Aviation of Word War II
La-5. Combat Use.
Year 1942. Stalingrad.
On August 13, 1942, the first La-5 M-82A arrived in the 49th Red Banner IAP - the regiment was given the task of conducting military tests of a new fighter. The plane caused a wary attitude: the family resemblance to the LaGG-3 was not the best recommendation, a powerful engine is good, but how will it show itself in battle? The question was far from idle. It was already known that the Air Force command planned, among others, to re-equip one of the best air regiments, the 434th IAP, with the La-5, but several pilots flew the new aircraft, gave a negative review, and the commander V.I. Stalin made sure that his unit was re-equipped with the Yak-9.
Meanwhile, the 49th KIAP, together with other units of the 1st VA, fought fierce battles during the most difficult Rzhev-Sychevsky counteroffensive of the Kalinin, Western and Bryansk fronts. The regiment began combat work on the new machine on August 14 and until August 29, the day the VI ended, made 180 sorties on the La-5, flying 130 hours and shooting down 16 enemy aircraft in 27 air battles at the cost of 10 Lavochkins.
In general, the beginning of the combat biography of the aircraft turned out to be difficult. In letter No. 416756ss dated August 21, 1942, Air Force Chief Engineer General Repin wrote to the NKAP that La-5 defects cause breakdowns and accidents: spontaneous retraction of the tail wheel, cracks in tanks, destruction of exhaust manifolds are regularly observed ... Assembly quality was low , the commander of the 1st IAK, Major General Beletsky, noted this in letter No. 051 dated October 9, 1942, and he addressed his message not only to the commander-in-chief of the Air Force Novikov, People's Commissar Shakhurin, but also to the Central Committee of the CPSU (b).
However, the La-5 entered the troops in increasing numbers, and already in the summer of 1942 in the Upper Akhtuba (lower reaches of the Volga) the 287th IAD was formed - the first formation fully armed with the La-5.
In those days, a battle began in the south that would become one of the turning points of the entire war. The enemy launched an offensive with the aim of cutting off the center of the USSR from the oil of Baku and Guryev. The key point was Stalingrad. On August 17, units of the Wehrmacht crossed the Don. Combined groups of 10-30 Il-2 and Pe-2 with 10-15 cover fighters tried to stop the tank columns, with the best being the Yak-1 and La-5. From 18 to 22 August, they carried out about 1000 sorties with a intensity of up to three per day per vehicle, while the command demanded at least five.
The defenders of Stalingrad were supported by two air armies: the 8th Major General Khryukin and the 16th Lieutenant General Stepanov. At the beginning of the battle, a small number of La-5s were only at the disposal of Khryukin. In general, the fighters were engaged in escorting the strike groups, there were no forces left to cover the troops, and the enemy bombers acted with impunity. The Soviet command regularly sent reinforcements to the critical sector of the front. So, in the second half of August, the 240th IAP arrived near Stalingrad, having just received the La-5. He could only last 9 days. From August 20 to 29, the regiment fought 58 air battles, shot down 10 enemy aircraft and lost almost all La-5s. At the first stage of the Battle of Stalingrad, despite their numerical superiority, Soviet fighters failed to gain air supremacy.
Training sessions were held with the flight personnel, during which it was recommended to use the tactics of layered formation of groups, the separation of the functions of subgroups of cover, shock and reserve. Organizational measures were also taken: on September 28, Lieutenant General Rudenko became commander of the 16th VA. The build-up of forces and the arrival of new equipment continued. For example, in September, the 180th IAP of the 235th IAD was re-equipped with La-5. The 2nd mixed air corps of the reserve of the Headquarters of the Supreme High Command (SAK RVGK) was given operational subordination to the command of the 8th VA. And after the start of the Soviet counter-offensive near Stalingrad, the 17th VA, Lieutenant General Krasovsky, entered the business.
Particular importance was attached to the air group under the command of Colonel V.A. Sryvkin. It was specially created to support the advancing troops and transferred to the right bank of the Volga, first to the Abganerovo airfield, and then to the field sites Big and Small Chapurniki, Raygorod, Fertile and Hard work. The striking force of the group was the 214th ShAD, part of the crews of the 206th ShAD and the 25th Guards. NLBAP, which were later joined by the 596th NLBAP. They were to be supported by fighters of the 201st and 235th IAD, as well as one regiment each from the 218th and 268th IAD. The Lavochkins were in service with the 13th IAP of the 201st IAD and the 181st IAP of the 235th IAD. Combat work began on December 1. The anti-aircraft artillery of the encircled 6th Army of the Wehrmacht was strong, especially small-caliber, the activity of fighters increased sharply. The enemy quickly revealed the location of the Soviet aviation bases and began to bomb them. It was decided to retaliate against enemy airfields, and on December 10, 4 Il-2s from the 622nd ShAP flew out to attack the Pitomnik airfield under the cover of four La-5s from the 13th IAP. On the approach, they were attacked by enemy fighters, which cut off the La-5 from the attack aircraft and quickly shot down three "humpbacks". The fourth left, but 4 Bf 109G caught up with him over the front line, and he made an emergency landing on his territory.
