Revisiting the LaGG-3

Being the very first aircraft to be flyable in the new IL-2: Great Battles series, the LaGG-3 Series 29 has long since been the centre of any excitement or hype. It was in many ways the “default” fighter and as a result it’s been overshadowed. But is it deserving of its “mediocre” reputation? Let’s revisit the LaGG-3!

Remaking a reputation

LaGG-3-dogfight.jpg

The LaGG-3 in its earliest incarnations was too heavy, too under powered, and not yet well refined. Still, it was all that was available and pilots flew it into battle for the first years of the war in the East. By the middle part of 1942, slightly more refined versions of the LaGG-3 were starting to hit the frontlines. This is what we have with IL-2: Battle of Stalingrad’s LaGG-3 Series 29.

Put on a diet and given a more potent M-105PF engine, the same found in the Yak-1 Series 69 and Yak-1B Series 127, the LaGG-3 Series 29 is trying to catch-up and match its contemporaries. But can it?

Performance comparison

LaGG-3-Pe-2formation.jpg

Let’s look at some key points of comparison between the LaGG-3 and some of the other fighters in the Russian 1942-1943 arsenal. Using the information provided to us from 1CGS.

Speed

LaGG-3 Series 29

Maximum true air speed at sea level, engine mode – Nominal: 505 km/h
Maximum true air speed at 2000 m, engine mode – Nominal: 548 km/h
Maximum true air speed at 4000 m, engine mode – Nominal: 573 km/h

 

Yak-1 Series 69

Maximum true air speed at sea level, engine mode – Nominal, 2550 RPM: 514 km/h
Maximum true air speed at 2000 m, engine mode – Nominal, 2700 RPM: 549 km/h
Maximum true air speed at 4000 m, engine mode – Nominal, 2700 RPM: 582 km/h

Yak-1B Series 127

Maximum true air speed at sea level, engine mode – Nominal, 2550 RPM: 530 km/h
Maximum true air speed at 2000 m, engine mode – Nominal, 2700 RPM: 567 km/h
Maximum true air speed at 4500 m, engine mode – Nominal, 2700 RPM: 600 km/h

La-5 Series 8

Maximum true air speed at sea level, engine mode – Boosted: 544 km/h
Maximum true air speed at 3000 m, engine mode – Nominal: 571 km/h
Maximum true air speed at 6500 m, engine mode – Nominal: 603 km/h

MiG-3 Series 24

Maximum true air speed at sea level, engine mode – Boosted: 525 km/h
Maximum true air speed at sea level, engine mode – Nominal: 493 km/h
Maximum true air speed at 7600 m, engine mode – Nominal: 626 km/h

At sea level, the LaGG-3 is the slowest of the bunch, although compared to its close contemporary in the Yak-1 Series 69 it is actually fairly similar being only 9km/h slower. It can also sustain 505km/h while the MiG-3 can only maintain boost for 10 minutes before losing speed. Of course nothing in this list compares to the La-5 Series 8 on boost and the substantial improvements to the Yak-1B give it a 25km/h lead.

At 2000 meters the Yak-1 Series 69 and LaGG-3 are essentially identical in speed and are bested by the La-5 Series 8 and Yak-1B Series 127 with 20+km/h advantages. At high altitudes the MiG-3 reigns supreme – unsurprising given its AM-35 engine was tuned to operate at those levels.

Without some datapoints in between there are probably some clearer lines to draw here. Despite being the “slowest” I think that is a dubious distinction as the LaGG-3 is only marginally slower than some other very fast aircraft.

Climb

LaGG-3 Series 29

Service ceiling: 10500 m
Climb rate at sea level: 14.9 m/s
Climb rate at 3000 m: 13.3 m/s
Climb rate at 6000 m: 8 m/s

Yak-1 Series 69

Service ceiling: 10200 m
Climb rate at sea level: 16.9 m/s
Climb rate at 3000 m: 15.0 m/s
Climb rate at 6000 m: 9.4 m/s

Yak-1B Series 127

Service ceiling: 10600 m
Climb rate at sea level: 17.0 m/s
Climb rate at 3000 m: 15.0 m/s
Climb rate at 6000 m: 9.5 m/s

La-5 Series 8

Service ceiling: 9500 m
Climb rate at sea level: 18 m/s
Climb rate at 3000 m: 13.3 m/s
Climb rate at 6000 m: 8.2 m/s

MiG-3 Series 24

Service ceiling: 11800 m
Climb rate at sea level: 15.9 m/s
Climb rate at 3000 m: 14.0 m/s
Climb rate at 6000 m: 10.2 m/s

In climb rate the LaGG-3 suffers versus its contemporaries being the slowest climbing at all altitudes. It does nearly match the La-5 Series 8 at 3000 meters and at 6000 meters. At low altitudes the LaGG-3 is 2m/s slower in climb rate than the Yak-1 Series 69 and 1m/s slower than the MiG-3 Series 24.

Turn time

LaGG-3 Series 29

Maximum performance turn at sea level: 22.2 s, at 280 km/h IAS.
Maximum performance turn at 3000 m: 28.9 s, at 270 km/h IAS.

Yak-1 Series 69

Maximum performance turn at sea level: 19.2 s, at 270 km/h IAS.
Maximum performance turn at 3000 m: 24.6 s, at 270 km/h IAS.

