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The I-16 in Plastic

Comparing kits of the Polikarpov Fighter in 1:72 and 1:48 Scales


Part II: The Kits

Having determined what version of the I-16 we would like to build, what then is offered us by the kits currently available? In this section we'll take a look at the models of the I-16 currently on the market, and some that are no longer in production.

The models are listed alphabetically, by Manufacturer. At the head of each section the model's name is listed, along with three entries. The first entry, "O/O/B?", indicates whether the respective model may be completed as an accurate I-16 variant 'out of the box', without the need for after-market parts or conversion. This may not necessarily be the version advertised on the box, but some variant nonetheless.

The second entry describes the over-all accuracy of the kit in regards to the closest actual I-16 version that can be completed; a 100% score meaning that a perfectly correct variant (as described) can be completed from the parts in the box.

The third entry lists the number of schemes available on the decal and instructions sheet for the closest actual variant; a score of "0" (zero) indicating that none of the schemes are appropriate for the closest variant that can be completed 'out of the box'.
 

Academy

"I-16 Type 10", "Type 10 Spanish" 1:48 Scale
O/O/B?: Type 17
Accuracy: 75%
Decals/Schemes: 0

    The Academy I-16 is in fact a re-release of the original Hobbycraft kit, but represents a more 'complete' packaging of the various version sprues. This kit is widely available, and it makes the basis of a fine I-16 model after some detail work and correction.
    The Academy kit shares the various curiosities of the original Hobbycraft mold (see below), but with some alterations. The wing detail has been modified with shorter ribs, but these are no more accurate than those in the original kit, and may need replacement anyway. A new cowl face is provided, but again there is no improvement in the accuracy of this unit, and so some work will be required here, also. The Academy's cone-type spinner seems to be better shaped, but the rounded unit is unchanged.
    All manner of skis, ShVAK cannon, rockets, tail skids, and so on are provided, allowing the modeler to get pretty close to a Type 17 out of the box. The painting guide and decals are of no more than curiosity value, and the latter can go into the spares box, along with the Type 5 closed canopy.

Possibilities:
    Just as with the Hobbycraft release, the Types 18, -27, -24, and -28 are all very much within reach. As well, the Airwaves Type 10 resin set fits perfectly in the Academy version of this mold, also, and compliment the skis and other bits in this kit very nicely.

A-Model

"I-16 Type 5-6", 1:72 Scale
O/O/B?: Type 5, 1938 model
Accuracy: 99%
Decals/Schemes: 1

    This older mold from A-Model is still available in many places, and can be obtained from more specialized dealers, or at hobby/model contests. The kit includes two canopies, both the earlier closed unit and a later windscreen type unit. Three schemes are provided in the kit.
    The A-model kit is in fact a very accurate representation of the 1938 manufacture Type 5, complete with later pattern full-length aileron wings. Indeed, this variant can be made right out of the box. The planform and detail accuracy are quite outstanding, and I see no accuracy problems worthy of mention (the radio access hatch must be filled in, but this is trivial). The surface detail is pretty good, but the molding itself can be tricky in some places, and there is much flash to contend with.
    My impression of the over-all fit and construction of the kit is mixed. I appreciate the designer's intent to provide maximum detail in areas (i.e. individual exhaust stacks), but the thickness of the plastic and the large amount of flash has made this a daunting prospect to actually construct. After much cutting and sanding I was able to obtain a good fit, however, and I have no question that with superior plastic and molding equipment that this mold would produce a fine model kit. The interior is rudimentary, as is often the case on many 1:72 kits, and really needs improvement.
    Three schemes are provided on the sheet. The first two options are more typical Type 5 aircraft, and cannot be made from this kit, including one VVS and one Spanish Civil War example. The third scheme is a 22 IAP machine from Khalkin-Gol, and if I recall this was indeed a later Type 5 1938 model. The instructions advise the use of AMT-4 Green and "AMT-17" Blue for the model, but these paints of course did not exist when the I-16 was manufactured and would be quite inappropriate.