After 8 days of fighting, Sryvkin had only 38 serviceable aircraft left, and not a single La-5 was among them. In mid-December, the remnants of the once powerful unit were taken beyond the Volga. But the aviators completed their task, making a significant contribution to the encirclement of the enemy grouping.
The most important task of the Luftwaffe has now become the supply of the "Stalingrad cauldron". For the operation of the air bridge, significant forces of transport aviation were used, including multi-engine aircraft, but this did not help. Of the eighteen FW 200s that appeared near Stalingrad in early January 1943, 5 were lost in a matter of days, and of the two Ju 290s, one crashed, and the second was shot down by La-5, and he made an emergency landing.
One of the most successful "hunters for transport workers" was the young pilot P. Bazanov from the 3rd GIAP, who came to the regiment from the school in August 1942. His first victory was a Ju 52m3 stuffed with schnapps, tobacco and delicacies, which fell straight on the border of the airfield of the 3rd GIAP. On December 11, the La-5 group of this regiment intercepted 18 "trimotors", and Bazanov shot down three of them. The La-5 artillery proved to be more effective against these durable aircraft than the combined armament of the Yak-1 and Yak-7.
During the Battle of Stalingrad, Soviet pilots widely practiced "free hunting", and this gave good results. So, the pilots of the 5th GIAP who fought on the La-5 shot down 45 enemy aircraft using this tactic from December 15 until the end of the battle.
In general, the Stalingrad strategic offensive operation "Uranus" became a severe test for the La-5. Among the new types of domestically produced fighters, the La-5 loss rate turned out to be the highest: one Yak of the Red Army Air Force was lost in 45 sorties, LaGG-3 in 43, and La-5 in 40. However, the successes of the regiments armed with La -5, too. By order of the NPO dated May 14, 1943, several units and formations received the honorary name "Stalingrad", among them the armed La-5 of the 181st IAP.
At the end of this chapter, it is worth mentioning one sortie of the 5th GIAP group, which took place in the Stalingrad region after the end of the grandiose battle. On March 10, 1943, 12 La-5s (leader - commander of the lieutenant V.A. Zaitsev) covered the troops. On the approach to the front line, Soviet pilots discovered three FW 189s, marching in formation without cover, obviously, to attack our positions (in this capacity, the “frames” were used quite actively). The Lavochkins forced the enemy to break formation with a surprise attack, then three pairs of La-5s moved aside, covering the simultaneous attack of the rest. And now all the FW 189s were on the ground. But the host has already received a message: fighters of an unknown type are attacking the Il-2! The group of the 5th GIAP quickly arrived at the indicated place and met the FW 190, which retreated due to their small number. Then it was the turn of a large group of Ju 87s. Probably, those very “Fokkers” should have covered them, but they were chasing easy prey. La-5s shot down 7 more bombers and returned home without loss.
VI - Voyskovyye ispytaniya - Troop trials
KIAP - Krasnoznamennyy Istrebitel'nyy aviatsionnyy polk - Red Banner Fighter Aviation Regiment
GIAP - Gvardeyskiy istrebitel'nyy aviatsionnyy polk - Guards Fighter Aviation Regiment
IAD - Itsrebitel'naya aviatsionnaya diviziya - Fighter Aviation Division
IAK - Istrebitel'nyy aviatsionnyy korpus - Fighter Aviation Corps
VA - Vozdushnaya armiya - Air Army
KBF - Krasnoznamennyy Baltiyskiy flot - Red Banner Baltic Fleet
ZA - Zenitnaya artilleriya - Flak
TVD - Teatr vozdushnykh deystviy - Air action theater
PVO - Protivo vozdushnaya oborona - Air Defense
Year 1943. Struggle for Air Aupremacy.
By January 1, 1943, the Red Army Air Force had 7337 new types of fighters. Most of all there were Yak-1, Yak-7 and Yak-9 (3564 in total). La-5 occupied the 5th place - there were 717 of them in the ranks, less than even the Hurricanes, which by that time turned out to be 862.
