Polikarpov I-16

The I-16 aircraft was the first Soviet low-wing fighter with a retractable landing gear.
In order to hide it, it was necessary to make 44 turns with a special crank placed on the right side of the plane.

The prototype flew in 1933. During the trials, problems with the piloting properties due to the too short fuselage were revealed. Despite this, the plane entered mass production.
As many as 7,005 combat aircraft and approximately 1,640 two-seater training machines were produced.
Fighters suffered heavy losses at the end of the war.
The I-16 was produced in 10 basic versions, ranging from the I-16 Type 1, with the 480hp M-22 radial engine, to the I-16 Type 24, with an even more powerful engine and much heavier and more diverse armament.

The plane was considered difficult to pilot, contributing to it, inter alia, short hull and the resulting low longitudinal stability. The large diameter of the radial engine caused poor visibility during the landing approach, and the small wingspan made piloting difficulties at low speeds. The design of the I-16 clearly shows the influence of the Gee-Bee racing plane concept, known for both records and disasters. The I-16 was used in the USSR, Spain, China and Finland.

In 1933, at the design bureau of the Russian builder MN. Polikarpov, a low-wing aircraft with retractable landing gear was created, marked with the symbol СКВ-12. The first flight of the prototype took place on December 31, 1933. The opinion of the test pilot-tester, W. Czklov, was positive - the plane was fast and maneuverable, although a bit difficult to pilot. In February 1934, the 700hp M-25 engine was installed on the CKB-12. W. Chkalov achieved a speed of 450 km / h on this plane. After such a show, the command of the WWS SS (Military Air Force of the Soviet Union) chose the Polikarpov design as the primary fighter of the Soviet Union's aviation forces, which was sent to serial production under the designation I-16. Colloquially he was called "Ishachok" ("Donkey") or "Jastrebok" ("Hawk"). From the fall of 1934, I-16 type 1 fighters began to be delivered to combat units. In 1935, the production of the two-seater school version (I-16 UTl) was started.

The first "test of fire" went through the I-16 during the Spanish Civil War, where in November 1936 Stalin fired 31 I-16 type 5 aircraft with pilots - the first victory was achieved on November 16, 1936. Subsequent deliveries of I-16 allowed the Republicans to the formation of several fighter squadrons manned by Spanish pilots and volunteers from the International Brigades. "Ishak" turned out to be faster and more maneuverable than its opponents (the villages of Hat Cr-32 and the German Heinkel He-51). In 1938 he appeared in Spain armed with 4 SHKAS I-16 type 10 and - on the Frankist side - The Messerschmitt Bf-109G, which gained an advantage over the Polikarpov structure at an altitude of more than 3,000 m. In total, nearly 300 I-16s of different versions were delivered to Spain.

China became the next theater of operations for I-16, where in 1937 the Soviet government sent a group of pilots and mechanics as well as 225 aircraft (including about 60 I-16) to fight the Japanese. Deliveries of equipment for China lasted until 1941. I-16 it was as good as the Japanese Ki-27 and A5M, but it was much lower than the A6M Zero, which was introduced into combat in 1940.

The I-16 meeting with Japanese fighters again took place in 1939 in the area of the Khalkhin-Gol river (Mongolia). Initially, the Japanese gained the advantage, but the situation changed after the transfer of 22 IAPs, consisting of combat veterans in Spain and China, to that region. During these fights (August 5, 1939) the first victory was achieved with the use of unguided missiles fired from the plane.

The Winter War with Finland (1939-40) was the last conflict in which the I-16 was technically superior to the vast majority of enemy fighters. Despite the fact that the Russians also had a quantitative advantage, the WWS did not manage to crush the defenders' resistance - for the price of 207 aircraft lost in air combat, the Russians shot down about 40 Finnish aircraft. The truce interrupted hostilities for over a year.

The last episode in the career of I-16 was the war with Germany (1941-45), called by the Russians the Great Patriotic War. At the time of the German attack, the WWS regiments stationed along the western border of the Soviet Union numbered about 9,300 aircraft, including about 4,000 fighter planes, of which over 3,300 were I-153 and I-16 with a speed of 440-470 km / h. Apart from a few exceptions, i.e. Shestakov, Vorozheikin, Bobrow, Noga (they were veterans of previous fights, with several victories on their account), Soviet pilots presented a low or the highest average level of training. The reasons for this state of affairs were, among others Stalin's purges in the army shortly before the outbreak of the war, which also affected aviation. From June 22, 1941, they had to face Luftwaffe aces, seasoned in numerous battles, piloting BM09E and F fighters with a speed of 580-630 km / h. The military operations were resumed by the Finns, displacing the Russians from the previously occupied territories - the F2A Buffalo fighters purchased in the USA wreaked real havoc on the I-153, I-16 formations and SB-2 bombers attacking the territory of Finland. During the first week of fighting, WWS destroyed about 200 Luftwaffe aircraft, but at the cost of more than 4,000 aircraft lost in the air and on the ground. However, those who survived the crushing attack of the Luftwaffe and switched over time from the I-16 to better equipment achieved numerous successes - among them (apart from the above-mentioned ones) were: P Muraviev (140 victories). A. Reshetov (36). A Koczatow (34), N. Zelenow (24), P Dziuba (22), W. Abram (211), F. Kalugin (21). Ishaks "used" quite interestingly within the "Zweno" team. Such a team consisted of a carrier bomber, under which 2-3 I-16 armed with bombs were suspended - at the edge of the range of the carrier-bomber, the L-16 detached and continued the flight on their own to a goal normally unattainable for them. At the end of 1942, the "Jastrebok" was withdrawn from the hunting regiments and moved to assault and training tasks. By 1941, 8660 I-16s of all versions were produced.