Heller 1/72 Polikarpov I-153

KIT #: 099
PRICE: Pretty cheap 'used'
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken


The Polikarpov I-153 Chaika (Russian Чайка, "Seagull") was a late 1930s Soviet biplane fighter. Developed as an advanced version of the I-15 with a retractable undercarriage, the I-153 fought in the Soviet-Japanese combats in Mongolia and was one of the Soviets' major fighter types in the early years of the Second World War. Nearly 3,500 were built. Four exist. Three I-153s are still flying, but are not fully original having been rebuilt from recovered wrecks. The only fully original plane is a non-flying example held in France.

The I-153 first saw combat in 1939 during the Soviet-Japanese Battle of Khalkin Gol in Mongolia. The Japanese Army Air Forces' Type 97 Fighter (Nakajima Ki-27) Nate proved a formidable opponent for the I-15bis and I-16, but was more evenly matched with the I-153, which retained agility inherent to biplanes while featuring improved performance. While the overall I-153 performance was satisfactory, some significant problems were revealed. Most troublesome was the absence of a firewall between the fuel tank mounted in front of the cockpit and the pilot. Combined with strong draft coming in through the wheel wells, fuel tank fires invariably resulted in rapid engulfment of the cockpit and severe burns to the pilot. In addition, the M-62 engine suffered from a service life of only 60–80 hours due to failures of the two-speed supercharger.

The Polikarpov I-153 Chaika never flew with any Spanish Air Force units during or after the Spanish Civil War. Two earlier variants of this aircraft, the I-15 and the I-15bis, did fly with the Republican Air Force during the conflict and, later, captured examples of both types were used by the Fuerzas Aéreas till the early 1950s.  


For a fairly decent period of time, Heller was producing new kits at a prodigious rate. Indeed, some of the dozens they cranked out are still the only kits of the type. This is not the case with the I-153 as a number of other model makers have produced nice kits of this aircraft. Yet the Heller kit is still a viable choice for the frugal modeler as these kits can be found at very reasonable prices.

For your money, you get three sprues of grey plastic and a tiny sprue with the windscreen. Upper and lower wings are two piece in terms of having separate wing halves. Fabric representation of the wings definitely falls into the 'hills and valleys' category, but a light sanding should reduce the effect if you are so inclined. Wing strut attachment is very positive The cockpit is basic, but really, it is so small you won't see much in there at all. There is also no need for an engine as the front cover pretty much reduces the chance of seeing anything in there. Landing gear are quite complete and my recollection of building this back in the 70s when it was new is that the struts are nice and sturdy with the gear doors being a bit fussy to attach.

Instructions are basically an exploded view with a few detail images to help placement. Paints are by Humbrol numbers and you have two near identical markings options. Both are green over light blue and differ by the number on the fin. The kit decals are past their 'use by' date but finding replacements is an easy task .


While there are newer kits out there, these older Heller kits are, for the most part, still viable builds that hold up well against newer kits produced today. Nice thing is that they can be found for just a few dollars and look nice on your shelf when done . 



October 2020

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