An icon of the early stages of the Russian/German campaign the I-16 Rata (Rat) was the mainstay of the Soviet fighter air arm in 1941-42. As uncompromising in performance as itís looks would suggest the I-16 proved to be comparable to the Bf 109E series and acquitted itself very well in aerial combat. The design was really Ďbare-bonesí stuff and although it was the first fighter fitted with retracting undercarriage this was only achieved by strenuous efforts on a hand crank, I-16 pilots were immediately recognisable by an over developed right arm!! The very short coupled airframe resulted in an extremely sensitive control response and although very well armed - two 7.6mm machine guns and two 20mm cannon - accurate aiming was frustrated by the need for a hefty pull on the wire toggle to fire the guns often resulting in unplanned manoeuvres. The cockpit was left open and with a height capability in excess of 30,000 ft the I-16 must have been one of most uncomfortable aircraft environments in WW2.
The version in the image was flown at Duxford this year, a quite remarkable sight and sound, and is presented in a composite image with itís standard adversary the Bf 109E. Cloudscape from that well known Russian region of South Ayrshire!