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James_White #1 Posted 14 October 2011 - 12:14 PM

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The Polikarpov I-15

(Russian: И-15) was a Soviet biplane fighter aircraft of the 1930s.

Nicknamed Chaika (Russian: И-15 Чайка, "Seagull") because of its gulled upper wings, it was operated in large numbers by the Soviet Air Force, and together with the Polikarpov I-16 monoplane,
was one of the standard fighters of the Spanish Republicans during the Spanish Civil War, where it was called Chato (snub-nose) in the Republican Air Force, or "Curtiss"
(because its resemblance to Curtiss F9C Sparrowhawk) in the Nationalist Air Force.

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The first flight was made in October 1933 with V.P. Chkalov at the controls, powered by an imported Wright R-1820 Cyclone engine. The I-15, also known by its development name TsKB-3,
was a small biplane fighter with a gulled upper wing. The single bay wings were of wooden construction, while the fuselage was of mixed steel and duralumin construction, with a fabric
covered rear fuselage.Production started in 1934, initially being powered by the M-22, a licensed built version of the Bristol Jupiter radial engine. While less powerful than the Cyclone,
the M-22 powered aircraft were still superior to the I-5 which it replaced, demonstrating  excellent manoeuvrability. Production switched to the 515 kW (700 hp) M-25 engine
(a license built Cyclone) in late 1936. A total  of 671 I-15s were built, 284 in the Soviet Union and a further 287 under license by CASA in Spain.

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The gulled upper wing of the I-15 was unpopular with some pilots, as it was felt to restrict visibility, so Polikarpov's design bureau  produced a revised version, again powered by the M-25,
with a longer span un-gulled upper wing. This version, the I-15bis, commenced  production in 1937, a total of 2,408 I-15bis' being delivered by the time production finished in 1940.

I-15 indicator panel

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Operational history


In August 1937, the Chinese Kuomintang Government signed a non-aggression pact with the USSR. And, in autumn of the same year,  the Soviet Union commenced to ship I-15s as a part of a programme
of military aid to the Chinese Air Force (CAF) in its defensive  war against Japan. More than 250 Soviet pilots volunteered to fly the 255 I-15s supplied to China in autumn 1937. By 1939, the
total number of Polikarpov biplanes delivered to CAF reached 347 I-15/I-15bis. The I-15bis saw a great amount of action in Manchuria  and in the various border clashes between the Russians
and the Japanese. In 1937, I-15s in the hands of the Chinese Nationalist  Air Force fought against invading Japanese, where the tough biplane began to meet its match in some of the newer,
faster Japanese monoplanes. In 1939 Polikarpov fighters were extensively used during the Battle of Khalkhin Gol fought around the Khalkhin Gol River,  in Soviet-Mongolian province of Doronod.
This short war (11 May-15 September 1939) involved more than 600 planes. During this conflict, Soviet Union and Japan lost more than 200 aircraft each.


The I-15 was used in combat extensively by the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War and proved to be one of the best fighter biplanes  of its time. The first batch of 25 Polikarpovs arrived
in Cartagena, Spain, on 28 October 1936, with 15 pilots, led by future ace Pavel  Rychagov. Few days later a further group of 10 pilots and 15 aircraft arrived in Bilbao. The Soviet pilots
soon entered in action.  On 4, November, I-15s shot down two Junkers Ju 52/3ms together with two CR.32s, over Madrid, and forced to crash-land a third Ju 52  and a Heinkel two seater.
No losses were reported among the Soviet pilots. During the next two days, Chato pilots claimed 12 more  victories, at the cost of two I-15s lost.
Until the spring of 1937, central Spain was the main war theatre of the I-15s. The exact number of I-15s lost during the Spanish  War is difficult to determine as the Republicans destroyed
a number of them while retreating and because there is little reliable  data about the final stages of war. Chato losses were comparable to those of its principal rival, the Fiat CR.32.
By 1 January 1939,  197 Polikarpovs had been lost: 88 shot down by enemy aircraft and nine by anti-aircraft artillery, 27 destroyed on the ground and  67 written off in accidents.

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Great Patriotic War

More than 1,000 I-15bis fighters were still in Soviet use during the German invasion when the biplane was employed in the ground  attack role. By late 1942, all I-15s and I-15bis' were relegated to second line duties.


Thormenter #2 Posted 23 September 2012 - 04:24 PM

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Interesting article... just for visualisation: some pics...
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