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Book Review
I-15, I-16 and I-153 Aces.
Osprey Aircraft of the Aces - 95, Polikarpov I-15, I-16 and I-153 Aces.
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by: Tim Hatton [ LITESPEED ]

Originally published on:

You should not judge a book by it's cover, but a good one begs to be picked up and looked at. This is the case with the spectacular cover illustration by Mark Postlethwaite of the head on duel between the I-16 of Lt Vasiliy Golabev and one of the two Me Bf 109F's he downed that day. Golabev downed one Me Bf 109F with guns and the other with his aircraft's underwing RS-82 unguided rockets.


Spanish Civil War.
Swallows over China,.
Khalkhin Gol.
Winter War.
Great Patriotic War.


Mikhail Maslow explains the difficulties of researching the achievement of the Aces of the Soviet Union that flew Polikarpovs covered in this book. Being a collective nation, the Soviets did not record in great detail the records of the individual. It was the unit scores that were important. Pilots rarely flew the same aircraft as serviceability was a constant problem. So pilots flew whatever aircraft were serviceable. The author also dispels some of the notions that the designer Polikarpov had borrowed designs from other aircraft such as Curtis Hawk biplane and Gee Bee racers. The author also explains the handicaps that Polikarpov suffered in his designs, because Tupolev had patented metal construction methods. Also the Soviets were well behind the west in engine designs., forcing them to import and in turn copy engines such as the Bristol Jupiter [Soviet designation M-22] and the Curtis Wright Cyclone [Soviet designation M-25]. There is also a brief description of the aircraft and sub types covered in this title, nothing too technical. Remember this book is about the Aces that flew them. The chapter goes on to illustrate the production, development and deployment of one of the worlds first mass produced aircraft.

Spanish Civil War.

This chapter looks at the deployment of the Polikarpovs and their crews to the Iberian peninsula. This conflict for some nations would be a test bed for the development of military aircraft. Machines and men were supplied to the Republican air force but not donated. The aid was paid for in gold. The chapter obviously focuses on the Soviet pilots and their experiences, with many stories from the pilots themselves. It also touches on the Republican and foreign pilots that flew the Polikarpovs. Plenty of stories including night fighting.

Swallows over China.

The story of the Soviets involvement in China, fighting the Japanese invaders. Well received by the Chinese, the I-16 is affectionately called the Lastochka [Swallow], the I-15 bis, the Chizh and the I-16, the Aboo [Gadfly] by the foe, the Japanese. There are lots of personal accounts from the Soviet pilots living, fighting and training the Chinese pilots. A particularly interesting account of Dmitriy Kudimov dog fighting with a Japanese aircraft over Kudimov's airfield, while retracting the undercarriage by hand. Part of the mission for the Soviets was to train Chinese pilots to fly and fight the I-16 and there is a small section on their involvement.

Khalkhin Gol.

The undeclared war between the Soviets and Japan. The conflict in Mongolia that lasted 129 days in mid 1939. At first the Soviets were handicapped by under achieving personnel. Being posted to Mongolia was synonymous with failure. Later the pilots were reinforced by veterans of Spain, turning the tide of defeat.

Winter War.

The Soviet conflict with Finland, resulted when the Finns refused to allow the Soviets to put bases on Finnish territory. This campaign was conducted in the harsh winter weather of the Arctic circle, testing men and machines on both sides. Fought between 30th November, 1939 and 13th March, 1940, the Polokarpovs came up against a mixed force of Finnish aircraft including the Bristol Bulldog, the Gloster Gladiator, the Fokker DXXI, Moraine Saulnier MS 406 and the Fiat G-50.

Great Patriotic War.

The desperate fight against the invading forces of Germany. So desperate that the Soviet pilots used the tactic of taran [ramming] when their ammunition ran out. Also mentioned is the mass firing of RS-82 rockets at formations of German bombers. By now the I-16 was well past it's best, but the type made up 40% of the Soviets fighter force at the start Great Patriotic War. It was mostly the skill and courage of the pilots that made up for it's shortcomings. But the losses on the Soviet side because of the outclassed fighters were astronomical. In this chapter is the story of Lt Vasiliy Golabev shooting down the two Me Bf 109F's illustrated on the book cover. This alone is worth the cost of the book.


A list of all the Ace pilots that flew a Polikarpov.

96 pages.
89 black and white images.
38 colour side profiles.


This is an excellent account of the Aces that flew the Polikarpovs. There are many black and white photos of the pilots and aircraft. Some of which will inspire the modellers who prefer to create a diorama to display their models. For example the I-15 Chato parked in some woods and about to be started by a Hucks wagon. The numerous colour profiles by Andrey Yurgenson are also a good source if you are looking for something different to finish off your Polikarpov. The book is a hugely enjoyable and educational read, particularly if you are new to this subject. The only thing lacking are some maps so the reader knows exactly where the aircraft were based and fought. Thanks to Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ] for allowing me to review this book.

Highs: A thoroughly good read.
Lows: Lack of maps.
Verdict: Highly recommended.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: Other
  Mfg. ID: isbn 978-1-84603-981-2
  Suggested Retail: 12.99
  Related Link: 
  PUBLISHED: Nov 18, 2010

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About Tim Hatton (litespeed)

Aircraft are my primary interest from WWll to present day.

Copyright 2021 text by Tim Hatton [ LITESPEED ]. 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.


Good review, Tim! Clear synopsis without trying to recount the entire book (like a certain Aeroscale associate editor I know... ). There are many Ratas with interesting camoflauge and markings--several have been modeled on this site--and you picked somne great profile pages as examples. Nice job.
NOV 23, 2010 - 12:55 AM

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