“On February 19, 1945, 1 was on a lone-wolf operation together with Dmitry Titorenko to the north of Frankfurt. I noticed a plane at an altitude of 350 meters (2,170 feet). It was flying along the Oder at a speed that was marginal for my plane. I made a quick about-face and started pursuing it at full throttle, coming down so as to approach it from under the ‘belly.’ My wingman opened fire, and the Me-262 (which was a jet, as I had already realized) began turning left, over to my side, losing speed in the process. That was the end of it. I would never have overtaken it if it had flown in a straight line. The main thing was to attack enemy planes during turns, ascents or descents, and not to lose precious seconds.”
—Ivan Kozhedub, Air Marshall
Awarded the Gold Star of a Hero of the Soviet Union
Speed – Production fighters were able to reach 407 mph at 20,000 feet and the La-7 outperformed its German contemporaries at all altitudes lower than that.
Maneuverability – As with the La-5FN, the La-7 could outmaneuver its opponents in both the vertical and horizontal plane.
Durability – The retention of wooden components gave the La-7 a disadvantage over the all-metal fighters it faced.
By 1943, the power output of the modified, improved and injected M-82 engine was as high as it would ever get. Hopes for improved performance in the Lavochkin fighter were thus pinned on adopting the new M-71 radial, but development problems with the engine kept it from entering service until after the war.
That left the Lavochkin team with making improvements to the airframe in order to get better performance. Working with a basic La-5 airframe, considerable changes were made to aerodynamic structure by moving inlets and a careful redesign of the cowl. Replacement of some wooden parts with lighter metal ones resulted in an overall weight savings, which combined with the improved aerodynamic shape to give the prototype a 40 mph improvement in top speed over the production La-5FN.
Initial versions were fitted with a pair of 20mm ShVAK cannon with 200 rpg in the cowl, but when the lighter Beresin B-20 cannon became available, production was switched to include three of these weapons with 150 rpg. The La-7 was both faster and more maneuverable than the FW-190A-8 at all altitudes up to 20,000 feet and a total of 5,905 La-7s were delivered.