Lavochkin La 5

The prolific family of combat planes built in the Soviet Union by Semyon Alexseyevich Lavochkin (its first notable exponents were the LaGG-1 and the LaGG-3) was enriched toward the end of 1941, by a new version, in which the Russian technician succeeded in expressing the full potential of his initial project. The factor which gave a new life to the mediocre LaGG-3 was the installation of a radically new engine, the 1,700 hp Shvetsov M.82 radial. When this engine was installed in place of the liquid-cooled Klimov M-105P, it transformed the aircraft into a first-class machine. The La-5, as it was designated, became one of the best Soviet fighters of the entire conflict.

Semyon Alexseyevich Lavochkin, Head of the Lavochkin Design Team

Right from the first tests, which began toward the end of March 1942, it became clear that the new variant was a marked improvement over the basic model. The more powerful engine and lighter weight (obtained by eliminating the cooling systems) compensated for the increase in the front section (and the consequently greater aerodynamic resistance) due to the space occupied by the large double radial engine. The new variant also allowed for a remarkable increase in performance which, in horizontal speed alone, improved by almost 25 mph (40 km/h). The new power plant was installed in the LaGG-3 in May 1942. This modification gave rise to a transitional aircraft, designated LaGG-5, which was replaced a few weeks later by the definitive La-5 modes. In this aircraft, the fuselage rear trunk was lowered in order to allow for the installation of a canopy providing 360 degree visibility.

The new fighters were sent immediately to the units, and production continued at a fast rate. By the time of the Battle of Stalingrad, the La-5 was being used on the whole front. Nevertheless, the aircraft still had to be perfected. Its performance could not be compared with that of its principal German rival, the Messerschmitt Bf-109G. Consequently, Lavochkin carried out a series of studies to improve the aircraft's characteristics and his work led to the creation of a second variant, the La-5FN, which became the principal production model. As well as the adoption of M-82FN direct injection engine (capable of generating 1,850 hp) and overall aerodynamic improvements, the designer changed from an entirely wood airframe to one that was mixed (metallic spars were used for the wings). In addition, he improved the control surfaces, thus decidedly increasing the fighter's manoeuvrability. The La-5FN was delivered to the units in 1943. By October 1944, about 10,000 had been completed. These remained in service for the rest of the war.

A two-seater training version was also built (designated La-5UTI it appeared in August 1943), characterised by the installation of two cockpits (placed close together) with separate sliding canopies. These aircraft were distributed to the units and proved extremely useful in training pilots in what perhaps remained the Lavochkin fighter's only serious fault: its difficult handling during takeoff and landing. In the spring of 1944, the first aircraft of a new, improved, and more powerful variant began to leave assembly lines. This was the La-7 which served in its turn for the subsequent developments that resulted in the La-11. The latter appeared immediately after the war. It was the only fighter in the Soviet Air Force to have a piston engine.


Prototype developed from the Lavochkin LaGG-5 with a cut down rear fuselage.


Due to the fact the standard La-5 was still outperformed by the Bf-109G-2, efforts were made to reduce weight and drag and to provide more power. The La-5FN introduced metal wing spars and reduced fuel capacity for weight saving, a higher rated version of Shvetsov engine and wing slats to improve combat manoeuvrability. Build in numbers approaching 10,000 it served primarily as a fighter bomber.


A two seat trainer version.

Specifications (Lavochkin La-5FN)

Type: Single Seat Fighter

Design: Semyon Alexseyevich Lavochkin

Manufacturer: State Industries

Powerplant: One 1,850 hp (1380 kw) Shvetsov M-82FN (Ash-82FN) 14-cylinder radial, air cooled engine.

Performance: Maximum speed 401 mph (647 km/h) at 16,447 ft (5000 m); service ceiling 31,250 ft (9500 m).

Range: 475 miles (765 km) on internal fuel.

Weight: Empty 6,174 lbs (2800 kg) with a maximum take-off weight of 7,409 lbs (3360 kg).

Dimensions: Span 32 ft 2 in (9.80 m); length 28 ft 3 in (8.60 m); height 8 ft 4 in (2.54 m); wing area 188.37 sq ft (17.50 sq m).

Armament: Two 20 mm ShVAK cannon with 200 rounds per gun plus two 220 lbs (100 kg) bombs.

Variants: LaGG-5 (initial prototype with the 1700 hp (1268 kw) Shvetsov M-82 radial engine), La-5 (new designation given to the aircraft with a cut down rear fuselage), La-5FN (lighter weight and the introduction of the 1,850 hp (1380 kw) M-82FN engine), La-5UTI (designation for high altitude interceptor. This would lead to the La-7).

Operators: Soviet Union.