This stubby little fighter was state of the art in the early 1930s. It continued in use until well into World War II, when it was clearly past its prime.
After the jump, an extremely prolific Soviet fighter.
The I-16 was a successful type in the Spanish Civil War of the late 1930s. It flew against the latest Italian and German designs, including the Bf 109 in that conflict. That the I-16 was a mature design, at the peak of its potential; while the Bf 109 was a new type being refined, seems to have been lost on Soviet analysts. So it would remain in full production while newer types came along slowly.
Fortunately for the Russians, conflicts against Japan in Mongolia, and Finland showed that the I-16 was indeed fading and priority shifted to newer designs in the months just before the German invasion Summer of 1941.
But this was still the most numerous Soviet type when war started with the Germans. Over 1600 were in service. That was over a third of the entire VVS (Soviet Air Force). The result was tragic and predictable; a lot of German pilots shot down a lot of Soviet aircraft and ran up some staggering air to air results. The top non-German Ace of all time was a Finn with 94 kills. The Germans had over 100 aces with more kills than that. The vast majority of this was done against the Russians. With the I-16 as the main fighter the VVS could not protect its bombers, attack or recon types.
There were some I-16 aces. A few pilots had the skills, experience and luck to cause some damage. But the Eastern Front was a meat grinder. And things wouldn’t really shift the Soviet’s way until newer types could be deployed en masse.
This subject was part of the air defense of Moscow that Summer of 1941. Its from the Eduard kit.
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