by: Darren Baker [ ]
The Polikarpov I-153 entered service in 1938 and was technically obsolete even before it entered service with the Soviet Air Force. The Polikarpov I-153 was perhaps the best biplane the Soviets ever produced and was in front line service during the early stages of World War 2 flying alongside the I-16. During its initial service the Polikarpov I-153 performed well against Japanese aircraft that the Soviets were fighting at that time, but the Japanese soon got the better of the aircraft as they learnt from their experience.
When the Germans invaded Russia during Operation Barbarossa in June 1941 the Polikarpov I-153 made up a third of the total aircraft in service with the Red Air Force. A total of 3,437 aircraft were produced with a mix of engines and some were even fitted with skies. During the early part of 1942 the Polikarpov I-153 was withdrawn from frontline service and performed secondary roles such as ground attack functions into 1943.
The Polikarpov I-153 despite its issues did account for most of the 800 aircraft the Germans lost during the first two weeks of invasion. Despite this success against German forces the Red Air Force only had 36 Polikarpov I-153 aircraft available to them in early 1943.
Along with the Polikarpov I-153 ICM has supplied their 1/32nd scale VVS RKKA Pilots 1939 – 1942 release. This product offering three figures that will be perfect company for this Soviet aircraft release and others in the range of this scale.
This offering from ICM is packaged in the usual high standard that they have adopted and now always stick to. The result is that the model arrives in the way that ICM intended, my only complaint or more accurately concern is that the aircraft sprues being packed inside a single plastic bag does allow movement and so potential damage, and those kits with a lot of sprues could suffer from warping. In the case of this example I am pleased to say that the model has arrived in perfect condition and with all parts present.
This model is to my knowledge the second release of the Polikarpov I-153 in 1/32nd scale and this set up plus of course the winter version, and these are the first all-plastic offerings which makes them more affordable than the Silver Wings offering which is a resin multi-media kit in the same scale. Dimensionally the model appears to be accurate according to my attempts to measure the model, and so I am happy with what is on offer in that respect.
The cockpit of the model is fairly simplistic for a 1/32nd scale model, but with that said, unless you are planning on cutting away parts of the fuselage you will not be able to see what is included for the most part, let alone what is not present. The framework of the cockpit area is present and the limited amount seen adds a nice touch to the model; the floor is well represented along with foot pedals and control stick. The instrument panel is also present and brought to life with a decal for the instruments. The seat is also quite nicely replicated in two parts, but I am disappointed that again no harness detail is provided, but the pilot figure that can be used in the cockpit makes up for that to a fair degree. I cannot say anything regarding the accuracy of the cockpit as I failed to find suitable reference.
The fuselage has a limited amount of internal detail present, but enough for what can be seen. The external detail on the fuselage is pleasing to me. As I expect most of you know the Polikarpov I-153 was a mix of metal and cloth on its exterior, and ICM has endeavoured to show this, the rear half of the fuselage showing this well if a little smooth as I would have liked a little texture to be present and suggest stippling with Mr Surfacer. I have dry fitted the two halves of the fuselage together and found that I needed to enlarge the locator holes with a drill bit to get a good fit of the two halves.
The flight surfaces of the model are well replicated, again the cloth and metal elements being well brought together. The gull aspect of the upper wing has been very nicely reproduced and results in a visually pleasing aspect of the model. The flight controls are provided as separate parts for the wings and tail control surfaces and so can be set as desired by the modeller. Dry fitting the wings again revealed an issue with some of the locator holes being too small and needing to be enlarged a little.
The rotary engine provided with the model by ICM is very pleasing considering that ICM does not utilise photo etch. The cooling veins of each of the piston housings have been nicely replicated and should meet with the approval of most. The ignition cradle is supplied and looks reasonable, and this in an area you will find hard to see unless you are planning on opening it up. The exhausts are the only aspect of the engine easily seen and these are presented as individual items. My only concern here is that the exhausts will need to be further drilled out to improve their appearance. Looking at the propeller blade, the shape looks good to me, but the spinner cover is of a design I could not find on any images, and so I do not know if it is accurate or not.
The undercarriage does suffer from some over simplification of the struts in that they seem to lack a lot of detail that needs to be present, which does not mean they are wrong but with the addition of some brake cabling and the like, the result should be pleasing. The undercarriage doors look to have generally the right shape, but the detail on the inner face is not the same as what I have seen thus far. The wheel wells have been provided with the viewing windows, an upgrade that I understand was introduced to stop air coming through into the cockpit and making life uncomfortable for the pilot.
The external stores supplied with the model should be two 165 lb bombs, two 110 lb bombs or six RS-82 rockets and I believe that is what is supplied here. My only concern here is that the racks for the rockets are moulded as part of the lower wing and my reference searches indicate that the mounts were not always present, the result means that removal of these details without ruining the rib detail will be necessary if no weapons are mounted.
A nice inclusion that ICM has provided is a guide to the tensioning wires needed on the wings. The canopy, or more accurately the screen, in front of the pilot is of a suitable thickness with a good level of frame detail.
The decals provided with the model by ICM are reasonably thin and have good colour saturation. ICM has provided four finishing options for the model which are:
70th IAP Fighter Regiment, Khalhin-Gol, August 1939
15th IAP Fighter Regiment, Lithuania, June 1941
72nd SAP Mixed Regiment of Nord Fleet Air Force, Vaenga 1941
I-153 flown by Major P.I. Biskup, 71st IAP Fighter Regiment of the Baltic Fleet Air Force, Lavansaari, Summer 1942
The sprue for the figures is well laid out with the parts for each figure in a straight line on the sprue. An examination of the parts reveals no concerns as regards moulding quality. There are of course some moulding seams present, but nothing beyond any modellers’ ability to deal with. The parts are easily removed from the sprue and the gate between the parts and the sprue are easily tackled.
This figure set offers two pilots and a soldier with some documents. The pilots on offer from ICM provide one stood talking to the soldier and the other waving from the cockpit of an aircraft. The flight uniform of the pilots looks good from an accuracy stand point. The only negative I have been able to pick up on is the lack of the wool insulation around the top of the boots, but it is possible that on the standing figure this is hidden under the trouser legs.
The parachute and harness detail provided is also accurate according to my reference and will go some way to hiding the major weakness in the aircraft model from ICM, the lack of seat harness detail. The gloved hands are well replicated and despite their bulky appearance due to the gloves all elements are present. The faces look acceptable other than the area above the eyes which seem a little off.
The soldier figure is also good as regards uniform detail. It features the details clearly present early on during the period of World War 2 such as the bulged thigh area. The high boots of this figure are well done, but their height seems excessive unless it is an officers uniform. The hands are well done as he points out details to the standing pilot possibly a map or orders. The face is again good for the most part but again the area above the eyes looks off.
This is a great addition combination of the Polikarpov I-153 and figures in 1/32nd scale. The negatives are limited in my mind to the lack of harness detail and that the armament has to be used unless you want to tackle some surgery on the model. All told this is a wonderful looking model of an aircraft that was produced too late to really make its mark on aviation history. The pilot figures meet with my satisfaction having a good and accurate level of detail. I cannot clearly explain my feelings on the faces above the eyes and may just be me.