Fighting General:
Building the Eduard 1/48th Polikarpov I-16 Type 10

By Will Hendriks

Background

The Polikarpov I-16, variously known as the “Ishak”, “Mosca”, or “Rata” is certainly among the most popular subjects for modelers of Soviet aircraft of the period immediately prior to and during WWII. Until now only the dubious Hobbycraft examples and a few vacuform kits existed in Quarter Scale. So when Eduard announced the planned release of an all new-tooled kit in 1/48 scale last year, I was very much looking forward to building one.

A history of the type is far beyond the scope of this article. An excellent short history is included on the front page of the instruction booklet included with the kit. Other more comprehensive histories can be found among the references listed at the end of this article.

This kit was first previewed by Matt Bittner in the June issue of Internet Modeler, as well as test shots that were previewed in the May issue of this year. I highly recommend reading these previews before reading on here.

This 1/48 scale kit of the I-16 from Eduard has been the subject of some heated debate among modelers on various forums and magazines, and even on Eduard’s own website. To their credit Eduard noted these errors and made several corrections to the test shots and added some items to the photoetch fret to redress several omissions, such as the window in the wheel well to confirm gear position. The most glaring error at first was the misshapen front cowl, which was far too “squarish” in profile. Eduard has since produced a more accurate replacement cowl, which is now included in all the latest examples. More on this later.

Construction

My intent was to complete this kit straight out of the box with few alterations and as quickly as possible.

Assembly began with the cockpit. The shortcomings of this area are noted in Matt’s preview, even so I elected to build it “as is”. I wanted to display the model with the cockpit side-hatch open, so the first step was to carve out the hatch on the left fuselage half. The outline of the hatch is engraved in the plastic, so was fairly easy to remove with an X-Acto knife then clean up with a file and sandpaper. While a choice of either styrene or photoetch bits are provided for the instrument panel and various levers and switches, I elected to stick to the styrene parts where able to simplify and speed assembly. That said, the styrene parts provided are more than adequate, the instrument panel being a gem when decorated with the individual instrument dials and faces provided on the decal sheet. The interior details were painted using Gunze Sangyo Aqueous Hobby Color as called out in the instructions, as well as various Testors Acryl and PollyScale acrylic colors. The cockpit floor was painted green with gray sides to match the interior sidewalls, as the best compromise to actually improving or replacing this area. As Matt mentions in the previews, this area should be wide open, with foot boards for the rudder pedals, much like the Hawker Hurricane. For the purists, some scratchbuilding or a hopefully soon to be released aftermarket interior would be in order. The seat and control column are very well done, and a set of prepainted photoetched seatbelts are included. The angle that the seat back is mounted to the floor is critical, as this will affect the alignment of the seat back to the fuselage spine.

The fuselage halves were cemented together using Tamiya Extra Thin Cement, then the joins sanded smooth. The instrument panel was offered up into the fuselage assembly from below, and then the cockpit floor and seat assembly. Here I ran into some trouble, as one of the fittings mounted on the right fuselage half fouled with the floor. This, part E5, was carefully shaved off and remounted a few millimeters higher to allow the floor to sit right. The floor and seat assembly were a little fiddly to install with the instrument panel being somewhat in the way as well.

The wings went together next, which consist of only one lower half and two upper halves left and right. The trailing edge of the wing assembly is quite thick, however, and would benefit from sanding down to a thinner edge before gluing. The wing assembly was then cemented to the fuselage, with no filler needed, and the two ShKAS 7.62 wing guns added. The tailplanes, tailcone and rudder were glued on and alignment checked before allowing all to dry thoroughly. The stub exhausts were installed through the open front end of the cowl at this point. The window for the wheel well is provided as a photoetched part. This was bent in a curve and installed at the rear of the right wheel well. The “glazed” portion was painted a dark gray color to simulate the clear cellon or plexiglass.

Eduard’s treatment of the front cowling and engine area is simple yet effective, and this consists of merely five parts. A prop shaft is sandwiched between a simple engine front and cowl front, with an optional shutter assembly included on the etched fret. The front of the cowl was painted red to preclude masking around the partially closed cooler shutter doors (or so I planned), and the completed assembly was glued to the front of the fuselage. The photos of the unpainted model illustrate this stage. Note the squarish cowl front.

This was all occurring during August, as I was trying to get the model and article done in time for the September issue. It was then that I got an email from Matt Bittner stating that he had obtained a corrected replacement cowl from Eduard’s Vladimir Sulc himself at the IPMS Nationals in Kansas City! Wow! Matt sent the cowl to me by mail, so the project went on hold for the few weeks it took to get to my home in Canada.

