by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
BackgroundThe Polikarpov I-153 holds an enduring attraction for many modellers as one the last serious attempts to produce a viable bi-plane fighter in the face of the increasing dominance of monoplane designs. With a retractable undercarriage and little rigging, the "Chaika" (seagull) boasted a top speed of around 280 mph and was superbly manoeverable - although it soon gained a bad reputation for fatal spins. First seeing combat in the Khalin-Gol conflict with Japan, the I-153 fared quite well against it's more advanced opponents, but the German invasion of 1941 exposed the Chaika's vulnerability as a fighter in a modern combat environment. Although its supreme manoeverabilty allowed it to turn the tables on any Luftwaffe pilot foolish enough to get drawn into a turning fight, the Chaika was increasingly used as a ground attack aircraft, where its small size and nimbleness allowed it to perform well, despite its obvious obsolescence until 1943 when the plucky little fighter finally faded from the scene.
The kitICM’s new I-153 arrives in a compact and attractive conventional box that protected the sample kit perfectly from the tender mercy of two trips in the post across Europe. The kit is moulded on just two sprues, and comprises:
75 x grey styrene parts
1 x clear styrene part
Decals for 4 x colour schemes
The moulding is very neat indeed, with just a whisper of flash, and no sign of sink marks or other problems. There are a few ejector pin marks, but they have been kept pretty much clear of detail and out of sight, and those that are in view will be mostly easy to clean up - the only one that will be awkward is an irritating one right in the middle of the pilot’s seat pan.
The surface detailing is excellent, with a silky smooth finish, neatly engraved panel lines and a convincing fabric effect. The latter is quite subtly done - distinct, but not too overstated on the flying surfaces, and drum-tight on the fuselage.
Test fitThere’s not not normally a great deal you can dry-assemble on a biplane, but Polikarpov’s little gull-winged fighter is one of the exceptions. The fuselage halves clip together very precisely, with the fin and rudder moulded fully on one half, ensuring a nice sharp trailing edge. The full-span upper and lower wings sit neatly in place, but the rear lower-wing/fuselage joint falls across some stringer detail, so you’ll need to be careful not to damage it. To be fair, it’s hard to see how else ICM’s designers could have tackled the joint without making things overly complex. The tailplanes are a solid fit, and all the flying surfaces are one-piece mouldings and, just as with the rudder, have excellently thin trailing edges.
A few detailsThe cockpit is nicely handled, with a floor that doubles as the roof of the wheel well, a two-part seat, rudder pedals and control column. There is a little ribs and stringer detail moulded on the inside of the fuselage halves, and impressively delicate side frameworks to mount in front of it. Add the well detailed instrument panel and you have the makings of a very decent “office” for this scale - all that’s really lacking is a seat harness.
The radial engine is simple but effective, with the cylinders moulded integrally with the firewall and a separate set of push-rods to attach in front. Strictly speaking, these are overscale, but they are about as fine as could be moulded - and everything’s basically all-but-hidden behind the louvres in the cowling front so, unless you want to open everything up for a servicing diorama, it’s more than adequate.
The undercarriage is delicately moulded and realistically thin, but should be sturdy enough once assembled (this is a small and light model anyway), and the unweighted wheels have decent hub detail.
ICM have provided a good selection of underwing ordnance, with a choice of RO rockets, and two sizes of bombs. The racks are moulded integrally with the wings, which I guess might disappoint anyone intending to model a clean airframe, but I imagine most modellers will want to depict the little fighter armed to the teeth.
Finally, there’s a small crystal-clear windscreen with crisply moulded framing.
Instructions & DecalsICM’s assembly guide is printed as shaded drawings in an A4 8-page booklet. The illustrations are clear and simple to follow, and construction is broken down into 25 straightforward stages and a rigging guide. The sequence looks very logical and, since the I-153 has minimal rigging to worry about, the kit should present no problems to modellers of most abilities.
Colour matches are given for Model Master paints.
While the shaded assembly diagrams work well for the main body of the instructions, they are not so successful for the painting guide - basically, the paper used is too absorbent, so the profiles tend to be rather “murky”, and it’s hard to make out the colour divisions for the topside camouflage.
Decals are provided for four schemes:
1.I-153 “Red 26”, 70th IAP, Khalin-Gol, August 1939.
2.I-153 “Red 28”, 15th IAP, Lithuania, June 1941.
3.I-153 “Red 6”, 72nd SAP, Nord Fleet Air Force, Vaenga, 1941.
4.I-153 “White”, 71st IAP, Baltic Fleet Air Force, Lavansaari, Summer 1942.
The decals appear to be printed by Begemot and are very good quality, being very thin and in perfect register on the sample sheet and a nice satin finish.
ConclusionICM’s I-153 is a delightful little gem of a kit. At a shade under £8.00 in the UK, it's very competitively priced. It’s really encouraging for quarterscale modellers too - as it bodes really well for the forthcoming 1:48 kit. Recommended.
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