Kit No. 72112
Comments: Interesting 1930’s experimental fighter; recommend aftermarket decals
The I-190 was an experimental fighter prototype produced by the Soviet Polikarpov Design Bureau, which sought in the late 1930’s to enhance the performance of its I-153 biplane fighter. The I-153 was developed from the I-15, which had fought with distinction in the Spanish Civil War. The I-153 itself saw combat in a Soviet-Japanese border clash at Halhin Gol in Mongolia in 1939, proving itself a match for the Nakajima Ki-27, a state-of-the-art monoplane fighter with fixed landing gear.
The I-190’s proponents at Polikarpov, encouraged by the brass in the Soviet VVS who believed biplanes would retain a role in the world’s air forces, sought to extend the I-153’s viability with improved performance in the face of a wave of new monoplane fighters introduced by the other major powers. Both the I-153 and the I-190 had a distinct look due to the inverted gull dihedral of the upper wing, a design aspect that was retained despite its unpopularity among pilots since it reduced their visibility. The I-190 had an enlarged double-row Shvetsov M88 radial engine of 1,100 horsepower, requiring a larger, longer, re-designed cowl. It also differed in appearance from the I-153 in having a spinner over the propeller, giving it a slightly more aerodynamic look.
Despite these changes, the I-190 never went into production, as it never achieved the desired improved performance. This was due in part to the increased weight resulting from the longer fuselage, larger engine, and the replacement of the original fabric ailerons with plywood, all of which adversely affected the I-190’s power-to-weight ratio and overall performance.
The I-190 took its maiden flight on December 30, 1939. The M88 engine, reportedly able to attain a service ceiling of 40,682 feet, was still not powerful enough to offset the new airframe’s additional weight. The I-190’s maximum speed of 450kph, or 279 mph, was too slow to pose any real threat to the German Messerschmitt Bf109, and the superior maneuverability of the I-153/I-190 airframe was deemed insufficient for fighter production, without the speed to match. History from I-153 test flights repeated itself when I-190 testing continued until it was clear that no greater speed could be wrung from the design. It did not help that newer monoplane airframes from the MiG and Yakovlev Design Bureaus looked far more promising. But the I-190 program continued, its engineers working to improve the type’s maximum speed, until a crash of one of the only two prototypes on February 13, 1941. The program was subsequently cancelled. Developments abroad helped undercut the advocates of high performance biplane design in Russia; with the advent of the Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire in Britain, the Focke Wulf 190 and improved versions of the Bf 109 in Germany, the Dewoitine 520 in France, and the P-36 and P-40 in the United States, design trends were moving inevitably toward low-wing monoplane fighters, and the days of the biplane were all but finished. With Nazi Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union just 4 months after the I-190 crash, research and development on many such experimental projects was halted indefinitely.
This is a neat little kit reminiscent of the Frog/Airfix/MPC quality of the mid- to late-1960’s, with the added refinement of finely engraved panel lines. It is molded in white with a single clear plastic piece for the windshield of the open cockpit. The kit was a little funky right out of the box because the white plastic had greenish smears and dark specks in it – Amodel hails from Poland and this was probably some kind of imperfection in the mold. Careful washing in warm soapy water followed by air drying eliminated any residual chemical agents that might have interfered with the paint job. The engraved panel lines are a little faint, and care must be taken to ensure they are not obscured by sanding. They hold up well enough under painting and are better than they look initially. Parts are provided for either wheels or skis as landing gear; two 200 kg/440 lb. bombs mounted under each wing; and there is a choice of two different cowlings and spinners.
The I-190 was intended to be the next generation of bi-plane fighter, an improved I-153 design. The I-153 had performed well against Japanese Nakajima fighters in a prolonged 1939 border clash in Manchuria, and in the hands of experienced pilots even held its own against more advanced Messerschmitts in the opening phases of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. But the experimental I-190 never lived up to the hopes of its designers; only two prototypes were completed before the program was cancelled in 1941.
