Jari Juvonen'S Home Page / Flyingplastic.net

Polikarpov I-153 Chaika

Suomenkielinen sivu

Model review

ICM 1/48 Polikarpov I-153 Chaika (48096)

Box cover and painting guide


This I-153 Chaika "Winter version" is same kit which ICM has announced earlier (ICM 48095) but it is included with a new sprue with a ski-landing gear and new decals. In the box there are also all parts from the previous release so it's possible to build a wheeled versions straight from the box if you want so. Parts are moulded in middle grey and quite soft plastic. There are six sprues of which contains 102 parts. On sprue contains clear parts, that is the windscreen. Sprues and casting ducts are quite thick so there is a lot of work to do after cutting the parts from the sprues. The kit has finely engraved panel lines and moulding quality is good and sharp, near the top manufacturers. Also the fabric surfaces are very good. The kit contains coloured instruction booklet and decals for three planes of which two for Finnish planes.

ICM has cleverly designed the most difficult point when building bi-plane models, which is assembling wings and struts properly to their right places. Kits lower wings are integral with the lower fuselage. Also upper wings are integral with the upper fuselage. When you glue bottom and top fuselage parts together with the rest of the fuselage you have glued wings to their right places and also dihedral has gone right too. But don't forget to put the wing struts when glueing the wings! Unfortunately ICM didn't marked the places of the rigging holes to the instruction sheet so you have to find them out from your own sources.

When comparing kit's main parts to the scale drawings I found that they matched almost perfectly. Small casting imperfections can be found from here and there and there is need of some puttying and sanding. Unfortunately ICM has put many raised panels to wrong places on the fuselage and they have to be removed. Take a look at "work in progres" photos below. Kits exhaust pipes are a way too small and round (diameter in 1/48 scale is 0,8 mm). Exhaust outlet should be oval shaped and in 1/48 scale its dimensions are 1,2 x 2,0 mm). Elevators hinge line is wrong and needs to be corrected. For some reason ICM has put lower wings to fuselage joints in the middle of the wing fairings where they are difficult to remome. Below is a list of the faults and shortcomings that I corrected on my model, "work in progres" photos can be found farther down.

- Many faulty raised panels on the fuselage were removed
- Engine's front plate was corrected, it is not right for the middle production M-62 engined plane
- Raised rocket rail panels have to be removed under the lower wings
- Exhaust pipes are to small, replaced them with Moskit pipes
- Carburator's air intake is wrongly shaped for the VH-12
- Handgrip holes (2) are missing on the front of the cockpit
- Aileron's trim tabs (2) are missing
- Elevators hinge line is wrong
- Windshield's side glasses are wrongly shaped. Windshield was replaced
- Ring sight is missing from front of the windscreen, I added a North Star Model's sight
- Streamlined fairing is missing from the right side of the fuselage
- Kit's wheel wells are wrong shaped, they should be oval, not visible on the ski landing gear
- Missing small windows from the bottom of the wheel wells were added
- Propeller's hub is wrong shaped on its backside
- Landing gear legs are too long
- Triangular shaped reinforcements are missing from the base of the pitot tube
- Navigation lights are missing from tips of the wings and from the rudder
- Fixation of the ski landing gear's billy is faulty

Building the model

I started the building by cutting out parts from the sprues and cleaning them for painting. At this stage I noticed a few imperfections on fabric covered areas of the lower wing and the fuselage. They were too big just to leave and they had to be corrected. There are many faulty raised panels on the fuselage at many different places which I removed. Look at the photos below. From the right side of the rudder I removed a raised detail (panel?) which is incorrect (no photo of this).

Kits wheel wells are round altough they ought to be oval shaped. On the planes which had ski landing gear the wheel wells were covered with hatches with slots for the skis. These hatches effectively hide the wrong shaped wheel wells. This error is easy to fix though (photo below). At the bottom of the wheel wells there are small elongated windows from where the pilot could see if the landing gear was fully retracted. These windows are missing from the kit so you have to make them by yourself. Front fuselage tubular structure which can be seen through the landing gear openings is missing from the kit and the fuel tank is a little wrong shaped. On the ICM kit the cockpit floor to where the landing gear struts are to be attached to is extended until to the front fuselage. On my model I glued styrene bars at the bottom of the cockpit floor to depict the missing tubular structure.

