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Polikarpov I-16 Type 10

Academy 1/48 I-16 Type 10 Build Review

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review June 2000 Manufacturer Academy
Subject I-16 Type 10 Scale 1/48
Kit Number 2127 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Easy build, interesting markings Cons Fit of wing/fuselage joint, bare cockpit
Skill Level Novice MSRP (USD) $22.00


Polikarpov's design signature during the mid and late 1930s was a stubby, barrel-shaped fighter. The primary machine during that era was the I-15 biplane. Like their barrel-shaped brothers on the other side of the world, the Grumman F3Fs, the I-15 was going to be transformed almost directly into a monoplane fighter, the I-16. In the transformation, the I-15's upper wing was deleted and the lower wing strengthened to carry the full load. With a wingspan one meter shorter than the I-15, the early I-16 was powered by the same 700hp M-25 radial engine as the late-model I-15. The I-16 also incorporated retractable landing gear. Armament for the early I-16 was a pair of 7.62mm machine guns.


The I-16 Type 10 was the version that was produced in the largest numbers. The main differences between the Type 10 and earlier I-16 versions were the addition of two additional 7.62mm machine guns (for a total of four), and the adoption of the M-25V producing 750hp.


The Type 10 saw combat on two fronts in the late 1930s, first in the Spanish Civil War and later with the Chinese against Japan. In Spain, the early Bf109s flown by the Nationalists were surprised by the agile I-16 and suffered losses to the 'Rata' (Rat) as they nicknamed it. The Japanese forces were also surprised by the agile I-16 until they finally discovered and exploited the I-16's weaknesses.

By the time the Nazi violated the peace treaty between the Soviet Union and Germany, the I-16 was obsolete. Nonetheless, the I-16 soldiered on into 1943 before being completely phased out of service. One of the most famous tactics flown by Soviet pilots in 1941 was ramming their I-16s into the tails of German aircraft, then either limping back to base or parachuting to safety.

The Kit


Academy has released the I-16 Type 10 in 1/48 scale. While nearly identical to the Hobbycraft kit, the Academy offering has all of the parts for the various versions of the I-16 included in one box, including the winter skis, updated cowl face, rocket rails and a tailwheel. Though some of these parts were only used on later types of the I-16, you have the flexibility to build a later model Polikarpov if you want.

I built the Hobbycraft 1/48 I-16 Type 10 a few years ago and really enjoyed the kit. It unfortunately fell victim to the movers when I relocated to the mid-West last year, so I was delighted to see this kit arrive in the mail from MRC. As with the first I-16, I decided to build the Type 10 as it appeared in the Spanish Civil War.


Coming out of the box, the kit is flash-free and also free of ejector pin marks in visible places. I painted the cockpit interior light grey and assembled the kit per instructions. There is very little detail in the kit cockpit, but even the instrument panel is not visible through the cockpit opening once the fuselage goes together. I decided to cut out the hinged entry door (ala Spitfire) so there would be more of an opening to look through, but this didn't make much difference on the interior detail. The one item that is very visible is the pilot's seat, so I added photo-etched seatbelts and shoulder harnesses.

I decided that I wanted the aircraft to sit in a more natural pose, so I separated the rudder from the fuselage halves and the elevators from the horizontal stabilizer halves before assembly got underway. I also decided to replace the exhaust stubs molded into the fuselage and lower wing half with weathered brass tubing. I installed the brass tubing with cyano at the time.

The fuselage goes together easily with no need for filler. Likewise, the wings go together without any problems. The only real work is the fuselage-wing joints on the underside and at the wing roots. A little cyano and wet/dry sanding sticks made short work of the problem.


The engine is nicely detailed, and accepts paint detailing/highlighting very well, but it is all-but-invisible when the cowl face is installed. Pity, but that is how it was with the full-scale aircraft as well.

The rest of the kit assembly is straightforward. I did replace the wing-mounted machine gun barrels with brass wire. I also used brass wire at the hinge-points for the rudder and elevators to install these control surfaces. The wire allows you to bend (pose) the flight controls into whatever position works for you.

The one detail missing from the kit is the landing gear retraction system - cables coming from the wheel wells to the landing gear axles. The cable was a simple way for the pilot to crank the landing gear up, while I suspect gravity took care of gear extension. I discovered this little detail while examining some old I-16 photos - while more are too fuzzy to pick out details, there were a few good examples to work from. For this detail, I simply drilled holes into the center of each wheel well and the center of each axle, and installed thin fishing line with cyano into the holes.

Painting and Markings


The Academy folks provide markings for Republican Air Force I-16 CM-177 with the 'Popeye' logo on the tail, Soviet Air Force trainer 'Red 4', and a ski-equipped I-16 in winter camouflage. The markings for the last example is interesting in that they represent an aircraft whose rudder had been replaced and had a mis-matched red star as a result. Nice!

Nonetheless, I still enjoyed the look of the Spanish Civil War aircraft. The paint scheme is very simple - Green FS 34102 over Light Blue FS 35550. Academy provides the red wing tips and fuselage band as decals, but I decided to mask and shoot these areas with Insignia Red. When the paint had dried, I applied a coat of Future and let the bird dry.


The decals went on with Micro Sol with no problems. I applied a dull coat over the completed model and a touch of light grime weathering to get that 'used' look. I used RustAll bottles 1 and 4 on the outside of the brass tube exhaust stubs and flat black on the inside of the stubs. The resulting exhaust stacks are eye-catching and add to the 'rode hard and put away wet' look that combat aircraft can get in the field. My final step was to install the windscreen, which had been safely stashed away.


This kit is a nice replica of the I-16, and Academy did well by adding all of the marking and detail options into the one kit. I feel the need to do a ski-equipped I-16 in the near future! I recommend this kit to any builder - there are no hidden problems or special skills required to build it out of the box. The more experienced modeler will want to play with detail variations as this kit will serve as a solid basis for some scratch-detailing.

My sincere thanks to MRC for this review sample!