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SMER 1/72 Polikarpov I-153 Kit First Look

By Ray Mehlberger

Date of Review October 2007 Manufacturer SMER
Subject Polikarpov I-153 Scale 1/72
Kit Number SR832 (154) Primary Media Styrene
Pros Neat looking Cons None noticeable
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $8.98

First Look


The Soviet Polikarpov I-153 “Tchaika” (Gull) fighter stands at the top of a range of biplane fighters designed by N. N. Polikarpov. A prototype, originally named the I-15 ter and then the I-153, was test flown in the first half of 1938. It was conceptually based on the I-152 biplane. The I-153 differed in having a cranked upper wing and a retractable undercarriage.

Soviet regiments received the first I-153’s in early 1939. The I-153s saw fighting for the first time in the far east, when the Japanese provoked a number of incidents on the borders of Mongolia and Manchuria in 1939. The Soviet Air Force, armed with obsolete I-15s and I-152s, was at a disadvantage when fighting against Japanese low-wing Ki-72’s. The situation completely changed with the arrival of the I-153’s at the front.

Most of the I-153s were still in use in the Soviet Air Force when the Soviet Union was attacked by Germany. The Finnish seized the first 11 two-wing I-153s during the “Winter War” and the “Continuation War” with Russia, between 1939 and 1941. Another 10 aircraft were captured by the Germans and they were delivered to Finland in 1942 –43. The plane that was in operation for the longest period was the “Cajka” designated an IT-11. By February 1945, it flew had flown 274 hours and 20 minutes.

The most interesting thing about the I-153 was that it was not superseded by the I-16 monoplane. In fact, the I-16 flew before the I-153 and the I-15 and was in service before both. In 1939, it replaced the I-16 in Mongolia because it was more agile. The I-153’s and I-15’s were mixed in with the I-16 equipped squadrons, so the VVS had the best of both worlds. This was the higher speeds of the monoplanes and the agility of the biplanes. In reality, the I-153 was only a few miles per hour slower than the I-16 and far more maneuverable.

Many countries used the I-153, including the Finns, Chinese and even the Spanish Republican Air Force. They were all drawn to the type’s ruggedness and maneuverability. I-153s were usually armed with four 7.62 mm ShKAS machine-guns in the fuselage, plus two 165 lb bombs or six RS-82 rockets.

One of the most interesting modifications done to the I-153 was the addition of two ram jets under the wings in an attempt to boost the speed of the fighter for brief periods. In October 1940, a  I-153 DM-4 (DM standing for “auxiliary motor”) was clocked at a whopping  273 mph at 6,560 ft., compared to the regular I-153’s maximum speed of 241 mph.

Smer is a model company based in Prague, Czechoslovakia. The have a large quantity of various aircraft kits that they market. High Tech brand makes a 1/72nd scale kit of it that has skis for the undercarriage and Finnish markings. The kit includes resin and PE parts and is the highest price of the 1/72nd scale kits of the I-153 at 10 bucks. AER brand makes a 1/72nd scale kit of it too, with wheels, kit no. 72004. Smer reboxed it as kit no. 7208. Aero Master produced an after-market decal sheet, no. 48-317 for the Flashback kit. So, this aircraft subject is easy to find if you shop around a bit.

My Smer kit comes in a tray and lid type box. The box art shows an I-153 flying over Moscow, with smoke rising from some of the buildings. This box art is uninterrupted by any text and can easily be framed and hung on a wall.

Inside the box is 3 pale gray parts trees in a sealed cello bag. Also in the bag is a single clear cockpit windscreen piece in it’s own small cello, the decal sheet and a two piece clear plastic stand (to mount the kit on for a desk model) These stands were very popular in kits years ago. Airfix included them and so did Frog etc. It seems that Smer is the only brand that has continued with them.

The instructions complete the kits contents.

The instructions consist of a single sheet that accordion folds out into 8 pages.

Page one of the instructions begins with a black and white copy of the box art, followed by the history of the I-153 in Czech only. This history continues on to page two.

Page three has blow by blow written instructions as to how to proceed building the kit, in Czech only. Half this page, half of page four, and all of page five have a total of 10 assembly steps.

Page six has a list of names of the kits parts, again in Czech. This is followed by a black and white photo of an actual I-153 sitting on a snow-covered airfield. It is a very dark and grainy photo.

Pages seven and eight have the painting and marking instructions. There is only one generic scheme offered. It is an I-153 in a green and brown wave pattern above, with a blue lower surface. It is decorated only with the Soviet red stars and shown as a 3-view in full color. There is an extensive explanation of Soviet colors used on their aircraft on the page, but…alas…only in Czech.

The first light gray parts tree in the kit holds the fuselage halves, prop, main wheels, wing struts, cowling, horizontal tail support bars and prop retainer washer (12 parts) The second light gray tree holds: The top of the upper wing and bottom of the lower wing (both full span) and the cockpit floor (3 parts).

The last light gray tree holds: The bottom parts of the upper wing and the upper parts of the lower wing, the horizontal tail surfaces, landing gear struts, partial wheel spats, dashboard, pilot seat, joy stick, some internal bracing, landing gear doors and the vent plate that goes inside the cowling in front of the engine. There is no engine provided and it would be invisible behind that vent plate anyways if there was one in the kit. Flaps and rudder are all molded solid.

The little clear part is the last part in the kit. It is just the windscreen for in front of the pilots open cockpit.

The decal sheet just has the Soviet red stars on it, in two sizes. I read one report that the decals in this kit shattered for another modeler that has built it. So…beware. I also think that this decal has the stars on it printed a little too orange or faded. However, red paint back then was affected by sunlight, which changed its hue. So, perhaps this isn’t too bad.

This is a real pugnacious looking little fighter and should find a welcome spot on most modeler’s shelves that do WWII. Recommended.