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Shar2

I-153 Winter Version. 1:32

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I-153 Winter Version

ICM 1:32

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The Polikarpov I-153 was the last of Nikolai Polikarpov's biplane fighter aircraft to enter service and despite being the most advanced entry in the series was already obsolete when it first entered service in 1939.

 

The I-153 was developed as a result of a misreading of the results of the aerial combat during the Spanish Civil War. In July 1937 a meeting chaired by Stalin concluded that the Fiat CR.32 biplane was superior to the Polikarpov I-16 monoplane. The nimble Fiat fighter had achieved impressive results against the Soviet fighter, but partly because the I-16 pilots had attempted to dogfight rather than use their superior speed to break off combat. The successful introduction of the Bf 109 was ignored, and instead of focusing on producing a superior monoplane the Soviet authorities decided to work on an improved biplane.

The new aircraft needed to maintain the manoeuvrability of the I-15 and I-152 while also increasing in speed. This presented Polikarpov with a problem, for he had already argued that any increase in speed came at the cost of an increase in weight (from the heavier more powerful engine and stronger fuselage needed to support it). The heavier aircraft would then be less manoeuvrable.

 

Work on the I-153 was officially approved on 11 October 1937. Polikarpov's main aim was to reduce drag and weight in an attempt to compensate for the weight of a heavier engine. He did this in two main ways - first by introducing a retractable undercarriage, and second by returning to the 'gull wing' configuration of the I-15, in which the upper wing was linked to the fuselage by diagonal sections, eliminating its central section. This had worked on the I-15, but had been unpopular with some pilots and higher authorities, and had been removed from the I-152. As a result that aircraft had been less manoeuvrable than its precursor. The 'gull wing' on the I-152 was an improved version of that on the I-15, with a bigger gap between the wing roots, which improved the pilot's forward view when landing and taking off.

 

The fuselage and wings of the I-153 were similar to those of the I-15 and I-152, with a steel tube framework, covered by metal at the front of the fuselage and fabric elsewhere. The manually operated retractable undercarriage rotated through 90 degrees before folding backwards into the fuselage. The first prototype was powered by a 750hp M-25V engine. Its maiden flight is variously reported as having taken place in May or August 1938, with A.I. Zhukov at the controls. Tests that began on 27 September are variously described as state acceptance or factory trials. These tests weren't entirely satisfactory and production was delayed while some of the problems were solved.  

 

In June-August 1939 state acceptance trials were conducted using an I-153 powered by the new Shvetsov M-62 engine, a version of the M-25V with a two-stage supercharger. These trials were not officially concluded until January 1941, long after the type had been superseded. Next in line was a version powered by the 900hp M-63, and this version passed its trials on 30 September 1939. Only a handful of aircraft were produced with the M-25 engine. The 800hp M-62 was used in the largest number of aircraft, around 3,018 in total. The 1,100hp (at take-off) M-63 was used in 409 aircraft. A total of 3,437 I-153s were produced, beginning in 1938. 1,011 aircraft had been completed by the end of 1939, and a massive 2,362 were built in 1940, at a time when the Soviet Union desperately needed more modern monoplanes. Production came to an end early in 1941 and only 64 aircraft were completed that year.

 

The standard I-153 was armed with four ShKAS machine guns. These replaced the PV-1 guns used on the I-15 and I-152, and had a much higher rate of fire (1,800 compared to 750 rounds per minute) as well as being much lighter. The four under wing bomb racks could carry up to 441lb of bombs.

 

The Model

Having released a wheeled version of the I-153, it’s now the turn of the sky fitted winter version. Contained in a sturdy box the three large sprues of grey plastic are pretty well protected in their single plastic bag, with the clear parts in a separate bag, there is also a largish decal sheet. All the parts are superbly moulded, with no sign of flash or other imperfections and only a few noticeable moulding pips. There are a few swirl marks in the plastic, but nothing to worry about and will easily be covered when the kit is primed and painted. Since the aircraft was mostly wood there are very few panel lines, where fabric was used in the construction, the kit shows the underlying structure, but in a nicely restrained way.

 

Construction begins with the lower wing and the two upper sections being attached to the single piece lower section, after which there are two insets that fit into the main undercarriage bay roof. The cockpit is assembled next, and is a very nicely detailed area. The two seat supports are attached to the seat back and glued to the cockpit floor, followed by the seat base. The two piece control column is glued into place along with its separate control rod and rudder pedals. The tubular framework of the cockpit is quite delicate, and care should be taken when removing from the sprues and assembling. Side tubular structures are fitted with ancillary instruments, levers, radio controls, throttle lever and flare pistol. The side sections are then glued to the front and rear sections. The whole assembly is then attached to the cockpit floor assembly and the whole lot glued to the lower wing assembly.The fuselage sides are then detailed with an oxygen bottle, and side access doors before being glued together. The fuselage is then slid over the cockpit structure and glued to the lower wing.

 

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The horizontal tailplanes, elevators and rudder all come in two halves. When glued together they are attached to the rear fuselage. The upper wing comes as single piece upper section and two piece lower sections. Once joined, the assembly is attached to the forward fuselage and the two interplane struts glued into position. The engine is quite a simple affair, being moulded in two halves, to which the valve rods are attached, followed by the exhausts.  The cooling shutter ring is then fitted to the inside of the nose cowling, followed by the engine assembly, rear bulkhead, and separate exhaust stubs and five piece propeller.

 

The engine/nose cowling assembly is then attached to the front fuselage, followed by the two side panels, top panel, windshield, gunsight and oil cooler duct. Each of the main undercarriage legs are made from three parts, But instead of the wheels, the legs are fitted with skis and their fixtures, comprising five parts each ski, once assembled they are glued into their respective positions. The tailplane struts are then added, along with the undercarriage bay doors and single piece tail skid. You then have the option of adding wither eight rockets, each of three pieces, two small bombs, also three parts or four larger bombs also three parts. The bombs have separate crutches while the rockets are fitted to rails. Then it’s just a bit of very light rigging and the model is done.

 

Decals

The decal sheet is printed by ICM themselves. The decals are quite glossy, well printed, in register and nicely opaque, particularly useful for the large white numbers. There are four decal options, the four aircraft being:-

 

  • I-153, Red Army Air Force, 1940, in overall Aluminum, 1940
  • I-153, Red Army Air Force, 1940, in overall Aluminum, March 1940
  • I-153 aircraft VH-101 of the Finnish Air Force, 1940, in Field Green over Light blue undersides.
  • I-153 aircraft IT-15 of the Finnish Air Force, 1940, in Field Green over flat black upper sides of the wings and fuselage sides and Light blue undersides.

 

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Conclusion

As with the I-16, this is a very cute and recognisable little aeroplane. The biplane design, whilst out of date, makes this aircraft look a nicer design then the I-16. It’s certainly great that ICM are catering to those of us who like the larger scales and there is still plenty that could be done with the interior should you wish to go to town on it. Nice to now have the option of the ski equipped version.

 

 

 

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Review sample courtesy of

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