Possibilities: A set of good resin (or other replacement) outer wings would do wonders for this kit. One could then produce an accurate 'normal' Type 5, seeing that the closed canopy is provided, and a whole host of important schemes would then become possible (like SCW, China, etc.). As the A-Model wings are cast as a solid single piece, I would not want to entertain the idea of modifying these units to produce such a variant.
 

Hasegawa

"I-16 Type 17", "I-16 Type 18", "I-16 Type 24", "I-16 Type 17 w/Skis", 1:72 Scale
O/O/B?: Type 24
Accuracy: 25%
Decals/Schemes: 0

    The various Hasegawa I-16s are widely available world-wide, and usually in stock in most large hobby shops. These kits include extra parts such as ski landing gear and two ShVAK cannon in some versions, but the mold is unchanged between all of the released kits.
    The engineering on the Hasegawa kit is quite nice, as a matter of fact, and the fit and construction of the kit is quite enjoyable. The cockpit is rather plain, as can be true with Hasegawa kits in 1:72 scale, and in need of improvement. Alas, these facts do not save the kit, for it is plagued by gross shape and planform errors in virtually every area of the aircraft. These inaccuracies, sadly, mar an otherwise fine effort.
    The fuselage most closely represents a Type 24 machine, but the shape and details are fairly out of sorts. I have built this kit with the fuselage 'as is', but more detailed modelers will want to correct the shape of the fin/rudder, and the profile of the fuselage (an article on this type of correction will be coming soon). The fuselage is too narrow, as well, and card should be inserted to correct this problem. The wing inner sections are basically acceptable, but the planform of the outer portions are horribly wrong. The result is a model that does not resemble an I-16 very closely; the 'look' is quite spoilt by these defects. This is all the more unhappy, as the technical treatment of the wing ribbing details, especially on the undersurface, are really quite good and to my liking.
    The cowling is similar to the ICM kit, and will require modification to the lower oil cooler intake shape. Also, ski-gear troughs will have to be added for any realistic I-16 variant to build with this kit. A propeller hub is kindly provided, and the spinner itself is a very good representation of the M-62/constant-speed prop combination, as on the Type 18 and 27. In all other respects, the kit is basically sound and buildable.
    The various markings and decals provided in these kits are generally of little value, as the version described thereby cannot be made with the kit. The coloration of some markings is quite strange, as well, and therefore beyond use. In general, these instructions were completed in an era before any modern references were available on the I-16, and they reflect this condition.

Possibilities: NeOmega have come to the rescue of this otherwise useful kit by issuing a set of correction outer wing sections in resin. These units are delightful, fit very well indeed, and make all of the difference on this model. In fact, I cannot contemplate building this kit without them. The Types 24 and 28 are a realistic possibility with this kit only by finding a proper spinner, and the 18 and 27 could be completed with some work.
 

Hobbycraft

"I-16 Type 5", "I-16 Type 10", "I-16 Type 17" 1:48 Scale
O/O/B?: Type 17
Accuracy: 70%
Decals/Schemes: 0

