Polikarpov I-16

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This aircraft page is in two sections:
World War II aircraft
Polikarpov I-16
Polikarpov I-16
Variant of I-16
Type Fighter
Country of origin Russia
Manufacturer Polikarpov
Crew 1
Dimensions Wing span 29'6" (9 m)
Length 20'1" (6.13 m)
Height 10'8" (3.25 m)
Internal fuel 67 gal
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The Polikarpov I-16 in World War II

Development

When Polikarpov I-16 was introduced into Soviet air forces in early 30th it was a revolutionary design. It was the world's first low-wing cantilever monoplane fighter with retractable landing gear to have attained operational status[1]. It was a backbone of VVS when Eastern front was opened in 1941. However at that point its performance potential was already exhausted and it was already planned to be replaced by a newer designs like Yak-1, LaGG-3 and MiG-3.

It was very small aircraft with 9m wingspan and 6.13m length with rear weight bias making it difficult to fly and could easily to fall into spin, also the recovery was easy. When British instructor had an opportunity to fly I-16, after landing the aircraft he was sweating heavily and commented "Let the Russians fly this airplane!"[2] I-16 was built in many variants. It engine was being constantly upgraded during from early 480 hp Shvetsov M-22 in type 4 variant up to 1,100 hp M-63 in late variants type 29. The armament was in constant evolution as well resulting in most heavily armed early war fighter aircraft.

Being outperformed by German aircraft I-16 was still considered dangerous opponent. Many Soviet aces had flown I-16, like Boris Safonov that achieved total 14 out of 20 victories in I-16, 12 in I-16 type 28 and 2 in type 24 during WW2.

Unit Deployment

External Links

Aces High II aircraft
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Variant of I-16
Type Fighter
Crew One
Aces High II loadout options
Package 1 2x 7.6mm ShKAS MG, 900 rpg
2x 7.6mm ShKAS MG, 450 rpg
Package 2 2x 20mm ShVAK, 90 rpg
2x 7.6mm ShKAS MG, 450 rpg
Package 3 1x 12.7mm UBS, 230 rpg
2x 7.6mm ShKAS MG, 450 rpg
Options 2x 20.5 gal drop tanks
6x RS-82 rockets
Aces High II Main Arenas
Earliest MA Early War
Typical perk cost 0 (Late War)
ENY value 30 (Late War)
Available on carrier no
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The Polikarpov I-16 in Aces High II

The Polikarpov I-16 in AH powered by 1,100hp Shvetsov M-63 radial engine comes in 3 latest I-16 types 24, 28 and 29 depending on the armament. It is generally outclassed at Late War Main Arena by all means, however it still holds on its own against early war plane set. It is comparable in its performance to Bf-109E-4 and Hurricane Mk I and has a significant place in any early/mid war special event.

This plane can be seen as a mix of good climb and acceleration, great firepower and cockpit visibility, outstanding maneuverability for an early war design combined with a short loiter time and significant lack of speed even for an early war design.

I-16 is very rare bird at LW MA, also its overall performance is similar or better than of Brewster B-239, I-16 couldn't gain similar popularity probably due to misunderstanding of its qualities.

Engine Power

The aircraft has very good climb performance for an early and stands on its own for even a mid war plane. The climb diagram is quite similar to that of Bf 109E-4 and A6M2, slightly better than Hurricane I over 12K and significantly better than similar period US planes P-40C/E, F4F or Brewster. I-16 accelerates well for an early model plane and decelerates easily thanks to vast amount of drag induced by a huge radial engine.

Unfortunately you can say the same about its speed performance. I-16 is one of the slowest planes in AH. It is about 40 mph slower than Bf-109E-4, P-40C at 16K, about 20mph slower than Hurricane I at altitude. On the deck it has a similar speed to Hurricane I and A6M2. Overall its speed performance is very similar to the Brewster B-239.

Another limiting factor is fuel consumption. I-16 has only 16 min military power of fuel extending it to around 24 min with drop tanks making them almost mandatory at MA (for fuel burn multiplier of 2.0). I-16 does not even come close in its loiter time to that of early period Hurricane I and with DT it is similar to that of its main opponent Bf-109E-4. So management of engine RPM and throttle is mandatory operational knowledge for every I-16 pilot and helps extend its limited loiter time to somewhat reasonable one.

Short loiter time also brings a restriction for early Eastern front event designers - using high fuel burn multiplier values can significantly hamper already limited abilities of I-16.


Aces High II Performance Charts

I-16 speed chart I-16 climb chart

Firepower

Polikarpov I-16 has one of the best early war armament packages available. You should notice that eastern aircraft armament have different characteristics in comparison to the western counterparts. So these are several things you should remember when you consider a package both as a fighter and as a target.

Soviet machine guns had much higher rate of fire. The typical rate of fire for .303 Browning is around 1,000 rpm while synchronized ShKAS MG gives around 1,600 rpm and non-synchronized ~1,800 rpm. So type 24 package with 4 ShKAS MG provides roughly the same rate of fire as 6.8x0.303 Browning MG - quite close to the armament package of Hurricane Mk I during BoB but also with half of the guns without harmonization issues giving higher concentration of fire. The UBS MG has higher rate of ~1,000 rpm in comparison to ~850 rpm of .50 cal AN/M2.

