In the mid-30s, perhaps, there was no fighter that would be so widely known among aviators around the world as the I-16. In appearance and flight qualities, he was very different from all his “contemporaries”. The minimum dimensions, barrel-shaped fuselage, a small wing and head of the cockpit determined the uniqueness and originality of its design
The history of the aircraft began in 1933, when on the instructions of the Air Force N.N. Polikarpov began designing a biplane fighter (future I-15). At the same time, on an initiative basis, Polikarpov was developing a project for a high-speed monoplane fighter, which received the designation I-16. In the early 30s, aircraft manufacturers and the military were convinced that the concepts of “fighter” and “biplane” were inseparable.
Therefore, the debate about the layout of the I-16, which began at the design stage, did not stop even during the serial production and development of the machine in combat units.
In the tests, as the designers expected, the monoplane (TsKB-12) showed a speed that significantly exceeded the speed of all known foreign and domestic fighters. Nevertheless, it was proposed to stop the tests, since the aircraft was characterized by instability in flight in some modes, and was also more difficult to pilot for ordinary pilots than biplanes. There were doubts about the corkscrew characteristics. Meanwhile, pilot V.P. In tests, Chkalov repeatedly entered the plane into a flat corkscrew and successfully exited it. Perhaps only the authority of Chkalov, his positive reviews about the fighter allowed to continue the tests
The I-1b aircraft was put into mass production, however, problems arose when mastering it in the Air Force. The combatant pilots, accustomed to less fast and less strict biplanes in piloting, did not immediately accept the I-16. After a series of flight accidents (unsuccessful take-offs and landing, careless piloting), which culminated in serious accidents, they began to be apprehensive about the new fighter. In response to this, five leading test pilots held a series of demonstrations, in which masterfully performed aerobatics (including a corkscrew, barrels, coups, loops, etc., as well as synchronized group aerobatics).
Everyday operation in combat units showed that in the I-16 circuit diagram, even during development, great technical capabilities were laid. In order to improve the I-16, changes were made that did not affect the scheme and geometry of the airframe, which made it possible to maintain the fighter at the level of time requirements for a number of years. From series to series increased power (from 480 to 1100 hp) and altitude (from 7130 to 10 800 m) of engines. Quantitatively and qualitatively changed weapons. On different versions, two or four machine guns could be installed; two machine guns and two guns; four guns. On individual modifications, up to six RS-82 missiles were suspended. However, after the changes made, the mass of the aircraft exceeded 2000 kg.
For 7 years of serial production (1934-1941), more than a dozen serial and experimental modifications of the I-16 were produced, in all – 8194 vehicles.
By the beginning of the war, the I-16 aircraft was in service with the western districts, accounting for more than 50% of the total number of fighters. The machine, although already obsolete, but well mastered by the flight and technical staff, remained in service until 1944.
• Metal tail with linen sheathing;
• The wing was sheathed with canvas, dope covered;
• Behind the pilot’s seat, an 8 mm armored back was mounted;
• The sides of the fuselage at the seat had hinged doors;
• Manually retractable cabled chassis from the winch in the cab. The wheels had brakes;
• In the latest I-16 series, the crutch was replaced with a rubber cushioned wheel;
• The ailerons had a metal frame with a sheathing from the canvas. On take-off and landing, they deviated by 15 °, acting as flaps;
I-16 type 4. It was put into mass production in 1934. The M-22 engine with a capacity of 480 hp was installed. (then – M-25). With a flight weight of 1420 kg, the aircraft developed a speed of 362–425 km / h and performed a turn in 15 seconds.
I-16 type 5 with the M-25 engine (710 hp). It was mass-produced since 1935. The new engine hood smoothly switched to the fuselage, had 9 openings for exhaust pipes, and became standard for all subsequent modifications. The screw was equipped with a fairing. Armament: 2 machine guns in the center section (outside the propeller disk) and 200 kg of bombs on the external sling. Machines of this series were the most numerous.
I-16 type 10 (1937). The M-25A engine with a capacity of 730 hp was installed. The armament included two wing machine guns and two synchronous machine guns above the engine (650 rounds each). The new ski chassis retracted close to the center section. On the wing, landing flaps were installed. Weight increased by 200 kg, but flight performance has not changed. A large series was released.
UTI-4 – (I-16 type 15) (1935) – a double training version of the I-16 type 10. Pilots called it “spark”. In terms of design and flight technical data, it did not differ much from a combat aircraft. The M-25A engine with a capacity of 730 hp was installed. UTI-4 developed a top speed of 400 km / h. Practical ceiling – 9000 m. Weapons were put on separate planes; one of the cabins could be covered with a hood. On the machines, not only young pilots were trained, but also experienced pilots mastered the “blind” flight. 1660 UTI-4 aircraft were built. Systematic training on the “sparks” increased the skill of the flight crew, reduced the accident rate in combat units and at the same time kept combat aircraft from premature wear.
I-16 type 17 (1939) with an M-25V engine (750 hp). Two ShKAS machine guns were installed above the motor; ShKAS in the wing was replaced by ShVAK guns. Up to 200 kg of bombs were suspended. The crutch is replaced by a tail wheel. Serially produced.
I-16 type 18 (1939) – modification of I-16 type 10. Engine M-62 (1000 hp). A two-speed supercharger, a variable-pitch propeller, 4 ShKAS machine guns were installed. Weight increased by 100 kg. Improved longitudinal stability on bends and loops, takeoff and landing qualities. The maximum speed is 464 km / h. It was mass-produced.
I-16 type 24 (1940) – modification of I-16 type 10 and type 18. Engine M-63 (1100 hp). Strengthened design. Introduced two 200 liter outboard fuel tanks. Armament: 4 machine guns ShKAS 7.62 mm caliber. Four ShKAS machine guns and one 12.7 mm BS could be installed under or above the motor. 6 shells of RS-82 or up to 500 kg of bombs were suspended. The maximum speed is 489 km / h.
I-16 type 27 (1940) – gun version of I-16 type 18. 2 ShVAK guns were installed.
I-16 type 28 is a cannon variant of I-16 type 24, in which ShVAK guns were installed in place of the wing machine guns. The most combat-ready modification of the I-16.
I-16 type 29 (1941) – the latest serial modification of the I-16. Engine M-63. Armament: 2 ShKAS, 1 BS above or below the motor. Could hang up to 6 RS-82 or two tanks of 100 liters. Instead of a tail crutch, a cushioning wheel was installed. The aircraft was equipped with a radio station and a photographic machine gun. Flight weight has increased. Depending on the flight altitude, the speed decreased to 419-470 km / h. He performed the turn in 17-19 s. Practical ceiling – 9800 m.