The lessons of the first period of the war were not in vain. Gradually improved not only the technique, but also the tactics of fighter aircraft, measures were taken to raise the level of training of the flight crew. For example, in the fall of 1942, the 896th IAP from the 286th IAD of the 16th VA, rearmed in the fall of 1942 with La-5, was able to shoot down 21 enemy aircraft in almost six months of fighting in the Oryol direction, losing 18 of its own. Semyonov, a representative of the reconstituted Main Directorate of Combat Training of the Air Force, was sent to the regiment, who “trained” the combatants in the air and in theoretical classes for two weeks. As a result, in the two weeks that have passed since the end of the "literacy campaign", the regiment shot down 17 enemy aircraft, losing only 1 of its own.
Improved interaction between fighter and attack aircraft. Operations became more and more difficult, as evidenced by the actions of the Air Force of the Baltic Fleet on April 21, 1943.
Intelligence discovered a convoy in the northern part of the Narva Bay, and two squadrons of Il-2 were sent to destroy it. 18 Yak-7s provided direct cover, and 12 Lavochkins from the 4th GIAP of the KBF Air Force were supposed to clear the airspace, 4 more of these fighters remained in reserve. La-5s flew out in succession: first the link of Commander Tsyganov, after 20 minutes - Commander Vasiliev, and after another 10 minutes - the four of the regiment commander V. Golubev.
Attack aircraft appeared over the target, 12 fighters of the Finnish Air Force tried to attack them, but Tsyganov's link could not let them through to the Ilam, shooting down one aircraft and forcing the rest to retreat. The next attempt was made by 6 German FW 190s, which were met by Golubev's link, which shot down one Fokker. The enemy increased their forces by sending 16-18 FW 190A and Bf 109G. The enemy was able to break through to the Il-2, but the Yak-7 thwarted the attack, "filling up" several enemy aircraft. One "Messer" was destroyed by Tsyganov's link. The Lavochkins were already running out of fuel, and they began to withdraw from the battle, but then 14 Finnish fighters appeared. With a swift oncoming attack, La-5s shot down four Finns ... The attack aircraft managed to "process" the target. The price of this success was 1 La-5, 3 Yak-7 and 2 Il-2.
At the end of April 1943, a conference was held at which combatant pilots were introduced to captured equipment and techniques that made it possible to realize the advantages of domestic fighters. "For a snack" test pilot Nikashin conducted a series of training battles with the Bf 109G-2 on the La-5FN, in which he showed the superiority of the Soviet machine at low altitudes. The time has come for decisive battles for air supremacy.
La-5 took limited part in the air battle in the Kuban, because. The Red Army Air Force used there mainly fighters of other types, including Yaks and Aerocobras. However, at least one division armed with Lavochkins was transferred to this sector of the front in the midst of the fighting.
A particularly tense situation developed in the Kursk region, where the front line curved to the west in an arc. The Soviet command was aware of the danger of enemy attacks on the flanks of this ledge, but the ground forces could not immediately launch a new offensive and level the front. In May, in order to prevent the enemy from concentrating reserves in the most threatening directions, it was decided to use aviation. At the same time, preliminary attacks on Luftwaffe airfields were planned, designed to tie down enemy fighters and clear the sky for attack aircraft.
On May 6 at 0500, 10 La-5s from the 5th GIAP and 6 Yak-1s from the 814th IAP appeared over the Kramatorsk airfield, where there were up to 100 enemy aircraft. They did not allow the fighters to take off until the approach of 16 "Ils", and those 17 minutes "ironed" the parking with impunity. In addition, the Lavochkins and Yaks did not allow the 14 Bf 109 and FW 190 attack aircraft, which arrived from other airfields, to break through. On that day, several more such raids were carried out, in which, according to the reports of the crews, they managed to destroy 23 aircraft on the ground and damage 12, and in air battles shoot down 11 fighters and damage 3. Their losses amounted to 6 Il-2 and 1 La-5. True, the report of the headquarters of the 17th VA, adjusted in the direction of decreasing victories, went “upstairs”.
On the same day, the 2nd VA worked at the Kharkiv air hub. In the early morning, all 5 airfields where enemy fighters were based were simultaneously attacked. 18 La-5s covered 12 Il-2s that stormed the Rogan airfield. The attack aircraft made 2-3 runs each, using all their weapons, and the La-5s took part in the attack and suppression of the positions of the MZA. The enemy could not raise the fighters. The Germans lost 50 aircraft, which was confirmed by aerial photography. At 15.00 a second raid took place. The enemy was already ready for him: he dispersed and camouflaged equipment, ambushed the MZA and field sites for fighters. As a result, the aviators did not achieve tangible results, losing 6 Il-2s and 3 fighters.