I painted inside of the front fuselage matt black and drybrushed my homemade styrene bars "tubular structure" with light bluegray. Actually you can't much see inside the front fuselage when the model is on its wheels. Fuel tank color was black. NeOmega and Vector have made resin correction sets for wheel wells, landing gear and front fuselage interiors.
Warning: Instruction booklet has a front view of the plane for rigging. In this picture wheels are depicted wrong. Upper sides of the wheels have to lean towards the fuselage.

Kits engine cowling and its front plate is wrong for the Finnish M-62 engined planes. One ventilation opening at the front plate has to be covered and two openings have to be drilled out. After these modifications kits front plate is right for the M-62 engined plane when all cooling vents are in open position. Look at the photos below. Neomega and Vector have made correction sets for the cowling and front plates (two different types) but they are not right for Finnish planes. Kits windscreens side profile is wrong, sidewindows were curved at the top. I scratch builded a new windscreen from 0,2 mm polystyrene film.

There were also difference's between carburator air intake duct's between the planes. According to photograph's it looks that the deep style intake was replaced to all Finnish planes with a smaller openings. There were four different types in use on Finnish planes.

Streamlined fairings were installed to all Finnish planes to the right side of the fuselage. Reason for the fairings was that the Finnish planes were rearmed with four 7.70 mm Browning M.39 machine guns instead of the original ShKAS 7.62 mm and BCC.AAK-1 gunsights replaced the original Soviet PAK-1. (I used on my model North Star Models "Soviet Gunsight PAK-1" gunsight which looks near the same than the BCC.AAK-1 gunsight). Order to change the armament was announced in April of 1941. There were many different types of fairings and the first can be seen in the beginning of 1942. The kit does not include the fairing so you have to make it by yourself.

VH-12 had smaller carburator air intake duct so kit's intake have to be corrected. Also a streamlined fairing have be added to the right side of the fuselage. I could'nt verify this from the one and only bad quality photo I had which was taken from the right side of the plane but same units VH-17 had the modification allready done at the time. So it's likely that the gun change and it's fairing was done on the VH-12.

Fixation of the ski landing gear is faulty. Apparently for a stronger fix ICM has added a thick vertical plug which is to be glued to a slot on the ski. There was no such plug on the real ski. I removed the plugs and glued parts D3 and D4 to their places between the billys. The slots most behind on the ski has to be streched to an equal level with the foremost slots that axels on the billys became to the same level. Look the photos below.

I used on my model Aires resin seat (Aires 4683), Eduard photo etched parts (Eduard 49760), North Star Models Soviet Gunsight PAK-1 (represents BCC.AAK-1) and I replaced kits exhaust pipes with Moskits metal ones (Moskit 48024).

Painting and decaling

My model depicts Finnish AF plane VH-12 with a ski landing gear in late of March 1942 at the front of Kotka on an ice base from where it took part to operation in which the Finnish armed forces invaded Suursaari (Gogland). There was also another ice base at front of Hamina from where the units planes operated. Unit's main task was reconnaissance in eastern parts of the Gulf of Finland but also intruder missions with mg:s and bombs. VH-12 wasn't anybodys mount but during Suursaari missions it was flown eg. by lieutnant Riemu Paltila and warrant officer Kaarlo Salminen.

VH-12 was painted in field green (olive green) and black on upper surfaces while under surfaces were light grey (silver grey). The light grey extended somewhat on part of the sides of the fuselage and even on the uppersurface of the wings like on the VH-13 and VH-14. In June of 1941 yellow Eastern markings were painted under the wing tips and a 50 cm wide band was painted around the rear fuselage with a warm yellow color (Dicco 6).

In September of 1941 a 50 cm wide yellow band was also added to the front of the cowling. It was painted with lighter and brighter yellow shade (Unica 12) than the earlier markings. When made on the field, the yellow band on the fuselage covered partially the codes. Number 2 on the rudder was light grey. Tips of the lower wings on the VH-12 had yellow painted further towards to the fuselage than on other planes. Also the yellow band on the rear fuselage was further back than on other planes.

