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Lavochkin La-7
two gun version

by Ian Robertson

 

Lavochkin La-7
two gun version

 


Gavia's 1/48 scale La-7 is available online from Squadron.com

 

Introduction

 

The Lavochkin La-7 fighter went into production in mid 1944. The aircraft was essentially a refined La-5 airframe, with the most notable external difference being the repositioning of the oil cooler from beneath the cowl to midway along the fuselage. In addition, the long supercharger intake on the La-5's nose was removed and replaced by intakes mounted in the leading edges of the wing roots.

 

 

In terms of performance the La-7 could outclimb and outmaneuver the Fw190, its most common adversary on the Eastern Front (94% of all engagements were with Fw190s). An La-7 pilot was even credited with shooting down an Me.262 in February 1945. Despite its successes in combat, the La-7 was retired from the Soviet Air Force in 1947, although the Czech Air Force operated the aircraft until 1950. Production reached a total of just over 5,900 aircraft.

 

 

Gavia's La-7

 

The 1/48 Gavia La-7 is a welcome improvement over the somewhat dated Hobbycraft kit (for a detailed photographic comparison of the two kits refer to November 2002 issue of "Military In Scale" magazine).
Improvements in shape, detail and design bring the Gavia kit much closer to what we have come to expect from mainstream model companies, or at least from those companies that charge upwards of $30 (US) for a model.

Overall I was very satisfied with the Gavia kit. However, there were a few things that I found disappointing. The most notable shortcoming for me was the 3-piece canopy. Although the clarity of the canopy was great, the center section was too thick to be placed in the open position. I tried using Squadron's vacuform replacement for the Hobbycraft La-7 but found it to be much too large. Thus, I opted to leave the canopy closed. An alternative is to vacuform a canopy, which is something I'll consider when building this kit again. Luckily the cockpit details can be viewed easily through the canopy, and in retrospect, the sleek lines of the aircraft are better preserved with the canopy closed than open.

 



Other things to watch for include the overstated ribbing on the fabric control surfaces, and landing gear doors which are too large and need to be trimmed to fit their openings. Also, my primary reference (Squadron's "La5/7 Fighters In Action") indicated that production La-7's did not have a starter dog on the tip of the spinner, although I forgot to remove this from my model.

Lastly, I am not convinced about the length of the main landing struts. From comparisons with photographs the completed model seems to sit too high at the nose, although I have not taken any measurements to confirm my suspicion. If strut length is indeed a problem the fix will be easy. Because the oleos are molded completely extended, one could cut the strut at the top of the oleo, drill a hole in the main strut, and then insert the oleo upwards until the correct length is achieved. The landing gear covers would have to be trimmed at the top to ensure their fit. I may go back and correct my model some day, but for now I am willing to sit on the fence until someone confirms or refutes my suspicion.

 

 

Paint, Decals and Weathering

 

I painted the cockpit, wheel wells, landing struts, and interior gear doors a bluish-gray-green. Using Polly Scale acrylics I mixed 3 parts Soviet green, 1 part navy blue, and 1 part RLM66 (dark gray). Testors aluminum metallizer was dry-brushed on the seat and some of the cockpit controls to help pick out the details.

My first step in painting the exterior focused on the metal exhaust shields. I sprayed these areas with Tamiya gray primer, polished them smooth with a sanding cloth, and then applied several light coats of Alclad II aluminum lacquer. Once dry (in about 10 minutes) I masked the exhaust shields with Tamiya tape until painting was complete. Alclad stands up very well to masking, and it goes on incredibly smooth.

Next I applied pre-shading to panel lines as well as some randomly chosen panels on the underside. Using Polly Scale acrylics I painted the exterior surfaces freehand in a standard late-war Russian camouflage scheme of light gray (F505330 - Haze Gray) and dark gray (505232 - USSR dark topside gray) over light blue (505226 USSR underside blue, mixed with some RLM65 to simulate fading). The nose was masked and painted with Model Master Insignia Red. The spinner was painted Model Master RLM04 yellow.

 



Prior to the addition of decals I sprayed a coat of Future floor wax over the model. The decals that came with the kit are among the best I have ever used (perfect register, great color, thin, and they did not silver). A coat of Polly Scale clear flat and clear satin (1:1 mixture) was sprayed over the model once the decals had dried.

I kept weathering to a minimum. Exhaust stains were added by spraying highly thinned black paint to the metal exhaust shields. I tried doing this before adding the final dull coat but the paint did not adhere to the polished Alclad. Once the dull coat was added the exhaust stains went on the metallic surfaces without a problem.


 

Antenna Wire

The antenna wire was made from stretched sprue. I find the dark gray styrene that comes with some of the later Accurate Miniatures kits (e.g., Dauntless, Avenger, Yaks) makes the best antenna wires because it stretches much thinner (sometimes too thin to work with) than styrene from other kits. The downside for me is that I have an unbuilt Accurate Miniatures Yak 1b that has very little sprue remaining around its parts.




Photographs

All images were taken outdoors with a SONY digital camera set at its highest picture resolution (2048 x 1536 pixels). Other camera settings were as follows: 200 ISO film speed (what can I say - it's an option on my digital camera), 1/600th sec shutter speed, F-stop 8.0, and fixed focus distance of either 20 or 30 cm. Images were cleaned up using Adobe Photoshop 6.0 for the Macintosh.

 

 

Specifically, the interface between the base and background were merged using the software's "blur" tool, and edges in some photographs were sharpened using the "sharpen edges" tool. Sharpening images in such a way helps to restore some of the clarity lost during image compression.

 

 

Conclusion

 

The Gavia kit is by far the best 1/48 La-7 on the market.

Despite some minor shortcomings, I would not hesitate to build another. The later three-gun version has just been released by Gavia (as a Profipack) and includes a resin cowl replacement for the new gun configuration; however, it sells for about $10 more than the original two-gun Profipack version.

If you are going to buy just one La-7, I'd recommend the cheaper two-gun original (regular or Profipack). Now I just wish that Gavia or some other company would release an La-5, La-5FN, and while they're at it, a LaGG-3. These aircraft have been ignored by the higher-end companies for too long.

 

 

Additional Images

 

Click on the thumbnails below to view larger images:


Model, Images and Text Copyright 2003 by Ian Robertson
Page Created 21 January, 2003
Last Updated 17 March, 2004

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