Perhaps because the Polikarpov I-16 has come to be so closely associated with the Soviet Union's unpreparedness in the face of the German invasion, it's easy to forget that the stubby little aircraft, clearly obsolescent in 1941, was by far the most advanced fighter in the world when it entered service in 1934. While other nations' airforces still only had designs on the drawing board, the VVS could boast a low wing monoplane interceptor with a retractable landing gear and enclosed cockpit (in the early models) in regular service.
Combat experience in the Spanish Civil War indicated that a significant increase in firepower was merited and, once again, the I-16 lead its rivals in introducing a pair of 20mm cannons, mounted in the wings. Depending which account you read, the call for greater punch was inspired by either ground attack or air-to-air requirements, and the truth probably lies somewhere in between. Whatever, the new Type 17s were warmly accepted by Soviet pilots, despite the type's increase in all-up weight, with a consequent drop in speed, climb and agility.
Basically an up-gunned Type 10, the new Type 17 also introduced other changes, most noticeably rearranged exhausts which cut down drag, and allowed for a ski-undercarriage to retract neatly into slots in the underside of the cowl during winter operations.
A number of the new fighter were sent to fight in the Khalkin-Gol conflict, where the 20mm cannons were often sufficient to down a lightly built Japanese twin-engined bomber with a single strike. The extra firepower was also to prove useful in the face of Operation Barbarossa, where cannon-armed I-16s battled on, particularly in a ground attack role, until the arrival of more modern aircraft.
Eduard's I-16 has of course appeared in a number of guises since its release in 2006, but as far as I know, the Type 17 has only previously been available as part of the Royal Class boxed set
So, despite having built a Type 10
and having several other versions of the delightful little kit stashed away, the chance to grab this real "gunslinger" was just too good to miss!
The Type 17 arrives in typical Eduard Profipack-style - very nicely presented in a tough little box with the sprues and accessories bagged separately and the instructions printed in colour as an A-4 booklet.
The kit comprises:
76 x pale olive styrene parts (plus 17 spare)
2 x clear styrene parts
30 x etched metal parts (some pre-painted)
A sheet of painting masks
Decals for 5 x colour schemes
The kit obviously makes use of existing sprues, so I won't go over old ground in much detail. Despite having been in pretty much continual use for the past three and a half years, the moulds are still in tip-top condition and there's not a hint of wear anywhere on the sample kit. I couldn't find any sink marks (except (as on previous kits in the series) on the engine face, which is hidden anyway, so not a problem), and the few ejector pin marks are well out of harm's way.
With so much familiar from the previous kits, it's no surprise that the overall construction is as neat as ever - it's really just a question of thinning the wing trailing edges a bit and ensuring a really smooth fit at the wing roots. The only change for me is the chance at last to use those tempting long-barrelled cannons. Admittedly, not a radical difference, more a subtle nuance, but definitely enough to make the kit appeal to anyone with a collection of I-16s - and, of course, with their petite dimensions, space is hardly a problem even in 1:48.
The etched parts are beautifully produced, with pre-painted seat harnesses and instrument panel. For anyone wanting to use the neatly moulded styrene alternative panel, there's a nicely printed set of decal instrument faces (although, oddly, the layout is different - which is correct, I haven't a clue...)
With the I-16 series a few years old now, I suppose my one regret is that Eduard haven't taken the opportunity to give the kit a bit of a boost and added parts for the winter ski-undercarriage. That would be very neat and open up some great camouflage opportunities.
Instructions and Decals
The instructions are neatly printed on high quality paper, The construction diagrams are colour-shaded to show where glue is to be applied, and Gunze Sangyo acrylic paint matches are keyed to most details throughout assembly.
Decals are provided for five attractive colour schemes that offer a good variety of camouflage and marking styles:
A. I-16 Type 17, 22nd IAP, 2nd Lt. Katalov, summer 1939, Nomonhan, Mongolia.
B. I-16 Type 17, Leningrad area, summer 1941.
C. I-16 Type 17, 191st IAP, 1st Lt. Gennadiy S. Zhuikov, summer 1941.
D. I-16 Type 17, 84th IAP, Capt. A. A. Khudiakov, Caucasus, summer 1942.
E. I-16 Type 17, 4th GIAP KBF, Mikhail Ya. Vasiliev, spring 1942.
The decals look very good quality, being thin and glossy with excellent registration.
Eduard's I-16 has always been a great little kit and it's nice to see the Type 17 available in its own right. This is essentially quite a simple kit and is well suited to modellers of average ability. It's such an iconic aircraft, I'd say no collection of WW2 fighters is complete without at least one of the series. Recommended.
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