Chinese I-15bis

Updated on January 30, 2017

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186 I-153s were delivered to Chinese AF in two deliveries in the first quarter of 1938, and equipped the 5st and 6th Fighter Group (according to Gordon, Dexter).

In a first time, the planes wore the usual Soviet livery with AII green uppersurfaces and aluminium/AE-9 grey undersurfaces; the Soviet red stars were deleted with green paint; the planes received Chinese white-blue suns under the lower wings and, probably, over the upper ones (but not on the fuselage sides). The rudder were painted with white and blue stripes.

The profile represents plane n. 2109 (P-7163) flown by the ace Liu Chi-Sheng. The inscription on the cowling says that it was a presentation aircraft from Chinese living in Honolulu, Hawaii.

On the wing strut, we can see a flower (probably yellow with black outlines) and a thin horizontal line. There is some repainting on the front of the cowling, probably made with Chinese olive drab.


Above: image of the Polikarpov I-15bis no. 2109 on 7 July 1939. This aircraft was a presentation aircraft from Chinese living in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Below: image of the pilot Liu Chi-Sheng and plane 2109.

Above: a similar plane, probably of the same unit. Here the rudder (and possibly the upper wing roundels) was repainted in olive drab to reduce the evidence of the plane.

Above: plane 2204, probably of the same unit. It's likely that the flower was the marking of the unit, while the horizonal lines, in variable number, were related to the squadron.

Above and below: other planes, featuring partially bright-painted spinners. The plane below seems to have its prop blades painted black or olive.



Above: this drawing shows Chinese roundels both above and below the wings. This is likely the original painting of the planes when delivered.

Below: another drawing of the same author shows Chinese I-16s and Dewotine with their markings on the upper wing surface and rudder deleted with olive drab paint. This was probably done due to the inferiority of Chinese pilots when compared to their Japanese opponents.


Above: a Chinese I-15bis seen from the cockpit of a Japanese bomber 'Sally'. The undersurfaces are still light, including the lower face of the cowling.


Below: a Chinese I-15bis (n.305?) with the undersurface of fuselage and landing gear (and, probably, the roundels on the wings uppersurface) repainted in olive drab. The rudder is still white and blue, and the undersurfaces seem still of light color. The front shutter is still in place.

Below: an interpretation of the plane photographed above. It is not clear if the repainting covered only the parts that were previously light, or it extends over the original AII green.

Below: another plane (n.2303?) with similar painting, but lightened with the removal of the front shutter, spinner and wheel fairings. Strangely, the front of the blades is still in aluminium color.


Below: this plane turned upside down after an accident is not an original I-15bis, but a Chinese-built derivative called Zhong-28B, distinguishable for the 3-blades propeller, Wright Cyclone engine, ailerons on lower wings too, different cowling and exhaust pipes, straight upper wing, different wheels and other minor details. Only 30 were built, because the plane was heavier of the original and less performing. They were used only as trainers, and disappeared from service within 1943.

Image from Polikarpov fighters in action, Squadron Signal


Sources: : discussion about Chinese I-15bis and I-153s : history of the Soviet fighters in China. collection of images and notes from Russian magazines.


Soviet Fighters in the Sky of China (1937-1940) by Anatolii Demin, Aviatsiia i Kosmonavtika nombers from 9/2000 to 2/2001

Polikarpov biplane fighters of Y.Gordon and K. Dexter, Red Stars vol.6

Polikarpow I-15bis, of M. Maslov, Wydawnictwo Militaria n.199