When I opened the package containing the cowl, I was struck by the difference from the original. The profile was spot on, and some additional detail had been added to the front face. With some trepidation I removed the old front cowl piece, carefully removed the engine front, and reassembled everything with the new cowl front except for the shutter doors, which were damaged during my attempted removal. No big deal though, as their omission merely represents the cowl with the shutters wide open. Also, some filler was required around the cowl front to fuselage join (the only place it was required on this kit), accomplished with Squadron White Putty smoothed in with Cutex nail polish remover.

Colors and Markings

I chose to finish the model in the markings of the aircraft flown by General Major Ivan Lakeev, Hero of the Soviet Union. Lakeev was a veteran pilot of the Spanish Civil War, the Khalkin-Gol Conflict against the Japanese, and the Winter War with Finland, scoring victories in all these theatres while flying the I-16. By the outset of the Great Patriotic War in June 1941, Lakeev had been promoted to General Major. Lakeev chose to lead his men in action from the front, a Fighting General in the truest sense, despite the admonitions of his superiors to preserve himself. This aircraft by then was his personal mount, and was carefully maintained and very well turned out, with fresh AII Green upper surfaces and Blue undersides, with red trim and a gleaming metal cowl band.

As for my choice of paints and colors, I was originally intending to use the excellent range of enamels from White Ensign Models for this project. However, in the end I chose to stick to acrylics due mainly to their faster drying times.

I chose ModelMaster Acryl U.S. Interior Green as a close match for fresh AII Green, and PollyScale Russian Underside Blue. These colors were applied using my trusty Aztec 470 airbrush. The cowl, spinner and rudder flash were sprayed ModelMaster Acryl Insignia Red, with the cowl strap painted Citadel Boltgun Metal. I was not sure what color to paint the wheel wells and gear struts, so used my best guess as blue for the wells and Boltgun Metal for the struts. The tires were painted Testors Aircraft Interior Black using the vinyl masks provided, which worked very well. When dry, the entire airframe was given several coats of Future Acrylic in preparation for decals.

The decals by Aviprint are very good, in register and have good color density. The Eduard instruction sheet indicates that red stars should be used, but other references state that red stars outlined in black are correct for this aircraft. See the VVS website mentioned below for a complete description of this aircraft. Luckily, these black-outlined stars are available on the sheet provided, only the stars for the tail need to be trimmed from the speed stripe decal for the aerobatic team option. The decals went down with only a little Superscale setting solution, and no silvering was apparent, fortunate considering the large size of the Cyrillic script slogan decal on the side. While it is not known if the slogans were in evidence on the right side of the airplane originally, I chose to include them because I like the look. At least Eduard gives you the option. The decals were sealed with another brush coat of Future then the finish dulled down with Testors Acryl Semi-Gloss clear varnish.

I wanted to finish this model with as new and fresh a paint job as possible, so it was necessary to keep weathering to a minimum. Panel lines were highlighted with a wash of Winsor and Newton artist’s oils in shades a little darker than the surrounding finish, the intent being to highlight certain areas without making them appear too dirty. Paynes Grey was used for the undersides while Sap Green darkened with Raw Umber was used on the upper surfaces. A drop of Japan Drier was added to these mixtures to speed drying time.

Final Assembly

The final stages of assembly went quite well, with the fit of most parts being very good indeed. The landing gear assembly is a little fiddly, with the gear doors requiring some careful planning prior to gluing. The alignment of the doors is not clear in the instructions, so some photographic references are handy here. Squadron’s In Action book has a good collection of photos and is relatively inexpensive. Little details were attended to, such as the very nicely done photoetched gun ring sight. Leather items such as the tailskid dust cover and cockpit front coaming were picked out with Vallejo Saddle Brown. I did not trust the vinyl masks for the canopy, so masked this with Gunze Mr. Masker instead. Given the successful use of the masks on the wheels, maybe I should have tried them. Gear retraction cables were added fashioned from stretched sprue and the propeller was glued in place. The pitot tube was fashioned from stretched sprue as well, instead of using the kit item.

Conclusion

Building this kit was an interesting experience, because what began as a kit that to me was only “OK” due to the poor shape of the cowling became “Great” when a new cowling was provided by the manufacturer, addressing the most serious shortcoming that the kit originally exhibited. Kudos to Eduard for their quick and proactive response to modelers concerns. The issues such as the cockpit floor can be excused, since these can be improved upon by the modeler through scratchbuilding or use of aftermarket items if so desired.

Out of the box what results is certainly a very good scale replica of this important Soviet fighter, suitable for any collection.

Recommended.

Thanks to Eduard and Matt Bittner for allowing me the chance to build this kit. Also Thanks to Mr. Vladimir Sulc of Eduard and Matt Bittner for supplying the replacement front cowl in such a timely manner!

References and Further Reading

Soviet Air Force Fighter Colours, 1941-45, by Erik Pilawskii. Classic Publications

Website: “Modeling the Aircraft of The Soviet VVS 1917-1950”

Polikarpov Fighters in Action Part 2, Squadron Signal Publications Inc.

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