I used Techmod Decals, MNFD decals and kit's own decals on my model. Techmod Decal's national insignias blue color was best and I used them on my model. I also used Techmod Decal's register markings on the other side of the plane's fuselage. To the other side of the fuselage the register markings were found on the kit's own decal sheet where they were printed with the same font. Techmod's decals were a little stiff and they didn't react well with Micro Sol. Number "2" on the rudder is from MNFD's decal sheet.

Below short history of the VH-12:

Markings in chronological order were VH-12 -> IT-12. It was captured in Winter war. 9.9.40 hit a telephone pole when landing to Tampere and damaged. Second lieutenant E. Halme survived without injuries. 13.1.41 handed off to Er.LLv. 21.6.1941 belonged to 3/LLv 6, pilot warrant officer K. Lahtonen. 11.6.42 markings was changed to IT-12. 9.7.42 engine caught fire and after an emergency landing to the sea near Somero island the plane sank. Sergeant S. Jänkävaara injured. 31.8.42 was written off with 162h 50' of flying time.

The kit includes painting guides and decals for three planes:

1. Soviet air force plane "Red 20" in 1940. Colors were silver/ AE-9 light grey.
2. Finnish air force plane VH-101 in 1940. Colors olive green/ light grey.
3. Finnish air force plane IT-15 in 1942. Colors olive green/ black/ light blue DN color (RLM 65).

Kits painting guide is partly erroneous. In the painting guide the "Red 20" is depicted in all silver color. Painting orders of the VVS until 1940 ordered the I-153's fabric covered parts to be painted with silver and metal covered parts (eg. engine cowling, various panels etc.) with light grey AE-9. On the box front cover there is clearly visible the difference between the light grey metal panels compared to the silver colored fabric areas. Although there have been fully silver colored planes too fg. Finnish war booty "Black 12" ("Red 12" on some sources).

Painting guide shows DN color (light blue) for the underside color of the VH-101 but this is not correct at that time. The correct underside color is light grey. There is also a mistake on IT-15 paintings. It got the DN color to its undersurfaces not until July of 1942. Before that the undersurfaces were light grey.

During the major overhauls the cockpits of the Finnish planes were normally painted with Finnish light grey and also so I painted my models cockpit too. It's also possible that not every plane got its cockpit painted in Finland with the Finnish light grey and retained its original Russian AE-9 light grey color (seat, floor, middle of the instrument panel, fuselage tubular structure). Inner sides of the metal panels and metal structures were painted with Russian bluish grey A-14. Inner sides of the fabric covered areas of the fuselage were painted with AII Aluminium. Fuel tank wich is visible inside of the rear fuselage from the wheel wells is painted with matt black.

Paints used:

The first figure which indicates sheen level of a color on FS number is dropped off. Ak=Akan, X=XtraColor, LC=LifeColor, HU=Humbrol, R=Revell, WEM=White Ensign Models, Mr Hobby=Mr Hobby Aqueous, Tam=Tamiya. (Between brackets alternative paints).

Kenttävihreä (olive green) FS - 4096 Mr Hobby H320 Upper side camouflage
Musta (black) FS - Tamiya XF-69 NATO Black Upper side camouflage
Hopeanharmaa (light grey) FS - 6440 Mr Hobby H325 Under side camouflage
Vaaleanharmaa (light gray) FS - 6270 Mr Hobby H306 Cockpit interior
A-14 Light Bluegrey FS - 6187 WEM ACS05 + white, (Ak A14) Interior metal parts
Hopea (silver) FS - HU 27001 Interior fabric covered areas
Keltainen (yellow) FS - Mr Hobby H413 Eastern front markings
Keltainen (yellow) FS - 3538 LF UA 140 Eastern front markings (lighter shade of yellow on the nose)


