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The Lavochkin La-5 was a single seat fighter aircraft that was used by the Soviet Union during World War II.

Description

The La-5 had a Shvetsov M-82 engine that was capable of propelling it at speeds of up to 580 km/h at proper altitude.[1] Noticeably, the La-5 was best suited for operating below 3,000 meters, the prime area from which most operations along the Eastern Front took place. The maximum operational ceiling though was 11,000 meters. The armament of the La-5 consisted of two 20mm ShVAK Autocannons and up to 150 kilograms worth of external bombs.[2]

The total weight of the La-5 was around 2,600 kilograms with a total length of around 8.55 meters. Wingspan was 9.75 meters with a rate of climb of 1,000 meters per minute. Operational range was 765 kilometers which was sufficient enough to serve practically. While the La-5 was generally very reliable, it had several problems in the field. For example, the rear tailhook was unreliable in how it could be retracted. And the pilot was typically forced to breath noxious gases flowing into the cockpit from the engine. This often required the pilot to keep the cockpit open. However, the quick turn time, the low altitude performance, and the power of the engine allowed the La-5 to gain some kind of superiority over contemporary German aircraft. Albeit, the La-5 could not maintain the speed required to keep up with the standard Bf 109G-2 in a climb. 

Variants

The first variant of the La-5 was the La-5F which had been re-equipped with an M-82FN engine for improved performance. Next as the La-5FN with the Shvetsov ASh-82 engine and further refinements to the air frame. Some models had two PTAB anti-armor guns, rockets, or a new armament that consisted of two 23mm autocannons similar to the Ilyushin Il-2. The final variant of the series was the Lavochkin La-7, the culmination of the La-5 design. It was equipped with three 20mm autocannons and a Shvetsov ASh-82FN engine. The final variant of the series was the La-5UTI which was an advanced two-seat trainer.[3]

Lavochkin La-5, Crew

The crew of an La-5 reading their briefing prior to taking off

History

Development

The Lavochkin La-5 was initially developed in 1941 to combat the ever advancing German technology. It was quickly apparent that the Soviet fighters of the time could not fully compete with the German aircraft. The La-5 was developed partly as a stop gap and partly as a replacement. The prototype, designated the LaG-5 took flight in early 1942. It was accepted several months later as the renamed La-5. Its competitor in design, the Polikarpov I-185 eventually lost out despite having better performance due to the fact that it wasn't as easy to manufacture. 

Combat Service

The first La-5 entered service with the VVS in mid 1942, with the first use of the La-5 in large numbers taking place over Stalingrad.[4] Here it fought well, serving as a reminder to the Luftwaffe that their air superiority over the battlefield was limited in time. After Stalingrad, the La-5 was used notably to escort Ilyushin Il-2s over Kursk. The tactics used here were to carry a tank-busting armament, such as rockets or the special anti-tank package, elminate as many hostile ground targets as possible before once again rising to altitude. The La-5FN had once again served as one of the best Soviet fighters of the war. In total, around 21,000 La-5s and variants were produced during the war.

References

  1. http://www.airpages.ru/eng/ru/la5.shtml
  2. http://www.wwiivehicles.com/ussr/aircraft/fighter/lavochkin-la-5.asp
  3. http://www.militaryfactory.com/aircraft/detail.asp?aircraft_id=554
  4. http://www.world-war-2-planes.com/lavochkin-la-5.html


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