Classic Airframes 1/48 Polikarpov I-153

Price: $24.95 (shop for mail order bargains)

Decals: Two Red Air Force "Chaikas."

Reviewed by: Tom Cleaver

Date of Review: 18 November 1997

Polikarpov's I-15 was the fighter design that brought Soviet combat aviation even with the world standard. Maneuverable, fast, and heavily-armed with four 7.62mm machine guns with 500 rounds per weapon, it was thoroughly state-of-the-fighter-art in the early 30s. Used in the Spanish Civil War, it totally outclassed the Condor Legion's He-51s to the point where the first production Bf-109s had to be diverted from the Luftwaffe to the Condor Legion to have any hope of gaining air superiority. The I-153 was the second development past the initial design, and was the next-to-last fighter biplane put into production by any country (the last being the Fiat CR-42). It's sole concession to the revolution in figher design that had happened during the development process after the introduction of the I-15 was inclusion of retractable landing gear. Had the I-153 appeared two years earlier, it would be adjudged great. As it was, the airplane was mostly fodder for Bf-109 pilots after the 1941 invasion.

Back when Eduard and MPM were one company, they did a series of really good vacuforms of the I-15, I-152 and I-153 that were the only models of these aircraft available in 1/48 scale. I was therefore glad to see Classic Airframes bring this out in limited-run injection-molded form.

The kit is one of the first to benefit from Eduard's new casting process, which results in a delicate plastic airframe with parts that fit well. This is a simple model to construct, with a cast resin armored seat, engine and landing gear, with a photo-etch brass cockpit and photo-etch brass gear doors. The surface detail is subdued and excellent, giving a very good fabric effect.

For those who shy away from biplanes because of the difficulty of rigging them, the I-153 has some of the simplest rigging of any biplane. It's a good place to start getting rid of that phobia.

When I built mine, I decided to do it as a captured Finnish aircraft, having seen the photos and a color profile of the particular aircraft in Air Enthusiast No.11. At the time, this necessitated using decals from the Aeromaster Finnish AF sheet for B-239s and Bf-109s, which involved using bits here and there. Aeromaster now puts out a very good sheet for the I-153, and the Finnish plane I did is one of those featured.

Overall, this is a really excellent model, and I will not be surprised to hear that it has sold out of the 3,000 kits produced sometime in the not-so-distant future. My only wish is that Classic Airframes will take the opportunity to do the more important I-15, since much of the two kits would be similar. In the meantime, pick up one of these when you see it.

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