I-16 Type 5 of 1936/37 (with sliding canopy)

Updated on 16 February 2021

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The second prototype of the I-16 was the TsKB-12bis equipped with an imported Wright R-1820F-2 Cyclone engine with 600 hp output and a three-blades Hamilton Standard propeller. This propeller rotated counterclockwards, the opposite of the M-22, so the fin had to be rotated leftwards instead of rightwards of 2° to compensate the torque.

The image aside shows that the Cyclone-engined prototype, in its original form, had a NACA cowling, similar to that of the M-22 engined prototype but with a slightly larger diameter, a fixed ski gear and closed bays. The barrels of the machine guns suggest covers on dummy ones. The pitot probe was forked as on the M-22 engined prototype.

The plane appears unmarked, painted (probably) overall red with blue cowling sides as the TsKB-15 (I-17).

The plane first flew in early 1934, flown by V. Chkalov, and was judged tricky and difficult to fly.

The test flight started on 16 February 1934 for both the M-22 engined prototype, flown by Vladimir K.Kokkinaki (M-22 prototype) and V.Stepanchonok (Cyclone prototype), and were completed on 26.

On April 14, the plane was damaged due to a landing gear failure, and had to be repaired and modified.

Image from Red Stars n.3 of Gordon and Dexter

In its modified form after the accident, the prototype TsKB-12 bis was hardly recognizable. A new engine cowling was adopted, covering a new imported Wright Cyclone SGR-1820-F-3 moving an imported two blades Hamilton-Standard propeller with a spinner. Besides, the ailerons and their hinges were modified; the space between wings and ailerons was reduced, and the hinges were no longer protruding under the wing surface.

The photo shows the TsKB-15 bis after these modifications; apart for small details, as the wider rear end of the exhaust pipes recesses on the sides of the cowling and the long plate covering the hinges of the rudder, it really resembled a production Type 5.

The painting was (probably) uniform glossy red, including the vanes and struts of the landing gear but excluding the prop blades that were unpainted. No markings can be seen.

In this form, the prototype TsKB-12bis was the forerunner of the I-16 Type 5.


Image from Istrebitel I-16 of Maslov.




Front image of TsKB-12 bis. Compared to production Type 5, one can see that the frontal vents were larger, and not provided with any shutter.

The engine is well visible through these vents.

The new American engine was often referred as RCF-3 in SSSR; it had to be license produced at GAZ-19 at Perm as the M-25; it offered an output of 630 hp, compared to the 480 hp of the M-22 that equipped the Type 4. Anyway, the start of the production was more difficult of what had been thought, and the M-25 was put into production only in October 1935.

Image from Istrebitel I-16 of Maslov.



In the meanwhile, a first batch of pre-series Type 5 with imported Wright-Cyclone engines was produced in GAZ-39 in Khodynka in late 1935. The take off weight of preseries Type 5 was 1535 kg, compared to the 1430 kg of the Type 4; its speed arose to 457 km/h.

The real prototype of production Type 5 was the TsKB-12 s/n 123954, the 54th I-16 type 4 built by GAZ 39 converted to the RCF-3/M-25 engine.

The inscription A 4 on the tail could be a racing number, in fact the plane flew with the 'Red Five' aerobatic team.

A front view of the same plane. The red stars are vaguely visible under the wings, so one can suppose that they were on the fuselage and on the top of the wings even if they don't appear on the photos.

The cooling shutters are clearly visible in the half-closed position.

Note the 'thin' 100x750 mm wheels, characteristic of early I-16s up to the spring 1937.


Image from Istrebitel I-16 of Maslov.

A detail of the front plate and propeller. The shutters are fully open leaving the cylinders and the spark plugs wiring visible


Image from Istrebitel I-16 of Maslov.



Massive production of Type 5 with M-25 engine and V-25 propeller started in early 1936 at GAZ-21 and GAZ-153.

When compared to the Type 4, the early production Type 5 differed for:

  • engine M-25 instead of M-22;
  • new cowling, tapered on the rear, closed on the front;
  • 9 vents on the front plate, one in front of each cylinder;
  • shutter to close or open the frontal vents; it opened with a rotational movement;
  • 8 scalloped ports on the sides for 9 individual exhaust tubes of 9 cylinders; the upper left port usually had two pipes; in some early type 5, the exceeding pipe came out from the right upper port instead of the left;
  • VFSh propeller with pitch adjustable only on the ground, with pointed spinner (as on later types 10, 12 and 17);
  • a small bulge on the upper left part of the tail cone, present on type 4, disappeared on Type 5;
  • tail fin twisted to the left of 2° to compensate the torque of the propeller, that turned counter-clockwise (the tail of Type 4 was twisted 2° on the right);
  • new improved ailerons without the gap between wings and ailerons that was characteristic of production type 4 and with flushed hinges, no longer protruding under the wing surface;
  • provision for 200 kg bomb load.

