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Julien

I-16 Type 17 WWII Soviet Fighter (32005) - ICM 1:32

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I-16 Type 17 WWII Soviet Fighter (32005)

ICM 1:32

 

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Design work on the I-16 began during the summer of 1932 at the Central Aero and Hydrodynamic Institute. At this juncture Polikarpov was in the kind of straits that could only happen in the Soviet Union. His career which had entailed a swift ascent to the top post of the OSS (the department for experimental land plane construction), had taken a sudden downward plunge upon the occasion of his arrest during the 1929 purge. Instead of a firing squad or a gulag, however, Polikarpov and his design team were sentenced to an "internal prison," there to continue their work under the close scrutiny of the state. Evidently, his prosecutors judged him too vital to the future of Soviet military prowess to inflict a harsher punishment. When the tiny I-16 flew for the first time in December 1933, it was far ahead of any other fighter design in the world, featuring retractable landing gear, a cantilever wing and variable pitch propeller. 

 

At this point the I-16 might well have faded into obscurity, if not for the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in July 1936. This war drew support from all over the world. The Nationalists, supported mainly by German and Italian forces, were the better equipped. Britain, France, the United States, the Netherlands, Czechoslovakia and Turkey all sent an assortment of aircraft to the Republican forces, directly or indirectly. But by far the major supporter of the Republicans was the Soviet Union, which supplied 1,409 of the 1947 aircraft contributed by other countries. 475 of these aircraft were Polikarpov I-16s. They first entered combat in Spain in November 1936. Flown in many cases by Soviet pilots, they proved more than a match for German He 51 fighters and Arado Ar68, but met their equals in the Italian C.R.32 biplanes and were overpowered by Messerschmidt Bf 109s. From March 1937, all remaining I-16s were concentrated into Fighter Group 31, and this was by far the most successful of all Soviet-equipped units.

 

Meanwhile, I-16s were fighting also in China, and in 1939 were operated against the Japanese in Mongolia. Their final fling came during the early part of the Second World War, but by then they were overshadowed by more advanced foreign types. Suffering the brunt of the German invasion, those remaining were replaced by more modern fighters in 1942-1943. The outstanding manoeuvrability, firepower and rate of climb, surprised the enemy leading to the opposition nickname of Rata (Rat) and the friendly name Mosca (Fly). Equipped with the Soviet 20 mm cannon it was the most powerful aircraft weapon in front line service with any nation on the eve of World War II. Another batch of I-16s was purchased by China to fight the Japanese, again surprising the other side with excellent performance. When it first appeared, the I-16 Ishak (Little Donkey) was powered by a radial engine which developed a modest 450 hp. Even with this it achieved a creditable 376 km/h (234 mph) and, as the world's first single-seat fighter to have low monoplane wings, an enclosed cockpit (on some versions) and a retractable undercarriage. It was immediately put into mass production alongside the Polikarpov I-15 biplane fighter. Development led eventually to one version of the I-16 reaching over 520km/h (325 mph), with an engine of about two-and-a-half times the original power.

 

The Model

This is the latest kit from ICM of this diminutive fighter. This is the standard I-16 Type 24 Kit with additional sprues for the fuselage and wings of the Type 17 so you could build a type 24 or 10 from this if you wanted. All the parts are superbly moulded, with no sign of flash or other imperfections and only a few noticeable moulding pips. 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. There are a fair number of unused parts in this boxing due to the way ICM has moulded the parts for maximum use from all the variants. This boxing comes with an additional sprue for the Ski landing gear used during winter.

 

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Construction begins with the wings and the two upper sections being attached to the single piece lower section, after which the port and starboard clear navigation lights are attached. Each aileron is moulded in top and bottom halves, which, once joined together are fitted in the desired poses, along with the lower underside of the nose.

 

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The cockpit is assembled next, and is a very nicely detailed area. The rear bulkhead is fitted with the seat backrest and support, while the two piece rudder pedals are assembled.  The pedals are fitted to the cockpit floor, along with the rear mounted battery box. The front and rear bulkheads are then glued into the left hand fuselage section along with some sidewall detail. The floor is then slide in through the front bulkhead opening and glued to the rear bulkhead. The two piece throttle is assembled and glued into position, and then the instrument panel, which is moulded in clear plastic is fitted with the instrument decal. The rest of the cockpit is then detailed with the oxygen bottle instrument panel, joystick, a couple of handles, and seat. On the opposite side wall the undercarriage handle and a couple of instrument clusters are attached.

 

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The firewall is fitted with the two piece oil tank and two gun troughs, before being fitted to one half of the fuselage. The two piece rudder and three piece elevators are then assembled, as is the two piece upper nose section. The fuselage halves are then joined, and the rudder, horizontal tailplanes and upper nose section attached, as are the two door panels.  The fuselage and wing assembly are then glued together.

 

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The engine bearers and attached to the engine mounting ring, followed by gearbox case and intake manifold, the two halves that make up the cylinders, each with exquisite fin detail, are joined together, then fitted with the piston rods and individual exhaust pipes, before the gearbox assembly is fitted to the rear. The completed engine is then attached to the fuselage. The engine is cowled with three optionally fitted panels, plus the three piece nose cowl, with optionally positioned vents. The two machine guns fitted to the upper nose are then slid into their associated troughs, followed by the gunsight and windscreen. 

 

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The build is finished off with the assembly of the two main undercarriage units. Each unit is made up of a two piece wheel, single piece main leg, complete with actuator, two outer doors, with separate hinged lower section, there is a second support rod fitted with another door which is glued to the leg and rear mounting point in the wing. If wanted the ski under carriage can be fitted instead of the wheels. The tail wheel is then attached, as is the tail cone and rear light, wing gun muzzles, side mounted venturi style pitot and what looks like an aerial unit, aft of the cockpit.

 

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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 for decal options, 3 in the standard green of blue camouflage, and one in the green & Black over blue scheme. The four aircraft are:-

 

  • I-16 Type 17 of the 22nd Fighter Regiment, winter 1939, 40
  • I-16 Type 17 of the 5th Baltic Fleet Regiments, winter 1939, 40
  • I-16 Type 17 of the 191st Fighter Regiment, 7th Fighter Corps Leningrad Air Defense, 1941
  • I-16 Type 17 of the 4th Baltic Fleet Fighter Regiment, Spring 1942.

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Conclusion

There’s something about the old I-16, no matter which type. Whether it’s the cute little plane, or the plucky little fighter going up against the odds, with only the skills of the Soviet pilots keeping the aircraft, which was quite difficult to fly and fight with, in the air. 

 

Available from their UK importers, H G Hannants Ltd.


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Review sample courtesy of

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