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I-185

OKB Polikarpov

V.P. Ivanov

I-185

<…> After the serious defeat of the Soviet troops in May and June 1942 in the Crimea and near Kharkov, the situation on the southern sector of the front deteriorated sharply. The enemy again seized the strategic initiative. In July, a fierce battle unfolded in the bend of the Don. In August, the Germans reached Stalingrad and in the foothills of the Caucasus. To achieve their goals, the enemy pulled up to two thousand tanks and aircraft to the southern sector of the front. The air forces of the Don, Stalingrad, South-Western fronts were inferior to the Germans in the number of combat vehicles.

Tests I-185 with M-71 and M-82A began to be carried out at an accelerated pace. They showed that with the M-82A engine, the aircraft was able to fully realize its capabilities. With a takeoff weight of 3448 kg (empty weight 2429 kg), it developed a speed of 515 km / h near the ground (549 km / h in afterburner), at an altitude of 3430 m (first altitude limit) - 590 km / h, at an altitude of 6470 m (second altitude limit) - 615 km / h. The I-185 gained an altitude of 5000 m in afterburner in 5.48 minutes, the turn time at an altitude of 1000 m was 22 seconds. For a combat turn, the aircraft could gain 1500 m of altitude. I note that these characteristics were obtained with a motor that does not gain power.

On July 5, 1942, an I-185 with an M-82A, equipped with an AV-5-119 variable-pitch propeller, crashed. Pilot A.I. Nikashin, due to an error in piloting, crashed the machine during the landing approach. The aircraft was sent to the factory for repairs. In the conclusion on the flight tests of the I-185 with the M-82A, it was indicated that the aircraft withstood them and that its flight data corresponded to the tactical and technical requirements of the KA Air Force. It was recommended to put the I-185 with the M-82A into mass production.

Shortly before the events described, in the spring of 1942, the Yak-7 fighter began to be introduced instead of the LaGG-3 at the plant number 21. Lavochkin, actually "sitting on his suitcases", feverishly worked out the installation of the M-82 engine instead of the M-105 on the LaGG. The new engine improved the performance of the machine. The first secretary of the Gorky Regional Committee promptly reported to the People's Commissariat and Stalin about LaGG-3 with M-82. Joint tests were completed by May 5, 1942. The State Defense Committee decided to launch the LaG-5 (later the designation was changed to La-5) into production at plant No. 21, despite the lower flight characteristics of the machine compared to the I-185 (with M-82) and weaker weapons. A significant role in this was played by the bright prospects for the development of the aircraft, outlined by S.A. Lavochkin under the influence of euphoria from such a successful completion of what seemed to be a hopeless case.

Therefore, a month after the decision was made to launch the I-185 with the M-82A into mass production, on August 20, 1942, the head of the Red Army Air Force Research Institute, Major General Losyukov, signed comments on the conclusion based on the test results. They said:

“Paragraphs 2 and 3 of the Conclusion I consider it possible to adopt in the following wording:

2. The received tactical flight data of the I-185 M-82 correspond to t.t.t. Air Force of the Red Army only for aircraft of serial construction in 1942.

3. It is not advisable to recommend the I-185 M-82 aircraft for serial construction, since there is an aircraft in serial construction with the same engine and similar flight and tactical data (LaG-5)".

This interpretation was agreed by the Deputy Commander of the Air Force Red Army, the Chief Engineer of the Air Force, Lieutenant General IAS Repin, and the People's Commissar of the Aviation Industry Shakhurin.

Evaluations of domestic aircraft were carried out at the Air Force Research Institute based on the results of training air battles with captured fighters captured after an emergency landing on our territory (the main source of captured equipment in the first period of the war). However, at the same time, the picture was not always objective: often the restored propulsion systems did not add power, and therefore the characteristics of the German machines were underestimated.

From this, an optimistic conclusion was made about the unconditional superiority of our aircraft (including La-5) over enemy aircraft. The assurances of the Air Force Research Institute that the characteristics of the La-5 are similar to those of the I-185 with the same engine also do not stand up to scrutiny.


GIAP - Gvardeyskiy istrebitel'nyy aviatsionnyy polk - Guards Fighter Aviation Regiment

LII - Letno issledovatel'skiy institut - Flight Research Institute

NKAP - Narodnyy komissariat aviatsionnoy proomyshlennosti - People's Commissariat of Aviation Industry

TsAGI - Tsentral'nyy AeroGidrodinamicheskiy Institut - Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute

TsIAM - Tsentral'nyy institut aviatsionnogo motorostroyeniya - Central Institute of Aviation Motors

IAS - Inzhenerno Aviatsionnaya Sluzhba - Aviation Engineering Service

t.t.t. - taktiko tekhnicheskiye trebovaniya - tactical technical requirements

Deputy People's Commissar of the Aviation Industry of the USSR A.S. Yakovlev was, of course, a bright, extraordinary personality, and the decisions he made were far from always unambiguous. But, analyzing the situation on the fronts, by May 1942 he came to an absolutely correct conclusion: in order to gain air supremacy on a local sector of the front, it is necessary to have aviation groupings of the type of regiments and divisions of the reserve of the Supreme High Command that appeared later, capable of solving strategic tasks. He outlined his thoughts on this issue in a memorandum by A.I. Shakhurin May 6, 1942:

«... The need is put forward to use, at least in small quantities, single-seat fighters with flight and combat qualities that significantly exceed those of modern enemy fighters.

Skillfully maneuvering and transferring small groups of such powerful high-speed fighters along the front, one can achieve psychological first of all, and then military predominance in the air on a given sector of the front.

I consider it expedient to launch a series of up to 100 I-185 single-seat fighter aircraft powered by the M-71 engine, armed with two ShVAK synchronous cannons.