Preparing the operation "Citadel", the Germans were able to concentrate significant forces in the area of the Kursk salient, incl. aviation: parts of the 2nd, 4th, 6th Air Fleets and the 2nd Air Corps of the Hungarian Air Force. The air force consisted of about 500 FW 190A and Bf 109G fighters, 660 medium bombers, 540 dive bombers and attack aircraft, including the FW 190F that debuted on the Eastern Front. There were more than 200 combat aircraft of other types on this site.
On the Soviet side, the forces of four air armies, including more than 600 La-5s, were used in whole or in part. In total, the sky "arcs" were supposed to close 2650 aircraft.
On the eve of the battle, a real hunt began for German reconnaissance aircraft, which the enemy actively used, trying to more accurately reveal the location and forces of the Soviet troops. The FW 189 was considered a particularly difficult target. The pilots of the 88th GIAP, armed with the La-5 M-82A, especially distinguished themselves in intercepting the “frames”. From May 22 to July 1, they shot down 4 FW 189s and several other types of reconnaissance aircraft, and in July, the hottest month of the Battle of Kursk, a specially assigned squadron of this regiment destroyed 10 FW189s.
As you know, the General Staff of the Red Army managed to uncover the concept of Operation Citadel. As a preventive measure, it was decided on the night before the German offensive to conduct artillery and air counter-training. On July 5, at 2.20 on the Central and at 3.00 on the Voronezh fronts, artillery began to speak, and aircraft began to rise. According to the preliminary plan, aviation was supposed to operate along the advanced echelon of the enemy, but literally a few hours before the start of the operation, the task was changed - enemy airfields again became the main targets. In particular, to strike at the Osnova airfield near Kharkov, where, according to intelligence, there were up to 150 German aircraft, 16 Il-2s from the 237th ShAP departed under the cover of 10 La-5s from the 31st IAP of the 295th IAD. Unfortunately, surprise was not achieved. On the way to the target, the first eight Ils were attacked from above and behind by 10 Bf 109Gs, which cut off the cover. Then another 20 "thin" ones fell on the attack aircraft from the rear hemisphere with vertical "scissors" and almost immediately shot down 4 aircraft. The four remaining were able to bombard the almost empty parking lots, and on the way back from the Messerschmitt airfield, three of them were shot down. The second eight Il-2 managed to attack the eastern parking lot in full strength, where there were more enemy aircraft. However, then this group was also exterminated: directly at the airfield and on the way home, enemy anti-aircraft gunners shot down 4 Ila, Messers - 2. The Lavochkins did not suffer losses and were able to destroy 4 Bf 109G, but they could not cope with the cover of attack aircraft.
Unsuccessfully worked La-5 and 116th IAP, covering 3 sixes of Il-2, unsuccessfully storming the crossing across the Northern Donets. Of the 9 Ils, 8 were shot down by the Messers.
From 4.25 a.m., German bomber and attack aircraft began to deliver systematic strikes against Soviet troops throughout the entire depth of defense. According to VNOS posts, by 1100 the enemy had made almost twice as many sorties over the battlefield as the more numerous Soviet aviation. Returning to the support of the troops, the command of the 16th and 2nd VA could not correctly identify the main directions and dispersed the forces of attack aircraft. Fighter aircraft, which tried to fight small groups of enemy fighters over a large area, failed to cover either strike aircraft or troops. Thus, on the first day of the battle, the Red Army Air Force did not fulfill its tasks.
On the night of July 6, it was decided to change the tactics of fighter aircraft. The divisional commanders were given the task of allocating forces to actions to call ground units and to "clear" the airspace. An order was received to move part of the aircraft to the forward sites ...
Both sides in the air over the Kursk Bulge suffered heavy losses. So, on July 5, in a battle with La-5, the group commander of I / JG 54, Mr. Zeiler (102 victories) and his wingman Hunerfeld (28 victories), were shot down. On the Soviet side, on July 8, the commanders of the 40th and 88th Guards IAP died, and the third regiment of the same 8th GIAD of the 5th IAK RVGK landed the damaged La-5 on a minefield and returned to the unit only the next morning.
A characteristic air battle took place on July 9 near the village of Ponyri. 14 Il-2s from the 218th ShAP attacked a column of tanks and infantry. They were covered by La-5 from the 165th IAP. They repelled the first attack of six FW 190As, allowed the Ilam to bombard the target, and when the next group of 8 FW 190s appeared, they gave the attack aircraft time to form a defensive circle. Without knocking down a single "Fokker", La-5 was saved by all the attack aircraft, and they "filled up" 3 "Focke-Wulf".
