1:72 Lavochkin Izdeliye 171, prototype #1 "171 Red" (NATO ASCC reporting name: Forkbeard), Khimki airfield near Moscow, summer 1950 (Whif/kitbashing)
+++ DISCLAIMER +++
Nothing you see here is real, even though the conversion or the presented background story might be based historical facts. BEWARE!
The Lavochkin OKB was founded in 1937 as OKB-301, a Soviet aircraft design bureau. The head designer was Vladimir P. Gorbunov. On October, 1945 Semyon Lavochkin was promoted for the head designer of the design bureau. The OKB gained distinction for its family of piston-engined fighter aircraft during World War II, and later shifted to missile and jet fighter designs.
The latter comprised several experimental designs that were build in order to test the potential of jet engines and swept wings - a heritage from WWII. One of these designs was the light Aircraft 160, with a pod-and-boom layout and powered by a single RD-10 axial turbojet.
Despite the flight success of Aircraft 160, Lavochkin also followed an alternative route: a heavier aircraft that carried two engines under its wings. Knowing that the standard RD-10 (actually a poor copy of the German Jumo 004B jet engine that had powered, among others, the Me 262) did not supply enough power for a serious single engine fighter aircraft, Aircraft 170.
Like the contemporary Suchoj Su-9 fighter, Aircraft 170 resembled the Me 262 a lot, even though it was no copy. Its most innovative feature were wings with a 40° sweep at 1/4 chord, mounted in a mid-position and with an almost constant chord from root to tip. A pair of Tumansky RD-10 jet engines was carried in sleek nacelles that were directly attached to the wings' undersurfaces. Tail surfaces were swept, too, the elevator placed high, close to the fin's top in order to keep it away from any jet efflux.
Aircraft 170 had a circular cross-section, all-metal stressed skin monocoque fuselage that housed a single, pressurized cockpit. The pilot was protected by armor plates to his front, an armored seat back and a bulletproof windscreen for the bubble canopy. He was provided with an ejection seat, copied from that used in the Heinkel He 162.
The tricycle landing gear was fully retractable; the nose wheel retracted backwards, while the main wheels retracted inwards into the wing roots. Fuel was carried in three main tanks in the fuselage, two auxillary tanks were placed in the wings.
Intended to intercept American bombers like the B-29. To ensure the destruction of such large bombers, the fighter originally carried three cannons in its nose: two 23 mm with 100 rounds per gun and a single 37 mm with 40 rounds.
Construction of a full-scale mockup was completed in June 1947 and two prototypes ordered for flight testing. The first flight was on 24 June 1948 and took place at Khimki airfield, near Moscow. The first prototype was aptly coded "170 Red".
Successful flight trials were quickly followed by public display at the 1948 Aviation Day airshow at Tushino. This flight demonstration was a show because the original RD-10 engines did not provide enough power to lift Aircraft 170 off of the ground at full weight - all cannons had to be removed, and only a limited fuel load for 30 min of flight was carried!
But these flaws remained well hidden and the new type immediately earned the NATO ASCC code "Forkbeard".
Even with these harsh performance limits Aircraft 170 was evaluated in mock air-to-air combat trials with a captured U.S. B-29, as well as the later Soviet B-29 copy, the Tu-4 "Bull". Once up in the air, Aircraft 170 showed the potential of its basic construction and its good handling characteristics, even though the overall lack of power and sluggish as well as unreliable engines kept haunting the tests.
Things were to improve in early 1949 with the installation of indigenous afterburners to the RD-10 engines, especially for take-off and climb. These modified engines were called RD-10 YuF and also tested on board of the single engine Aircraft 160 prototype.
Aircraft 170's engine nacelles were lengthened and widened accordingly, and the modifed 1st prototype was re-designated Aircraft 171, its code being changed into "171 Red". By late 1949, a second prototype had finally been built (coded "172 Red"), directly outfitted with the uprated engine.
Experimentally, a heavy 45mm Nudelman-Suranov NS-45 cannon with 30 rounds was fitted to both aircraft. Combat trials showed that although the NS-45 cannon proved deadly to enemy aircraft, realistically only its first shot could be aimed. A three-round burst, even when fired near the maximum airspeed of Aircraft 171, resulted in a noticeable loss of both airspeed and stability. Vibrations and shock waves were so heavy that sometimes oil lines sprung leaks after the gun was fired! Firing the NS-45 at airspeeds below 350 km/h even shook the pilot back and forth as if in an automobile suddenly decelerating and accelerating!
Trials continued until summer 1951 when "171 Red" broke up in flight, due to wing flutter, during tests to establish the maximum attainable speed. Its sister ship was immediately grounded and the program stopped. At that time the MiG-15 had already entered service successfully, and it offered comparable if not superior performance in almost any respect to the Lavochkin design.
