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Polikarpov I-16

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When Hitler invaded the USSR in 1941, the open-cockpit I-16 was the most numerous fighter in service with the Soviet. Designed to replace biplane fighters, the I-16 was a fast machine when it first appeared in 1934 and was the first low-wing cantilever monoplane with a retractable undercarriage. It is best remembered for fighting with government forces in Spain and China against desperate odds and facing the invasion of the USSR.

Polikarpov began planning a successor to the biplane I-15 series while he was in a Soviet labor camp. In 1933, he designed a rival monoplane to the ANT-31 and the result was the I-16 with its wooden fuselage and metal wing. First prototypes used Soviet M-22 engines, but by 1934 license-built Wright Cyclone engines were fitted, giving a dramatic increase in performance and making the I-16 one of the fastest machines of its day. Although hard to fly, the Soviet forces ordered thousands of them.

The I-16 really made its mark in the Spanish Civil War, where government forces pitted the I-16 against the Fascists. The I-16 was built under license there by Hispano-Suiza. In China, Soviet I-16s flew well in overwhelming air battles with Japanese pilots, repeating this again in 1939 in battles on the Manchurian border. Huge numbers of I-16s were destroyed in the invasion of the USSR, but the aircraft remained in serviced until 1943, by which time it was obviously obsolete.


Polikarpov I-16

Polikarpov I-16 fighting for the enemy Polikarpov I-16 Polikarpov I-16 fighting fly
During the war with Finland, numerous I-16s were captured by the Finns and restored to use against their former owners. This example is a Type 12 with a tabular sight in the windshield. Polikarpov's I-16 was something of a compromise design, accepted into service for all its faults in an attempt to match rival designs that outperformed the earlier (biplane) I-15 in Spain. Known as "Mukha' (Russian for fly) in Spain the I-16 was the best Goverment fighter aircraft.

Polikarpov I-16 (Technical Specification)
Role Single-seat interceptor fighter
Manufacturer Polikarpov
Maximum Speed 489 kmh (304 mph)
Ceiling 8,268 meters (27,125 feet)
Maximum Takeoff

1,347 kg (2,970 lbs)
1,711 kg (3,773 lbs)
Wing Area

9.14 meters (30 ft)
5.79 meters (19 ft)
2.44 meters (8 ft 2)
14.49 square meters (156 sq ft)
Engines One Shvetsov M-25 air-cooled radial engine which provides 578-kW (775 hp)
Armament Four 7.62 mm (0.30 cal) Shpital'ny Komaritsky ShKAS machine-guns in upper fuselage
Six RS-82 rocket projectiles
Six Der-31 bomb containers
Two 100 kgs (220 lbs) bombs (I-16P)
Two 20 mm (0.79 in) ShVAK cannon in wings

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