Polikarpov TsKB-3 / I-15 Chaika / I-152 Chaika / I-153 Chaika
Developed from the I-5 biplane fighter with more power, cantilever landing gear legs with faired wheels, and the upper wing gulled into the fuse-lage to provide the pilot with good forward and upward fields of vision, the TsKB-3 prototype flew in October 1933 with an imported 710-hp (529-kW) Wright SGR-1820-F3 Cyclone radial. The resulting I-15 Chaika (gull) entered service late in 1934 with the 480-hp (358-kW) M-22 for a maximum speed of 199 mph (320 km/h) and carried an armament of two 7.62mm guns. These 404 low-performance aircraft were fol-lowed by 59 with the SGR-1820, and by 270 with the 710-hp (529-kW) M-25, a Soviet develop-ment of the Cyclone. In the meantime, armament had been doubled to four 7.62mm guns and an armoured (9mm) seat fitted.
The I-153 was first flown in May 1939 and was placed in production until the autumn of 1940 by which time 3,437 had been built, developed to incorporate retractable undercarriage and a total of 3437 were built.
The I-15 was the USSR’s standard biplane fighter of the early and mid-1930s, and from October 1936 was supplied (155) for use in the Spanish Civil War by the Republican (communist) side, which also undertook local construction (287 aircraft). Numbers are still in dispute, figures varying from 416 to 550 aircraft received or built in Spain. Spanish CASA licence-built 237 M-25-engined examples, a few of these having the M-25V engine affording 775 hp for take-off. Some 40 late-production I-15s were fitted with twin 12.7mm guns rather than the quartet of 7.62mm weapons. These figures include the basic I-15 with the 529-kW (710-hp) M-25 and two or four rifle-calibre machine-guns, the improved I-15bis (or I-152, 2,408 built) with a revised upper wing, long-chord cowling, increased fuel capacity and revised armament. At the end of the war 44 1-15 and 20 1-152 fighters fell into the hands of the Nationalists (fascists), and another 200 such fighters were found in various stages of construction.
Criticism of the "gulled" upper wing centre section of the I-15, which restricted the pilot's view for take-off and landing, led indirectly to major redesign of the fighter as the I-152 (I-15bis). The structure was restressed and extensively revised, a new Clark YH aerofoil was adopted, the span and area of the upper wing were increased, the wing centre section was carried above the fuselage by a cabane of splayed N-struts, and the 775hp M-25V engine was enclosed by a long-chord cowling. Fuel capacity was increased, but armament remained four 7.62mm guns. The I-152 was first flown early in 1937, production deliveries commencing mid-year. One of the first recipients of the I-152 was the Chinese Central Government, which was assigned 186 from late 1937 through early 1938 (an additional 86 being supplied later), and 31 reached Spain in January 1939 (a further 62 being held at the French frontier, of which 20 were subsequently released to the new Nationalist government). One example was fitted with two TK-3 turbo-superchargers as the I-152TK, one was equipped with a pressure cabin (Germeticheskaya kabina) as the I-152GK, and another was tested with DM-2 ramjets as the I-152DM. Production of the I-152 was phased out early in 1939, having totalled 2,408 examples, 60 squadrons being equipped with this type during 1939.
Despite an international trend away from the biplane configuration for fighters by the mid 'thirties, the Soviet Air Force vigorously demanded continuation of such warplanes, and, in 1937, one of Polikarpov's principal team leaders, Aleksei Ya Shcherbakov, was assigned the task of developing a more potent fighter biplane. Assisted by Mikhail Gurevich, Shcherbakov created the I-153 (I-15ter), prototype trials commencing in summer 1938. The basic structure of the I-152 was extensively restressed, the Clark YH wing profile was retained, but configuration reverted to the "gulled'' upper wing - resulting in the sobriquet of Chaika being resurrected - and, as a concession to modernity, manually-retractable main undercarriage members were introduced. Initially, the 775hp M-25V engine was retained, armament remaining four 7.62mm guns, but comparatively early in the production run the 1,000hp Shvetsov M-62 engine was standardised, boosting max speed from 415km/h at 3000m to 444km/h at 4600m. Some aircraft were fitted with a quartet of 12.7mm guns (I-153BS) and one, experimentally, with twin synchronised 20mm cannon (I-153P). Production deliveries began during the early spring of 1939, and continued until late 1940, 3,437 examples being produced. Ninety-three were supplied to the Chinese Central Government early in 1940, and the I-153 remained in first-line service until well into 1943.
It is significant that during the late 1930s the Polikarpov I-16, the first modern fighter with cantilever monoplane wing and retractable landing-gear, and I-type interplane struts, was cut back in production in favour of new versions of the Polikar-pov I-15, which was a biplane.
The type served against the Japanese Army Air arm on the Manchurian border in 1939 and in the 1939-40 Winter War against Finland. More than 1,000 aircraft were still in service at the time of the German invasion of the USSR in July 1941, and these obsolete aircraft fought on into early 1942.
Engine: Wright SGR-1820-F-3 Cyclone, 715hp at 2130m
Engine: 1 x M-25B, 550kW
Max take-off weight: 1700 kg / 3748 lb
Empty weight: 1310 kg / 2888 lb
Wingspan: 10.2 m / 33 ft 6 in
Length: 6.3 m / 21 ft 8 in
Max. speed: 370 km/h / 230 mph
Cruise speed: 290 km/h / 180 mph
Ceiling: 9000 m / 29550 ft
Range w/max.fuel: 600 km / 373 miles
Armament: 4 x 7.62mm machine-guns
I-l5bis / I-152
Engine: one 775-hp (578-kW) M-25V radial
Maximum speed 230 mph (370 kph)
Climb to 3,280 ft (1,000 m) in 1 minute 0 seconds
Service ceiling 31,170 ft (9,500 m)
Range 329 miles (530 km)
Empty weight 2,910 lb (1,320 kg)
Maximum take-off weight 4,189 lb (1,900 kg)
Wing span 33 ft 5.5 in (10.20 m)
Length 20 ft 6.75 in (6.27 m)
Height 7 ft 2.25 in (2.19 m)
Wing area 242.52 sq ft (22.53 sq.m)
Armament: four 7.62-mm (0.3-in) machine guns
Bombload: 331 lb (150 kg) of bombs or six 82-mm (3.2-in) rockets
Engine: one 1000-hp Shvetsov M-62R radial
Length: 6.17 m / 20 ft 3 in
Height: 2.80 m / 9 ft 2 in
Wing area: 22.14 sq.m / 238.31 sq ft
Max take-off weight: 2110 kg / 4652 lb
Empty weight: 1452 kg / 3201 lb
Wingspan: 10.00 m / 33 ft 10 in
Max. speed: 444 km/h / 276 mph
Range: 470 km / 292 miles