or worse. By late 1943 the availability of strategic materials was improving, so a further refinement of the aircraft using much more aircraft grade aluminum resulted in the La-7.
This would be the definitive wartime aircraft of the family. It was the fastest Soviet fighter, although not quite as nimble as the Yak-3, so most VVS pilots felt it was between those two types for their best fighter of the war.
This example is from the Gavia kit with Aeromaster decals. It was flown by a Lt. Dolgushin with the 4th Air Army during their advance into Germany, 1945.
After the war you never hear about this bureau again.
They had a few post war designs, but they weren’t one of the very big ones.
The La-7 was a superb aircraft. The German high command certainly underestimated Russia’s ability to produce a thoroughbred that could compete with the Focke-Wulf 190. Quite a costly mistake, especially with Luftwaffe pilot training not being up to the standards that they were in the early part of the war in 1945. The Finns certainly respected this machine, Ilmari Juutilainen was given quite a fright when flying his Bf 109G-6 during his first engagement with the La-7! Great article Dave.
It’s funny how the Germans were so sure of Russian inferiority; except for the La-7, Yak-3, T-34, IS-2…
Russian hardware often lacked the sophistication of German engineering, but it was rugged and practical in ways German hardware typically was not.