In the box the kit parts looks quite promising but in a strict examination there can be found lot of faults from here and there. It is possible to build a qood Chaika model out of the kit but it require a lot of work. Luckily the kit main parts are accurate in shape and scale when compared to the scale drawings. Parts fitting is reasonable good but also putty is needed. Fabric covering looks good and panel lines are finely engraved. On the fuselage there are many raised panels in wrong places and many small parts are erroneous. Detailing level of the main components is insufficient and in many cases erroneous. Detailing is missing eg. from the fuselage, wings and rudder. Exhaust pipes are too small, wheel wells are wrong shaped, propeller hub needs to be corrected, windscreen is wrong shaped etc. Luckily none of these faults are not too hard to fix and with a little extra work and with aftermarket goodies it's possible to built a good looking model from the kit. And it's important to remember that the main parts of the kit are accurate in shape and scale. It's also good to remember that this is the best I-153 Chaika kit in 1/48 scale for now despite it's shortcomings.

Photos from different stages of the work

Hold mouse cursor over a thumbnail for a while before clicking !



Wikipedia: Polikarpov I-153 (en)

The Polikarpov I-153 Chaika (Russian Чайка, "Seagull") was a late 1930s Soviet biplane fighter. Developed as an advanced version of the I-15 with a retractable undercarriage, the I-153 fought in the Soviet-Japanese combats in Mongolia and was one of the Soviets' major fighter types in the early years of the Second World War. Three I-153s are still flying.

Design and development:

In 1937, the Polikarpov design bureau carried out studies to improve on the performance of its I-15 and I-15bis biplane fighters without sacrificing manoeuvrability, as Soviet tactical doctrine was based on a mix of high performance monoplane fighters (met by the Polikarpov I-16) and agile biplanes. Early combat experience from the Spanish Civil War had shown that the I-16 had problems dealing with the Fiat CR.32 biplanes used by the Italian forces supporting the Nationalists, which suggested a need to continue the use of biplane fighters, and as a result, Polikarpov's proposals were accepted, and his design bureau was instructed to design a new biplane fighter. Polikarpov assigned the task to the design team led by Aleksei Ya Shcherbakov, who was assisted by Artem Mikoyan and Mikhail Gurevich (who would later set up the MiG design bureau).

The new fighter (designated I-15ter by the design bureau and I-153 by the Soviet Air Forces (VVS) was based closely on the design of the I-15bis, with a stronger structure, but was fitted with a manually retractable undercarriage to reduce drag. It reverted to the "gulled" upper wing of the original I-15 but used the Clark YH aerofoil of the I-15bis. The four 7.62 mm PV-1 machine guns of the I-15bis were replaced by four ShKAS machine guns. While still rifle-calibre weapons, these fired much faster than the PV-1s, (1,800 rounds per minute rather than 750 rounds per minute) giving a much greater weight of fire. The new fighter was to be powered by a Shvetsov M-62 an improved derivative of the Shvetsov M-25 that powered the I-15 and I-15bis with twin superchargers.

The aircraft was of mixed metal and wood construction, with the fuselage structure being based on chromium-molybdenum steel with duralumin skinning on the forward fuselage, and fabric covering on the fuselage aft of the front of the cockpit. The aircraft's wings were made of fabric covered wood, while the tail surfaces were of fabric covered duralumin.[9] The aircraft was fitted with a tailwheel undercarriage, with the mainwheels retracting rearwards, rotating through 90 degrees to lie flat in the wing roots, being actuated by cables operated by a pilot-driven handwheel. The solid rubber tailwheel did not retract, but moved in conjunction with the rudder.

The M-62 was not ready by the time the first prototype was complete, so it was fitted with a 750 hp (560 kW) M-25V engine when it made its maiden flight in August 1938. The first prototype failed factory testing due to numerous defects, but this did not stop production, with the aircraft entering production concurrently with ongoing testing and development. Early production I-153s powered by the M25 engine passed state testing during 1939, despite the loss of one aircraft which disintegrated in a 500 km/h (311 mph) dive. In test flights, the I-153 (M-25) achieved the top speed of 424 km/h (264 mph), service ceiling of 8,700 m (28,500 ft), and required 6 minutes 24 seconds to reach 5,000 m (16,404 ft). This performance was well in excess of that demonstrated by the I-15bis.

