Hobbycraft 1/48 La-5 Kit First Look
By Ray Mehlberger
|Date of Review||August 2008||Manufacturer||Hobbycraft|
|Kit Number||HC1589||Primary Media||Styrene|
|Pros||Neat Soviet Fighter subject||Cons||Sparse detail in cockpit and transparency molded solid. Some inaccuracies. Awful decals|
|Skill Level||Basic||MSRP (USD)||Out of Production|
The Lavochkin La-5 was a Soviet fighter aircraft of WWII. 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 the war, with the LaGG-1, a promising yet underpowered aircraft. Turning a 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 Vladmir Grobunov, 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 all out of Stalin’s favor, and factories previously assigned to the LaGG-3 construction had been turned over to building the rival Yakolev 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 too 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 La-5 (the change in name reflecting that one of the original LaGG designers was no longer with the program), Air Force pilots declared it superior to the Yak-7. 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 16,400 ft., the La-5 was very much in it’s element. It’s 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-around performance. This was designated the La-5FN, and would become the definitive version of the aircraft. A full circle turn took 18 – 19 seconds. It was a beautiful dogfighter. Altogether, 9.920 La-5’s 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 it’s aileron turn. Some had three new B-20 cannon in the cowl with a salvo of 3.4 kg per second weight of fire.
Whenever a low flying attacker couldn’t be intercepted even by the new Yak-9U, the La-7 would be utilized. The leading Soviet ace of WWII, Ivan Kozhedub (62 kills), flew this fighter when he shot down a Me-262 German jet. A number of La-5’s continued in the service of Eastern Bloc nations after the end of the war, including Czechoslovakia.
The kit comes in a tray and lid type box. The boxart shows a La-5 flying along in a bright orange sky. It is camouflaged with it’s upper surfaces in gray (FS 36270), with green (FS 34151) and brown (FS 22144) blotches. The lower surfaces are light blue (FS 15200). It has natural metal panels aft of the exhausts. The spinner and tip of the tail is white. There is a oval insignia on the nose with a red flag and star on it. There are 2 white fuselage stripes behind the cockpit, with a red star between them that has 31 small red stars as kill marks above it and spilling onto the top of the star. Where the small stars are on the red star they have white borders. Off the star they are just red. There is a red star with a white border on the tail. This is the aircraft of Hero of the Soviet Union Vitali Popkov 1943. This is one of the markings offered on the kit’s decal sheet.
Inside the box are 3 medium gray trees of parts, a tree of clear parts, the decal sheet and the instructions. There is a pre-paid post card that you can mail to Hobby Craft with any suggestions you may have for future kits, another card to send with $3.00 for their catalog and a slip that says the kit is not for children under 3 years of age because of small parts that create a possible choking hazard. (in 9 languages, including English).
The instructions consist of a single sheet that accordion folds out into 6 pages of 10 ¾” x 8 ½” format.
Page 1 begins with a black and white repeat of the boxart, followed by a one sentence history of the La-5 (in 5 languages, including English), international assembly symbol explanations and Hobby Craft’s address.
Page 2 begins with “Read before you start” instructions, followed by the first 2 assembly steps.
Pages 3 to 4 give a balance of a total of 6 assembly steps.
Page 5 has three 3-views of marking and camouflage schemes for the La-5
- Is the boxart subject. Already described above
- Is an La-5 of the Czech Air Force 1946. It is in overall dark green (FS 34097) upper surfaces and light blue (FS 35550) lower surfaces. It has a white fuselage code of OP-13 on it’s sides. The red, white and blue Czech National circle insignia is on the tail and above and below the wings
- Is an La-5 of the Soviet Air Force, in Czechoslovakia 1944. It is in a camouflage of gray upper surfaces with green and brown blotches (same as the boxart scheme). It has a logo of a white diamond with white letters on it on the cowl sides. Red stars outlined in white are on the tail, fuselage sides and under the wings. It carries the fuselage number 58 in white, outlined in black, just in front of the tail
Page 6 begins with a listing of colors to use for whatever scheme you choose. These are shown as rectangles with different dot shadings. All but one are called out as Federal Standard (FS) numbers. One is called out as a RLM number. I wish that Hobby Craft would just say what colors these are. Not everyone has a Federal Standard color reference or a conversion chart for RLM numbers.
There are no parts tree illustrations in the instructions. Trees are not alphabetized, like we usually see done in kits, but part numbers are on the trees next to the parts.
The first large medium gray parts tree holds: cockpit floor and bulkheads, instrument panel, cockpit side panels, pilot seat and it’s back armor, rear cockpit shelf, an inaccurate joy stick (more about this later), individual propeller blades, propeller center hub, propeller spinner, engine cooling fan, cowling, air scoop, horizontal tail surfaces and rudder, landing gear legs, main wheels, tail wheel, landing gear doors and actuator arms and pitot tube (42 parts)
The second medium sized medium gray tree holds the wing halves. The bottom half being full span. (3 parts)
The third medium sized medium gray tree holds the fuselage halves, bombs and their suspension arms (8 parts)
The clear part tree just holds the cockpit canopy. This molded solid and would take surgery to open it.
Schemes on the decal sheet have already been described above. However, the Czech national insignias need to be ASSEMBLED, pie slice by pie slice, separately, onto white circles. Some of the Soviet red stars also go on white stars, that are slightly larger, to create the white borders. I could not, unfortunately, get the white markings to appear on the white backing paper with my digital camera, believe me they are there.
The joystick in the kit is a straight post with a pistol grip at the top and a lever. The joystick in an actual La-5 should have an oval shaped top, with several buttons on it and some push levers inside the center of it. This is born out in some line blueprints that a Russian pen pal sent to me years ago of the La-5 and La-7. The propeller spinner is missing the huck starter that protruded from the point of it. The interior of the kit is quite sparse. I purchased a Eduard PE set to take care of the cockpit and add more detail in there (set no. 48-013).
The kit is okay, as far as it goes. I don’t know all the inaccuracies that people complained about back when it was first released. AeroMaster Decals did a sheet that has 2 marks for the La-5 and 2 for the La-7 on it. One of which is better decal for the boxart subject. I purchased this sheet.