The I-3 made its first
flight in 1928 and entered service the next year, becoming a primary fighter of
the Red Army Air Force with about 400 built. Although the I-3 flight performance was
on par with the Western fighters of the time and it had a certain potential for
further development, the type was phased out relatively quickly and replaced
with the I-7 (a license-built Heinkel HD-37).
The model released
by the Latvian company Nakotne in the early 90s is quite primitive by today's
standards and not entirely accurate. The most problematic parts are stabilizers,
which are too small and have a wrong shape, and a cowling, which is completely
flat, while on the real aircraft it had a complex cross-section defined by two
rows of the engine cylinders and two machine guns between them. The fabric
surface is represented nicely where needed, but the cowling and the
wings are spoiled by grotesquely overdone and entirely unnecessary
recessed lines. Interior is primitive, blocky and inaccurate. Many small – and
not so small – details like machine guns, exhaust pipes, gun sight, stabilizer
struts are missing entirely.
The work started
from the interior. Fuselage internal structure, seat, pedals, instrument panel
were built out of sheet styrene and stretched sprue. The instrument faces were
printed on an inkjet printer.
images below to see larger images
The cowling shape
was corrected by gluing two thick styrene strips on top of the cowling, blending
them with Milliput and making cutouts for two machine guns, which were built
from styrene and added later. Horrid panel lines were filled and replaced where
necessary with more delicate ones. Some panels and hatches were represented with
decal covered with Mr.Surfacer.
The upper wing has
two issues that need to be addressed: first, the division between plywood and
fabric skin near the leading edge is represented with the same exaggerated
recessed line, and second, there is a noticeable sink mark that runs along the
left half of the wing. This was cured by filling and sanding while masking each
space between two ribs separately to preserve the fabric effect.
are thick and wrong in shape were replaced with scratchbuilt ones made out of
sheet styrene. To achieve a fabric skin effect I glued thin plastic stripes to
act as ribs and then blended them by applying a few layers of Mr.Surfacer and
Most small details
were scratchbuilt as well. Wing struts were made out of wood (toothpicks,
actually), while styrene rods were used for the undercarriage struts.
Retractable radiator was also built from scratch with some sheet styrene.
Propeller, which was molded integrally with the spinner did not look right to
me, so I made new blades out of wood and corrected the spinner.
Navigation lights on
the upper wing were made using a piece of stretched sprue of about 0.5 mm
diameter which was given a drop shape. Then I drilled a hole in the its end,
filled it with red paint (green for the second light) and placed a tiny drop of
transparent epoxy resin over it.
The model was
painted with Aeromaster acrylics, white lightnings were airbrushed with Vallejo
off-white (the ones provided in the decal are too bright and have a wrong
shape). This was followed by a layer of Future, the decals (they are very good,
except that the stars are too small, so I had to use the lower wing stars for
the fuselage, and to find the stars for the lower wing in another kit) and
another layer of Future. The cowling was painted with Alclad Duraluminum and
then post-shading was applied using the mixture of Future and brown and gray
The final assembly
proved to be a little tricky, in spite of the primitive rig I made to hold the
upper wing in place, but finally I managed to install the wing and all the
struts. The last step was rigging, done using the elastic thread (it needs to be
split to get the appropriate thickness) and painted with Vallejo.
A few years ago when
I bought this model I thought it could be built straight out of the box.
However, since then my attitude towards this hobby changed. As a result, apart
from the wings, fuselage and wheels nothing much remained from the original kit.
Unfortunately, there is no easy way for anyone wanting to build a model of this
interesting and attractive subject in 1/72nd scale.
images below to see larger images