In mid-July, the Soviet command transferred new air regiments to the "arc" area. An armored La-5 of the 63rd GIAP arrived from the Kalinin Front, in which Alexei Maresyev, who returned to service after amputation of both legs, fought and won his first victory. The 32nd GIAP, which fought on the La-5FN, who came near Kursk in the midst of the battle, distinguished himself. In 25 air battles, the pilots of this illustrious regiment shot down 33 enemy aircraft, including 21 FW 190s. Three La-5 regiments of the 201st Stalingrad IAD also arrived. For successful operations in the Kursk region and contribution to the liberation of Kharkov, this division in August 1943 was transformed into the 10th Guards.
One of the most famous duels in the sky of the "duga" took place on July 6th. Pilot of the 88th GIAP A.K. Gorovets, returning to the La-5 M-82A from a sortie, saw a group of Ju 87s. In a tense battle, he shot down 9 "bast shoes", but then died himself. The controversy surrounding this legendary battle has not subsided to this day, and documentary data have not yet been published that can unambiguously confirm or refute Gorovets' achievement. However, it is worth noting that he was an experienced fighter, flying from the beginning of the 1930s, served as a test pilot. By July 1943, he had already shot down 2 aircraft personally and 6 in the group. And yet - high flight data, powerful weapons and a solid ammunition load of the La-5 made it possible to do this.
And yet, on the Kursk Bulge, German dive bombers, attack aircraft and even the clumsy He 111N felt very at ease. And the fact that the Wehrmacht was unable to implement the Citadel plan was mainly the merit of the ground forces.
The Battle of Kursk was the first major operation in which La-5F and FN took part. They fought at optimal heights, usually in the face of numerical superiority, so why didn't they manage to achieve air supremacy? There are several reasons. Firstly, throughout the entire operation, the actions of the Red Army Air Force were mainly defensive in nature, and the initiative belonged to the enemy. Secondly, the enemy used more progressive tactics, widely using layered formations and vertical maneuver. Soviet fighters were still fighting on turns. Thirdly, the use of advanced airfields, well-established interaction with other parts of the Luftwaffe, ground air defense and ground forces made it possible not only to make more sorties, but also to focus efforts on the most important areas. Fourthly, poor material support led to a large percentage of non-combat-ready aircraft in the units of the Red Army Air Force. And one more important aspect. There were many young pilots at the front, who not only did not have a single sortie, but before arriving at the combat unit, they had never seen the La-5. However, this was not the case everywhere. The 116th IAP, which participated in the Battle of Kursk, where great attention was paid to the commissioning of young people, and on the most difficult days the principle “only old men go into battle” was in effect, for the period from June 5 to October 15, 1943 shot down 71 enemy aircraft, losing only 3 La-5.
In the Kursk offensive operation, which ended on July 23, the enemy was not driven far to the west, but he managed to inflict heavy losses, including in aviation. Among the most productive regiments of the Soviet Air Force on the Kursk Bulge was the 5th GIAP of the 207th IAD (from August 24 -11th GIAD) of the 2nd VA. By August, the regimental air victories had exceeded 500. Its commander, Colonel Zaitsev, shot down 34 aircraft personally and 19 in the group by the end of the war. Having suffered heavy losses at the beginning of the battle, the 5th GIAD adequately responded to the enemy - its pilots shot down in the air and burned 250 enemy aircraft at airfields.
At the end of the summer, the Germans in groups of up to 40 bombers under strong cover attacked most of the airfields of the Voronezh Front. Reflecting the raids, the pilots of the 5th GIAP carried out about 100 sorties on their La-5 M-82A and shot down 17 enemy aircraft, losing 6 pilots, two more were hospitalized. Shortly after the liberation, Kharkov was subjected to the heaviest air raid in the entire war, which fighter aircraft could not repel. Even the victories at Kursk, Orel, Belgorod and Kharkov did not give our aviation complete air supremacy.
In the summer of 1943, stubborn battles were also taking place in the Baltic. On July 19, La-5s from the 3rd GIAP of the KBF Air Force damaged the FW 190A of the commander of the IV group of the squadron JG 54 "Green Heart" Hauptmann Rudorffer, who was forced to leave the car, barely reaching the territory of Finland. After 3 days, a pair of La-5s from this regiment intercepted 3 links from the same group. The group commander again turned out to be the leader, an experienced pilot Tereke was paired with him, but the rest were “yellow mouths”. In a short battle, Terek died, and Rudorffer again had to use a parachute. The summer of 1943 turned out to be very difficult for JG 54, and the squadron suffered the main losses precisely in battles with La-5. Incl. in a collision with these fighters, the commander of I / JG 54, Mr. Adamait (166 victories) and an experienced ace Broendle (58 victories), were shot down and captured.
A big air battle, in which the regiments armed with La-5 took part, unfolded in the autumn of 1943 in the south. The enemy created a fortified area on the Mius River and concentrated a powerful aviation group. In these battles, Soviet pilots managed to inflict such losses on the Luftwaffe aces, after which they could no longer fully recover. An important success factor was the use of the Air Force of the Red Army mainly by the Airacobra, Yak-1b and La-5FN fighters.