All the Type 5 built in 1936 had 100x750 mm wheels, as on Type 4, but thinner than the 150 x 750 wheels introduced in spring 1937.








Above: top view of Type 5 produced in 1936.

  • the wing structure was as on Type 4, with 11 ribs;
  • the ailerons were stronger than those of Type 4, and hadn't visible space between wings and ailerons; the protection of their actuating lever appeared on the upper surface of the wings;
  • the tail fin was turned to the left, instead of on the right, of 2°.

Above: the bottom view of a typical Type 5, common to all variants with M-25 and M-25A engine.

The protruding hinges under the wings of Type 4 had disappeared on Type 5, as well the wide spaces between wings and ailerons..

When compared to later versions (Type 10 and later), all the Type 5 wings had longer ailerons, and no flaps.

An unclear point is about the diameter of the propeller: according to this sketch with measures from the manual of I-16 M-25, the diameter of the propeller was 2.9 m, leaving a clearance to the ground of 200 mm in take-off and landing. Other measures from the manual are coherent with this diameter.

All other documents about the propeller of the I-16 type 5 describe a diameter of 2.8 m. We have to conclude that the initial diameter of the propeller was 2.9 m, later reduced to 2.8 m, but it is unclear when this change was made. Perhaps only one prototype had this larger propeller.


An I-16 Type 5 (or better, a late TsKB-12 with Cyclone engine) exposed to the Milan exhibition in October 1935. It was equipped with a Wright Cyclone engine, and raised much interest for the retractable landing gear and the enclosed canopy.

The plane reportedly had a beige (or cream)/red livery and was described as an 'apparecchio scuola veloce', fast school plane, without armament.

(From Profile n.122)


This image shows a very early type 5 'red 1' photographed at NII VVS with an experimental fuel tank.

The new cowling of the M-25A with drop-sized exhaust recesses is clearly recognizable.

The wing has still 11 ribs only, as on Type 4; during its evolution, the type 5 received strenghtened wings with 11 extra half-ribs on the fabric-skinned part of the wings uppersurface.

(image from Red Stars n.3, Gordon and Dexter)


The same plane, equipped with skis, was utilized to test a conformal tank under its fuselage.

The second image shows the tank while dropping.

The plane was equipped with fixed ski gear; the landing gear bays were closed to reduce drag.

Images from Istrebitel I-16 of Maslov


A Type 5 tested with FAB-100 bombs under the wings. Further smaller empty racks for small bombs are visible outside.


  • the fixed ski gear;
  • the closed bays;
  • a dark triangular area on each leading edge, possibly red;
  • an unusual landing light on each leading edge.


A detail of a FAB-100 bomb on the same plane.

The landing gear struts look black.

Images from Istrebitel I-16 of Maslov


Image of Type 5 with interesting markings, probably during winter maneuvers before the war outbreak.

The ski gear was fixed in outer position, and probably the landing gear wells were closed to reduce drag.

The photo allows to count 11 ribs on the wings, that identifies the wings as typical production of 1936.


In October 1937, many I-16 type 5 were delivered to China for her war against the Japanese invasion. The most of those were with the sliding canopy.

At first, they preserved the original Soviet livery: green uppersurfaces, probably blue or silver/grey undersurfaces, black nose.

The Chinese markings were put above and below the wings; the rudder was painted with white-blue stripes, and white codes were painted on the fins.

In the first year, all the Type 5 supplied to China were armed with old PV-1 machine guns, whose barrel resembles that of the Browning machine guns; ShKAS were supplied to China only one year later.

Images from the web




After the start of the Spanish Civil War, the Soviet government decided to help the Republican government by selling weapons and sending volunteers.

A first batch of 31 early I-16 type 5, early type, arrived in Spain in October 1936.

The photos show plane n.9 of the first batch, flown by Vladimir Bocharov; it was damaged on 13 November 1936, during the very first action of this type near Madrid, and captured by Nationalists.

The photos show the plane with its ShKAS removed.


A further batch of 31 Type 5 arrived in February 1937.

The operational experience in Spain involved some accidents and showed that the plane needed some strengthening, particularly on the wheels and on the upper surface of the wings.

The next 62 Type 5 (2 batches) arrived in May 1937; probably they were equipped with reinforced wings and thicker wheels (150 x 750 mm instead of 100 x 750 mm), and with enough spare wings to replace the ones of the I-16s already in Spain.

