by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
Originally published on:
The I-5 marked a radical switch in design-policy from its immediate predecessor, the I-3. Gone were the elegant monocoque
fuselage and close-cowled in-line engine, and in their place were a short fabric-covered structure and a radial engine. The resulting fighter was much smaller and far more manoeuvrable (albeit somewhat slower) and established what would become the classic Polikarpov "look" through the rest of the 1930s.
The I-5 first flew in 1930 with a Russian version of the Bristol Jupiter and the aircraft saw widespread service with the VVS. The fighter was broadly comparable in performance with contemporaries such as the Bristol Bulldog and most versions were armed with a pair of rifle-calibre machine guns mounted low in the fuselage and synchronised to fire through the propeller arc. However, the first aircraft built (as featured in this kit) packed an extra punch with four fuselage guns. Despite its increasing obsolescence, the I-5 soldiered on past the German invasion of Russia, with surviving aircraft operating in a ground attack role.
The modelRest Models' I-5 arrives in a slightly flimsy box (really the only area of concern I have about these - along with many other short-run resin kits) and consists of:
51 x resin parts
28 x etched parts (plus film)
Decals for 3 aircraft
The casting is basically perfect - not a term I use lightly, but the quality here really is exceptional. The parts almost all arrive ready-separated from their casting blocks, so clean-up is pretty minimal. Despite careful examination, I haven't found any surface blemishes and there were just two pin-prick bubbles inside the fuselage. The kit is cast in 3 distinct colours of resin and I must admit I was initially shocked by the speckled effect on the fuselage. At first glance, I thought the speckles were bubbles - but I should have known better - the surface is perfectly smooth and the representation of the fabric-covered rear fuselage is possibly the best I've ever seen in a kit. It reminds me of the classic Harry Woodman scratchbuilt models made with scribed plastic card. The flying surfaces are equally good - dead straight and with trailing edges sharp enough to cut if you're not careful!
Test fitSurprisingly for a resin kit, Rest Models' I-5 is virtually ready to assemble straight out of the box, with just one pour-stub to remove on the nose. The fuselage is unusual, being cast as a one-piece hollow shell, into which fits the cockpit "tub" before the front fuselage top-decking is added. The fit is almost perfect. The only difficulty I can foresee with this approach is that painting the interior of the fuselage shell, with its intricate moulded-on rib and stringer detail, isn't going to be easy.
The lower wings are simple butt-joints to the roots, but they match the chord and aerofoil well. The instructions include a very useful template for setting the correct dihedral and it could also be worth adding metal pins at the roots for extra rigidity. The stabilizers slot neatly into the base of the fin, but there is a small gap at the front which I don't think was present on the real aircraft, so I'll fill it with "supafiller" (talcum powder and cyano-acrylate).
The rudder and ailerons are separate and fit perfectly.
Construction BreakdownAssembly begins with the cockpit, which is made up from a mixture of resin and photoetched parts. The side framework is etched, which purists will say is too "2-dimensional" - but it can always be used as a template to make a replacement from plastic rod. The seat is nicely cast (although it does look quite large for this scale) and is supplied with etched buckles for a harness. There are tiny triggers to add to the control column and a neat compass mounting, along with an etched rudder bar with foot-grips and straps which needs to be folded to shape. The instrument panel is a 2-part etched/film sandwich to complete a simple, but effective office. There's no colour information provided, but a photo of an I-5 with a side panel removed shows what appears to be a dark-coloured fuselage structure and seat (always taking into account the difficulty in judging Soviet B&W photos - particularly those taken with the infamous "journalist" film stock).
The engine is a real beauty, made up of a separate crankcase and cylinders cast complete with exhausts. There are scrap diagrams to show where to add push-rods from wire (not supplied) and the whole engine is enclosed in a thinly-cast cowl. I did find the fit extremely tight and, rather than risk cracking the cowling, I shaved a tad off the tip of each cylinder (the modification is invisible once the engine is complete).
There's a choice of struts provided, depending which aircraft you're modelling - and the interplane struts are cast with a metal core to take the weight of the top wing. Again, there's a template provided to get the angle right - and a simple jig will probably aid assembly.
Like the struts, there's a choice of undercarriage legs and the wheels have excellent hub-detail. Some photos of I-5s show wheels with the covers removed, so it would have been neat if Rest Models had included spokes on the etched fret (as it is, Eduard's WW1 set might provide a suitable source).
Final details include delicate etched gunsights and a quite complex windshield, consisting of a separate frame to attach to the film windscreen itself.
Instructions & DecalsThe assembly diagrams are clearly drawn with main exploded views supplemented by a number of scrap illustrations. There's a actual-size set of plans, plus detailed drawings of the cockpit and engine.
There's a full-colour guide which includes reference photos for the 3 decal options provided:
1. A spectacular aircraft finished in silver dope with polished metal cowlings and a red fuselage banner, rudder, struts and wheels. Squadron's "Polikarpov Fighters In Action Pt.1 identifies it as the 3rd prototype, named "Gift to the 16th Party Congress" and, elsewhere, the slogan on the banner - "Za VKP (6)" - as "For the Communist Party".
2. A camouflaged I-5 "Red 7".
3. A camouflaged I-5 "White 6", which Squadron state was captured by the Germans in 1941. The wheel covers were removed in the photo of the aircraft.
The decals themselves are matt-finished, thin and printed in excellent register. The colour guide gives Humbrol and Testors paint matches, but the Humbrol colours were deleted from their range some time ago. I'll use the excellent White Ensign VVS paints for my model.
ConclusionRest Models' I-5 is another great little kit from this exceptional resin producer. The clever design and superb casting would make it a good choice for anyone with a bit of experience who fancies tackling a resin biplane for the first time. Resin models are always likely to be rather more expensive than injected kits, but the price of Rest Models' I-5 seems very fair indeed, considering the quality of the casting and presentation. With its combination of good looks and attractive colour schemes, Rest Model's I-5 deserves to be popular with fans of Golden Age fighters. Highly recommended.