Single-Seat, Single-Engine Jet-Powered Fighter Prototype
The Lavochkin La-160 jet-powered fighter prototype was another in the long line of products put forth by the company in forming the early jet age for the Soviets.
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The Lavochkin concern of the Soviet Union provided several notable wartime fighter developments during World War 2 (1939-1945) including the LaGG-3 and the La-5 - both prop-driven platforms. Towards the end of the war, the focus became jet-powered fighters and this was hurried along to keep pace with developments in Britain, the United States and elsewhere. Stalin himself ordered several projects directly and Lavochkin engineers were part of a greater collective to see that the Soviet Union stay one step ahead of its soon-to-be post-war enemies. Its La-150 was a sound attempt at an early jet fighter and the La-156 was the first Soviet fighter to fly with an afterburning turbojet engine installed. The follow-up La-160 brought about its own "first" as the first Soviet aircraft to feature swept-back wing mainplanes.
La-160 shared common traits with Lavochkin's other early jet-powered types - it was designed around a "pod-and-boom" arrangement which resulted in a deep fuselage, nose-mounted intake and mid-set cockpit. The position of the engine within the forward section of the fuselage forced the cockpit back some from earlier Lavochkin jet attempts which seated the pilot nearer the nose. The engine exhausted under the midway point of the fuselage's length. The tail unit was highly conventional with its single vertical fin and horizontal plane pairing. The undercarriage, given a modern three-point stance, was wheeled and wholly retractable into the fuselage. For its fighter role, a battery of cannon was to arm the type, this being 2 x 37mm systems fitted in the nose.
Engineers elected for a sweepback of 35-degrees along the wing leading edges and this, in turn, promoted sweepback of the trailing edges. These appendages were mid-mounted along the sides of the fuselage, though well-ahead of midships, and of a very thin chord which restricted internal space for fuel and armament. The RD-10 turbojet engine, the Soviet copy of the wartime German Junkers Jumo 004B turbojet, was installed to the first La-160 when it attempted to get airborne during June of 1947. As this engine outputted at just 1,984 pounds thrust, the airframe could not lift off the ground so ground trials were conducted during this time. Ultimately, this led to the installation of the improved RD-10F, which included an afterburn capability promising the needed propulsion, hich could output at up to 2,580 pounds thrust. A first flight was finally had on July 23rd, 1947 and subsequent testing recorded a post-dive speed of 659 miles per hour. From this promising start came a public unveiling during the 1947 Tushino Aviation Day.
However, the La-160 never evolved beyond its data-collection role and joined many other Lavochkin jet-powered forms to be passed on by Soviet authorities. It proved valuable to the company's future work as well as Soviet aeronautics but little value was seen in pursuing the type as a frontline fighter when more advanced shapes were being contemplated. The sole prototype was eventually lost when it broke up in midair - showcasing the dangerous research involved in high-speed flight and advanced aerodynamics. The cause was blamed on wing flutter.
For its time in aviation history, the La-160 garnered the unofficial name of "Stelka" meaning "Arrow", owing to its sharply-angled wing mainplanes. The La-168 owed much to the work and data collected on the La-160 and appeared through an all-new design form that made heavier use of sweptback wing surfaces (including the planes at the tail).
As completed, La-160 was given a length of 10 meters, a wingspan of 8.95 meters and a height of 4 meters. Its empty listed weight was 6,035 pounds against a Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) of 8,950 pounds. Recorded performance specifications included a maximum speed of 602 miles per hour, a range out to 620 miles and a service ceiling of 40,000 feet. Rate-of-climb was seen at 3,905 feet per minute.