Yak-1B Series 127

Maximum performance turn at sea level: 19.0 s, at 270 km/h IAS.
Maximum performance turn at 3000 m: 24.1 s, at 270 km/h IAS./s

La-5 Series 8

Maximum performance turn at sea level: 23.4 s, at 270 km/h IAS.
Maximum performance turn at 3000 m: 35.3 s, at 270 km/h IAS.

MiG-3 Series 24

Maximum performance turn at sea level: 22.4 s, at 270 km/h IAS.
Maximum performance turn at 3000 m: 28.7 s, at 270 km/h IAS.

Roll rate

We don’t have official values for roll rate and I’m not sure what the best methodology is required to produce some accurate roll rate times. At the moment as things stand in IL-2: Battle of Stalingrad version 2.012 – the LaGG-3 is one of the fastest rolling fighters available versus its contemporaries. Some say its faster than the FW190 although that distinction may only be held at some speeds. It’s certainly as fast as the La-5 Series 8 at roll.

Weapons

bos-lagg3-riverside

The default armament for the LaGG-3 Series 29 is a very typical Russian fighter armament in WWII. A single UBS 12.7mm machine gun firing through the prop and a 20mm ShVAK cannon firing through the propeller hub. This is the same as the Yak-1B Series 127 and its overall more powerful than the Yak-1 Series 69 and the default MiG-3 armament. The La-5 Series 8 and MiG-3 (with available mods) ups the ante with a pair of 20mm cannons each.

The LaGG-3 does go a step further offering one of the most potent armaments available. The VYa-23 is a hard hitting 23mm cannon found more typically in the wings of the IL-2. It was experimentally and operationally fitted with this cannon in some rare instances and when fitted it makes the LaGG-3 a potent bomber and attack plane killer.

The LaGG-3 also comes with another experimental armament option that was more common than the VYa-23 fitting. I am talking about the Sh-37 cannon. A slow firing 37mm cannon that can destroy fighters in a single hit and bombers in only a few shots at most.

When it comes to armament flexibility, the LaGG-3 is one of the best.

Overall feel and final comments

lagg-3-victory

Throughout this comparison, the LaGG-3 has fallen short compared to its contemporaries on metrics such as climb, speed, and turn. However, its not far behind in any of those categories and when you pair it with a heavy cannon and a fast roll rate the aircraft becomes more than the sum of its individual performance attributes.

The LaGG-3 is only marginally slower than the Yak-1 which has such an excellent reputation and it handles well enough to keep up most of the time. Controls are not as well harmonized at high speeds where everything but the ailerons start to stiffen.

As far as fighters go, nobody will pick the LaGG-3 Series 29 as their first choice but it may be a good second choice. In situations where only the LaGG-3 Series 29 is available and fancier fighters have run out, the LaGG-3 offers a credible and adequate back up solution.

For bomber interception and defensive situations the LaGG-3 is actually a solid contender. If you know that you’re going to intercept Ju87s, Ju88s, He111s or Bf110s… consider the LaGG-3 as your first choice. Especially when fitted with more heavy armament.

 

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6 Comments Add yours

  1. PIxel Dust says:

    Perhaps a similar analysis can be made regarding the Hawker Hurricane the Curtiss P-40 and the F4F Wildcat: all of these are serviceable backup aircraft, none of which would be anyone’s first choice.

    Some people suggest that the Battle of Britain could have been won by the Hurricane alone, without the companion Spitfire. That would likely be a fatal error, since none of these aircraft alone could have maintained air superiority over any contested area.

    They’re adequate backup aircraft, but only that. All of them make reasonably effective ground attack aircraft that have a marginal chance at defending themselves. A mix of any of these along with the classic IL-2 would make a nice strike package.

    The wonderful thing about the BoX series is that there are so many idiosyncratic aircraft to choose from and master.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      You make a good point. All of those fought when they needed to even when they weren’t the best.

      I do want to make it pretty clear too that the LaGG-3 isn’t a penalty box because you ran out of other aircraft. It’s a very capable fighter in its own right. It’s just not as good as some of the others.

      Like

      1. PIxel Dust says:

        That’s an interesting idea; do you think that perhaps the P-40 and/or Hurricane fit the “penalty box” concept?

        The Wildcat was definitely a last-resort sort of plane; it had few redeeming qualities and was mostly a stop-gap until the Hellcat arrived; I doubt anyone would have chosen it had they other reasonable alternatives available.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. ShamrockOneFive says:

        Interesting question. I think it probably depends on the time period. The Wildcat isn’t really a bad plane and when used with appropriate tactics can fight well enough against the Zero at a time when the Zero pilots were at the top of their game.

        The Hurricane in 1940 over Britain was still good enough to be a first line fighter. And they needed them. In 1942 or 1943 it wasn’t anymore and was used in other roles.

        Given other alternatives you’d probably always want to fly the best aircraft around. With my article here about the LaGG-3 I wanted to explore if the second (or third) best fighter was still any good. I think that’s true here. It’s not too far away from the top performers over Stalingrad.

        Like

  2. superetendard3 says:

    The LaGG surely was improved. Think that the 1943 variant (the most numerous fighter in the Kuban battle btw) was faster than the Yak-1B at low altitude!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      I had to check that but you’re right. Some performance information suggest 543km/h at sea level. That’s impressive.

      1CGS’ Black Six has lamented that the Series 66 wasn’t available while creating the Kuban Career information. The Series 29 will be a substitute no doubt.

      Like

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