Hans-Heiri Stapfer. LaGG Fighters in Action. Aircraft Number 163 (Carrolton, TX: Squadron/Signal, 1996) 49 pp, illus., color, B/W photos, line drawings. $7.95.
This is the latest title in what is rapidly becoming a complete series covering Soviet aircraft of World War 2. Like the two volumes on Polikarpov fighters and the one on the Ilyushin Il-2 that Squadron released earlier in the year, this book is primarily of value for the wonderful collection of high-quality photographs contained in its pages. Once again, these include cockpit and detail views that were once all but impossible to find. Excellent line drawings highlight subtle differences between models and small details that might otherwise go unnoticed in the pictures.
Lavochkin's first major warplane, the LaGG-1/-3 airplanes belonged to the first generation of Soviet warplanes designed after the Spanish Civil War and the fighting over Mongolia. Like the Yak-1 and MiG-1/-3, the LaGG sought to incorporate a powerful, in-line engine, cannon armament, pilot armor, and fuel-system protection in the smallest, lowest-drag airframe possible. The LaGG-1 was, in certain respects, the cleverest of the three candidates for production. Inert exhaust gas, rich in fire- suppressant oxides of nitrogen, was cooled, filtered, and piped into the fuel tanks, where it displaced oxygen and kept explosive vapors from forming. This possibly unique system worked well. Unfortunately, the LaGG fighter also proved the heaviest and least successful of the three. Nevertheless, it was produced in quantity, widely used, and, finally, re-engined with the new ASh-82 radial engine. In this form, it became one of the highest performing fighters of the war, the La-5.
The text is generally clear and informative (though the copy editing could be a bit better in placesó a criticism that applies to all Squadron's recent offerings). Very full coverage of the various production series is included. While experts on Lavochkin aircraft will find fairly little that is really new to them, they also will not find much that is missing. Modelers and readers with less comprehensive knowledge of Soviet aviation will be fascinated.
I have always enjoyed Squadron books, if only for their general availability and relatively low cost. Now, given the current choice of subjects, the recent price reduction, and the photographic quality of the recent volumes, they me be one of the best buys in enthusiast reading. Recommended.
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© 1995 by Robert Craig Johnson. First published in Eagle Droppings, the Newsletter of the Rocky Mountain Chapter, IPMS/USA.