The LaGG-3 was designed by S. A. Lavochkin, V. P. Gorbunov & M. I. Gudkov and was a refined version of the LaGG-1 fitted with a more powerful Klimov M-105P, 1050hp engine. The LaGG-3 entered service in the early months of 1941 and was produced until mid-1942. Although it was an improved design, the LaGG-3 proved immensely unpopular. The novel, wood-laminate construction of the aircraft continued to be poor quality and pilots joked that rather than being an acronym of the designers names "LaGG" stood for "la kirovanny garantirovanny grob" ("guaranteed varnished coffin"). To improve the aircraft's overall performance, several modifications were made during production of the 6,258 units, resulting in no less than 66 variants!
In combat, despite being generally rated as underpowered and not highly maneuverable, the LAGG-3 proved to be a durable fighter. The first fights of the LaGG-3 against the Bf 109E in June of 1941, demonstrated that it was a quite capable opponent, if somewhat over-weighted. It incorporated self-sealing fuel tanks and exhaust gas ducted into the fuel tanks as inert gas. During the early stages of German invasion Its resistance to combat damage was a large factor of its relative success.
Experiments with fitting a large radial engine to the LaGG-3 airframe eventually solved most of the problems and led to the superb Lavochkin La-5... but that's another story.
The new ICM LaGG-3 kit comes in their standard, somewhat flimsy, side opening cardboard box. On top of it, there is an artwork representing an aircraft wearing one of the color schemes provided on the decal sheet. On the back, there is a 3 view painting guide in color, which is a good starting point to do the camouflage painting.
The plastic sprues (transparent one included) are all located within the same resealable bag. However, no parts were damaged in my sample. The kit is composed of three sprues made of grey plastic (which appears to be quite soft), one transparent sprue, one decal sheet and the instructions. The quality of the moulding is good and representative of ICM latest releases (the Bf 109 F kit comes to mind). There is some flash here and there but nothing to worry about. I also found some sink marks on the fuselage sides, especially where the interior detail of the cockpit is heavier. However, it's less dramatic than what was the norm in the previous kits of the same manufacturer and some putty will solve the problem. The surface of the plastic is a bit grainy though.
Externally, the LaGG-3 isn't a complex aircraft. There are not many panel lines for example because the wings and most of the fuselage are made of wood. But where there are some details, ICM made a good job to represent them. The engraved panel lines and relief details are very nice, as well as the fabric representation of the movable surfaces. The separate engine upper cowlings parts and the metal skin of the forward fuselage area are particularly well rendered and should look realistic under a nice paint job.
The level of detail of the kit is also very good. Unless in their Bf 109 F, it seems that ICM made an effort to provide a decent cockpit interior this time. The sidewalls feature nice relief details and some wheels and levers will make them look even more busy. The pilot's bathtub is composed of a cockpit floor, a seat, a very nice pilot stick, a rear bulkhead, an armor plate with headrest, a radio compartment, an oxygen bottle and an instrument panel. The latter is made of clear plastic, which is a bit strange since it must be painted in interior grey!? The gunsight is present on the transparent sprue as well. I will let the photos speak, but overall I must say I'm quite impressed by the kit, even if the transparencies are somewhat distorted... but this was the case of many Soviet WWII planes.
On a side note I have to add that there is no engine provided in this kit. Quite often did ICM include one in their 1/48 aircraft, but it proved to be a disadvantage since it made the build more difficult and emphasized the fit issues. Therefore, the LaGG-3 should be a lot easier to build than the other kits made by the same manufacturer. I must also add that this kit has nothing in common with South Front's LaGG-3
in case you've asked yourself the question.
On the box, it is written that this kit represents an early LaGG-3 of the 1- 4 series. According to my references it seems ICM have made a good job on spotting the differences with later variants. The upper engine cowlings feature the typical gun bulges and with the optional part provided one can represent an aircraft with two or one UBS machine guns as often one was removed by the ground personnel. The rudder is correctly fitted with two mass balances (only one or none on later variants) and has the early type shape. The area behind the exhausts is protected by an additional metal plate, also a feature of early LaGG-3s. The Wings don't have the leading edge slats and the spinner is pointier.
On the sprues, there are several optional parts which are labelled "not for use": two later style upper engine cowlings, one rounder spinner, three thinner propeller blades, two pairs of exhausts, six rockets rails, two small bombs etc... One could imagine that with all these additional parts it is possible to do later variants with this kit? The answer is no! Several modifications would have to be done to convert the serie 1- 4 variants to later styles. Given the price of the kit, it is probably wiser to wait until ICM do new variants and buy them all, rather than spend some precious time doing additional work. Obviously, the Ukrainian manufacturer will release other variants of the LaGG-3 in the future like they did with their Bf 109 F. It seems as if the molds of this kit are modular and that the early fuselages halves will be replaced by serie 35 or 66 fuselages in the next boxings. The wings will probably be new as well.
Instructions and decals
The instructions are printed on two black & white A4 sheets. The first one for the history, parts layout and 8 step assembly guide and the second one for the painting options. Colors are given for the Model Master range of paints. The decals are nicely printed and will allow you do do four color schemes, the first two being two different versions of the same aircraft:
1 - LaGG-3 series 1, Capt. L. Galtchenko, 145th IAP (Fighter Regiment), Shongui (Mourmansk aera), Autumn 1941.
2 - LaGG-3 series 1, Capt. L. Galtchenko, commander of 609th IAP (Fighter Regiment), Africanda (Mourmansk aera), Summer 1942.
3 - LaGG-3 series 4, Capt. L. 44th IAP (Fighter Regiment), Leningrad aera, Autumn 1941.
4 - LaGG-3 series 4, 3d GvIAP (Guard Fighter Regiment), Leningrad aera, Spring 1942.
ICM's new LaGG-3 is a superb kit and provided the fit is good, I would recommend it to every modeller who has some interest in Russian WWII fighters. The price is very competitive too, so it won't cost you too much to add the predecessor of the La-5 to your model collection.
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