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La-7s of 163 giap, 229 iad
by Massimo Tessitori

Updated on August 6, 2020

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This photo of La-7 n.99 was published on Lavockin La-7 of Milos Vestsik, MBI, a lot of years ago, and the identification of the relative unit, place and date has been a problem for years.

The most prominent characteristic is the white square on the rudder, likely a regimental recognition mark.

The oblique band on the fin was strange too, also because it let see the white outline of the red star on the tail and was suspected to be some shadow or photo artifact.

The camouflage isn't recognizable. The glossy finish could suggest that, at the date of the photo, the plane could have been repainted with uniform grey or green uppersurfaces, but it could have been simply wet.

 

 

In recent time, this page http://ava.org.ru/iap/163g.htm has made some light on the thing, collecting photos with similar markings and pilots whose unit is known: it was 249 IAP, that became 163 GIAP in April 1944. The unit, formerly equipped with LaGG-3 and La-5, was reequipped with La-7 in November 1944.

Left: some pilots aside the nose of a La-7. The La-7 logo is visible on the cowling, showing that the side, at least, still preserved the factory camouflage; probably the photo was taken in November 1944.

Right: pilot I.V. Streltsov. Looking at his uniform, the photo looks taken in the mild season, probably spring 1945.

Although very partial, this photo is interesting because it shows well the markings: a white square on the rudder, that was the regimental marking, and an oblique band on the fin, partially covering the red star, that appears in a light color, probably light blue. A similar band appears on other photos, but with a darker color, likely red; this variability suggests that it was a squadron recognition marking, painting according to the squadron; the likely possible colors were red, light blue and white.

Similar markings appeared already on LaGG-3 of this unit in late 1943 or early 1944, and were surely present on La-5s, even if we haven't any photos showing them.

 

 

Plane n.73 of pilot N.M. Onopchenko, one of the few where the number is readable. Unfortunately the tail and nose aren't, so one has to guess on the base of photos of other planes of the unit.

The uniform is for temperate climate, that suggests that the photo was taken in spring 1945.

The camouflage is not clearly recognizable; the dark area behind the pilot is very blurred and doesn't match the standard factory camouflage; this could be for some later repainting, while it's likely that the plane had been delivered to the unit in a standard camouflage.

Anyway, we can suppose that the plane arrived at the unit in November 1944 without particular markings on the nose, preserving the factory camouflage and logo.

In a second time, in 1945, the nose of all the La-7 of the unit was likely repainted red.

 

Left: a profile of the plane n.73 of Onopchenko drawn according to the considerations above. The squadron color is guessed as red.

In a second time, the nose of the plane was probably painted red according to the images below.

 

Photo of plane 82 of V.A. Denisov (in the cockpit), Torun airfield (Poland) 1945.

The most interesting characteristic shown by the photo is the red nose: spinner, front ring, triangles on the sides. The triangles are moved higher than the plane's axis height, and are outlined in white. It is the very same style used on the planes of the better known 176 GIAP, the unit of Kozhedub.

It's very likely that all the planes of the unit received this decoration on the nose, that helped to distinguish them from German FW-190s.

 

 

The profile of plane 82 drawn according to the considerations above.

The color of the oblique band on the tail was guessed as red.