Polikarpov I-15

The Polikarpov I-15 was designed for the VVS (Soviet Air Force) in 1932. Nikolai Polikarpov had only recently been released from prison when he was handed the task, and the designer based his new fighter on the older, proven, Polikarpov I-5.

The I-15 and the improved I-15bis as designed by Polikarpov were powered by an Shvetsov M-25 engine, which was a licensed copy of the Wright R-1820 Cyclone. It was a biplane fighter, with ‘gulled’ upper wings on the original I-15 that gave way to straight wings on the I-15bis. The wings were of wooden construction, whilst the fuselage was made from steel tubing with fabric covering to the rear. Armament was relatively heavy for the era, consisting of four 7.62mm machine guns.

I-15s and I-15bis were supplied to China as part of Operation Zet – the transfer of aircraft and volunteer pilots from the USSR to reinforce the beleaguered Republic of China Air Force. In the skies over Nanking and Hankow Soviet and Chinese pilots battled the A5M fighters of the IJNAS. Later, Soviet I-15s fought against the Japanese during the Battle of Khalkhin Gol.

Polikarpov I-15bis
Powerplant1x Shvestov M-25V, 750hp
Speed (max)230mph
Range290 miles
Armament2 or 4 7.62mm machine guns
Ordnance330lb bombs
Dimensions (L/W/H)20ft 8in / 33ft 5in / 7ft 2in
Weight (empty/max)2,888lb / 4,189lb

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