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In-Box Review
Polikarpov I-153
Polikarpov I-153
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by: Rowan Baylis [ MERLIN ]

Originally published on:

The Polikarpov I-153 may have represented pretty much the last throw of the dice for the biplane as an operational fighter, but it certainly went out in style. With a clean airframe, retractable undercarriage and a powerful engine, the Chaika (Gull) could boast a top speed of over 260 mph, while its superb manoeuvrability made it an extremely difficult opponent in the hands of a skilled pilot.

Nevertheless, the writing was clearly on the wall as the nimble Chaika was progressively outclassed by faster monoplane fighters carrying much heavier armament, and the obsolescent I-153 was used increasingly in the ground attack role, where its small size and manoeuvrability allowed it to continue to perform well for some time through 1941 and 1942, while a few examples soldiered on into the following year before being finally replaced in front line service.

The Kit
The Chaika has always been a popular subject among modellers interested in the VVS, but ICM's new release marks the first time it has been available in 1:48 as a mainstream kit.

The model arrives in typical style for the company's recent products, with the parts packed in a sturdy plain flip-top box that is sealed with a printed outer lid. Inside, the main sprues are all in a single bag, with the clear sprue packed in its own zip-lock bag for protection. Everything arrived totally intact in my kit. ICM's I-153 comprises:

98 x grey styrene parts
1 x clear styrene part
Decals for 4 x colour schemes

The moulding is very clean and impressive in my example. There's no sign of any sink marks and just a few light mould-lines here and there to clean up before assembly. Ejector pin marks are light, and the designers have kept most of them out of harm's way.

The surface finish is excellent, with delicately engraved panel lines and crisply embossed panels on the metal areas, and a really effective representation of fabric-covered rear fuselage and flying surfaces. It's distinct, but subtle - and, while purists may bemoan the lack rib tapes (usually massively overdone in my opinion), I think it should look excellent; really, about as good as it gets in a mainstream kit.

Note: I haven't been able to judge the kit's accuracy from my limited references, but Sergey Kosachev has raised a number of concerns in the comments section accompanying this review.

Test Fit
One reason the Chaika is a favourite biplane among modellers is its simple layout which makes construction much less daunting for newcomers to the genre. ICM's new kit promises a really straightforward build, with the fuselage halves fitting together precisely and sitting firmly on the full-span lower wing. You will need a touch of filler to hide the seam across the large root fairing that doesn't follow a panel line - a small price to pay for such an easy assembly. The upper wing clips solidly into place thanks to its gull wing centre section, leaving just the streamlined interplane struts to add.

The tail may take a little more work, because the fin and rudder are moulded integrally with the left fuselage half, leaving a slight seam to fill, and the stabilizers need a touch of adjustment to get a clean fit at the roots. While on my kit everything seems perfectly straight and true, it's worth noting that Steffen Arntd found a slight twist to the vertical tail as he built his kit - so, heads up - keep an eye on it.

A Few Details
Construction begins with a neatly detailed 17-part "office". ICM include decal faces for the instrument panel and, while you can undoubtedly embellish the cockpit further if you really want to go to town, the only real thing that many people will want to add is a seat harness. Separate access doors are provided, so time spent painting the interior carefully won't be wasted.

Assembly moves on quickly through attaching the wings and tailplanes, before turning to the engine (I think you could probably change the sequence somewhat and tackle this before adding the top wing if you wish). The M-62 engine is built-up from 13 parts and is very nicely detailed - especially considering that it will be almost entirely hidden in most builds behind the cowling front with it's small cooling louvres. The side panels to the cowl are separate, though, so this does add potential for displaying the rear of the engine in a servicing scene. The propeller has separate pitch counterweights and is moulded nice and thin.

The undercarriage is simple, but effective. The main gear legs are crisply moulded, and the light separation lines should be easy to take care of. The legs attach to the base of the cockpit floor, which forms the roof of the forward part of the wheel well, and the separate trailing arms promise a good solid assembly. The wheels are moulded with un-weighted tires and neatly detailed hubs. The doors are thin and neatly detailed on the interior faces, while the tiny tailwheel is solid as you'd expect in this scale.

The Chaika boasts a formidable array of underwing stores for such a small aircraft, with quartets of two sizes of bombs or eight rockets for the integral racks.
The windscreen is thin and crystal clear. My only concern is that the sprue attachment might remain visible - you'll need to trim and polish it very carefully.

Instructions & Decals
ICM provide a 12-page A-4 assembly guide, with construction broken down into 28 easy to follow stages.The shaded drawings are very clear, and assembly ends with a pair of rigging diagrams - which is a really helpful inclusion - but unfortunately a printing error has meant that the red lines on one of them have been omitted, leaving only white "ghost wires". Still, there's not much rigging to worry about with the Chaika, so it's easy to work out what's needed. Colour matches are provided for Model Master paints and are keyed to most details throughout construction.

Decals are included for four very attractive colour schemes, each carrying quite different camouflage:

1: I-153 "Red 26", 70th IAP, Khalin-Gol, August 1939
2: I-153 "Red 28", 15th IAP, Lithuania, June 1941
3. I-153 "Red 6", 72nd SAP, Vaenga, 1941
4: I-153 "White 24", flown by Capt. K.V. Soloviyev, 71st IAP, Lavansaari, Summer 1942

The decals look excellent. I think they're printed by Begemot and are thin and glossy, with pin-sharp printing and register. I used to be wary of old-style Begemot decals, but I'd use the company's recent products without hesitation - it's great to see such a marked improvement.