Anyway, the experience gained with Aircraft 171 spurred on Soviet aircraft designers to design swept winged fighters, albeit cautiously. On the other side, the RD-10, even with a (thirsty!) afterburner, proved to be a dead end. Since other engines like the centrifugal flow Klimov VK-1 (a copy of the British Rolls-Royce Nene engine) were hard to integrate into the Aircraft 171's structure. Nevertheless, work with the YuF afterburner helped pave the way to the MiG-15's successor, the MiG-17, powered by the Klimov VK-1F afterburning turbojet, which was accepted into service in mid-1951.
The surviving "172 Red" prototype eventually ended up as an instructional airframe at the Kremenchuk Flight College of the National Aviation University, and it was scrapped in 1965.
Length: 12.78 m (41 ft 10 in)
Wingspan: 11.27 m (36 ft 11 in)
Height: 4.59 m (15 ft 12 in)
Wing area: 21.7 m² (234 ft²)
Empty weight: 4,060 kg (8,951 lb)
Loaded weight: 6,473 kg (14,272 lb)
Fuel capacity: 1.350 kg
Max. takeoff weight: 7,130 kg (15,720 lb)
2× Tumansky RD-10 YuF axial turbojets, each with 8.83 kN (1,984 lbf)dry thrust
and 11.17 kN (2,510 lbf) with afterburner
Maximum speed: 900 km/h (559 mph)
Range: 1,050 km (652 mi)
Service ceiling: 11,450 m (37,565 ft)
Rate of climb: 1,200 m/min (At max weight of 7,130 kg) (3,900 ft/min)
2x Nudelman-Richter NR-23 23 mm (0.9") cannon in the lower right fuselage with 100 RPG
1x Nudelman-Suranov NS-45 45 mm (1.8") cannon in the lower left fuselage (30 RPG)
The kit and its assembly:
My fourth entry to the early 2016 Cold War GB at whatifmodelers.com. Again, it's a project from the long ideas list that finally made it to the hardware stage through a GB's occasion.
This one was originally inspired by an illustration in what I deem a 1950s book about aircraft, including Soviet designs. Based on vague pictures and probably lots of speculation, it is funny to see what the enemy's aircraft were supposed to look like.
In this case, my benchmark was a rather fictional "Lavochkin La-16" fighter, which looked like a travesty version of a Republic F-84G with engine pods under its wings. Actually, the painting rather shows the Yak-25 all-weather interceptor, but you can only recognize it if you know hat you were looking for!
Anyway, the idea of a modified Thunderstreak had some charm, and this is what my kitbash for a fictional Soviet fighter is based upon. For a stronger retro feeling I used the straight wing F-84G, a Heller kit which donated its fuselage and landing gear.
The wings come from a PM Model Ta 183, the engine nacelles (from a Matchbox Me 262) were inserted as spacers into the wings. Their wing position was defined by the landing gear starts' length.
The original nose air intake was closed with a radome from an F-94C (Emhar) and the tail shortened - mostly because of the new swept tail surfaces, which come from a KP MiG-15 (a horribly crude kit!).
While this combination sounds harmless the integration of the parts took some serious effort and sculpting with putty!
Painting and markings:
As a classic Soviet prototype of the Fifties, choice of livery was simple: an all-metal finish with some Red Stars plus a code number.
At first, and also in order to control the surface finish after all the PSR work, the kit received a uniform coat with "White Aluminum" acrylic spray paint - this revealed several flaws.
Later, after mending many dents and scratches, several silver and grey shades were used on different panel and rudder areas, including Revell Acrylic Aluminum, Alu Plate, Steel, Magnesium and Titanium Metallizer as well as RAF Barley Grey.
The cockpit interior was painted with PRU Blue while the landing gear wells received a more grey-ish coat with FS 35237. Some red dots mark openings for fuel and oil and slightly brighten things up, as well as a red trim tab on the fin.
Grinded graphite was used for a weathered look and to emphasize the metallic impression. Panel lines were painted manually onto wings and fuselage with a very soft pencil.
After decal application (Red Stars from a Hobby Boss MiG-15, the tactical code was puzzled together from various sources) the kit was sealed under a semi-glossy coat of acrylic varnish.
Not a spectacular masterpiece, but a funny build and in so far interesting as Aircraft 171 rather appears like a pregnant Me 262 than a converted F-84F? Even the similarity with the Yak-25 is only remote, mostly in top view where the wing planform with the nacelles resembles the much bigger Soviet interceptor most? Still, this creation carries some of the Fifties/Cold War retro feeling.