    The Hobbycraft I-16 mold was, considering the era of its release and the reference material then available, rather quite impressive for its day. The mold now belongs to Academy, and versions of this kit are still being released.
    The kit out of the box does not really represent any I-16 variant, and certainly not the Types 5 and -10. This situation arose, no doubt, from the complete lack of suitable drawings and general understanding of the I-16 which was prevalent at the time. The cowling unit is similar to the later model I-16s (with six outlets), except that it is missing the ski-gear troughs on the lower surfaces. However, modelers will need to correct the starboard uppermost exhaust arrangement, as this features two exhaust pipes (resulting in a 10-cylinder engine!). A cone shaped spinner is provided in most Hobbycraft kits, though there was also a later rounded unit somewhat like a Type 18. The cowl face features an upper air intake and lower square oil cooler inlet.
    The kits wings feature a very useful planform. In fact, there is nothing really wrong with their shape at all. The ailerons are of the short variety, and the rib detail is somewhat generic. The detail seems to represent the later wing, but the ribs travel too far forward and the leading edge ply feature is not obvious. The ribs, themselves, are raised detail, but delicate.
    The fuselage shape is again basically sound. Of course, there are incorrect details here like radio hatches and starboard access doors, but these are minor inconveniences. The rear fuselage is basically shaped well, but again the detail here is not really to my liking. The cockpit is rudimentary, and needs some aftermarket attention.
    Some fit problems can be typical with this kit, these usually involving the wing. The wing/fuselage joint is usually a matter of some annoyance, and careful dry-fitting is essential. The wing, as well, appears to have no dihedral at all out of the box (in fact, sometimes anhedral is seen!). Many methods exist for correcting this phenomenon, but usually the best idea is to cut away a part of the internal structure near the wheel wells and bend.
    Despite what must seem like a daunting list of corrections, I would stress that these are all fairly minor detail matters. In fact, none of them strike me as outside of the skill level of even the beginning modeler. The Hobbycraft mold is, despite all glitches, certainly the foundation from which a proper and accurate I-16 can be made in 1:48 scale (to get a sense of how good it was, examine the Hasegawa kit of the same era, which features a terrible basic shape). From the box parts, the most obvious I-16 Type to make with this kit would be the -17, which would retain most of the cowl details and require only some minor adjustments (i.e. ski troughs, etc.).

Possibilities:
    The most obvious variant to do apart from the -17 would be the Type 18 and -27, these needing only a corrected spinner (the rounded unit in the kit is not really very good) and cowl detail changes. Again, new spinners and intake shapes would permit the Types 24 and -28, as well. In fact, any version from the -17 onwards (not the -29, though) is a possibility, but all of them will require some effort.
    With the Airwaves Type 10 resin set, however, the kit's capabilities are expanded delightfully. Indeed, this resin set provides everything needed to make an accurate Type 10, and fits beautifully. The conversion process is quite straightforward, and should be possible for nearly anyone. Upcoming Airwaves releases will include wings and a cowling for the Type 5, and possibly thereafter for the Type 29, so watch for those in future.
 

ICM

"I-16 Type 24", 1:72 Scale
O/O/B?: Type 24
Accuracy: 95%
Decals/Schemes: 5

    ICM's relatively new Type 24 kit is indeed impressive, and should be available in most model shops. The kit appears to be in production at the time of this writing, and new box versions are being released.
    This kit is of entirely new manufacturing standards and features absolutely delightful surface detail; in fact, I don't think it could be improved. The cockpit is admirably complete, and a full engine bay is provided, including separate exhausts, engine mount, pushrod assembly, etc. Separate and positionable control surfaces (elevators, rudder) complete this very impressive package, and the kit is all one could hope for in an engineering sense.
    As provided, the kit will construct a very convincing Type 24 variant. There is one small quibble in regards to the cowling, in that the oil cooler intake (lower) is square and should be an inverted 'T' shape. Beyond that, there are no accuracy problems worthy of mention.
    The instructions and decals provide for six different schemes, and five of these are correct Type 24s. A scheme is provided for a Type 18 machine piloted by A. Tartarchuk which I do not recognize; more investigation into this one is required. The painting guide can be given a miss (except for Safonov's machine on the box, which looks pretty good), but overall this is a fantastic I-16 model kit.

Possibilities: By reshaping the spinner, filling in some fuselage panel lines, manufacturing a tail skid, and modifying the oil cooler intake, one could easily produce a Type 18 (later manufacture, noting the underwing plate for the RO rocket rails) with this model. In fact, such a conversion should be well within the capabilities of any skill level. Also, providing some ShVAK cannon for the wings has enabled one to build a Type 28, and combining this with the above modifications, a Type 27, as well. Very useful for such an excellent model kit.

