by: Darren Baker [ ]
The Polikarpov I-153 entered service in 1938 and was technically obsolete even before it entered service with the Soviet Air Force. The Polikarpov I-153 was perhaps the best biplane the Soviets ever produced and was in front line service during the early stages of World War 2 flying alongside the I-16. During its initial service the Polikarpov I-153 performed well against Japanese aircraft that the Soviets were fighting at that time, but the Japanese soon got the better of the aircraft as they learnt from their experience how best to attack and defend against it.
When the Germans invaded Russia during Operation Barbarossa in June 1941 the Polikarpov I-153 made up a third of the total aircraft in service with the Red Air Force. A total of 3,437 aircraft were produced with a mix of engines and some were even fitted with skies. During the early part of 1942 the Polikarpov I-153 was withdrawn from frontline service and performed secondary roles such as ground attack functions into 1943.
The Polikarpov I-153 despite its issues did account for most of the 800 aircraft the Germans lost during the first two weeks of invasion. Despite this success against German forces the Red Air Force only had 36 Polikarpov I-153 aircraft left available to them in early 1943. This offering from ICM is the winter version of the Polikarpov I-153 that has skis instead of wheels and has been produced in 1/32nd scale.
This offering from ICM is packaged in the usual high standard that they have adopted and now always stick to. The result is that the model arrives in the way that ICM intended, my only complaint or more accurately concern is that the sprues being packed inside a single plastic bag does allow movement and so potential damage, and those kits with a lot of sprues could suffer from warping. In the case of this example I am pleased to say that the model has arrived in perfect condition and with all parts present.
This model is to my knowledge the third offering of the Polikarpov I-153 in 1/32nd scale, and is the second all-plastic offering which makes it more affordable than the SilverWings offering which is a resin multi-media kit in the same scale. Dimensionally the model appears to be accurate according to my attempts to measure the model, and so I am happy with what is on offer in that respect.
The cockpit of the model is fairly simplistic for a 1/32nd scale model, but with that said, unless you are planning on cutting away parts of the fuselage you will not be able to see what is included, let alone what is not present. The framework of the cockpit area is present and the limited amount seen will add a nice touch; the floor is well represented along with foot pedals and control stick. The instrument panel is also present and brought to life with a decal for the instruments. The seat is also quite nicely replicated in two parts, but I am disappointed that again no harness detail is provided. I cannot say anything regarding the accuracy of the cockpit as I failed to find suitable reference.
The fuselage has a limited amount of internal detail present, but enough for what can be seen. The external detail on the fuselage is pleasing to me. As I expect most of you know the Polikarpov I-153 was a mix of metal and cloth on its exterior, and ICM has endeavoured to show this, the rear half of the fuselage showing this well if a little smooth as I would have liked a little texture to be present.
The flight surfaces of the model are well replicated, again the cloth and metal elements being well brought together. The gull aspect of the upper wing has been very nicely reproduced and results in a visually pleasing aspect of the model. The flight controls are provided for the wings and tail control surfaces and so can be set as desired by the modeller. Dry fitting the wings again revealed an issue with some of the locator holes being too small and needing to be enlarged a little.
The rotary engine provided with the model by ICM is very pleasing considering that ICM does not utilise photo etch. The cooling vanes of each piston housing has been nicely replicated and should meet with the approval of most. The ignition harness is supplied and looks reasonable, and this in an area you will find hard to see unless you are planning on opening it up. The exhausts are the only aspect of the engine easily seen and these are presented as individual items. My only concern here is that the exhausts will need to be further drilled out to improve their appearance. Looking at the propeller blade, the shape looks good to me, but the spinner cover is of a design I could not find on any images, and so I do not know if it is accurate or not.
The undercarriage does suffer from some over simplification of the struts in that they seem to lack a lot of detail that needs to be present, which does not mean they are wrong and with the addition of some brake cabling and the like still needs to be added I believe, the result should be pleasing. It is of course this area of the model that is new and all supplied on a single new sprue. New doors for the wheel bays have been supplied and of course the skis could not be retracted on this aircraft set up. The doors for the area where the wheels would sit when fitted and retracted have been replaced with new shaped offerings that are attached closed. The doors for the legs are also new offerings with nice detailing on the inner face that is seen; unfortunately detail in the bay area itself is. The front ski assemblies have been tackled in a way that makes them look very visually appealing to me with a great level of detail. My complaint is also aimed at the new sprue and that is the tail ski that has been moulded as a single piece. True this area is small and not something that shouts look at me, but the poor detail here really lets the model down in my opinion.
The external stores supplied with the model should be two 165 lb bombs, two 110 lb bombs or six RS-82 rockets and I believe that is what is supplied here. My only concern here is that the racks for the rockets are moulded as part of the lower wing and my reference searches indicate that the mounts were not always present; the result means that removal of these details without ruining the rib detail will be difficult if no weapons are mounted.
A nice inclusion that ICM has provided is a guide to the tensioning wires needed on the wings. The canopy, or more accurately the screen, in front of the pilot is of a suitable thickness with a good level of frame detail.
The decals provided with the model by ICM are reasonably thin and have good colour saturation but I can feel them on the decal sheet. ICM has provided four finishing options for the model which are:
I-153, Red Army Air Force, 1940
I-153, Red Army Air Force, March 1940
I-153, Finnish Air Force, 1940
I-153, Finnish Air Force, 1942
This is a great addition to the range of 1/32nd scale aircraft already released by ICM and a perfect partner for the I-16 aircraft. This release also makes a nice offering to be matched with the 1/32nd WW2 Russian pilots released by ICM. The negatives are limited in my mind to the lack of harness detail and that the armament has to be used unless you want to tackle some surgery on the model. My biggest complaint is the poor effort put into the tail wheel with ski attached that is a big letdown. On the plus side is the beautiful lines of this aircraft that I feel are perfectly replicated and the lines really do draw the eye to the model.