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Lavochkin LaGG-3 - Soviet Union, 1941

Detailing the development and operational history of the Lavochkin LaGG-3 Fighter Aircraft.

 Entry last updated on 5/1/2015; Authored by Staff Writer; Content ¬©

  Lavochkin LaGG-3  
Picture of Lavochkin LaGG-3

The LaGG-3 attempted to right the wrongs presented in the LaGG-1 design and introduced modern aircraft design to the Soviet Union.

The LaGG-3 piston-engine pursuit fighter (the LaGG in the designation coming from "Lavochkin-Gorbunov-Goudkov") was one of the earlier successes of modern aircraft design for the Soviet Union in World War 2. Basically an improved version of the LaGG-1 (that system itself sharing a variety of performance and handling problems) the LaGG-3 went on to secure success at a time when the Soviet Union needed a versatile and robust performer out of the gates. The aircraft would appear in the thousands by the end of the war but was ultimately superceded by more capable designs in line with the changing battlefield requirements and of lessons learned.

Development of the LaGG-3 series culminated with the arrival of the I-301 prototype. Complaints with the original LaGG-1 model centered around sub-par climbing power and the fact that the controls felt somewhat detached from the instincts of a pilot. The new improved design attempted to address these issues and became the production LaGG-3. Once at the front lines, the LaGG-3 performed admirably well, charged with the primary task of providing escort defense for their Ilyushin Il-2 Shturmovik close-support aircraft. The LaGG-3 proved itself a player with good performance, improved controls and the ability to withstand a good deal of structural damage before failing. All of these assets proved friendly to her pilots who, in turn, regarded the aircraft in a favorable light.

Visual features of the LaGG-3 design were consistent with what would be termed "modern" aircraft of the time. In fact, the LaGG-3 shared some outward similarities to the French-made Dewoitine D.520 series of pursuit fighter with the major similarity being in the placement of the cockpit and the long-area frontal fuselage. Wings were low-mounted monoplane with the cockpit seating area located just above and behind the installation. A generally pleasing design, the LaGG-3 system was built for speed. Armament consisted of a 20mm propeller-hub firing cannon of ShVAK type and 2 x machine guns in the forward upper front of the fuselage, just forward of the cockpit and behind the propeller. This armament consisted of either a set of 12.7mm heavy machine guns or a pair of 7.62mm machine guns. Landing gear were fully retractable (including the tail wheel).

In any case, the LaGG-3 was an overly successful design considering the Soviet Union was in dire need of capable aircraft to combat the Nazi incursion. The LaGG-3 was just that, though it soon became apparent that the design was not the complete answer and new attempts were being drawn up after some 6,400 had been produced. The LaGG-3 was, however, a capable design in its own right and well-liked by her pilots and ground crew alike.

Lavochkin LaGG-3 Specifications

Service Year: 1941
Type: Fighter Aircraft
National Origin: Soviet Union
Manufacturer(s): Lavochkin - Soviet Union
Total Production: 6,528

Structural (Crew, Dimensions, Weights)

Operating Crew (Typical): 1
Overall Length: 28.90 feet (8.81 meters)
Overall Width: 32.15 feet (9.80 meters)
Overall Height: 8.86 feet (2.70 meters)

Weight (Empty): 5,776 lb (2,620 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 7,275 lb (3,300 kg)

Power / Performance (Engine Type, Top Speed)

Engine: 1 x Klimov M-105PF V12 piston liquid-cooled inline engine developing 1,260 horsepower.

Maximum Speed: 310 knots (357 mph; 575 kph)
Maximum Range: 351 nautical miles (404 miles; 650 km)
Service Ceiling: 31,824 feet (9,700 meters; 6.03 miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 2,950 feet-per-minute (899 m/min)

Armament / Mission Payload

1 x 20mm ShVAK cannon in propeller hub
2 x 12.7mm UBS OR 2 x 7.62mm ShKAS machine guns

Up to 440lbs of external stores including 4 x 110lb light conventional drop bombs OR 6 x 3.23-in rockets under the wings/fuselage.

Global Operators (Customers, Users)

Finland; Nazi Germany; Japan (1); Soviet Union

Model Variants

LaGG-3 - Base Series Designation
Gudkov 82
Gudkov 37 (K-37)
Gorbunov 105 - Reduced-weight LaGG-3 model; cut-down rear fuselage spine for improved viewing; improved performance specifications.
LaGG-3IT - Fitted with 37mm NS-37 cannon

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