1/48 LaGG-3 “Late” & La-5FN from Vector

By Aleksandar Sekularac

Introduction

These were the missing links in the 1/48 Lavockin family, but they are missing links no more. Before, we had of course the LTD vacu-form LaGG-3 kit, which could be reportedly built into a decent model, and the ancient toy-like Hobbycraft La-5FN, but realistically, both of these types lived in oblivion until now.

Back in 2005, Vector company from Podolsk-Moscow entered the market for scale aircraft kits with one excellent resin 1/48 La-5 Razorback. This kit was among few who established new standards for the resin casting technology, and as a result more of us can now claim that we build full resin models. To be honest, Vector kits are easier to build than most short run styrene kits, and even some mainstream injection offerings. They are also surprisingly lightweight for a resin kit when finished.

After the La-5, La-5F followed, with same level of quality and finesse. You can find my reviews about both of these kits elsewhere on this web site.

Now the circle is closed. I would call LaGG-3 and La-5FN the second-generation kits from Vector. Some things have changed, others didn’t. The kits are even more refined, with more details. There are virtually no casting blocks on any major parts, and building instructions are better (with some color suggestions for the interior details). The wheels are no longer made in rubber; rather the “tires” are cast together with hubs in resin.

Kit packaging stayed the same. Small, unassuming box made of thicker paper, rather then cardboard. There is some foam padding inside the box protecting the intricate resin parts, but it would be nice to see more substantial outer shell for these precious kits. My box started tearing apart within first three openings…

La-5FN


As a further evolutionary step of the La-5F, the 5FN’s major distinguishing feature is the bigger, continuous supercharger air-duct on top of the engine cowling, plus the multiple exhaust pipes instead of the single big one on each side. Other exterior difference is the additional triangular metal plating on the fuselage sides, under the cockpit, and adjacent metal trim for the wing fillet. All these features are accurately represented in the kit.

The single piece wing is, once again, worth mentioning. This is an improved wing, which Vector now supplies in all of their kits. While I felt quite content with the original La-5/5F wing geometry, Sergey from Vector wasn’t. New wingspan is some 2mm bigger, and the leading edges look a bit more slender. The most appreciable difference though is separate ailerons. As a matter of fact, all of the control surfaces are now separate parts: ailerons, elevators and the ruder. This is a very nice touch, me thinks.

There are also some small additions to the old part-count: cannon rear ends and manual loading handles, as well as the main antenna mast. There is again no Pitot tube in the kit. Oh, well… back to my hypodermic stash.

One thing that bothers me is the connection for the tail wheel leg inside the rear fuselage. In all four Vector kits there is a single tab coming out of the port side fuselage that is supposed to hold the rear wheel assembly, but this single point support is simply not enough. Here is how I solved the problem on my kit, but I feel that this inadequate attachment should be redesigned.

Early Vector kits used to have only one vacu-formed canopy in the box; now there are two! The quality of the transparencies is very high. They are clear and smooth, without blemishes, and with sharply defined framing. This said, canopies are packed together in a bag with multitude of resin parts, without protection. Here is another point where packaging of this kit can be improved.

There are five alternatives on the decal sheet to adorn this kit! Four of the offered airplanes are in standard AMT11/12 camouflage, and the fifth is in a single color AMT11 livery on the upper surfaces. Some of these schemes are well known, and some are perpetually argued upon, like the ubiquitous “Za Vasila I Žoru”. Was the text silver, white, or yellow, with border or without? In any case Begemot decals are excellent, and whatever scheme you select, Vector kit will be a wonderful canvas for them.

You may have noticed on the La-5FN box top that this is actually the “special edition” kit, containing additional decals with four more options for the older La-5 Razorback kit. Without going into discussion about given profiles, I will just say that this is a very nice touch that rewards “returning customers”.

If I may add more spice to the stew, there is one CD edition coming soon from the Pilawskii factory, focusing on at present documented Lavockin color profiles (some 110 of them as I hear). We can certainly expect some excitement, stir, and more inspiration to build Lavockins when this new research comes out in the sun…

LaGG-3


LaGG-3 “Oblegchenniy” kit, while still based in some elements on previous Vector Lavockins, brings radical redesign of all major components: in-line engine cowling, wing-root compressor inlets, big oval heat exchanger under the central wing section, etc. Fuselage and wing are new, each accurately representing the idiosyncrasies of this type.

Once again, everything seems to be in place and well produced. All control surfaces are separate parts, as are small radiator flaps. Radiator faces are also included, and are very nicely detailed (an enhancement over the 1st generation Vector kits).

One item that could be improved from the engineering standpoint is the detail of the wing-root inlets. The fuselage/wing break is positioned right in the middle of the air inlet, and the inlet itself is represented with blank front. If it was made as separate insert, to fit between fuselage and wing, better definition could be achieved and the inlet could be appropriately cast with open front.

When assembling the fuselage components and the wing, one is advised to carefully check the fit, especially around the main radiator exit channel at the bottom of the wing. This curvy area can prove tricky to align due to the complex geometry. I discovered a small gap between the fuselage halves at this joint, although this may well be a result of my keen sanding of the matting surfaces prior to assembly.

Decals (made again by the “red hippo” a.k.a. Begemot) provide options for three very colorful airplanes. One can chose between early green/black, and late light/dark gray camouflage. It will be hard to decide on only one favorite in this excellent selection!

I have only a small remark regarding the second aircraft with the sea-anchor decoration on the rudder. Optional fin flash is shown as red, but the photograph of an aircraft from this unit (shown below) displays significant tonal difference between this flash on top of the ruder and the adjacent red star. Erik Pilawskii calls this type of film a “journalist type”, and often points out its hypersensitivity to red color, as all surfaces painted red look burnt out. I would suggest that the color of the rudder decoration in this picture was other than red (perhaps blue to go with the naval theme?).


In Closing

In the old days there was a distinctive rivalry between the OKBs in the SSSR, as well as among pilots who flew these machines. Some of this mentality rubbed off on our hobby field. There is a Yakovlev clan and a Lavockin one. Without having anything against the first-mentioned, I must admit that I am a big Lavockin aficionado. It therefore makes me extremely happy that now I can have the whole family on my display shelf, and in my favorite scale!

Despite my nit-pickings, I failed to find anything considerably wrong with these lovely kits. So to reiterate, Vector kits are well researched, precisely made, and very user-friendly. I have no reservations in recommending them to everybody who can handle CA or epoxy glue. The LaGG-3 and La-5FN are even better than their already excellent older brethren. Bolshoi Spasibo Sergey, and keep on the good work!

Vector kits can be obtained online from two vendors:

- Neomega (UK); Price: £49.95
- Buffie’s Best (USA); Price: US$91.00

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