The Fly and the Rat

The Soviet Union’s diminutive Polikarpov I-16 played an important part in the Spanish Civil War. Malcolm V Lowe outlines its frontline use during the conflict

An I-16 Type 10, presumably during landing. The aircraft probably belonged to Grupo Nº 21. The I-16’s main undercarriage was a rather complicated structure, while all the Moscas that flew in Spain were fitted with a tail skid.

The Spanish Civil War, fought between 1936-39, was very much an armed rehearsal for World War Two. Several countries found the conflict useful for testing military equipment, on the ground and in the air. The fascist powers of Germany and Italy donated masses of military aid to the rebel forces of General Franco, while the Soviet Union supplied a smaller but nonetheless important amount of materiel to the embattled Spanish government. Among the aircraft types delivered to the Republicans was a significant number of Polikarpov I-16 fighters, which proved to be a match on many occasions for their German and Italian adversaries.

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