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Polikarpov I-153
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The Polikarpov I-15bis (second version) was becoming obsolete yet the Soviet military felt it was too early to abandon biplanes so they approved of an update proposed by Polikarpov. The resulting I-15, 3rd version, or I-153 Chaika (Russian Чайка, "Seagull") was, in short, an unmitigated success. Mounting a more powerful Shvetsov M-62 engine and retractable wheels (unusual for a biplane) it gained an almost 100 km/h speed advantage over its older sibling. In addition the four slow firing PV-1 machine guns were replaced with the ShKAS machine gun which fired some 2.3 times faster, making its firepower competitive with more modern fighters of the period; however its dominance was short lived.

I-153 equipped with skids to start from
snowy and frozen surfaces

While successful in Khalkhin Gol it was matched by the latest Japanese monoplanes and more powerful engines did not improve top speed. Although well loved by crews for its sublime combat performance, enemy forces developed effective counter tactics, and finally it could no longer meet future performance requirements so retirement came fast. Decades later a number of I-153’s wrecks were found across the former Soviet Union and restored to flying condition, keeping this last great biplane fighter alive today.

Rifle caliber machine guns (5 to 10mm) are a low energy round that has a difficult time penetrating even thin aluminum skin of new aircraft being built, but it was far from a useless weapon in air combat. Its chief advantage is a fast firing, high velocity, nearly flat trajectory making it very easy for even inexperienced pilots to get their rounds on target. To compensate for the low damage potential of the round a number of aircraft were equipped with 4 or more and faster firing machine guns. The king of the latter is the ShKAS machine gun, firing an astounding 1800 rounds per minute (rpm). Although losing some rpm due to propeller synchronization it was still a massive improvement over the earlier PV-1’s and the well spaced square centerline mount achieves an optimal kill sweetspot; one does not need to be a marksman to get rounds on target.

A group of I-153 equipped with ground
attack rockets preparing for liftoff

In War Thunder the I-153 itself is a very capable fighter, the fastest of the biplanes although slow compared to nearly all monoplane fighters. In contrast compared to biplanes it has average maneuverability yet it can readily out maneuver any monoplane fighter and is very hard to get into a spin. It possible to turn into an attacker and let loose with a wall of bullets before they can achieve a firing solution. At the very least one can readily spoil the attacks and have a chance at a split second burst as they pass. As an attacker, buy your time, don’t underestimate how fast they can turn around and bite you! The treat with this lethal package is the 8 count RS-82 rockets option, making it a downright vicious little beast!

While any novice can do well with this fighter, being experienced with deflection shooting and having independent view (use Track IR or OR) for maximum situational awareness will make you go from good to a terror. This little beast also benefits from being flown very aggressively: engage attackers and take swipes every chance but short bursts only, ammo goes very fast. You have two identical I-153’s in the tree of BR 2.3 in AB/HB, the regular and “Zhukovsky’s” premium, a great one-two AB punch. Make sure to upgrade the weapons as soon as possible. A parting shot: don't be afraid to take it in team matches of much higher BR’s and frustrate attackers who don't have a chance to shoot you but find their tail feathers chewed up instead.

Author: Joe "Pony51" Kudrna

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