The 20mm ShVAK canon has much better ballistics and higher rate of fire (750-790m/s, 700-800rpm) than early war Axis counterparts Type 99 or MG-FF (~600 m/s, 520-540 rpm). Additionally I-16's ShVAK are carrying 90 rpg versus 60 rpg of MG-FF or Type 99. The ShVAK canon is essentially the same canon used in later war La-5 and La-7 making it very heavy armament similar to mid-war period.

There are three armament packages available:

  • Type 24
    2 wing mounted 7.6mm ShKAS MG, 900 rpg
    2 cowl mounted 7.6mm ShKAS MG, 450 rpg, synchronized
    It is probably the most underestimated package as it consists of "only 4x7.6mm MG". However considering the high rate of fire of ShKAS it more than reasonable early war package that is close to that of Hurricane Mk I and Spitfire Mk I. A short well aimed burst of fire would chop parts of even a heavy bomber and enough to deal with fighters.
  • Type 28
    2 wing mounted 20mm ShVAK canon, 90 rpg
    2 cowl mounted 7.6mm ShKAS MG, 450 rpg, synchronized
    it is probably the best package available for any early war plane. It provides decent punch against both fighters and bombers. However it requires taking care of convergence. Carrying only 90 rpg you can't "spray and pray" - you have only about 7s of canon fire and once you out of 20mm shells your chances to kill anything are significantly reduced.
    Another important issue of the type 28 package is its weight. It somewhat hampers few existing good I-16 qualities like climb, acceleration and turn rate. Historically introduction of ShVAK canons reduced the turn rate from 15 to 18 seconds of a complete 360° circle.
  • Type 29
    1 bottom mounted 12.7mm UBS MG, 230 rpg, synchronized
    2 cowl mounted 7.6mm ShKAS MG, 450 rpg, synchronized
    It is somewhat similar to type 24, but provides arguable more firepower due to replacement of 2x7.6mm ShKAS with 1x12.7mm UBS and what is also important it has no convergence issue allowing to hit targets accurately at quite long distances.


Special note should be said about 6xRS-82 rockets. They are quite difficult to aim having bad ballistics and high dispersion rates. At 200 yards they already drop below the lowest mark of aiming circle and probably should be used is salvo to get reasonable results against ground targets.

Historically RS-82s were used both as air-to-ground and air-to-air rockets similarly to later Luftwaffe's R4M. Special fuses with delays of 2 to 22 seconds could be installed and used against bomber formations. For the first time RS-82 air-to-air rockets were successfully used at Khalkhin Gol against bomber formations. During WW2 pilots considered them as an effective weapon to break enemy formations[3][4].

Unfortunately delayed fuses aren't available in AH and only way to bring down a bomber with a rocket is to hit with it directly. It can be done against big bomber target with reasonable probability and accuracy from ~200 yards but the risk of being shut down in such an attack is too high for such a technique to be effective.

Maneuverability

I-16 really stands out in its exceptional maneuverability. Historically the heaviest I-16 type 28 could perform full circle in 18 seconds. The roll rate is outstanding for an early war plane as well. Its horizontal acceleration is somewhat lower than that of Bf-109E and Hurricane but the difference is quite marginal. The ability to decelerate is very good due to big front section of the radial engine. Using type 24 or 29 armament package reduces weight and improves overall maneuverability even more, yet flying with with 2 ShVAK canons I-16 type 28 can easily out-turn its main WW2 opponent Bf 109E-4.

It is noticeable that unlike A6M, I-16 has good controlability at dives. It remains controllable even at around 450-500mph also the biggest problem at such a speed becomes keeping the plane trimmed properly and not blacking out. The dive potential is limited by a huge cross section of the radial engine limiting it dive acceleration significantly. The same aerodynamics issues significantly limit its vertical maneuver potential significantly.

Fighting in the Polikarpov I-16

Of course the main tactics is bring your opponent into turn fight both at main and at special events arenas. Having good overall visibility and great maneuverability are your strongest points. Bring your opponent into turn fight - that is the best tactics you have.

Remember that I-16 climbs well even for mid-war period. You can use it in your advantage gaining is much energy as you can. Defensively you can perform hard break turns and fast rolls denying a shot from your opponent however be careful not to bleed too much energy.

One of underestimated I-16 qualities are ability to dive - you can surprise pilots that fight you like as you were flying Zero, diving away may not be as helpful for them as they think and it also can be used to hide I-16 state of energy - but remember I-16 decelerates quickly - don't waste opportunity.

Fighting against the Polikarpov I-16

The biggest mistake in fighting I-16 is underestimating it. In hands of competent player it can be deadly weapon especially against early war models. Remember it is as potent as Hurricane, Brewster and many other T&B style fighters so treat it respectfully.

The basic rule of thumb is never engage into turn fight with I-16. Keeping high speed is critical as I-16 bleeds energy fast due to high drag. Give respect to its 7.6mm cowl mounted MG - they can give quite a long range shots at high rate of fire, don't panic but do not ignore.

The biggest problem you would have in killing I-16 would be actually hitting it. It is very small and highly maneuverable target - one of the smallest planes in AH. It is tough enough to survive even 20mm Hipano hit so don't assume it would be easy kill.

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