GRN-003 1/72 Lavochkin La-9/La-11 fighter model kit
Lavochkin's famed La-7 became one of the best Soviet WWII fighters, however its wooden construction limited its performance. At the end of the War a new La-7 version armed with three 20 mm Beresin B-20 guns was put into production and efforts were made to improve firepower even more by developing the new design armed with Nudelman and Suranov NS-23 guns. Called Aircraft «130» the prototype was completed on the Production Plant 21 in Gorkiy (now Nizhny Novgorod). The new fighter was made entirely of metal and was armed with four NS-23 guns. In 1946 the «130» was put into serial production under the designation «Product 48» and was named La-9. 1,559 airplanes were built in 1946-1949.
Gran 1/72 Lavochkin La-9/La-11 fighter model kit. Pic.1
Gran 1/72 Lavochkin La-9/La-11 fighter model kit. Pic.2
Gran 1/72 Lavochkin La-9/La-11 fighter model kit. Pic.3
According to standard Soviet practice the two-seat trainer version was developed. Named La-9V or UTI La-9, the new aircraft was evaluated in 1947 and put into serial production on the Production Plant 99 (Ulan Ude) under the designation «Product 49». The trainer La-9V could be armed with one NS-23 gun or one 12.7 machine gun. The Production Plant #99 also built single-seat La-9 fighters from the components supplied by the Plant #21. A number of prototypes equipped with auxiliary jet boosters were developed on the basis of the La-9 air-frame, however none were put into serial production.
In order to improve the range of the La-9 to protect Tu-4 bombers during their missions a new long-range prototype was built. Initially named Aircraft «134» or La-9M the fighter made its maiden flight in May 1947. It was armed with three NS-23 guns. A few days later the second prototype - the «134D» was completed. The fuel capacity was increased from 825 to 1,100 liters. This required the introduction of a strengthened undercarriage with high-pressure tires. The fighter was named La-11 and serial production soon began.
One of the most interesting chapters in the career of the La-11 was the so-called Northern Expedition. In 1948 the decision was made to establish an air force base near the North Pole. This was the only place to base Tu-4 Bulls so they could reach their targets deep in USA territory. Lavochkin fighters were intended to provide an air defense as well as to prevent American aircraft activity in this region. The support was provided by Li-2s of the 650th Transport Regiment, C-47s of the 1st Transport Regiment, and llyushin 11-12s of the 708th Transport Regiment. A Tupolev Tu-6 (the reconnaissance version of the Tu-2) would be employed as a pathfinder/leader aircraft. On 7 May 1948 one Tu-6 and three La-11s landed at the ice airstrip near the North Pole and the next day they flew several training missions from the unusual base. Several such expeditions were carried out by the fighters of the 1st Fighter Division and 53rd Fighter Regiment.
The combat career of the La-11 began on 8 April 1950, when a flight of the 30th Guard Fighter Regiment intercepted and shot down a USAF RB-44 reconnaissance aircraft near Libava. The same year another American spy plane - the P-2V Neptune - fell victim to the La-11 lethal cannons. In summer 1950 some 60 La-11s of the 351 Night Fighter Regiment were delivered to China and took part in Chinese Civil war. On 2 April 1951 flight commander Guzhov and his wing man shot down two Cuomintang F-51 fighters. On 13 June 1951 the regiment was moved to Anshan and started operations against American bombers in North Korea. Soon Lt. Kurganov scored his first victory having destroyed a B-26 Invader. At the beginning of 1952 the regiment included two squadrons - one equipped with MiG-15s and another with La-11s. The United Air Army (Korean and Chinese pilots) also received a number of La-9 and La-11 fighters. The Lavochkin La-9 and La-11 became the last generation of Soviet piston fighters - the jet age had begun.