In autumn, heavy battles flared up over the crossings across the Dnieper, and the enemy often had numerical superiority. However, the successes of our ground forces forced the enemy to use fighters to attack crossings, which Soviet aviation took advantage of. For example, on October 14, 8 La-5s fought with a hundred enemy dive bombers and fighter-bombers and, due to the lack of effective cover, shot down 10 of them without loss on their part. In air support for crossing the Dnieper, the 5th GIAP, which had just been re-equipped with La-5FN, again distinguished itself. He showed his best side in the battles for the Dnieper and the 240th IAP. Lt. I.N., who fought in its ranks. Kozhedub shot down 11 enemy aircraft in 10 days.
By the end of 1943, a large number of La-5s were on all fronts and in the Air Force of all fleets, except for the Far North. In the coming 1944, new battles awaited them.
Year 1944. Go West!
The Red Army Air Force began to increasingly practice the offensive use of fighters, including "free hunting". Entire regiments were allocated for this, one of them was the 19th Red Banner IAP, which, after rearming on La-5, arrived on January 8, 1944 at the disposal of the command of the 2nd VA on the 1st Ukrainian Front. Until May 26, the unit completed 1055 sorties, shooting down 47 aircraft, of which 25 fighters, at the cost of 9 La-5s and 6 pilots, 2 more aircraft were destroyed, while 1 pilot was killed. For skillful actions during this period, the regiment was awarded the Order of Alexander Nevsky.
The Soviet naval aviation also switched to offensive operations. On May 19, La-5s of the Baltic Fleet Air Force blocked enemy airfields on the coast of the Gulf of Finland, provided effective cover for attack aircraft, which allowed attack aircraft to sink 13 ships of various tonnage. On July 16, 16 La-5 blockers from the 1st Guards Red Banner Vyborg IAD of the KBF Air Force relieved 28 Pe-2s and 4 Bostons from interference, which sank the German air defense cruiser Niobe in the port of Kotka (according to the German classification, a heavy anti-aircraft floating battery).
At the beginning of 1944, Soviet troops reached the southern sector of the front to the border with Romania, but at the end of April the offensive of the 5th and 7th Guards Tank Armies was stopped. This was also facilitated by the actions of the Luftwaffe, whose significant forces the enemy concentrated in a threatening direction. Every day, the Germans carried out twice as many sorties as the 5th VA opposed them. The Soviet command, in an effort to change the situation, carried out the replenishment of the units of this army, as well as the 4th and 7th IAK RVGK attached to it. Moreover, the percentage of La-5 aircraft has increased. So, on May 1, the regiments of the 7th IAK had 71 Yak-1 / Yak-7 and 50 La-5, and on June 1 there were already 91 Yak-1 / Yak-7 and 118 La-5.
On May 30, the enemy launched a counteroffensive with the forces of 10 divisions, while his aviation was already working three times as intensively as ours. Then the command of the 5th VA changed tactics, starting to use layered formations, and instead of directly covering the attack aircraft, they “cleared the air” 3-5 minutes before their arrival. Particular attention was paid to the interaction of shock and covering groups. A characteristic air duel took place on June 1. Eight La-5 from the 240th IAP, led by Kirill Evstigneev, noticed a large group of Ju 87s. An experienced leader realized that if there was no cover with them, then it was somewhere nearby, and the Messers that appeared did not achieve surprise. Having evaded the attack, the Lavochkins shot down one dive bomber, the rest dropped their bombs and, forming a defensive snake, turned back home. Now it's time to deal with the fighters. The enemy turned out to be not weak - Bf 109G-10 / AS from II / JG 52, but in a fleeting battle 3 enemy aircraft were shot down, the 240th IAP and the ground forces did not suffer losses.
On June 3, the Germans planned a massive attack on the key points of the Soviet defense, gathering 290 bombers and attack aircraft for this. But the approaching armada was spotted by the Redut radar station, which had recently arrived at the command post of the 4th IAK. Her crew guided 29 groups of La-5 fighters from the 302nd IAD, which did not allow the enemy to reach the positions of their troops. The 240th IAP, in which I.N. Kozhedub. By order of the NPO dated 07/02/1944, the 302nd IAD was transformed into the 14th GIAD, and the 240th IAP became the 178th Guards.
By June 5, Soviet pilots were able to seize air supremacy, which helped stop the advancing enemy. The next day, he was forced to transfer part of his aviation to other sectors of the Eastern Front and to the west, where the Allied landings in Normandy began ...
