Polikarpov I-15 and I-153

Russian fighter and fighter-bomber Polikarpov I-15 and I-153 Chaika (Chato in Spain).
History, development, service, specifications, statistics, pictures and 3D model.

3D model Polikarpov I-15 Chato
3D model Polikarpov I-15 Chato from Spanish Republican Air Force.

Polikarpov I-15, I-15bis, I-153 Chaika (Chato in Spain)
Type: Russian fighter and fighter-bomber biplane.


One might jump to the conclusion that these Polikarpov I-15 biplanes were superseded by the I-16 Rata monoplane. In fact, the I-16 flew before any of them, was in service first and, in 1939, was replaced in Mongolia by the more agile I-153 ! Polikarpov’s bureau began work on the TsKB-3 in 1932 when the earlier I-5 was in full production. Unlike the I-5 the new fighter had a small lower wing and large upper gull-wing curved down at the roots to meet the fuselage.

As the I-15 the highly maneuverable fighter gained a world altitude record before serving in very large numbers (about 550) in the Spanish Civil War, where it was dubbed Chato (flat-nosed).

Starting in 1937 the I-15 was deployed to China to help in its fight against the invading Japanese. It was at this time that the aircraft started facing superior Japanese monoplane fighter aircraft designs.

It even served against the Finns and Luftwaffe, but by 1937 was being replaced by the I-15bis with continuous upper wing carried on struts. Over 300 of these served in Spain, and many were used as dive bombers against the Germans in 1941.

The ultimate development was the powerful I-153, with retractable landing gear, either wheels or skis folding to the rear. Some thousands served in the Far East Spain, Finland and on the Eastern Front. Later subtypes had variable-pitch propellers and drop tanks well outboard under the lower wings.

By November 1942, the Polikarpov biplanes were removed from front line duties.

Users: China, Finland (captured), Russia, Spain.

Pictures of Polikarpov I-15 and I-153

Specification for Polikarpov I-153 Chaika


Polikarpov I-153 Chaikaspecification
Type Biplane fighter-bomber
Power plant one 1,000 hp Shvetsov M-63 nine-cylinder radial (a Wright Cyclone engine)
Wing span32 ft 9.75 in
Length overall20 ft 3 in
Height overall9 ft 3 in
Weight empty 3,168 lb
Weight loaded 4,189 lb
Maximum speed267 mph
Initial climb 2,500 ft/min.
Service ceiling 32,800 ft
Range298 miles


Polikarpov I-153 Chaikaspecification
in front fuselage 4 x 7.62mm DA or ShKAS machine guns
external load two 165 lb bombs or two 110 lb bombs or six RS-82 rockets

Service statistics:

Polikarpov I-15, I-153 Chaika figures
First flight TsKB-3October 1933
Service delivery 1934 (I-15), 1937 (I-15bis), 1939 (I-153)
Removed from front line serviceNovember 1942
Production figures Total: over 6.750 (from these 550 I-15 and 300 I-15bis for Spain plus 285 build there)
in First Line Units June 1941 more than 1,000

Animated 3D model of Polikarpov I-15 Chato of the Spanish Republican Air Force

References and literature

Luftkrieg (Piekalkiewicz)
Das große Buch der Luftkämpfe (Ian Parsons)
Combat Aircraft of World War II (Bill Gunston)
World Aircraft World War II (Enzo Angelucci, Paolo Matricardi)

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