In purely build terms, ICM's new Polikarpov I-153 is little gem of a kit and excellent value for money at around £10 in the UK. It's well enough detailed to satisfy experienced modellers, while its straightforward construction should make it an ideal first build for anyone wanting to tackle their first biplane. Hopefully healthy sales will encourage ICM to release further subjects such as the I-15 and I-152. Highly recommended.

Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AEROSCALE.
Highs: Very well moulded with simple construction and a good level of detail. High quality decals. Excellent value for money.
Lows: Sergey Kosachev has raised concerns over accuracy issues.
Verdict: ICM's new Chaika is a beautiful little kit that deserves to be a great success with anyone interested in the VVS and WW2's Eastern Front fighting.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: 1:48
  Mfg. ID: 48095
  Suggested Retail: £9.89 (Model Hobbies)
  Related Link: 
  PUBLISHED: Jan 09, 2016

About Rowan Baylis (Merlin)

I've been modelling for about 40 years, on and off. While I'm happy to build anything, my interests lie primarily in 1/48 scale aircraft. I mostly concentrate on WW2 subjects, although I'm also interested in WW1, Golden Age aviation and the early Jet Age - and have even been known to build the occas...

Copyright ©2021 text by Rowan Baylis [ MERLIN ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of ModelGeek. All rights reserved.


Hi Rowan I would lower your assessment of this kit from 90% to 50%. For me this is disappointment of the year. I impatiently expected this model and though on sprues everything looks very beautifully, but in fact virtually each detail has to be remade or corrected. Wheel wells are wrong, gear legs are strongly simplified and missed some details, covers of wheels are wrong, panels on a fuselage - fiction, overlapped panels on a fabric surface (!!!), shutters of the engine aren't right, exhaust pipes (and openings in a cowl for them) approximately in 1/75 scale, the shape of the propeller isn't right, defects on a mould on the lower surface of the right top wing. I didn't study a cockpit yet, but I presume issues there too. Give me a little time, and I will upload some pictures. Sergey.
JAN 09, 2016 - 02:11 PM
Hi Sergey Wow! That's quite a list and I certainly won't doubt you on a subject like this. I'll try to build the kit soon, so it'd be great if you can post pics highlighting the problems so I can tackle some of them as I go. I'll note your concerns in the review. @ Steffen - Many thanks, I'll post them as an On Display. All the best Rowan
JAN 09, 2016 - 03:15 PM
OK, letís start. Wheel wells shouldnít be perfect circle like ICM done, they have more complex shape, small plexiglas windows are missed as well Wheel wells arenít empty at all, thereís a lot of detail that ICM missed (note that fuel tank should be black, not yellow like on these photos). Hereís my correction in progress. Exhaust pipes. Hereís drawing from original manual As you can see, pipe should be oval 57x96 mm (about 1.2x2 mm in 48th), ICM have made round pipes about 0.8 mm in diameter. Here is comparison with Moskitís pipe that has correct dimensions, openings in the cowl are way too small as well. Surface details. Overlapped panels on the fabric(!!!) surfaces These panels are fiction, thereís no one picture of them Drill these: Mould defects Wheel cower: Engine shutters. There were 3 different shutters. The early for M-25 engine For M-62 engine (the most widespread) For M-63 (late): ICM gave the once for M-63 engine, but 3 opening in the lower part of shutters must be open no matter if the shutters are fully open or closed Gear legs. Torque link missed This brace ICM gave as a simple rod (part 26), hydrocylinder missed Cockpit floor There are some other issues. Sergey.
JAN 09, 2016 - 10:03 PM
Man that's a brutal takedown Sergey! I'm glad I read your review before making a buy decision on this one. The defects seem so huge that I would be very reluctant to get this. Far more trouble than it's worth! I may have a Classic Airframes quarter inch kit in my stash. How does that compare?
JAN 10, 2016 - 12:30 AM
I have built CA kit back in 90-th, and it's no better in terms of accuracy but far worse in quality of moulding and fit. So if you want Chaika then buy ICM, another + of this kit it's cheap . Issues are fixable and I'll release at least 2 correction sets for it. Sergey.
JAN 10, 2016 - 02:15 AM
Thanks for the input Sergey.
JAN 10, 2016 - 06:00 AM
Hi Sergey Thank you very much for the photos and info! They'll be a real help in refining the kit as it stands. And I'll definitely look forward to your upgrades! I think you nailed it with your comment about the kit being so cheap - that takes away any fear of indulging in some corrective surgery and means it won't break the bank to add the improvements. It's almost ideal from that point of view. I'm just kicking myself that I was so busy admiring the fabric effect that I didn't notice the small blemishes under the wing! I'll edit my review to include that. Thanks as ever and all the best Rowan
JAN 10, 2016 - 09:33 PM
Good to know about all the issues. It seems there are quite few of them, but all of them fixable. I dont see anything that would be a problem for an experienced modeller. Im not saing its ok, but lets be fair we have seen other companies charging far more for far worse kits lately. I bought the Ju88 from ICM this year and will be getting the Do-17 and Cajka aswell.
JAN 16, 2016 - 11:36 PM
Not being a rivet counter I don't see the wheel wells as issues and the price is extremely attractive. The casting issue is something else as that's in the realms of quality control. I would have been blisfully unaware of the errors without Sergey's astute and informative commentary. I look forward to seeing the resin replacements that he produces. This particular aircraft has been on my wish list since they rebuilt the I16's and Chaika at the Alpine fighter collection in Wanaka. It's an awesome little bi-plane that's an attractive subject to build and the markings and camo jobs are just about endless.
FEB 01, 2016 - 07:04 AM

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