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In the country, that was known as Soviet Union the I-16 fighter was one of the most famous and favorite aircraft. You could easily recognize its silhouette on magazine covers and posters featuring Chiefs of the World’s First Socialist Country. Flocks of this small airplanes occupied book pages and in many pre-war movies the I-16 demonstrated breath-taking aerobatics. The I-16 differed from all domestic and foreign designs of its time both in appearance and performance. In fact it was the world’s first high-speed monoplane fighter of the new generation. Unusual looking stubby fuselage, massive tail surfaces and retractable landing gear made it look like some kind of fiction insect. Highly rear balanced (more than 30%) the I-16 was unstable in flight which at this time was considered normal and even desirable for better maneuverability. This made pilot training rather difficult, however those who could fly the I-16 easily converted to other types. When the War begun, the I-16 like steady bulldog stood for his home and was killed in this war, but this made time, for newer designs to enter production lines.
The I-16 was developed in Polikarpov design bureau in 1932 and after 1934 it was build in increasing numbers on 39-th production plant in Moscow and later on 21-st plant in Nizhny Novgorod. The serial production continued until 1941. The I-16 became the world’s first mass-produced fighter — 10292 were built, including the UTI-4, advanced trainer two-seat aircraft. A genius combination of production simplicity and good performance allowed it to remain in service for almost 10 years. The I-16 took part in several wars — in Spain, China, Mongolia, Finland. During the WW II it was employed on Eastern front until 1942 and remained in service with some units until 1945.
In modern Russia this small fighter is a symbol of the era like Hurricane in Britain or Wildcat in USA. Original I-16 examples are now exhibited in Navy Museum in Sankt- Petersburg and in V.P.Chkalov museum in Chkalov town (Nizhny Novgorod District).