These modifications became standard on I-16 Type 5 in the spring of 1937, probably joined with the more developed engine M-25A with an output of 730 hp and a reorganization of the engine vane, support and firewall, not visible from outside.

These modifications are scarcely visible on photos, but it is likely that some of them (the reinforced wings and thicker wheels) were refitted to many older planes.

Part of the late Type 5 were equipped with an armoured backrest.



Below: the top view of typical Type 5 of spring/summer 1937, with strengthened wings, thicker wheels (150x750 mm) and M-25A engine:

  • the metal skinning was extended rearwards reducing the fabric only-covered part (note that fabric was extended over the metal skinning too to give a smooth surface);
  • a partial rib was inserted in each space between the original 11 ribs to strengthen the fabric skinning; often the partial ribs were less protruding and evident than the original ones, at least on early/mid production I-16 types.

Above: the bottom view of a typical Type 5, common to all variants with M-25/25A engine. The lower surface of the wings was left unchanged, with 11 ribs.

During the production of Type 5, 4 small vents with metallic covers open rearwards were added under the wing fillet.

When compared to later versions (Type 10 and later), the Type 5 wings had longer ailerons, and no flaps.

The wheel well plates of the Type 4/5 lacked the dzud locks introduced on Type 10 and later, and the inside of the wheel bays (not visible on the drawing) was a bit different, having large kidney-shaped windows and a single rib.


This sharp image of 1939 shows well the closer ribs on the wing surface.

The position of the numbers on the fuselage side is unusual before the war outbreak.

Images from Istrebitel I-16 of Maslov


This photo of the summer 1941, after the war's outbreak, shows clearly the inside structure of the reinforced wings. It shows also the shift to the left of the fin, the thick wheels, the twin fuel caps over the nose and other details.

Image from Scalemodels.ru.


Sharp images of a line of I-16 Type 5 of 13 regiment of the KBF (Baltic Fleet) in 1939.

Type 5 wasn't provided with a self-starter, so the engine needed to be started with an outer action (manual or with a truck-mounted starter)


The same plane after being started; unfortunately its number can't be seen.

Right: a detail of the same plane shows clearly that it had 2 exhaust pipes coming out from the same recess on the right side, instead of the left side as usual. This was very rare and happened only on some early Type 5.

The images allow to see that the closer planes were early Type 5 of 1936/37, while the far ones are Type 10 or 17 of 1938/39.

Both plane 9 and 10 have one pipe from the upper right recess, as usual.

The difference in shade of the undersurfaces between the older and newer planes is noteworthy: the planes of 1936-37 were painted with a much darker shade, probably a blue that turned to grew with ageing, while the planes of 1938-39 were painted with light grey AE-9 on metallic parts and AII aluminum on fabric-skinned parts. the shade of the 'protective' green should have changed too, passing from the olive green used up to 1937 to the darker AII green of late 1937, that remained in use up to spring 1940.

The black nose, predominant up to the end of 1937 or the beginning of 1938, was abandoned in favour of a dark green/light grey cowling.

The color of the wheel disks, legs and inner face of the covers is different too: black for the older planes, and probably light grey for the newer ones.




The colors of the spinner can only be guessed; they could be red as the stars, that appear light in the photos.

Note that plane 9 (red with white outline?) has a white (?) outline around each vent of its front.

Besides, it was equipped with a gun camera on its back.

Other typical operational I-5s before the war. The black cowlings and spinners were a factory standard in 1935-37.

Note the dark shade of blue or grey-blue of the undersurfaces.

Photo: propjet.ucoz.ru


Ski-equipped type 5 'red 3' of 13th Avio Escadrille of the 61st Avio Brigade of the Red Banner Baltic Fleet Air Force during the Winter War. The plane was flown by Senior lieutenant Novikov.

The slogan means "For the Constitution of the SSSR!", probably painted in silver. It is not known if there were other slogans on the other side. Probably 'Za' is overposed to the tip of a standard red star, not contrasting on this photo.

The painting could be the original one of 1936, with blue undersurfaces and black cowling.

Image from http://www.bellabs.ru/Fotab/Sov-Fin/Sov-Fin.html



I-16 Type 5 damaged on the airfield and captured by Germans. The number 1 painted on the rudder looks red with white shadowing.

Noteworthy is the detail of the production number 521536 painted in white on the rear fuselage, the stabilizer and the rudder.

As usual, the frames of the windshield and the front of the prop blades were unpainted.

Images from the web.


Two images of an I-16 type 5 wrecked at the war outbreak. The undersurface is well visible. The difference in shade between metal parts (as the panels close to the landing gear) and fabric and wood-skinned parts (as the wing panels and the rear fuselage) is evident.

Images from the web




Interesting image of a Type 5 captured by Germans with an aluminum/black livery.

