Prop & Jet 1/72 Lavochkin La-5
The Lavochkin La-5 was an improvement on the inline-engine LaGG-3. While the handling of the LaGG-3 was good, its performance lagged (yeah, sorry, couldn't resist the obvious pun). Experiments with replacing the inline engine with a more powerful radial engine showed a huge improvement, and the new aircraft was shown to be better than the Yak-7 currently in production. The La-5 was put into production and quickly found its way to the front lines, where it performed well at low to medium altitudes. Improvements came along with the La-5F and La-5FN, and the design underwent a significant refining to produce the superlative La-7.
For such an important aircraft in the Soviet Air Force, it is surprising that there are not more kits of the Lavochkin La-5. For those that want a definitive kit of the type, the wait is over as this new all-resin kit from Prop & Jet is simply stunning. Molded in a light gray resin, the kit features some very petite detailing, with fine recessed panel lines and excellent interior detailing. The decal sheet is small, roughly six inches by two inches, but contains markings for 36, yes, 36 different aircraft! Impressive to say the least, so let's jump into the actual construction.
The instructions are very good, providing clear instructions on how to trim the parts from the pour gates to get the best possible result. The fuselage halves are split normally into right and left halves, with a separate front cowling piece. The instructions indicate that you will glue the fuselage together only on the top edge, then fit the cockpit pieces and engine in place before securing the lower fuselage seams. As the cockpit is built up from the top down, upside down, it can get a bit confusing in assembly. Basically, the instrument panel attaches to the top horizontal framing structure, which then fits into the fuselage. There is a rear bulkhead and a cockpit floor (as well as excellent molded-in sidewall detailing), and with those in place the fuselage can be completely closed. The seat, upper bulkhead, and control stick are added from the top. The finished cockpit will look quite nice when finished.
The engine is also quite nice, with a separate crankcase and individual cylinders. The La-5 has a fairly tight-fitting cowling, so not much of this engine will be visible, but it's impressive nonetheless. The propeller is made up from separate blades and hub, and the separate front cowl piece features very nice renditions of the gun troughs. The dorsal scoop is a bit shallow, though, and would probably benefit from some additional deepening. Given the complex shape at this juncture of the cowling, I am not sure if this could have been molded any better than it is, but some extra work with some files should yield some good results.
The rest of the assembly is very straightforward, made simple by the fact that this is a resin kit and the simplification that results from that format. The wing is molded as one piece, and simply fits up into the opening on the fuselage. The stabilizers are also solid right and left pieces, and the instructions suggest using steel wire to pin them in place. The landing gear is simple, as was the original, and the wheels have excellent detailing. Finally, there are two versions of canopies included, an early and a late, and the kit comes with two of each.
Moving on to the decal sheet, as noted there are 36 options in this kit. For the most part, La-5 aircraft differed from one another only in numbers, and that's how this small decal sheet can cram so many options on it. The camouflage for the La-5 is generally AMT-6 black and AMT-4 green over AMT-7 blue, and that's how most of these are finished. The La-5 was also used during winter, and as such quite a few feature temporary white camouflage as well. Nine schemes feature an overall white camouflage on the upper surface, with two additional schemes showing partial white camouflage.
The 'Valeriy Chkalov' squadron was another well known user of the La-5, and this decal sheet provides markings for 16 of these aircraft. These include both winter camouflaged examples and regular ones. These aircraft feature slogans on both sides of the fuselage, as well as small numbers on the rear fuselage. The most striking option on the sheet is the one with the large mouth on the nose, which also features a white rudder and spinner. I could list all the individual aircraft documented here, but really, with the generic numbers provided, one could model far more than what is listed in the instructions. The decals look good and have crisp detailing, even in the small text.
This is an excellent little kit of the Lavochkin La-5, and one of the better resin models I have seen in a long time. It looks like it will build up into a very nice replica of this famous fighter, and the only real challenge will be choosing a single scheme to finish it in. My thanks to Prop & Jet for the review sample.