LaGG-3

The LaGG-3 was one of three 'new generation machines' that by 1941 comprised around ten percent of all Soviet fighters, the Yak-1 and MiG-3 being the other two. These new designs had arisen due to deficiencies that combat had exposed in the Polikarpov stable of aircraft. One of the design bureaus established in the aftermath of a 1937 Kremlin meeting that required producing innovative designs for fighters in the shortest possible time, was that of Lavochkin, Gudkov and Gorbunov, hence the designation LaGG. Their first fighter, the LaGG-1 was underpowered and over weight and as a result of drastic improvements became the LaGG-3. The Soviet government ordered 805 of these to be delivered for operational use by July 1, 1941 but due to production delays only 322 airframes were in the hands of the VVS by the time of the German invasion. Made of resin impregnated wood and skinned with stressed Bakelite plywood, the LaGG-3 was powered by an 1100 hp Klimov M-105P 12 cylinder liquid-cooled engine and was armed with one 20 mm cannon and two 7.62 mm machine guns. Due to the pressures of war the LaGG-3 entered service before all its teething troubles had been worked out. It suffered from hydraulics problems, landing gear failures and the armament was unreliable. Its performance also left a lot to be desired. Early aircraft suffered from poor construction quality which when combined with inherent design deficiencies made the aircraft vulnerable to German fighters. The problems endured by the VVS were not only aircraft related but also from poor training of pilots and incorrect maintenance by front line units that struggled with the temperamental Klimov engine. Within six months of the German invasion the type was being widely used on all operational fronts and in some areas made up almost half of the total Soviet fighter force. Heavy losses were suffered by LaGG-3's during 1941 but as pilots gained experience loss rates began to drop. Better production techniques and quality meant that fighters were being produced in greater numbers and by mid-1942 an estimated 11.5% of the VVS fighter force was comprised of LaGG-3's. In spite of the improvements, pilots never cared much for them and they were frequently referred to as the 'Varnished Guaranteed Coffin' as the Russian translation of that began with the letters Lagg. The LaGG-3 was withdrawn from production in the Summer of 1942 after 6.528 aircraft had been produced. Eventually the LaGG-3 was re-engined with the Shvetsov M-82 1700 hp radial engine, which solved most of the issues with aircraft and it was re designated the La-5. After the Lagg-3 was withdrawn from production substantial numbers of partially completed airframes were completed with the M-82 engines as La-5's.

The Kit


The ICM Lagg-3 kit is a recent release from ICM and as such replaced the kit I originally planned to build, the LTD model. There is no comparison between the two kits, the ICM is everything the LTD kit is not. About the only thing they share is that they both came in one of the dreaded end flap boxes but the new ICM kit has much nicer artwork on it. The kit is molded in a dark gray color and the parts are cleanly molded with just a hint of flash. There are some sink marks on the fuselage opposite of where detail is molded on the interior. The parts have a slightly rough surface, almost as if it had been sand blasted. Some parts seem to be worse than others. It may not be a problem if a primer coat is used. The fabric areas are very nicely done, not over done as is the case more often than not. Panel lines and fastener detail is recessed and nicely done. Since much of the wing and fuselage was wood there are not a lot of panel lines. The trailing edge of the wings is nice and thin. The ailerons and elevators are fixed and the demarcation lines for those could be a little more pronounced but that is easily fixed. The rudder is separate and could be posed off center if desired. The gear wells are boxed in but show no detail and the wheels and tires are nicely done but the tires are not weighted. The only troublesome ejector pin marks I found were on the inside of the gear doors which are otherwise nicely detailed and they will be covered by the gear struts when assembled. The cockpit is nicely done and should satisfy many right from the box. The propeller is one of those multi part affairs the Europeans seem to thrive on. There are a number of parts that don't get used that will most likely be used on future variants. As with most limited run kits there are no alignment pins. By my count there are 99 parts molded in gray. See photos below.


 


The clear parts are all injection molded, are thin and reasonably clear but do show some distortion. They include the cockpit glazings, instrument panel, gun sight and landing light. The decal sheet has instrument dials that can be placed behind the panel. The distortion itself may not be all that unrealistic and many of the glazings on early Soviet fighters was some what distorted. See photo below.

Decals are provided for three aircraft, two of which are for Major L. Galtchenko's aircraft, one during the Summer of 1942 and the other for Autumn of 1941. The other two are from the 44th IAP in the Leningrad area Autumn of 1941 and 3rd GvIAP Leningrad area Spring of 1942. The decals appear thin and are reasonably well registered where required. See photo below.


The instructions are printed on a single A4 sized sheet folded in half to form four panels. the first panel has a brief history and specifications and a parts map and icon chart. Panels two, three and half of four are assembly drawings. The balance of panel four has a paint chart with colors and Model Master numbers, decal instructions and the usual safety warnings. The marking and decal placement is on a separate sheet, slightly smaller than the instruction sheet, again folded to form four panels, one each for the markings supplied. The back of the box has a color diagram for the version shown on the box front, again calling out Model Master colors.

After Market Goodies

As is usually the case I couldn't help myself and ordered the Vector interior set [VD848-018] for it. Since Vector marketed a complete kit for the Lagg-3, albeit an expensive one, it probably was no big deal to cast up interior sets. The set is molded in dark gray resin and consists of sides, floor, seat, armor plate, instrument panel with film, rudder bar, stick and a whole host of other goodies to busy things up. Everything is what one has come to expect from Vector, clean sharp castings, no pin holes or short shots and assuming it fits without too much trouble should make up into a beautiful pit. See photo below

Since the instrument panel in the interior set would require painting I decided to add the Eduard [FE 427] color zoom photoetch set as well. It also included the usual levers and other fiddely bits that make my life miserable. See photo below.

Conclusions

This kit from ICM looks quite nice but it is a limited run kit so don't expect it to fall together like a Tamiya kit. It's available for a reasonable price and even though the resin pit basically doubles the price it's still less money than the complete Vector kit which normally sells for over $90. I certainly recommend it to anyone with some experience with limited run kits or even for you first go at one simply due to the reasonable price.

Links to kit build or reviews

Here is another in box review.

References

Soviet Aces of World War 2 by Hugh Morgan

Soviet Air Force Colours 1941 - 1945 by Erik Pilawskii

A good online source of information on Soviet aircraft and markings can be found here.

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Updated 2/14/09