The nose, vaguely visible under the cover, is black.

A number, possibly a yellow 8 with black shadowing, is vaguely visible on the rudder.

Image from the web.


I-16 Type 5 captured at Kaunas, Lithuania, in summer 1941. Its tail is marked with a 4, probably red with white outline, and has a white tip.

Note the black cowling and apparently silver fuselage undersurface.



Two images of the aft-sliding canopy and of the OP-1 gunsight.

The rails on the sides and the small circular windows to make light for the instrument panel are evident too.

We see the large opening for the OP-1 and its support; when the canopy was slided off, this opening was closed by a small shield, probably of rubber; this compromised the forward visibility.

The pilots usually flew with the canopy completely slided forward in open position to have better visibility and better chances to leave the plane in case of an emergency.

The flat panels were by glass, while the curved upper one was of plastic.

Note the different shade of the plastic top in comparison to the glass flat panels.




Some details of the sliding canopy taken by Germans during Barbarossa.

Note that the side door could be opened only when the canopy was fully forward.




This plane was lost in December 1939. It was unusual for its 3 digits number 228 on the tail.


Image from the web.



Plane 2 photographed at Siauliai air base in Lithuania during Barbarossa; note the (red?) cap outlined in white on its tail. The number seems yellow or light blue with a thin white outline.

The OP-1 optical sight was removed.


similar white (?) 4, possibly in the same airfield. The fabric skinning was removed, leaving the underlying metal structure and skinning visible. The ribs (11 complete ones alternated to 11 partial ones) can be clearly seen.

Images from the web.


This plane captured by Germans in 1941 shows a nice thin white (?) 2 with a thick red (?) shadowing.

On its left side, we see that the red star was overpainted with a white swastika.

The plane has been repainted according to the standard of 1938-40, with AII green uppersurfaces and silver and grey undersurfaces (silver on fabric-skinned parts, grey on metallic parts).

Strangely, the OP-1 gunsight is still in its position.

Here is visible the black painting of the outer rear sector of the blades, very worn in its outer part; this partial black painting was a prewar standard on Soviet planes.

Images from the web.


Plane 3-1 wrecked after the war outbreak. Note the unusual double number 3.1 on the rudder and the white transversal band, apparently not extending to the lower surface of the fuselage.

The cowling has still the original factory black painting, a standard in 1936-37.

The plane features the characteristic black cowling of Type 5s, but it's likely that the plane was repainted with the colors of 1938/40 at least once on the uppersurfaces.


This plane has a yellow or light blue number 7 with white outlining. The color of the numbers was often indicative of the squadron within the regiment.

Unusually, the OP-1 gunsight is still in its place.




Strangely, this old-fashioned Type 5 shows a small T-shaped air intake for an oil cooler that denotes that its M-25 or M-25A engine was replaced with the more advanced M-25V. This could be due to some overhauling, or to the occasional introduction of newer engines on the production line according to their availability. The plane had an armoured backrest too.

A number 8, possibly red with white outline, is visible on the rudder.

Image from the web.

Another old-fashioned Type 5 M-25V with the engine panels removed. The T-shaped intake is visible behind the lower prop blade.

The side panel lies on the wing root. The inner ramps of the exhaust recesses can be seen.


Interesting Type 5 (probably with M-25V engine) adapted to ground assault plane, probably in 1942. The most interesting characteristic is that the sliding windshield was shortened and adapted as a fixed one. The gunsight was refitted too, it looks a PAK-1b as on type 24.

Two RS-82 rockets are visible under each wing.

The cowling and some areas appear painted with a lighter shade of green, probably AMT-4, A-19f or 4BO.

Image: archive Zaika


Type 5 in German markings




Type 5 captured and repainted by Germans. The colors are of difficult interpretation, they could be Gelb 04 for the lower surfaces, nose and rudder, and Grau 02 for the upper surfaces.

The code CO+?X is partially readable on the fuselage, and was probably reported under the wings.

Image from the web.


Another photo, possibly of the same plane.

An attempt to highlight the image seems to show a letter S under the wing; if so, the full code could be CO+SX.

Image from the web.



This work was made with the important help of Bernard Le Guenno (BLG), Daniele Righi (Righidan), Andrey Averin (Dabbler), Charles Green, PG Monster and Aleksandrs Ruckovskis.



This work collects photos from many sources, not always identified and mentioned. This was made for research purposes, not intended to obtain an economical gain from them nor to offend the rights of anyone.

Besides, many of the images were published on multiple sources, making difficult to credit them to one source without forgetting other ones.

If someone has rights on the images reproduced here, please don't feel hurted, email to me and I shall provide to remove or to credit them.