Polikarpov I-15bis

Developed from the earlier Polikarpov I-5 Fighter Design, the I-15 and later I-15bis were still in service at the onset of Operation Barbarossa, Germany’s Invasion of the Soviet Union.

First flown in 1933, the Polikarpov I-15 was a stout, albeit extremely maneuverable, biplane fighter. It featured a gull-shaped upper-wing, which proved unpopular with many Soviet pilots. Taking this feedback into account, Polikarpov updated the design   in 1937 as the I-15bis, which featured a more conventional wing. The Soviets continued to develop the design, as many still considered that a biplane’s maneuverability advantage over monoplanes would still play a significant, positive role in air-to-air combat during any coming conflict. 

I-15s were supplied in quantity to the Chinese government which was resisting a Japanese invasion. The Chinese received 255 of these nimble fighters during the fall of 1937, with a total of 347 I-15 and I-15bis arriving by 1939. 250 Soviet pilots volunteered to fly the aircraft in combat over China, predecessors to the later American Volunteer Group which came to support China in 1941 following the Soviets pull-out. 

The Museum’s I-15bis was restored from a wreck recovered in Karelia (once a part of Finland, but annexed by the Soviet Union following the Winter War of 1939-40). The aircraft is believed to have flown with the Soviet’s Assault Air Regiment 145 of the Northern Front Air Force. Following its restoration, the fighter flew during the 2001 Moscow Airshow, the first to do so since WWII. Like all of the Museum’s Polikarpov Fighters, the Russian company, Aviarestavratsiya restored the fighter (with support from Rusavia) at their facility in Novosibirsk, Siberia.

Did You know?

Although superseded by the I-153 in frontline units, more than 1,000 I-15bis fighters were still in service as ground attack aircraft during Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union.


  • Number Built: 3,318 I-15s (2,408 bis variants)
  • Year Produced: 1938
  • Serial Number:  3994
  • Crew: (1) Pilot
  • Current Pilots:


  • Length:  20 ft. 7 in.
  • Wingspan:  33 ft. 5.5 in.
  • Empty Weight:  2,888 lbs.
  • Loaded Weight:  4,044 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:  177 mph
  • Max Speed:  226 mph
  • Range:  280 miles
  • Ceiling:  31,165 ft.
  • Rate of Climb:  2,689 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 220 lbs. of bombs
  • *MAM aircraft is unarmed

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