Lavochkin La-5 History

Design of the Lavochkin La-5 series of low-to-medium altitude, prop-driven fighter was spurred on by a need by the Soviet Air Force for a weapon capable of matching, or exceeding, anything the German Luftwaffe was fielding at the time. The Soviets initially reeled from the German invasion of June 1941 to begin the East front and this period placed a focus on the ill-equipped and ill-trained Soviet military against the now-perfected Blitzkrieg. Soviet aircraft designers and production facilities were just starting to get involved in the mass war effort needed to combat the Third Reich and the La-5 joined the Soviet Air Force inventory as an improved form of the early-war, underpowered LaGG-3 of 1940, itself a lighter and improved form of the original (though unsuccessful) LaGG-1, also of 1940. The La-5 series of aircraft was a step in the right direction, appearing in production form almost as soon as it had appeared as a prototype, with the Soviets in the general school of thought that "any aircraft was better than none". Fortunately for the Soviet Air Force - and the Soviet Union for that matter - the La-5 proved to be a versatile, robust, heavy-hitter capable of matching the Luftwaffe fighters pound-for-pound. By the end of the war, the La-5 registered 9,920 production examples. It was introduced in July of 1942.

The design approach to the La-5 was quite different to Lavochkin's previous attemptat it featured a cut-down rear fuselage with the cockpit positioned amidships. The wings were low-mounted under the fuselage and set forward of the cockpit. The fuselage was of a tubular design approach with a shallow vertical tail gin at rear and rounded engine cowling at front. The forward design of the aircraft was dominated by the noticeable propeller hub which would go on to become the consistent design element of Lavochkin aircraft during and after the war. Armament consisted of 2 x 20mm cannons mounted in the nose - this just after the propeller unit and embedded into the over-sized engine cowling.

The La-5 reached "definitive" status in its production run through the La-5FN variant featuring an uprated engine and provision for rocket launching. Power was through a Shvetsov ASh-82FN radial piston engine developing 1,850 horsepower. Dimensions of the aircraft included a running length of 8.7 meters, a height of 2.5 meters and a wingspan of 9.8 meters. Empty weight was 5,645lb with a Maximum Take-Off Weight nearing 7,500lb. Performance included a maximum speed of 405 miles per hour, a range out to 475 miles, and a service ceiling up to 36,100 feet. Rate-of-climb was a handy 3,280 feet per minute. Beyond its 20mm armament and rocket-firing capabilities, the La-5 also adopted a fighter-bomber role in carrying 2 x 220lb drop bombs underwing. The 20mm armament was also upgraded to 23mm NS cannons in later production models.

A two-seat trainer version of the La-5 arrived later as the La-5UTI.

Operators beyond the Soviet Air Force included Czechoslovakia, Mongolia, and Poland. The Poland Air Force operated only one example.

The Lavochkin La-7 was an improved direct offshoot of the La-5 appearing in September of 1944 and seeing production reach 5,753 units.

Lavochkin La-5 Specification

BASICS

Year:
1942
Status:
Retired, Out-of-Service
Crew:
1

MANUFACTURING

[ 9,920 Units ]:
Lavochkin - Soviet Union

ROLES

- Fighter

- Interception

- Close-Air Support (CAS)

- Training

DIMENSIONS

Length:

28.44 ft (8.67 m)

Width/Span:

32.15 ft (9.8 m)

Height:

8.33 ft (2.54 m)

WEIGHTS

Empty Weight:

5,743 lb (2,605 kg)

MTOW:

7,496 lb (3,400 kg)

(Diff: +1,753lb)

POWER

1 x ASh-82FN radial piston engine developing 1,850 horsepower.

PERFORMANCE

Maximum Speed:

403 mph (648 kph; 350 kts)

Service Ceiling:

36,089 feet (11,000 m; 6.84 miles)

Maximum Range:

475 miles (765 km; 413 nm)

Rate-of-Climb:

3,280 ft/min (1,000 m/min)

ARMAMENT

STANDARD:

2 x 20mm ShVAK cannons (23mm NS cannons on later production models).

OPTIONAL:

Up to 331lbs of external ordnance including 4 x 3.23-inch rockets OR 2 x 220lb bombs under the wings.

VARIANTS

LaG-5 - Developmental Designation

La-5 - Production Designation

La-5FN - "Definitive" La-5 Model; appearing in 1943; fitted with an ASh-82FN engine of 1,650hp; provision for 4 x 3.23-in rockets OR 2 x PTAB anti-armor weapons along with the standard 2 x 20mm cannon battery; later production aircraft to feature upgunned 23mm cannons.

La-5UTI - Two-Seat Conversion Trainer

La-7 - Late Wartime Production Model based on the La-5 design; fitted with 3 x 20mm OR 23mm cannons and ASh-82FN powerplant.

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