In 1937, the Polikarpov design bureau carried out studies to improve on the performance of its I-15 and I-15bis biplane fighters without sacrificing maneuverability, as Soviet tactical doctrine was based on a mix of high performance monoplane fighters (met by the Polikarpov I-16) and agile biplanes. Early combat experience from the Spanish Civil War had shown that the I-16 had problems dealing with the Fiat CR.32 biplanes used by the Italian forces supporting the Nationalists, which suggested a need to continue the use of biplane fighters, and as a result, Polikarpov's proposals were accepted, and his design bureau was instructed to design a new biplane fighter. Polikarpov assigned the task to the design team led by Aleksei Ya Shcherbakov, who was assisted by Artem Mikoyan and Mikhail Gurevich (who would later set up the MiG design bureau).
The new fighter (designated I-15ter by the design bureau and I-153 by the Soviet Air Forces (VVS)) was based closely on the design of the I-15bis, with a stronger structure, but was fitted with a manually retractable undercarriage to reduce drag. It reverted to the "gulled" upper wing of the original I-15 but used the Clark YH aerofoil of the I-15bis. The four 7.62 mm PV-1 machine guns of the I-15bis were replaced by four ShKAS machine guns. While still rifle-caliber weapons, these fired much faster than the PV-1s, (1,800 rounds per minute rather than 750 rounds per minute) giving a much greater weight of fire. The new fighter was to be powered by a Shvetsov M-62 an improved derivative of the Shvetsov M-25 that powered the I-15 and I-15bis with twin superchargers.
The aircraft was of mixed metal and wood construction, with the fuselage structure being based on chromium-molybdenum steel with duralumin skinning on the forward fuselage, and fabric covering on the fuselage aft of the front of the cockpit. The aircraft's wings were made of fabric covered wood, while the tail surfaces were of fabric covered duralumin. The aircraft was fitted with a tailwheel undercarriage, with the main wheels retracting rearwards, rotating through 90 degrees to lie flat in the wing roots, being actuated by cables operated by a pilot-driven hand wheel. The solid rubber tailwheel did not retract, but moved in conjunction with the rudder.
The I-153 first saw combat in 1939 during the Soviet-Japanese Battle of Khalkin Gol in Mongolia. The Japanese Army Air Forces' Type 97 Fighter (Nakajima Ki-27) Nate proved a formidable opponent for the I-15bis and I-16, but was more evenly matched with the I-153, which retained agility inherent to biplanes while featuring improved performance. While the overall I-153 performance was satisfactory, some significant problems were revealed. Most troublesome was the absence of a firewall between the fuel tank mounted in front of the cockpit and the pilot. Combined with strong draft coming in through the wheel wells, fuel tank fires invariably resulted in rapid engulfment of the cockpit and severe burns to the pilot. In addition, the M-62 engine suffered from a service life of only 60–80 hours due to failures of the two-speed supercharger.
decals are thin, glossy and are in register. Not easy to tell
how opaque they are especially the white numbers. I have had
mixed luck with ICM decals and the last ones I used seemed
impervious to Microsol. The sheet contains markings for four
aircraft, One all aluminum color, one with green squiggles over
aluminum, one green over light blue and one green and black over
instructions are printed on glossy paper in a 16
page A4 size booklet stapled at the spine. The
cover has a brief history in Russian and English,
a color chart with Model Master and generic color
names and an icon chart, pages 2 and 3 are a parts
map, pages 4 through 13 are the assembly drawings
in isometric style with a few halftone drawings,
page 14 has a halftone drawing of the completed
model and a rudimentary rigging diagram. The last
two pages have painting and marking instructions
Some builders have noted that the landing gear parts are a bit fiddly to assemble and appear the be a bit weak to support the model long term. Aerocraft Models has come to the rescue with a set of replacement struts in a one piece lost wax brass casting that are drop in replacements and feature superior strength. The parts are quite nicely detailed and require little to no clean up. They can be seen here.
This is only ICM's third foray into 1/32 scale, the first being an I-16 and the second a Bucker Bu 131D. ICM has made great strides in their quality in all there kits over the past couple of years to the point it is difficult to consider them as a limited run kit manufacturer. One still needs to build them as you would a limited run kit doing a lot of test fitting but if you haven't built one of their newer kits you should give one a try, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. The kit is getting good reviews elsewhere and seems to go together with few difficulties. Highly recommended.
Links to kit build or reviews
Another inbox review can be found here.
The Osprey Encyclopedia of Russian Aircraft by Bill Gunston