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Polikarpov I-16 - 1:48 ARK models

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Polikarpov I-16
1:48 ARK models


The I-16 was a Soviet fighter of revolutionary design. It was the worlds first low wing cantilever monoplane fighter with retractable landing gear to achieve operational status. The designer Nikolai Nikoleavich Polikarpov designed the aircraft optimised for speed with a short stubby fuselage similar to the Gee Bee racer. It was to feature cutting edge items such as a fully retractable landing gear and an enclosed cockpit.

Work began in June 1933 and full scale production began in November of the same year. The aircraft was designed around the Wright Cyclone SR-1820-F-3 nine cylinder engine. The construction was a mix of wooden monocoque and wings based around chrome-molybdenum steel alloy wing spar. Original armament was a par of 7.62mm machine guns mounted outboard of the main wheels.

At the start of WWII Russian had 1635 I-16 variants. During the first 48 hours of Operation Barbarossa Luftwaffe attacks on I-16 bases reduced this to only 937 aircraft. The I-16 was surprisingly good in combat against the Bf 109E with Russian pilots using its superior horizontal manoeuvrability. However later versions of the 109 would prove to be much faster, and more heavily armed. One advantage in the Russian winter was the I-16 had an air-cooled engine and were more reliable. In all over half of the produced aircraft were still in service when they were replaced in 1943. The I-16 would also serve overseas with China. Germany, Romania and Finland would operate captured examples. The Spanish Republican Air Force used I-16s supplied by Russia, and after the Civil war these would be used by Spanish State Air Force, amazingly only being retired in 1952.

The Kit
Ark seem to have taken over from Frog in Russia, as well as models under the Ark name (some of which are old Frog kits), they also represent Eastern Express and MSD. it also looks like they are now producing their own kits. From looking at Ark's website they currently have 8 different boxing's of the I-16 with different types, and markings. Markings range from Russian aircraft, Nationalist Chinese markings, through to those used in the Spanish Civil War. The ones they have sent us are 48001 a Type 10 flown by Russian Ace Valey Chkalov, and a type 18 flown by Russian Ace Vasiliy Golubev. The sprues seem to be identical for both kits, though there will be parts not used.

The kits arrive in very sturdy boxes with lids that slot closed. Instructions are A4 sized (which are a bot too big for the boxes, and the sprues are not bagged. The sprues are well moulded with a mixture of raised and engraved details. To be honest the real aircraft had few details and what there is seems to be well represented. In particular the fabric details do not seem overdone at all. There is no flash present, sprue gates are normal and ejection pin marks all seem to be on the reverse side of parts. Overall in the box the parts look good. There are two main sprues, two smaller sprues; and one very small clear sprue. Decals are minimal (the real aircraft did not carry much in the way of markings) and are printed by Begemot.


Construction starts with the addition of the exhaust stubs to the inside of the fuselage halves. Once these are in the instrument panel can be placed inside and the fuselage haves joined. The top cowling of the engine area is then attached. The instructions have the modeller installing the gunsight at this point, though I suspect most will leave this until near the end. Next more exhaust stubs are attached to the underside engine cowling, and then this is attached. The tailplanes, rudder, and tailcone are then added.


The next step is to assemble the main wings. The lower wing is a conventional one piece, to which the two top outer parts are attached. Machine gun barrels are added to the wings. The cockpit floor is then attached to the centre section of the lower wing. To this is added the control column, and the pilots seat.No rudder pedals are supplied. Once the wing section is complete this can be attached to the fuselage.


Next the engine is assembled. A fair representation of a radial engine front is provided to sit behind the front cowl (not a lot will be seen in any case), as the moulds cover more than one kit he modeller will need to take care to select the right engine cowl. The propellor and hub are attached via a pin from behind. The last stage is the construct the landing gear. This is fairly basic with the harder part being the positioning of the door parts, the tail skid is also added. Lastly engine is attached, along with the canopy is added.


From some research it appears the Type 10 was fitted with a canopy to replace the windscreen. Also the Type 19 was a re-engined Type 10 so I think these should come with a canopy as to the supplied windscreen. However a small windscreen is all we get. This is well formed and clear, however the frame lines are very indistinct.

Decals are provided for one aircraft per kit, they are printed by Begemot. I have used Begemot decals before with no problems. They do though appear to be of continous carrier film.

48001 - Valey Chkalov - This aircraft was overall Silver with red scalloped details. The small decal sheet just supplies the red start for all 6 locations, through the ones for the upper wing are silver outlines to go on top of the red. A set of printed masks is supplied to mask the red which is a great idea. These will need to be cut out but it is much better than trying to sort this making out for yourself.



48034 - Vasiliy Golubev - This aircraft was standard Green over light blue grey. Stars are provided for 6 positions along with code numbers and a badge for the right side.



This is the first kit I have seen from ARK and I am impressed. While the I-16 has been done in this scale before this kit is a good one. The kit seems to be an accurate representation of the I-16. It is not too complex so should appeal to the newer modeller, or the more experienced wanting an easier build. The aces boxing with the masks to produce the red scalloped markings is a nice touch. Highly recommended.

Review sample courtesy of

ARK models are currently seeking a UK distributor. If anyone wishes to look into this feel free to contact them, or get in touch with Britmodeller and we can make an introduction.

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