During 1939, production switched to a version powered by the originally planned M-62 engine, with an M-62 powered prototype undergoing state testing from 16 June 1939. While speed at sea level was virtually unchanged, the new engine improved performance at altitude. A speed of 443 km/h (275 mph) at 4,600 m (15,100 ft) was recorded, with a service ceiling of 9,800 m (32,100 ft). This performance was disappointing, and caused the aircraft to fail the state acceptance trials, although this did not disrupt production. While it was recognised that the I-153's performance was inadequate, the over-riding requirement was to not disrupt production until more advanced fighters could enter production.

While numerous improvements were proposed, many were too radical to be implemented since the aircraft was already in production. Desperate to improve performance, Polikarpov tested two I-153 with the Shvetsov M-63 engine with 820 kW (1,100 hp). However, the results were disappointing and it was becoming painfully obvious that the biplane airframe was incapable of higher speeds.

One of the rarely mentioned characteristics of the I-153 was its poor performance in a spin. While the Polikarpov I-16 had gained notoriety for entering spins, pilots found it easy to recover from a spin. In contrast, while the I-153 was difficult to spin, once it lost control, recovery was difficult to the point where intentional spinning was forbidden for some time. A spin recovery procedure was eventually developed but, while effective, it required flawless timing and execution.

By the end of production in 1941, a total of 3,437 I-153s were built.

Operational history:

The I-153 first saw combat in 1939 during the Soviet-Japanese Battle of Khalkin Gol in Mongolia. The Japanese Army Air Forces' Type 97 Fighter (Nakajima Ki-27) Nate proved a formidable opponent for the I-15bis and I-16, but was more evenly matched with the I-153, which retained agility inherent to biplanes while featuring improved performance.[12] While the overall I-153 performance was satisfactory, some significant problems were revealed. Most troublesome was the absence of a firewall between the fuel tank mounted in front of the cockpit and the pilot. Combined with strong draft coming in through the wheel wells, fuel tank fires invariably resulted in rapid engulfment of the cockpit and severe burns to the pilot. In addition, the M-62 engine suffered from a service life of only 60–80 hours due to failures of the two-speed supercharger.

The Polikarpov I-153 Chaika never flew with any Spanish Air Force units during or after the Spanish Civil War. Two earlier variants of this aircraft, the I-15 and the I-15bis, did fly with the Republican Air Force during the conflict and, later, captured examples of both types were used by the Fuerzas Aéreas till the early 1950s.


While attempts to improve performance proved largely fruitless, Polikarpov had some success in upgrading the armament. The I-153 series underwent trials with two synchronized 12.7 mm (0.5 in) TKB-150 (later designated Berezin BS) machine guns, and about 150 aircraft were built with a single TKB-150 in the fuselage and two ShKAS in the wings (a single TKB-150 was used because of the shortage of this weapon which was shared with I-16 Type 29). Late in production, about 400 aircraft were modified with metal plates under the wings to accommodate RS-82 unguided rockets.

Other variants included:

I-153DM (Dopolnityelnyi Motor – supplementary engine
On an experimental basis, the I-153DM was flown with gasoline-burning ramjet engines under the wings. DM-2 engines increased the top speed by 30 km/h (19 mph) while more powerful DM-4 engines added as much as 50 km/h (31 mph). A total of 74 flights were undertaken.

I-153P (Pushechnyy – cannon armed)
Two synchronized 20 mm (0.79 in) ShVAK cannons, added firepower was offset by the increase in weight and tendency of gunpowder to foul the windscreen.

I-153Sh ja USh
Ground attack versions with underwing containers with ShKAS machine guns and 2.5 kg (5.5 lb) bombs

I-153V (Vysotnoi - height)
A single aircraft fitted with the definitive Schyerbakov "minimum leak" pressure cabin.

A high-altitude version with a turbocharged engine and a pressurized cockpit, top speed of 482 km/h (300 mph) at 10,300 m (33,793 ft), 26 built for air defence.

Rear fuselage completed as a wooden monocoque rather than fabric-covered steel and wooden frame to save metal, did not enter production.

50 I-153 were equipped with larger oil tanks and plumbed to accept external fuel tanks under the wings which doubled the combat range. These were primarily used by the Soviet Navy.

An experimental version powered by an 820 kW (1,100 hp) M-88V radial piston engine with two ShVAK cannon and four ShKAS machine guns. First flight 30 December 1939 but crashed 13 February 1941 and variant discontinued.

