Polikarpov I-16, Duxford 2010 ©Nigel Key
31 December 1933.
The Polikarpov I-16 is a Soviet single-seat fighter designed by Nilolai Polikarpov.
The I-16 was the world’s first operational low-wing cantilever monoplane with retractable undercarriage operated by hand crank.
The I-16 had a short fuselage, mixed steel and duralumin construction with the rear fabric covered.
The wings have a steel alloy wing spar, ribs and aluminium skin on the centre and leading edges with the remaining surfaces fabric covered.
The ailerons run along the trailing edge of the wings which also operate as flaps by drooping 15 degrees.
A 225 litre fuel tank is fitted directly in front of the cockpit.
The Polikarpov I-16 was produced from 1934 to 1942, with 10,292 built.
Shvetsov M-25a, producing 750 hp.
Press play to hear the I-16
2 x 20mm cannon
2 x 7.62mm machine guns
441 lb (200kg) Bomb/Rocket load
The Polikarpov I-16 was operated in large numbers by the Soviet Air Force and together with the Polikarpov I-15 biplane was one of the standard fighters of the Republicans during the Spanish Civil War.
The I-16 began dominating the enemy Heinkel He 51 and Arado Ar68 biplanes until the introduction of the Messerschmitt Bf 109 when they received heavy losses throughout 1937.
By the end of the Spanish Civil War, a total of 112 were lost in combat, one was shot down by anti-aircraft fire, eleven were destroyed on the ground and 62 were lost in accidents.
In 1939, 500 I-16s were deployed to the fighting at Nomonhan, approximately 112 were lost during the battles of Khalkhin Gol, of which 88 were destroyed in aerial combat, primarily against the all-metal Nakajima Ki-27 Japanese fighters.
During World War II, when Operation Barbarossa commenced in June 1941, the main assault by the Luftwaffe targeted the I-16 bases and after 48 hours of combat the 1,635 Polikarpov I-16 monoplanes were reduced to just 937.
Although inferior to the new Messerschmitt Bf 109 in service ceiling, rate of climb, acceleration and diving speed the I-16 remained in service until 1943.
|Crew - 1|
|Length - 19ft 11in (6.07m)|
|Wingspan - 29ft 6.5in (9.0m)|
|Height - 8ft 5in (2.56m)|
|Empty Weight - 2,976lb (1,350kg)|
|Max. Weight - 3,781lb (1,715kg)|
|Max. Speed - 273 mph (440 km/h)|
|Range - 497 miles (800 km)|