In April-May, the 1st Czechoslovak IAP was formed on the territory of the USSR, which received 24 La-5FN. At the end of August, Slovak partisans and units of the national army raised an uprising against the Nazis, and on September 17 this regiment was transferred to the Slovak Zsolna air base, and from there to the Three Oaks airfield. The pilots were given the task of destroying the few enemy aircraft at the airfields. On September 18, the regiment completed its first sortie. On the ground, according to the reports of the pilots, 10 enemy aircraft were burned and 15 damaged. Further, the 1st IAP began to be involved in supporting the operations of B-24 heavy bombers from the 15th US Air Force, which bombed Wehrmacht units and industrial facilities in Slovakia.
The enemy discovered the appearance of a regiment of modern fighters in his rear and transferred to Slovakia squadrons from the best formations of the Luftwaffe - fighter JG 52 and assault JG 77. But something else was worse - poorly armed rebel units could not resist regular troops, and collapse was inevitable. On October 29, the remaining La-5 regiments flew to the territory occupied by Soviet troops. The pilots of the 1st Czech IAP made 573 sorties, mainly for ground attack and reconnaissance. They also managed to shoot down 7 fighters, 2 bombers, 2 FW 189 reconnaissance aircraft and 2 liaison aircraft. 10 La-5FNs were lost to anti-aircraft fire, in flight accidents, or left out of order at the Three Oaks airfield, where they were later destroyed by German aircraft. The regiment was given the honorary name "Zvolensky" in honor of the town, which became the center of the Slovak National Uprising.
On June 23, the strategic offensive operation "Bagration" began in Belarus. The enemy used forests and swamps to camouflage strongholds and maneuver groups, and the Red Army Air Force constantly lacked reconnaissance aircraft, and "people's ingenuity" came to the rescue - in the 21st IAP, cameras were installed on several La-5s. But the main task of this regiment, as well as the entire 259th Gorodok IAD, was to escort the Il-2. By organizing the clearing of the airspace and the change of groups at the calculated points, the command of the 3rd VA was able to ensure the high efficiency of bombing strikes. For his contribution to the liberation of Belarus, the 21st IAP received the honorary name "Vitebsk". Among other armed La-5 regiments that took part in this operation, the 18th GIAP, which also became Vitebsk, and the 159th Novorossiysk GIAP, which received the Order of the Red Banner, were noted.
The result of "Bagration" was the exit to the Belarusian section of the state border of the USSR and the beginning of the liberation of the Baltic states. In the battles for Riga and Vilnius, the 63rd GIAP, which fought on the La-5, distinguished itself, awarded the Order of Kutuzov and the honorary title "Vilensky".
The La-5 also contributed to breaking through the blockade of Leningrad and the liberation of Karelia. In particular, one of the best Air Force regiments of the 159th IAP P.A. Pokrysheva especially distinguished himself in the liberation of the city of Pushkino, turned by the Nazis into a powerful stronghold.
At the end of 1944, La-5 nevertheless appeared in the North, for example, in the 761st IAP of the 261st IAD. But while the pilots of the unit mastered the aircraft, the fighting there practically ceased.
According to official Soviet statistics, in 1944 losses in air battles amounted to: 10 La-5 M-82A, 112 La-5F and 42 La-5FN. ZA fire shot down 8, 69 and 33 fighters, respectively. For unknown reasons, 20 La-5F and 7 La-5FN did not return from missions. The depreciation loss amounted to 217, 373 and 113 aircraft, and most of the La-5s died in accidents and catastrophes - 61, 426 and 249 aircraft of the above modifications. For comparison: the losses of the Yak-1 from enemy fighters amounted to 84 vehicles, the Yak-9 - 141, R-39 - 58. Anti-aircraft guns shot down 49, 94 and 35 aircraft of these types. 802 Yak-1s, 268 Yak-9s and 169 R-39s ran out of time and were scrapped. 297 Yak-1s, 455 Yak-9s, and 243 Aerocobras crashed.
The year 1945. The Year of Victory.
Back in 1944, in combat units, they began to replace the La-5 with new types of fighters. In the reports of the command and reports of the Sovinform Bureau, the Yak-3, Yak-9U and La-7 were increasingly mentioned, however, the "fives" took part in almost all major operations of the final period of the war. The "old" La-5FN were inferior to the latest machines in flight data, but were more reliable. So, it was precisely because of the defects of the new equipment that the re-equipment of the 5th GIAP with the Yak-9U VK-107A, which had already begun, was canceled. As a result, many formations retained the La-5 until the end of the war. Among them can be called the 229th IAD of the 4th VA. Three of its regiments, the 159th and 163rd Guards, as well as the 979th IAP, successfully operated during the liberation of Poland. In this sector, the most powerful enemy in 1945 were FW 190A-8s from II/JG 1.
