Military Factory logo
Icon of F-15 Eagle military combat fighter aircraft
Icon of Abrams Main Battle Tank
Icon of AK-47 assault rifle
Icon of navy warships
Icon of a dollar sign
Icon of military officer saluting
National Flag Graphic

Polikarpov I-1

Monoplane Fighter


Too many inherent faults restricted the Polikarpov I-1 from attaining official operational service with Soviet units of the Inter-war years.

Detailing the development and operational history of the Polikarpov I-1 Monoplane Fighter.  Entry last updated on 4/6/2016. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©
The Polikarpov line of aircraft under the flag of the Soviet Union began with the "I-1", the first indigenously designed and developed Soviet monoplane fighter. The design stemmed from Nikolai Polikarpov himself , aided by I.M. Kostkin, and the two brought about a modern single-seater that utilized a low-set monoplane wing planform. The prototype - IL-400 - achieved a first-flight on August 15th, 1923 but the I-1 series, as a whole, proved quite forgettable in the annals of Soviet aviation history.

The wooden aircraft was powered by an American "Liberty" L-12 water-cooled engine of 400 horsepower driving a two-blade propeller at the nose. The pilot sat in an open-air cockpit ahead of midships and the fuselage was given a well-tapered form with slab sides. The wing mainplanes were straight in their general design and featured clipped tips. The tail unit was traditional with a sole vertical fin and fuselage-mounted horizontal planes. The undercarriage was wheeled (under center mass) and incorporated a tail skid at the rear.

During its initial flight, IL-400 showcased such longitudinal instability that it led to a crash. This forced a major reworking of the design both internally and externally. Wooden construction still prevailed but thinner wings were implemented as well as a corrugated dural skinning technique. This revised form became IL400b (IL-2) and achieved its own first flight on July 18th, 1924. It was envisioned that the finalized military product would carry a pair of 7.62 machine guns set to fire over the nose and through the spinning propeller blades by way of interrupter gear.

Soviet authorities liked what they saw in the Polikarpov product and, after completing state trials, an order for eight aircraft was placed. This was then followed by an order for twenty-five more though completed to an all-wood construction standard. The finalized fighting model, I-1M-5 (IL-3), achieved a first flight on March 16th, 1926. This was powered by the local, license-produced copy of the Liberty engine designated "M-5".

Including the two prototypes, only 35 I-1 series aircraft were completed in all. The design was still found to be inherent unstable in certain envelopes and generally underpowered for a fighting type. Additionally, quality control from the Polikarpov facility brought the series down further and restricted its official deployment to Soviet aviation units. The first Soviet "exit-by-parachute" from an aircraft was done by Mikhail Gromov, this by necessity when his I-1 could not be recovered from a spin (June 1927).

As completed, the I-1 exhibited a length of 8.3 meters, a wingspan of 10.8 meters and a gross weight of 3,330 lb. Maximum speed attainable from the fuselage/engine mating was 165 miles per hour while a range of 404 miles was met. The aircraft's service ceiling reached 22,150 feet.


YEAR: 1923
MANUFACTURER(S): Polikarpov OKB - Soviet Union
LENGTH: 27.23 ft (8.3 m)
WIDTH: 35.43 ft (10.8 m)
EMPTY WEIGHT: 2,458 lb (1,115 kg)
MTOW: 3,329 lb (1,510 kg)
POWER: 1 x M-5 water-cooled engine (Liberty L-12) developing 400 horsepower and driving a two-bladed propeller at the nose.
SPEED: 165 mph (265 kph; 143 kts)
CEILING: 22,146 feet (6,750 m; 4.19 miles)
RANGE: 404 miles (650 km; 351 nm)
OPERATORS: Soviet Union (cancelled)

2 x 7.62mm machine guns over the nose set to fire through the spinning propeller blades by way of interrupter gear.
Graphical image of an aircraft medium machine gun
Variants / Models

• I-1 - Base Series Designation
• IL-400 - Initial all-wood prototype; Liberty L-12 engine of 400hp.
• IL-400b (IL-2) - Second prototype with metal skin; revised thinner wing sections; redesigned internally and externally.
• I-1M-5 (IL-3) - Revised IL-400b with all-wood construction; M-5 400hp engine; 33 examples completed.

Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.

Image of collection of graph types

Relative Maximum Speed
Hi: 200mph
Lo: 100mph
This entry's maximum listed speed (165mph).

Graph average of 150 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
Graph showcases the Polikarpov I-1's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production (35)
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units

  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.

Altitude Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Supported Roles
Ground Attack
Aerial Tanker
A2A=Air-to-Air; UAV=Unmanned; CAS=Close Support; ASW=Anti-Submarine; AEW=Airborne Early Warning; MEDEVAC=Medical Evac; EW=Electronic Warfare; SAR=Search-Rescue
Commitments / Honors
Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Midway
Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
Military lapel ribbon for the Chaco War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cuban Missile Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for pioneering aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the French-Indochina War
Military lapel ribbon for the Golden Age of Flight
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Iran-Iraq War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
Military lapel ribbon for the Malayan Emergency
Military lapel ribbon representing modern aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Six Day War
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Suez Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for Warsaw Pact of the Cold War-era
Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur War
Military lapel ribbon for experimental x-plane aircraft
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.

Site Disclaimer  |  Privacy Policy  |  Cookies  |  Site Map Site content ©2003-, All Rights Reserved.

The "Military Factory" name and logo are registered ® U.S. trademarks protected by all applicable domestic and international intellectual property laws. All written content, illustrations, and photography are unique to this website (unless where indicated) and not for reuse/reproduction in any form. Material presented throughout this website is for historical and entertainment value only and should not to be construed as usable for hardware restoration, maintenance, or general operation. We do not sell any of the items showcased on this site. Please direct all other inquiries to militaryfactory AT

Part of a network of sites that includes GlobalFirepower, a data-driven property used in ranking the top military powers of the world, and, the World Directory of Modern Military Aircraft.

Facebook Logo YouTube Logo