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La-7s of 4 and 5 giap kbf
by Massimo Tessitori
Updated on May 15, 2017
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Image from Lagg & Lavochkin aces of ww2, G.Mellinger, ed.Osprey

 

The identification of this 2-guns La-7 'white 10' is difficult.

Officially, the photo is described as 'La-7 of an unidentified Guards regiment on the Baltic front, 1944'.

A very small anchor is barely visible on the top of the fin.

Another interesting detail is the wire aerial arrangement: the wire splits just close to the tail, and one ends goes to the top of the mast, the other one ends close to its root. This arrangement is not standard for La-7s, but it was seen on all the known photos (very few) of planes of 4 giap kbf (see below).

According to 'Lagg & Lavockin aces of ww2' of G.Mellinger, this plane could have been of Vasilii Zaitsev (34 individual +19 shared kills), twice HSU, commander of 5 giap, deputy commander of 11 giad, because some of his previous fighters featured a nose marking identical to this one.

According to M.Vestsik, there are other photos of this plane with pilots, none of which is Zaitsev.

Apart for the decoration on the nose, this plane seems to have a strong resemblance to that of Lt. Col. Vasilii Golubev, commander of 4 giap kbf; this seems to confirm that the planes are at least of the same division.

 

Reconstruction of the left profile of plane 10.

Bort numbers appear to have a wide and thick outline; here it was drawn as on the plane of Golubev, a double outline: red outside and black inside.

If it was really the plane of an ace, it could have a roster of victory starlets on the left side; anyway, often these starlets were painted on planes just before a photo session.

Note that the shade of white of the nose and tail is lighter than that of the bort number, a thing often noted on photos.

Lt. Col. Vasilii Golubev (centre), commander of 4 giap kbf, with Semyon Lavochkin (right) on September 25, 1944; the chief designer went to the ceremony of deliver of 20 new La-7s to 4 giap kbf.

The unit had limited occasions for air combat, because its main duty in 1944 was to escort naval convoys. In 1945, it had the main role to escort bombers and ground attack planes on the cities of Eastern Prussia.

Image from LaGG & Lavochkin aces of WW2, G.Mellinger

Lt. Col. Vasilii Golubev, commander of 4 giap kbf, in front of his plane.

In total, Golubev is credited with 51 victories, 39 of which individual and 12 shared, all obtained with I-16 or La-5, the last one being on June 28, 1944.

This roster shows 39 stars; probably it counts the individual victories only, and the photo was made after summer 1944 after his last one.

Note the wire aerial arrangement, not standard for La-7s but similar to that of plane 10 shown above.

This photo doesn't allow to recognize if the plane is a La-5FN or a La-7; anyway, it shows that his plane was not numbered '33', although his memories say that this was his callsign after 1941 up to the end of the war. The first digit could be either 3 or 7, and the second one 0, 2,6,8,9. It has a black or very dark blue inner one, and a lighter (light blue or red) outer one.

According to M.Vestsik, other photos of this plane do exist, and show that it was a La-7 and its real bort number.

Image from Red Stars, of Geust, Keskinen, Stenman.

Image of the La-7 of 4 giap (according to some sources, it could be the plane of Golubev).

The image shows a white spinner and, what is more interesting, a part of the tail.

Here we see that not only the upper part of the rudder was painted white, but the top of the fin too.

The enlarged detail allows to see what seems a small black 4 just close to the leading edge (probably referred to 4 giap kbf), a wide void space (probably there is written iap kbf in small and tiny cyrillic fonts, not visible on the photo), then something that could be a tiny anchor as on plane 10.

This encourages to think that both the planes were of the same unit and had the tail painted in the same way.

The wide stars suggest that this plane was from Zavod 381, as plane 10. The fairings on the nose aren't visible because the panels are removed, but no any protruding part is long enough to require the long fairings of 3-guns La-7s, so this has to be a 2-guns plane, just as n.10.

The wire aerial arrangement is the same of the plane of Golubev and of plane 10; it could have been a standard for 4 giap kbf.

Image from Aviacia i vremya 2012-4

This image shows what seem to be a La-5FN of 4 giap kbf numbered 41 aside La-7 number 70 of the same unit.

The image is extremely interesting because it confirms that the white area on the tail of La-5FN was extended to the whole rudder, as shown in photos of 1942-44, while the La-7 has a white oblique cap just as shown in the photo above. So these different markings convived in the same unit in late 1944 and early 1945.

 

The second interesting point is that plane 70 looks fully compatible with the photo of the plane of Golubev; besides it is likely that the only La-7 shown in a ceremony was the commander's plane.

On this base, It looks likely, if not sure, that the La-7 of Golubev was numbered 70.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/34255681651/

 

This profile shows the reconstruction of the plane of Golubev based on the considerations above.

A small black 4 looks visible on the photo above, as something that could be a tiny anchor as on plane 10. A tiny cyrillic inscription IAP KBF between them is a possibility, although not drawn here.

The bort number 70 is represented with a black and red double outline, compatible with the known photo. Some repaintings in the starlets area have been put into evidence.

Disclaimer and credits:

The photos of this page come from many sources, not always mentioned. If you think to have rights on some image, please email me and I'll provide to credit or remove it.