Kagero's Polikarpov I-16 Rata


Oleg Pototskiy




$49.95 from www.casematepublishing.com


Scott Van Aken

Notes: Monograph Special Edition #14, 200 pages.
ISBN 978-83-66673-50-2

After a rather prolonged and bloody civil war, the new Soviet Union set about creating their 'worker's paradise'. However, as was so succinctly portrayed in George Orwell's 'Animal Farm', "All animals are equal thought some are more equal than others." What this meant is that all the peasants still worked for a life of abject poverty while the scientists, doctors, engineers, skilled workers, etc headed out of the country. This was especially felt in the aviation branches. However, there were still talented designers left in the country.

One of those was N.N. Polikarpov. Polikarpov was simply a gifted engineer and his talents allowed him to rise rather quickly. Unlike the more political designers like Tupovlev, Polikarpov simply wanted to be left to working his trade. Not only that, but he was a master at multitasking and could work on multiple projects at the same time. In a time when Soviet aircraft were little more than updated versions of WWI planes, Polikarpov felt that the monoplane was the way to go. He designed what the Air Force wanted, and his designs were quite good, hence the success of the I-15 series of biplanes, but it was his monoplane I-16 that had the world on notice.

It was a fully modern, retractable landing gear, monoplane fighter that was quite successful in early combats in Spain and in China. Thanks to a license built Pratt&Whitney radial engine, it provided sufficient performance to allow it to enter and leave combat at will. It wasn't until the advent of the Bf-109 and the Hurricane that there were fighters that were its equal.

Though the book is titled the I-16, this is really as much a history of N.N. Polikarpov, his designs, and the political situation in the Soviet Union with all of Stalin's purges of the 1930s. It is quite remarkable that despite basically being in prison for several years, that he was able to produce the designs that he did. It was a result of those same treacheries that were always present in the USSR that eventually led to his death in 1943, but his influence continued on in the work of one of his young designers, Artem Mikoyan. If you look at his MiG-3, you can easily see the I-16s influence.

Of course, a major portion of the book does cover the I-16 along with its many variations and differences. It also goes into its war history. A large section provides plans of the variants in both 1/72 and 1/48 scale and the book ends with a dozen pages of full color profiles. Though written in English, it is fairly obvious that the author or editor does not speak English as a primary language. There are a lot of odd sentences that while initially disconcerting, are something that one gets used to as one reads along. Combined with a superb selection of period photos as well as a few warbird images, it makes into an excellent book on the subject. I learned a lot from reading it and I know you will as well. Pick it up if you get the opportunity.

November 2021

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