Polikarpov I-153

At the start of WWII, Soviet tactical air combat doctrine was based around the use of high performance monoplanes and maneuverable biplanes. In theory, these mixed units would have the ability to leverage either strength as needed, or so it was thought at the time.

Nicknamed Chaika (Seagull) the I-153 was Polikarpov’s third development of the earlier I-15. It featured design improvements intended to maximize performance without sacrificing the biplanes’ maneuverability. This ultimately misguided belief that biplanes still had a role to play in aerial combat was based upon the observed difficulty which I-16 pilots had while dueling with Fiat CR.32 biplanes during the Spanish Civil War.

The I-153 retained the more advanced wing configuration developed for the I-15bis, but now employed four ShKAS machine guns, which fired far more rapidly than the earlier model’s 7.62mm PV-1 weapons. The biplane fighter also featured a Shvetsov M-62 engine, roughly 25% more powerful than its predecessor’s M-25. 

The I-153 first saw combat over Mongolia during the Battle of Khalkhin Gol in 1939. Combined units of I-16s and I-153s were arrayed against the Japanese flying the Nakajima Ki-27. Although problems with the I-153’s design did reveal themselves, it still performed well, and played a key role in  the Soviet victory over the Japanese Sixth Army. 

The Museum’s I-153, serial number 6316, was found in a swamp outside Murmansk. It is believed to have flown with the 2nd Aviation Fighter Squadron of the Soviet’s Northern Navy.

Did You know?

During the Winter War of 1939/1940 and the subsequent Continuation War against the Soviet Union between 1941 and 1944, the Finnish Air Force operated some 21 captured I-153s, 11 of which they purchased from Germany. Finnish pilots claimed at least 5 aerial victories against Soviet Pilots in the type.


  • Number Built: 3,437 
  • Year Produced: 1938
  • Serial Number:  6316
  • Crew: (1) Pilot
  • Current Pilots:


  • Length:  20 ft. 3 in.
  • Wingspan:  32 ft. 10 in.
  • Empty Weight:  3,201 lbs.
  • Loaded Weight:  4,321 lbs.
  • Engine:  1x Warbirds-engines of Prague ASz-62 (modern copy of a Shvetsov ASh-62) nine-cylinder, air-cooled, radial piston engine
  •  Engine Power:  1,000 hp


  • Cruising Speed:  185 mph
  • Max Speed:  276 mph
  • Range:  290 miles
  • Ceiling:  35,100 ft.
  • Rate of Climb:  3,000 ft./min. initial


  • 4x fixed, forward firing ShKAS 7.62 mm machine guns – 2x mounted in the upper fuselage firing between the upper cylinders of the engine, and 1x in each of the wings
  • Up to 8x 82 mm rockets
  • *MAM aircraft are unarmed

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