by: Tim Hatton [ ]
The last and ultimate biplane fighter from the stable of NN. Polikarpov design bureau was the I-153. With its distinctive gull shaped upper wing and retracting undercarriage it was fitted with four ShKAS machine guns, giving it quite a punch. The production aircraft were initially fitted with the M-62 engine and later with the more powerful M-63. This release depicts the I-153 supplied to the Guomindang [Kuomintang ]Air Force or what is now called the Republic of China Air Force [ROCAF]. The Russian supplied ninety three I-153 in 1940 and served with the Air Force until 1943.
On opening the box the first impressions is rather good. The small parts count on the two grey plastic sprues and the fact that the wings are one piece and the simple painting scheme suggests this release is a good candidate for a weekend project. The parts look very well moulded, although there is the merest hint of flash here and there.
The cockpit has a tubular frame made up from four parts. There are a few plastic runoffs blobs and a hint of flash to carefully remove; the completed frame then sits on the cockpit floor. The instrument panel is finely detailed and attaches to the frame. There are some tiny decals that look like instrument faces, but they are not mentioned in the instructions. The seat, control stick and rudder pedals fit onto the floor. There are no harnesses. There is a little extra detail on the inside of the fuselage halves, though you might need to fill the two recessed ejector marks. The complete cockpit is fixed onto the lower wing. There is also guidance on the colour of individual parts of the cockpit. The cockpit door is moulded in the closed position. The tiny injected plastic windscreen is pretty thin and clear. All in all a pretty good looking cockpit straight from of the box.
The fuselage is made up from two halves split vertically. There are a couple of location pins to help with joining the two halves. The vertical tail is moulded entirely on the left side fuselage. The panel lines and rivet detail is excellent and the ribbing detail on the canvas parts of the fuselage is subtle. There are some protruding pieces of plastic that I not sure should be there, but they will be easy enough to remove. The engine is moulded onto the firewall and there is a hint of the cooling vanes on the cylinders. The push rods are separate and are a little thick and there are also a couple of breather pipes to install. These could be drilled out for better effect. This release features an open cowling, not the louvered one you would normally associate with the I-153. The sides of the cowling are made up from two parts with an additional part of the cowling attached to the lower wing. The exhaust looks overly simplified. The area could be improved by opening up the recesses and then scratch building some piping to represent the exhausts. The two bladed prop looks very well moulded, the spinner boss is a separate part.
Each wing is one piece and similarly to the fuselage has some fine ribbed detail representing stretched canvas. If I was finding something to nit-pick then it would be the appearance of the stretched canvas. It should be really drum tight and not scalloped. The ailerons are moulded into the wings. Its suggested in the instructions that the two inter plane struts are attached to the upper wing before joining to the fuselage. It might be worth waiting until the wings are attached before fixing in place. There may be enough flex in the wings to allow the fitting of the struts. The location points for the bombs under the wing are predrilled, although a couple of them need to be shown the tip of a twist drill to deepen them. There are three types of bomb on the sprues although only two types are shown fitted in the instructions. The tail planes are both one piece and again display some fine detail. There is a strut to fit to each tail plane. There is a rigging diagram in the instructions but as always check your references.
The retractable wheeled undercarriage looks fine. The legs are each two part and the wheels are each one piece. The ejector marks on the inner hub mars the detail a bit. The gear doors feature some raised framework detail as does the inside of the wheel well.
There are four marking options with this release:
-I-153 2706 China Guomindang Air Force, 1940
-I-153 73 China Guomindang Air Force, 1940
-I-153P.2750 China Guomindang Air Force, 1940
-I-153 China Guomindang Air Force, 1940
The first three aircraft feature pale blue undersurfaces, while the fourth option appears to be painted overall in olive green.
The decals are printed by ICM and look glossy and well printed. The blue and white stripped rudder seen on 73 and P.2750 is quite striking.
The instructions are provided in a eight page A4 manual. Language is in both Russian and English. The instructions take you through twenty five stages and the grey shade drawings are very clear. There is even a rigging guide. The painting and decal placement guide is in colour. Paints referenced are Tamiya and Revell.
Its actually quite difficult not to get excited by this kit from ICM. The moulding standard is very good and consistent. The kit does look very good as it stands straight out the box. As this is the third incarnation of the I-153 from ICM, there are many aftermarket products for the fastidious. This is a diminutive aircraft and will make an interesting contrast to something like a P-47 on your flight line.