The 116th IAP of the 295th IAD participated in the battles in Hungary, including the very tense Budapest offensive operation (the other two regiments of this division switched to La-7). In this area, the main enemy fighter was the Messerschmitt of the latest modifications G-10 / AS, G-14, K-4, and the Focke-Wulfs were used mainly as attack aircraft.
The 18th Vitebsk Twice Red Banner Order of Suvorov GIAP of the 303rd IAD participated in the assault on East Prussia. The other two regiments of this division - the famous French "Normandie-Niemen" and the Soviet 523rd - were armed with the newer Yak-3 and La-7. In the capture of Koenigsberg and in battles against aces from squadrons JG 51 and SG 1, the 927th Red Banner Order of Alexander Nevsky IAP of the 330th IAD, armed with La-5FN, distinguished itself. His battle banner adorned the title "Kenigsberg".
In the Baltic, La-5 remained until the end of the war in the 159th Pushkin IAP, however, for the commander of this regiment, P.A. Pokryshev was assigned the only one in the La-7 unit. The Lavochkins-5 retained two of the three regiments of the 1st GIAD of the Baltic Fleet Air Force: the 4th Red Banner Order of Ushakov GIAP was fully armed with them, and the 10th Red Banner GIAP was partially armed, the rest of the fleet was La-7.
The last major air battles of the Great Patriotic War unfolded during the battles for the capital of the Third Reich, for the defense of which the enemy concentrated the best forces, including the FW 190D-9 from JG 3 and JG 4. During the Berlin operation, the armed La -5FN 5th Red Banner Order of Bogdan Khmelnitsky GIAP, to the titles of which the honorary name "Berlin" was added. And the pilots of this regiment completed their last sorties in the war over Prague after May 9th. Here are some results of the combat path of this illustrious unit. 22 pilots became Heroes of the Soviet Union, and 2 more - twice. 50 pilots scored 5 or more air victories, and in total 739 downed enemy aircraft were recorded on the account of the regiment. Their losses amounted to 89 pilots (36 in air battles, 7 from ZA fire, 16 in flight accidents, 7 on the ground for various reasons, 23 were missing).
The 180th Stalingrad Red Banner GIAP, which flew the La-5 until August 1945, took part in the last battles in Czechoslovakia. Almost simultaneously with it, the 181st GIAP from the same 15th GIAD was re-equipped with new equipment. The fully armed La-5 of the 309th IAD, which included the 49th Red Banner IAP, a regiment in which the combat career of La-5 began, participated in the liberation of Slovakia.
In the last period of the war, a feature of the actions of Soviet fighter aircraft, incl. La-5, it became that the enemy no longer had the forces to even claim air supremacy. But the number of ground targets was increasing. In particular, on the territory of Germany, they had to face a large number of fortified positions and strongholds, for the destruction of which they began to use La-5s as bombers and attack aircraft more often than ever before. The main weapons were 50-kg bombs, often converted from 152-mm artillery shells. Many pilots had never engaged in bombing before and had not even studied it theoretically, and bomb racks in many regiments were only listed, and they had to be brought in by planes. Here is an ordinary episode of the spring of 1945. On April 14, 9 La-5FN and 8 Il-2 from the 1st Czechoslovak SAD attacked Wehrmacht positions near the village of Oltsa on the way to Ostrava. Cover proved unnecessary, and the fighter guns supplemented the Ilov artillery.
The high-speed qualities of the La-5FN came in handy for interacting with the new Il-10 attack aircraft, which the Yak-9 could no longer keep up with. For example, on April 18, the La-5 four escorted 12 Il-10s, which destroyed and damaged 14 trucks, a tank and an artillery gun on the Cottbus-Spremberg highway near the town of Gross-Osning.
The main opponents of the La-5 in the last year of the war were the same Bf 109G, FW 190A, less often - "deep-nosed" FW 190D. Bombers became a rarity, and the FW 190F/G dominated the ground attack aircraft.
The final chord in the combat biography of the La-5 was participation in the short-lived war with Japan in August 1945. For example, the 939th IAP from the 297th Air Defense Aviation Division, which was based at the Ulan-Ude airfield, was armed with "fives". Its tasks included covering the city and facilities of the Trans-Siberian Railway from possible enemy air raids, as well as prohibiting the flights of reconnaissance aircraft and transport aircraft that tried to throw reconnaissance and sabotage groups into the Soviet rear. However, in general, La-5s were used in this theater a little. The fighters had almost no work there, and the Lavochkin itself, with its modest flight range, was ill-suited for operations in the vast expanses of the Far East.
Line of La-5 and La-7 fighters, Letnany airfield, near Prague, June 1, 1945