Polikarpov I-16

The Polikarpov I-16 was a Soviet fighter aircraft of revolutionary design; it was the world's first cantilever-winged monoplane fighter with retractable landing gear. The I-16 was introduced in the mid-1930s and formed the backbone of the Soviet Air Force at the beginning of World War II. The diminutive fighter prominently featured in the Second Sino-Japanese War, the Battle of Khalkhin Gol and the Spanish Civil War where it was called the Rata (Rat) by the Nationalists or Mosca (Fly) by the Republicans. The Finnish nickname for I-16 was Siipiorava ("Flying Squirrel").

While working on the Polikarpov I-15 biplane, Nikolai Nikolaevich Polikarpov began designing an advanced monoplane fighter. It featured cutting-edge innovations such as retractable landing gear and a fully enclosed cockpit, and was optimized for speed with a short stubby fuselage and a Wright Cyclone radial engine in a NACA cowling. The aircraft was small, light and simple to build.

Service trials of the new fighter, designated I-16, began on 22 March 1934. The M-22 prototype reached 359 km/h (223 mph). The manually-retracted landing gear was prone to jamming and required considerable strength from the pilot. Most of the test flights were performed with the gear extended. On 1 May 1934, the M-22 prototype participated in the flyover of the Red Square. Approximately 30 I-16 Type 1 aircraft were delivered, but were not assigned to any V-VS fighter squadron. Most pilots who flew the I-16 Type 1 for evaluation purposes did not find the aircraft to have many redeeming characteristics. Regardless of pilot opinion, much attention was focused on the Cyclone powered aircraft and the M-25 (the license built Cyclone). On 14 April 1934, the Cyclone prototype was damaged when one of the landing gear legs collapsed while it was taxiing. A total of 7,005 single-seat and 1,639 two-seat trainer variants were produced.

General characteristics
  • Crew: One
  • Length: 6.13 m (20 ft 1 in)
  • Wingspan: 9 m (29 ft 6 in)
  • Height: 3.25 m (10 ft 8 in)
  • Wing area: 14.5 m² (156.1 ft²)
  • Empty weight: 1,490 kg (3,285 lb)
  • Loaded weight: 1,941 kg (4,279 lb)
  • Max takeoff weight: 2,095 kg (4,619 lb)
  • Powerplant: 1× Shvetsov M-63 supercharged air-cooled radial engine, 820 kW (1,100 hp)
  • Propeller: two-blade propeller

  • Maximum speed: 525 km/h (283 kn, 326 mph) at 3,000 m (9,845 ft)
  • Range: 700 km (378 nmi, 435 mi (with drop tanks))
  • Service ceiling: 9,700 m (31,825 ft)
  • Rate of climb: 14.7 m/s (2,900 ft/min)
  • Wing loading: 134 kg/m² (27 lb/ft²)
  • Power/mass: 346 W/kg (0.21 hp/lb)
  • Rate of climb: 5.8 minutes to 5,000 m (16,405 ft)

  • 2 × fixed forward-firing 7.62 mm (0.30 in) ShKAS machine guns in upper cowling
  • 2 × fixed forward-firing 20 mm (0.79 in) ShVAK cannons in the wings
  • 6 × unguided RS-82 rockets or up to 500 kg (1,102 lb) of bombs
** Polikarpov I-16 - Warbird Fare

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