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Battles in the Eastern Skies
on October 13, 2011
"La-5/7 vs Fw 190: Eastern Front 1942-45 (Duel)", by Dmitriy Khazanov and Aleksandr Medved, is a book in the Osprey Duel format that compares the Lavochkin La-5 and it's derivative, the La-7, against the Folke Wolf Fw 190A and its various sub-models over the Eastern Front during WW II. The duel format is typically 80 pages long, and presents an analysis of the factors ... human, mechanical, and tactical ... of the two weapons systems being compared, describes how the weapons were developed and utilized, and includes drawings, photographs, and illustrations.
One of the reasons I bought this book is because while coverage of the Fw 190 is fairly common, there aren't many books in English that go into much detail about Soviet fighters such as the La 5/7, and I wanted to learn more. The authors do an excellent job of setting the stage and covering the development of Soviet fighter from it's initial prototype, the I-301, through the LaGG 1 and LaGG 3 fighters, to the more refined and deadly La-5 and La-7. Coverage of the development of the Fw 190 is also good. The authors effectively summarize the different sub-models of both fighters, giving good basic information of the differences between them.
They also provide worthwhile information on the strategic situation and on pilot training. The section on combat, which provides useful comparisons and contrasts between the La-5/7 and the Fw 190, is more written from the Soviet point of view, although there are good anecdotes from both sides. The book closes with some statistical analysis and an aftermath, along with a list of books for further reading and an index. The pictures, illustrations, and diagrams were top notch.
Although I enjoyed the book and learned much about the La fighters, I do have some nits to pick. First, under the combatant section, there is a good section covering Soviet pilot training from enlistment to employment. However for the German side, the authors note that the training system employed by the Luftwaffe has been described in several other books in the Osprey duel series, so they only provided information on how the Germans transitioned Bf 109 pilots to the Fw 190. While the information in this section was good, I don't happen to own any other duel books on German fighters, and I think it a bit presumptious for the authors to skip initial German pilot training in this book. (I probably own 20 Osprey books at this point in time, but they're more focused on land and sea, and on battles/campaigns, and this is my first "air duel" book.)
Second, either the authors are using Soviet figures for German losses or they need to clearly define what constitutes a lost aircraft. For example, they state that at the beginning of the Battle of Kursk, the Germans had concentrated around 2100 aircraft to support the battle. They then state over the next 50 days of fighting that the Luftwaffe lost 2,419 aircraft. I suspect that an aircraft that suffered battle damage but could be repaired and returned to service are counted here as lost, as well as aircraft shot down or otherwise written-off. But it would help if the authors had defined what constituted "lost" in their analysis, as I don't believe the Germans had 115 percent of their starting aircraft totally destroyed (either shot down or lost on non-combat operations) in less than two months over the Kursk area. Similarly the authors state that the Germans lost some 4,500 aircraft during the Battle for Berlin. It's possible, I suppose, again depending on how you define "lost".
And third, while the authors provide a lot of great information on the strengths and weaknesses of both sets of fighters, they never really choose a winner, and explain why they chose as they do, as the other books in the duel series do. In general, it seems that the Fw 190A was probably more than a match for the La-5, and the La-7 had the upper hand over the Fw 190A, but was probably evenly matched by the Fw 190D (although only around 700 were built by war's end and very few fought on the East Front.)
Overall, though, this book provides succinct, pertinent information on the La family of fighters in World War II, and gives excellent comparisons as to the strengths and weakness of La's and Fw's, both in general and relative to combat with the other. The writing is clear and concise, and the pictures/illustrations/diagrams/etc are outstanding. Four stars.