The La-5FN is coming to IL-2: Battle of Kuban representing the higher end of Russian fighter design in the middle to late 1943 time period. So what does the La-5FN represent and how can we compare its performance to other aircraft we already have in the series? Read on!
Lavochkin’s vastly improved fighter
The triplets of Russian new generation fighter design going into World War II included the MiG-1 and 3, the Yak-1 and 7 and the LaGG-3. While designer Alexander Sergeyevich Yakovlev’s fighters became essential parts of Russian air power very quickly (and earned Yakovlev substantial political connections) the Mikoyan and Lavochkin designs struggled.
In 1942, Semyon Lavochkin decided to try and solve the problems with the LaGG-3 design by changing engines away from the well used M-105 series to the more powerful M-82 (later ASh-82) radial engine. The results dramatically improved the performance of the aircraft.
By early 1943 Lavochkin’s revised design was becoming more refined. The fuel injected ASh-82FN engine (thus the FN designation) further boosted the available power while a cut down canopy improved rearward visibility. Aerodynamic changes and weight reduction measured further improved performance.
A powerful performer
One thing is certain: the La-5FN is a powerful performer and will be one of two fighters that will really put the Allied side on parity with the Axis one in late 1943 battles. While German fighters generally enjoy having performance advantages in 1941 Moscow battles and slightly eroded but still present advantages in 1942 over Stalingrad, by late 1943 that advantage has begun to seriously erode with Russian and German types for the first time having near equal levels of capability.
Speed & Climb
The La-5 Series 8 is listed as having a maximum top speed of 544 km/h (boosted) at sea level and reaching 603 km/h at 6500 meters. Its climb rate is 18 m/s at sea level and 8.2 m/s at 6000 meters.
Values that I’ve found for the La-5FN indicate a fairly substantive improvement in speed showing 580 km/h at sea level and 634 km/h at 6200 meters. Climb rate improves to 22 m/s at sea level. I haven’t been able to find a high altitude climb rate.
On comparable stats the FW190A-5 can manage 558 km/h on emergency power at sea level and 658 km/h at 6400 meters with a climb rate of 15.4 m/s at sea level and 9.7 m/s at 6000 meters. The Bf109G-2 out climbs nearly everything else at 21.0 m/s at sea level.
The La-5 Series 8 could never really turn terribly well although it has good high speed handling. Turn time for a maximum performance turn is 23.4 seconds which is higher than 22.2 seconds for the Bf109G-2 or 19.0 seconds for the Yak-1B Series 127.
The values I’ve found for the La-5FN vary but they indicate between 18.5 seconds and 20 seconds turn time in a maximum performance turn. This dramatic reduction has a lot to do with the weight reduction and improved aerodynamics but engine power always factors in too.
The La-5 and La-5FN are very much purpose built to be interceptors and the La-5FN is the penultimate expression of that (the La-7 and La-9 being the truly final expressions of the power of piston engined fighters) with very little being paid towards other types of combat.
The original LaGG-3 started lift with a 20mm ShVAK cannon, two UBS 12.7mm machine guns and two ShVAK 7.62mm machine guns. This was a formidible array of guns but unfortunately the heavy airframe and available engine power made it pointless to lug that much firepower into combat and firepower was reduced to a fairly typical single ShVAK 20mm in the nose and single UBS 12.7mm heavy machine gun on top of the nose.
The radial engine design of the La-5 required a rethink in armament and that saw a pair of synchronized ShVAK 20mm cannons being installed on top of the nose. This gives the La-5 and the La-5FN reasonably good firepower. Bomb options are limited to 50kg and 100kg general purpose weapons.
Final thoughts (for now)
The La-5FN sacrifices operational range and ground attack firepower to be the best fighter it can be and it will make one hell of a dangerous opponent in the field. While the La-5 is good versus its German opponents, its not yet superior in every way lacking in climb and firepower. Not the La-5FN.
Capable of matching the best Bf109s in climb rate and likely being superior in turn makes this possibly the best fighter available on either team. It does have weaknesses and they include the same old typical issue of not having good high altitude legs. While the Bf109 gets better and better and the FW190 improves up to 6000 meters, the La-5FN appears to have weaker high altitude performance as does its earlier brethren.
What this fighter does do is push the effective engagement altitude up a little bit forcing German fighter pilots to really climb high to have the best possible advantage.
It’ll be interesting to see how this aircraft slots into the mix once its finally available but it will certainly shake up multiplayer for pilots who have expected to out perform their opponents for a long time now.
While the Yak-1, La-5, and Yak-1B are better than the Bf109 and FW190 in some ways and weaker in others the La-5FN at lower altitudes is superior in most ways. Only at high altitudes will the German fighters still be confident in being better than their opponents.
It’ll be interesting to see how this aircraft stacks up against the Bf109G-6 which will be in many ways a heavier less agile fighter than earlier Bf109 versions – but one with a firepower boost and certainly not lacking in capability either.