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Polikarpov I-180



The preliminary design for the I-165 fighter was created in late 1937 and became the basis for the I-180 project design in March 1938. It was supposed to become a further evolution of the I-16 fighter with a slightly increased size and the M-88 engine. Developed by Dmitrii L Tomashevich (one of Polikarpov's deputies), the I-180 was originally conceived with an all-metal structure. Limited all-metal construction experience, however, led the Polikarpov OKB to adopt an essentially similar structure to that of the earlier I-16, with a wooden monocoque fuselage and a fabric-skinned metal wing.
The machine took final form in its third prototype, and the first prototype was constructed in summer 1938. The first prototype, the I-180.1, was powered by a 1,100hp Tumansky M-88 14-cylinder two-row radial, intended armament being four 7.62mm guns. This aircraft was lost as a result of engine failure during its first flight on 15 December 1938 piloted by Valeriy Chkalov. Chkalov did not survive the accident. The second prototype, the I-180.2, differed primarily in having a 1,000hp Tumansky M-87A (later M-87B) 14-cylinder two-row radial and lengthened wing outer panels. These increased wing span from 9.00m to 10.05m and area from 14.68sq.m to 16.11sq.m. First flown on 19 April 1939, the I-180.2 was lost on its 53rd flight and the demise of another test pilot, Tomas Suzy.
Construction of the third prototype was started in mid-1939, the I-180.3 flown on 10 February 1940 with E. Ulyakhin as a test pilot, and featured a redesigned and more advanced wing structure, a 1,100hp M-88R engine, a cockpit canopy and an armament of two 12.7mm and two 7.62mm guns concentrated in the fuselage.
The I-180-3 was powered by an air-cooled M-88 engine that was not yet finished and proved to be quite problematic at the time of the aircraft’s testing. The motor passed the government testing only in December 1940, after the destiny of the I-180 project had already been decided. The aircraft strongly resembled the I-16 in its behaviour in the air, but had advantages over its predecessor in higher speed and faster climb times. It was also easier to control and more stable in manoeuvres, as well as during landing and take-off. Among the main drawbacks of the project were the lack of a canopy, various mechanical defects and poor plane surface finishing. Flown with both wheel and ski undercarriages, a lot of problems were fixed eventually but, on 6 July 1940 the third prototype was lost due to a pilot error accident during State Acceptance Trials.
In the meantime, a pre-series of 10 aircraft based on the I-180.2 had been under construction as the I-180S (Seriyny or Series), the first three of these having been completed in December 1939. Several I-180S machines took part in a May Day parade in Moscow. The I-180S was powered by the M-88R and carried an armament of two 12.7mm and two 7.62mm fuselage-mounted guns, and, like the I-180.3, featured an enclosed cockpit. The I-180S was cleared for service trials, but the results of these were academic as this fighter had been overtaken by the more advanced I-185.
As a part of the I-185 development programme, one pre-series I-180S fighter had the dated triangulated pattern mainwheel legs replaced with legs of cantilever type, this aircraft being referred to as the I-180Sh, the suffix indicating Shassi (chassis). In the event, it was not completed and flown.
A plethora of issues with the aircraft caused the work on its preparation for production to be stopped in late 1940 and the entire I-180 programme abandoned.

Max take-off weight: 2456 kg / 5415 lb
Empty weight: 2046 kg / 4511 lb
Wingspan: 10.09 m / 33 ft 1 in
Length: 6.88 m / 23 ft 7 in
Wing area: 16.11 sq.m / 173.41 sq ft
Max. speed: 585 km/h / 364 mph


Polikarpov I-180



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