Lavochkin LaGG-3

When Nazi Germany launched their War against the Soviet Union in June, 1941, the Soviet Air Force had just started an aggressive modernization program.

Let’s take a look at one of those new types just getting into service.

Design work on the LaGG-1 was started in 1938. It was powered by the new Klimov M-105 engine. Design bureau Yakovlev started work at the same time, with the same engine that led to the Yak-1. Lavochkin was particularly concerned with reducing the use of “strategic materials”, which led to the new fighter being built largely of Delta Wood, a resin impregnated plywood/particle board product that was fire resistant. The material had about the same strength as aluminum, and could be sanded quite smooth, although it carried a weight penalty.
It may be worth mentioning, Soviet aircraft of this period usually employed a lot more wood than other nation’s aircraft, yet the LaGG-1 and its decedents stand out for it.

The LaGG-1 prototype, and 100 production aircraft were sort of a large scale service test program. Production showed the difficulties of keeping quality up with this sort of construction; sanding planes smooth was not only labor intensive but the Delta Wood was highly irritating for workers and protection was needed.
The type was also over-weight/under-powered, and generally didn’t handle well.

Improvements were made as the refined LaGG-3 entered production. Attempts to fix a range of weaknesses were made, yet actual improvements came slowly. Quality control proved to be a persistent problem. Apparently technical plans and jigs were not initially available; this seems like an odd complaint to me, like maybe changes were being made faster than things could be updated? The workers were badly lacking in technical skills and several breaks were needed for additional training.
Initial armament was three heavy and two light machine guns; all in the nose, one of the heavy guns through the propeller hub. In time the gun through the hub was switched to a 20 mm cannon, the two light and one of the heavy machine guns were eliminated. So later LaGG-3 had just the cannon and a single heavy machine gun.

Ultimately the type was not particularly successful. With the same engine as the Yak-1, that aircraft was vastly preferred by nearly everyone. Its remarkable the LaGG-3 remained in production until 1944. Later aircraft were much improved, but always second rate.
Perhaps the most surprising thing then, is the type’s successful legacy. Lavochkin replaced the M-105 engine with a Shvetsov ASh-82 radial engine and was able to add more aluminum to the airframe, that led to the far more successful La-5 (and La-7, La-9). At the end of the War, Lavochkin’s La-7 shows up on almost any list of the great fighters.

This is the ICM kit. Its a simple enough build, not up to that Ukrainian Company’s current standards but not really problematic either. The Markings are from “Authentic Decals”, a brand I’m not really familiar with. They must be a Russian or Ukrainian company (Cyrillic script, but nothing I can read for an origin!). The quality is not very good, the decals fragmented badly and had to be carefully reconstructed on the model surface. But they do provide a number of markings options I’ve not seen elsewhere.

This plane is indicated as being a very early build LaGG-3, assigned to the air defense of Moscow in the Spring of 1942. So obviously it survived the initial ferocious onslaught of 1941. I *think* the segmented type star insignia is usually indicative of an elite “Guards” unit, but the decal instructions make no such notation.

About atcDave

I'm 5o-something years old and live in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I'm happily married to Jodie. I was an air traffic controller for 33 years and recently retired; grew up in the Chicago area, and am still a fanatic for pizza and the Chicago Bears. My main interest is military history, and my related hobbies include scale model building and strategy games.
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5 Responses to Lavochkin LaGG-3

  1. Pierre Lagacé says:

    Always informative.

  2. jfwknifton says:

    Thank you for sharing. It’s sounds as if the best thing about the aircraft was its cool segmented red stars.

    • atcDave says:

      Yes! It was available. It was rugged, and the wood didn’t burn. Apparently those finished in 1944 were finally at the quality level that would have been desirable in 1941.
      Maybe the best thing about it was just that it led to a better design.

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