One thing immediately evident is that the cockpit’s instrument panel is a bit large for the scale, and its edges had to be sanded down considerably before it passed the dry fit test, fitting flush between the two fuselage halves. Likewise for the cockpit floor. The seat is a two-piece bucket arrangement and looks pretty good for 1/72 scale. I enhanced it with pre-painted early war RAF photo-etch seat belts by Eduard. I went no further in detailing as the seat is the only thing remotely visible once the fuselage is assembled. The instrument panel detail is fair at best, and a one-piece rudder pedal assembly and the control stick complete the cockpit.
Overall, the fit on this kit is pretty good with a bit of sanding and patience. It does not fall together by any means, but the quality is fairly solid. Putty is required to hide the seams, particularly where the upper and lower wings attach to the fuselage, and to make the two halves of the engine cowling appear as a single piece.
The forward ends of the fuselage halves are a bit tricky, as there is only one small contact point to hold them together when gluing the fuselage, a small area on the belly just behind the point where the engine cowling is glued on. This little section is best glued together with quick-drying super glue gel. The upper and lower wings are each a single piece. There are minor fit problems with the lower wing, which did not sit flush against the fuselage until the internal bulges from the outer edges of the wheel well depressions in its center, hidden from view once the wing is on, were sanded down.
For landing gear, I decided to go with the skis. The ski struts are very delicate and require a lot of care when removing them from the sprue. Super glue gel is definitely required during this phase of construction. I recommend replacing the spindly kit struts with short lengths of metal wire, since the starboard strut broke repeatedly during construction. When I get around to the Smer I-153 in my collection, I may do this. The instructions are not entirely clear on attaching the skis, and I recommend careful study of the main landing gear, and reference photos to overcome this. I broke the tail skid while sanding it down, and had to fashion a replacement from sheet plastic.
I painted the cockpit with a White Ensign Models enamel, Blue Grey Metal Primer, a standard interior color in WWII Soviet aircraft and somewhat similar in hue to the Duck Egg Green used by the Royal Air Force. The entire exterior is airbrushed with a Model Master acrylic, US Navy Blue Gray, which matched very closely the shade of gray on the box illustration. As the I-190 was an experimental aircraft of which a total of two were built, I was not terribly worried about dead-on accuracy on the paint scheme, just so it looked good. The landing gear and skis are painted Polly Scale Anodized Aluminum. The kit has very subtle but effective engraved panel lines, most of which I was able to bring out with a faint wash of flat black.
I do not recommend using the kit decals, as their quality is poor. They look much better in this article’s photographs than in the flesh. In my opinion, they are too delicate, moreso than the finest Microscale types, and their color does not ring true. They did not want to lay down, and did not grip the surface of the model well, despite the preparatory clear gloss coat. They also reacted poorly to Testors decal set — the least caustic of my decal solvents – crinkling up on contact and refusing to smooth out afterwards. Since the I-190 was an experimental plane, the decals consist primarily of red stars, so finding appropriate replacements will not be difficult.
After waiting a couple of hours I rolled a Q-Tip over the decals to help flatten them out. This helped a lot but did not completely eliminate the crinkling, and caused one of the red stars to break up. Decals reacted poorly to the final gloss coat also, crinkling yet again. Only one of the six red stars applied actually looked as desired by the end of the process. For those who use the kit decals, a more gradual application of gloss coat with the air brush under very low pressure may help alleviate the problem of lack of decal adherence, but my recommended solution for the persistent crinkling is to try different decals.
I was pleasantly surprised by the overall quality of this model. The decals and tricky landing gear are definite deficiencies, and super glue should be kept handy for the fuselage and skis. The fit problems required some work, but it was worth the effort. Amodel is another manufacturer notable for its repertoire of unusual aircraft kits, and the availability of such uncommon types more than make up for the few drawbacks I’ve noted here. I look forward to building Amodel’s Messerschmitt Bf109E, in Condor Legion colors – with aftermarket decals.