Polikarpov I-16 Fighter
The I-16, though outclassed by its contemporaries, played many an important role throughout World War Two.
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The Polikarpov I-16 fighter proved to be quite the little aggressor before and throughout the Second World War. Initially seeing combat in the Spanish Civil War, the system would go on to see more during the Soviet invasion of Finland and the German invasion of the Soviet Union. In the end, though outclassed by better performing and more advanced aircraft, the system continued to provide support as late as 1943.
The I-16 looked very much the part of a racing airplane with an open-air cockpit, large radial piston engine housing and short stubby fuselage design. Couple that speed inherent in a small aircraft with a large engine with an array of 4 x 7.62mm machine guns, cannons or rockets and you have yourself a decent defender and / or aggressor airplane.
The I-16 saw extensive service for the Soviet Union throughout the war, be it in the war of aggression with Finland or the defense of the homeland versus the Third Reich. China used the type extensively in its campaign against Japanese aggression in the Far East and the system would bode very well for itself in the end, with production totaling just over 7,000 units.
By 1943, the system was deemed too impractical to continue to be fielded, considering the aircraft was being outclassed by any new fighter being developed around it, that the system was withdrawn from frontline Soviet service. Other variants existed including a torpedo dive bomber and dual-control trainer, along with improved models along the way.
In the end, the I-16 proved to be an exceptional fighter for a time - in the early years of the war at least - and featured great handling, nimbleness associated with small size and decent firepower at the point of attack.