The Polikarpov I-5 was a single-seat biplane which became the primary Soviet fighter between its introduction in 1931 through 1936, after which it became the standard advanced trainer. Following Operation Barbarossa, which destroyed much of the Soviet Air Forces (VVS), surviving I-5s were equipped with four machine guns and bomb racks and pressed into service as light ground-attack aircraft and night bombers in 1941. They were retired in early 1942 as Soviet aircraft production began to recover and modern ground-attack aircraft like the Ilyushin Il-2 became available.
Length: 6.78 m (22 ft 3 in)
Upper wingspan: 10.24 m (33 ft 7 in)
Lower wingspan: 7.4 m (24 ft 3 in)
Wing area: 21.3 m2 (229 sq ft)
Empty weight: 934 kg (2,059 lb)
Gross weight: 1,355 kg (2,987 lb)
Fuel capacity: 165
Powerplant: 1 × Shvetsov M-22 9-cylinder, single-row radial engine, 358 kW (480 hp)
Propellers: 2-bladed duralumin, 2.7 m (8 ft 10 in) diameter
Maximum speed: 278 km/h (173 mph; 150 kn) at sea level
Range: 660 km (410 mi; 356 nmi)
Service ceiling: 7,500 m (24,606 ft)
Time to altitude: 1.6 minutes to 1,000 metres (3,300 ft)
Horizontal turn time: 10 sec
Armament: Guns: 2 × 7.62-mm PV-1 machine guns, Bombs: 2 × 22-lb (10-kg)
54 I-5s were delivered to the VVS by 1 October 1931, and 66 by the end of the year. These were all aircraft from Zavod Nr. 1 at Khodinka, but Zavod Nr. 21 in Gorkii began deliveries the following year. It delivered ten in 1932, 321 in 1933 and 330 in 1934. Zavod Nr. 1 delivered 76 in 1932 before beginning production of the Heinkel HD 37 as the I-7. The I-5 was first delivered to units in the Leningrad, Ukraine and Transbaikal Military Districts and comprised 20% of the VVS's fighter force by the end of 1932.
Artist: © Dmitriy Grinyuk
Source: Le Fana de L'Aviation
During 1933 deliveries began to units in the Far Eastern, Belorussian and Moscow Military Districts and they comprised 40% of the fighter strength by the end of the year. By the end of 1934 most of the Polikarpov I-3s and Tupolev I-4s had been replaced and deliveries had begun to Naval Aviation. The I-5 began to be replaced by the Polikarpov I-15 in 1936, and was completely phased out from front-line use by the end of 1937, but continued to be employed as an advanced trainer.
Following the German Invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, the heavy losses of front-line aircraft endured by the VVS together with the disruption of aircraft production resulted in I-5s being removed from training units and returned to combat service as ground-attack aircraft or night bombers until early 1942. Some I-5s were used by the 605th and 606th Fighter Regiments (Istrebitel'nyye Aviatsionyye Polki (IAP)) during the defence of Moscow as night bombers until re-equipping in February 1942.
The 2nd Ground Attack Regiment (Shturmovoy Aviatsionyye Polki (ShAP)) was raised in September 1941 in the Crimea from reservists and the Kachin Flying School. By 10 October thirty-two I-5s were on hand, although attrition had reduced them to sixteen serviceable. They were down to a total of a dozen aircraft by 18 October. They served until 1 February 1942 when the regiment was withdrawn for conversion to Ilyushin Il-2s and redesignated as the 766th ShAP.
The 11th ShAP was raised by the Air Force of the Black Sea Fleet on 22 September 1941. On 18 October it mustered eighteen serviceable and fifteen unserviceable I-5s, although this was reduced to eleven serviceable and eight unserviceable aircraft by 7 November. It kept the I-5s in service until 1 February 1942 when the regiment was reorganized.