"I-16 Type 18", 1:72 Scale
O/O/B?: Type 24
Accuracy: 75%
Decals/Schemes: 3

    Apparently ICM were thinking in the same direction as myself, for they have just released two new versions of the kit. See "Possibilities" above.

"I-16 Type 28", 1:72 Scale
O/O/B?: Type 28
Accuracy: 95%
Decals/Schemes: 2

    The second new release is more suitable to the mold, and most kits seem to have the ShVAK guns already included.
 

NeOmega

"I-16 Type 5", 1:48 Scale
O/O/B?: Type 5, 1938 model
Accuracy: 85%
Decals/Schemes: 0

    NeOmega has released a new I-16 Type 5 kit in resin in 1/48 scale. The kit is available through the usual NeOmega distributors, but I understand that it can be a bit pricey in some cases.
    After the appearance of the astonishing NeOmega resin UT-1 kits in both 1:72 and 1:48 (and let's be clear--these are certainly amongst the best model kits ever made, anywhere), anticipation was very high indeed over the announced Type 5. Alas, it seems as if the person or party responsible for the UT was not used here, and the quality of this model reflects that condition.
    The kit, in resin, was based on the Acadamy/Hobbycraft I-16 kit, and has been re-wroked to represent a Type 5 variant. As such, it shares with the former kit all of the curiosities and difficulties of that mold; i.e. no dihedral, fit problems, etc. Unfortunately, there are in addition some new fit problems, these moslty surrounding the cowling and its joint to the wing center section. In the only example I have yet seen, these problems appear to be formidable.
    A more perplexing difficulty arises with the wing root fillet. The mold maker has attempted to fair this upwards towards the stabilizer (the Academy kit's fairing is slightly anemic here), but in so doing has gone completely astray. The resulting feature is a huge trough, and a wing fillet demostrating a positive airfoil section that, in real flight, would cause the aircraft to climb out of control. This is so serious a problem that I cannot see completing the model without correcting it, and this will not be overly easy.
    On the plus side, the surface detail is quite good, indeed. The various NeOmega resin bits for the cockpit, engine and propellor are superb, and known already from their aftermarket product line. However, the engine set's reduction gear housing is not provided (at least in this case), which would force the modeler to close up the cowl and hide the gorgeous engine.
    Perhaps most disappointingly, the kit presents the later and unusual improved (1938 pattern) wings. This is a shame, as it renders the provided schemes and the closed canopy useless. The remainder of the shape and detail is essentially useful, with only some minor inaccuracies to attend to. The detail as executed on the tail is a matter of interpretation (an "art" effect, if you will), but I actually quite like it.

Possibilities:
    The desire to make a typical Type 5 has not been realized with this kit. Certainly, one has the basis of such a version, but much work will be needed on the wings. On the other hand, the release of an Airwaves Type 5 resin wing set will solve that problem immediately, and fans of this version are advised to keep an eye on developments there. No other versions are really a useful possibility with the Type 5 1938.

Revell

"I-16", 1:72 Scale
O/O/B?: none
Accuracy: 0%
Decals/Schemes: 0

    The old Revell kit is no longer in production, as far as I know, but one does occasionally run into this kit, especially at swap meets and model shows. Released in the 1960's, this kit was for most modelers their first introduction to VVS aircraft, and is perhaps significant for this reason, if nothing else.
    This kit was manufactured with a complete lack of any proper reference material, and it fails to represent an I-16 in any respect. No version can be completed with this model from the box, and although I have seen heroic modelers complete an actual I-16 from this kit, I would not contemplate doing so myself. This venerable old model is perhaps best left to collectors, and not to the modeler's work bench.

Possibilities: I believe that Collectors are currently seeking this kit. If I had one, that's what I'd do with it.
 

Coming Next: Aftermarket Sets

<-- Back to Part I