ICM 1/72 Polikarpov I-5 (early)

KIT #: 72059
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Brian Baker
NOTES: My examples were purchased and built during 2006.


The I-5 was the first Polikarpov fighter design to be produced in quantity, and came after the more modern looking  I-1 all metal, cantilever wing monoplane fighter which was not successful  in  VVS-RKKA service.  A step backwards aerodynamically, the I-5 was typical of “late twenties” fighter designs, being a wire braced  open cockpit biplane with a fixed landing gear, powered by a 480 hp. 9 cylinder Bristol Jupiter VII radial engine.  Production models had the M-22 engine, a Russian copy of the Jupiter. First flight was 29 April 1930, and a total of 800 was delivered to the Soviet Air Force between 1931 and 1934, with the plane entering squadron service in 1933. They became the standard Soviet fighter during the middle thirties, and were later replaced by the I-15 and I-16 from the same design bureau.  A few were still in service during the beginning of the “Great Patriotic War”, as the Russians dubbed World War II, and many were destroyed in the air or on the ground during the initial stages of Operation Barbarossa.


There have been two kits of this aircraft issued by ICM, one depicting the early version and first prototype, and the later representing the production model with a circular Townend ring around the radial engine.  Different rudders were used on some of the prototypes.

Cast in bright red plastic, the kit consists of 42 parts. The mold work is some of the best I’ve seen from any kit manufacturer, with petite forms, exquisite details, and nearly perfect fit all around. For a biplane  with this much detail, it should be the ideal kit.  However, there is one major problem, or at least this is true for the two kits that I have, which include one of each type.  I have never seen such brittle plastic.  When I first tried to cut some of the smaller struts and other tiny parts off of the sprues, these parts snapped into three or four fragments,  some sailing around the room and into oblivion, requiring scratchbuilding of new parts as replacements.  This happened with the interplane “N” struts, and I wound up taping the struts and pieces in place with masking tape and surgically removing them from the sprue with a brand new Exacto blade.  However, later in the process, I managed to drop one of the fuselage halves on the workbench, and was surprised that it shattered into three (count ‘em) pieces. I managed to glue them together, but it was a PITA. I emailed ICM telling them of my experience with the kit, but they never responded.  So much for customer service. 


Assembly, aside from the problems listed above, was pretty straightforward. The interior is quite complex, with a seat, instrument panel, sidewall structure, floor, rudder pedals, and a control stick. Note that this assembly is extremely fragile, so don’t drop it or breathe on it too hard.  The instructions are clear about how everything goes together, and what colors they are to be painted. I used masking tape for the seat belts, as these, like batteries, are not included.  Once the cockpit interior is complete, the fuselage halves can be joined.

 Next, the lower wing panels can be attached to the fuselage, and these virtually snap into place. At this point, the cockpit interior should be masked over or filled with tissue during the rest of the construction process.  There is no engine per se, as on this version, only the cylinder head fairings show.  The prop fits on between a spinner face plate and tip, and turns on a small shaft that goes through the faceplate. I then installed the elevators and horizontals, as well as the tailskid.

 I would advise painting at this stage.  I did the all-red prototype, mainly because it was colorful, but also because it was easier to paint than the second version, although the all silver version shouldn’t present much of a challenge.  After painting, I mounted the canbane struts, making sure that they were set at the proper angle by use of a set of dividers. At the same time, I installed the windshield and gunsight, which would have been difficult with the upper wing attached.  I used the kit cabane struts, but had to scratchbuild the “N” struts due to the brittleness of the plastic.  The landing gear is also very delicate, but after repairing one strut that broke, I managed to get the rest of it installed OK.  I used regular rod stock for the spreader bar. 


At this stage, I repainted any places that needed it, and then installed the prop, wheels, and other minor details.  One thing to remember is that this kit contains a  few interior parts that cannot be seen once the kit is assembled.  The upper part of the tailskid is invisible, as is the portion of the control stick underneath the seat and floorboards.  These are nice, but why bother. I painted my model in bright red, and applied the decals to the fuselage side as shown in the drawings. This was the aircraft of the Red Army Air Force Chief J. Alksnis, who  used it as a personal aircraft during 1931.


 Rigging details are well illustrated in the box art, and the plane is very much like a Curtiss P-12.  There are three flying wires (2 parallel) and two parallel landing wires on each side.  Between the cabanes are two wires, and the tailplane is braced with a single wire above and below each horizontal stabilizer. The rear struts on the landing gear assembly should be braced, but these are not shown on the box art.  I used unstranded electronic wire, which worked out quite well. Stretched sprue could also be used, but it would be a lot more work.

 Second Variant

 ICM also produces a production variant of this aircraft. This is cast in dark green plastic, but this is just as brittle as the prototype’s red plastic.   This kit provides an engine and cowling ring, and also wheel pants., which the instructions say not to use.   Otherwise, the kits are very similar.


 If you want a model of this aircraft, this is the only show in town, although there may have been a vacuform kit produced of this plane some years back.  Hopefully, later production models will have solved the brittle plastic problem, in which case the kit will be an excellent project.  If not, I would only recommend this kit for very experienced and tenacious modelers, as the brittleness can lead to a lot of frustration and the creation of a lot of new profanities and obscenities, things the wife and kiddies shouldn’t really hear.  Highly recommended subject to the above limitations.

Brian Baker

December 2009

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