The second I-190 prototype completed with a pressure cabin and turbo-charged M-90 engine fitted with a ducted spinner.

Strengthened I-190 with enclosed unpressurised cockpit, powered by an M-90 with a ducted spinner and identical armament to the I-190. The prototype was not completed.


Soviet Union
Source: VVS AIR WAR, The Soviet Air Forces at War

Though it is perhaps not the most well-known Soviet aircraft, the Polikarpov I-153 Chaika (seagull) was one of the pillars of the VVS’ arsenal in the late 1930s/early 1940s. Seeing extensive action against the Japanese at the Battle of Khalkhin-Gol in 1939, the Chaika proved to be obsolete by June of 1941 at the time of the German invasion. Nevertheless, until the Soviet aviation industry could be evacuated to locations far from the frontline and more advanced fighters and bombers could be produced, outdated aircraft such as the I-153 Chaika, the I-16, and the I-15 were tasked with both providing close air support for the Red Army and engaging the Luftwaffe, which had at its disposal some of the best aircraft in the world at the time, including the notorious Messerschmitt Bf-109. Though the Chaika biplanes were no match for the sleek German fighter, the I-153, serving in a multitude of roles, was able to contribute to the slowing of the massive German advance, buying enough time for the VVS to both receive more advanced aircraft from the UK and US via the lend-lease program and to receive the latest La-5s, Yak-9s, and Il-2s from Soviet factories.

Source: Suomen ilmavoimien historia 7: Venäläiset hävittäjät. Keskinen, Stenman
Summary by Jari Juvonen

Finnish air force had total of 21 planes of which 11 were captured during the Winter war and the Contunation war and ten planes were bought from the German war booty depots. The planes were mainly used for reconnaissance and ground supporting duties with machine guns and bombs on the eastern part of the Gulf of Finland. Planes from the 3/LLv 6 took part to an operation in March of 1942 when Finnish forces invaded Suursaari (Gogland) island. The planes attacked with their machine guns and bombs against the soviet troops. Finnish I-153 pilots got six air victories and destroyed four torpedo- and / or patrol boats.

Chinese Nationalist Air Force had 75 I-153 planes on the battle against Japan.

Luftwaffe had in use several captured planes. 10 planes were sold to Finland.

Surviving aircraft

There are four complete survivors of this plane, three of which can fly. In the early 1990s, New Zealand pilot and entrepreneur Tim Wallis' Alpine Fighter Collection organised the restoration of three I-153s and six I-16s to an airworthy condition, this project being completed in 1999 as the third and final I-153 arrived in New Zealand. These aircraft were equipped with AZsh-62IR geared radials instead of the M-62, which were non-geared. The reason is that AZsh-62IR is just a version of M-62, with absolute equality in all instead of a frontal gearbox and weapon synchronizer absence. Also, none of original engines from recovered wrecks could have been brought to life.

Polikarpov I-153 technical data

Engine 1 × Shvetsov M-62 radial engine, 850 hp
Dimensions Wingspan 10,00 m; lenght 6,17 m, height 2,80 m
Weights Empty 1452 kg, Normal flying 1960 kg, Max. takeoff 2110 kg
Performance Max. speed 444 km/h, cruising speed 297 km/h
Ceiling / Wing area 10700 m / 22,14 m²
Climbing speed 15 m/s
Armament 4 × 7.62×54mmR ShKAS kk, 2600 rounds totaly
Designer Nikolai Nikolaevich Polikarpov
Range 470 km
Production number 3437


Sovietwarplanes pages: Massimo Tessitori
Wikipedia: Polikarpov I-153 (en)
VVS Air War: The Soviet Air Forces at War
Suomen Ilmavoimien Hävittäjät II (Kari Stenman @ Karolina Holda), KOALA
Suomen Ilmavoimien Historia 7 (Kalevi Keskinen, Kari Stenman)
Red Stars (Carl-Fredrik Geust, Kalevi Keskinen, Kari Stenman), AR-Kustannus Oy
Merilentolaivue, Lentolaivue 6 sodassa

Main Page