As per your data:

maximum ground speed with afterburner - 556 km/h,

at 6170 m - 630 km/h,

rate of climb at 5000 m - 5.2 min,

and in terms of fire power, the I-185 surpasses all enemy fighters, including such as the Xe-113 (until the summer of 1942, we mistakenly designated Messerschmitt Bf-109F fighters.) and FV- 190.

In view of this, I consider it necessary to immediately launch a military series of I-185 fighters at factory No. 31 in Tbilisi.

Thus, it was openly admitted that by the summer of 1942, only the I-185 was the only aircraft that was not inferior in performance to the latest German fighters.

The above document clearly shows Yakovlev's policy: the use of the I-185 to replace the La-5. But objectively he was right: the time has come to take care of the quality of our fighter aircraft. However, Yakovlev's call went unheeded: the aircraft industry was just beginning to emerge from the crisis caused by the evacuation, so the leadership of the NKAP and the Air Force was primarily concerned with the problem of saturating our aviation with combat aircraft, and not its quality level. The introduction of fundamentally new machines into the series led to a reduction in the rate of production (even if it was temporary and at one plant), which, in the opinion of the management, was unacceptable.

Intense air battles in the sky of Stalingrad showed that not only quantitative, but also qualitative superiority remains with the enemy - the Messerschmitt Bf-109F and Bf-109G fighters surpassed Soviet aircraft in terms of combined characteristics. The training of the flight crew also played a significant role in the results of air battles. As a result, the Germans in August-September 1942 completely seized air supremacy. Representatives of the Air Force Research Institute Anoprienko, Zaitsev, Stepanets sent to the Stalingrad and Don fronts in September 1942 stated that the Yak-1 and Yak-7 with the M-105PF engine are inferior to German fighters in speed in certain altitude ranges, rate of climb and vertical maneuver and capable of fighting with them only defensive battles. The weak armament of the Yak-1 was noted and the opinion of front-line pilots was cited that in order to successfully conduct air battles in these conditions, it is necessary to have a double superiority of forces. The same applied, though to a lesser extent, to the La-5 fighter.

Urgent measures were required to improve the combat effectiveness of production aircraft. In the Yakovlev and Lavochkin Design Bureau, together with TsAGI, TsIAM, and the Air Force Research Institute, modifications were urgently developed in which the flight weight of the vehicles was reduced, aerodynamics were improved, and the weight of a second salvo was increased. Nevertheless, the task of creating a powerful fighter aircraft that outperformed enemy fighters in terms of aggregate flight characteristics remained very relevant.

On the factory tests of the "standard for the series" resumed on August 10, 1942, it was possible to achieve high performance for that time: the maximum speed near the ground was 537 km / h and 577 km / h in afterburner, at an altitude of 6100 m - 667 km / h. The fighter gained an altitude of 5000 m in 4.7 minutes, the turn time at an altitude of 1000 m was 21-22 s. Flight weight reached 3650 kg. In overload under the wing, the aircraft could carry two bombs weighing 250 kg each. Such a bomb load was quite comparable with the load of some of our bombers, for example the Pe-2, and significantly exceeded the load of domestic single-seat fighters of that time.

The factory test report states that the I-185 "according to its flight data is superior to serial domestic and foreign aircraft, in terms of piloting technique it is simple and accessible to pilots of medium qualification", that its operation is possible at field airfields, which flight characteristics, maneuverability and controllability are good, in all modes the aircraft is easily balanced by controlled trim tabs”.

At the end of August, Yakovlev agreed with the Air Force to test the I-185 in combat conditions on the Kalinin Front.

January 16 2013

Phrase on the forum: "I-185 was hacked to death thanks to Yakovlev's intrigues"

- This is probably not true. The conditions under which the I-185 fighter was not put into production were rather objective. Plus fatal failures with the engine.

Once again, thesis on the stages of creating an aircraft:

- On May 5, 1942, tests of the LaG-5 were completed. Lavochkin, thanks to the installation of the M-82 engine on the LaGG-3, managed to stay afloat and introduce his fighter at the plant where the production of the Yakovlev fighter was being prepared.
In May-June, the defeat of Soviet troops in the Crimea and near Kharkov. In August - the exit of the Germans to Stalingrad and the foothills of the Caucasus. Under these conditions, the decision to release the La-5 is completely justified, the front urgently needs a new aircraft.

May 6, 1942 Yakovlev writes a letter to Shakhurin with a request to arrange the production of 100 I-185 aircraft.
Yakovlev helps Polikarpov in every possible way with front-line tests of the I-185.
January 26, 2013

- LaG-5, the same LaGG-3, but with a new engine, was an aircraft ready for production with well-established technology. The release of the I-185 would inevitably entail a decrease in the number of aircraft produced.

- February 16, 1943, 2 weeks after the victory at Stalingrad. At a meeting with Stalin, Polikarpov's letter is discussed. Shakhurin and Yakovlev are present. Stalin comes up with the idea of ​​allegedly unfinished long-range tests of the I-185.

- March 4, 1943 Yakovlev writes a letter to Shakhurin with a request to arrange for the immediate production of the I-185 (and his own Yak-9 with the M-107A engine, also a problematic engine, like the M-71). Instead of setting up production, correspondence continues to assess the range of the aircraft, although it is obvious that the range is sufficient and exceeds the range of other fighters.

- April 5, 1943 long-range tests lead to severe disaster, test pilot, Colonel V.A. Stepanchenko died.

- Reading the list of defects of the La-7 aircraft, one can come to the conclusion that most of them are technological defects. It is not yet known how, in the conditions of military production, a more technologically sophisticated machine could be put into production. As we can see, the high temperature in the cockpit of Lavochkin's aircraft, which has been declined many times in the literature, was also high in the I-185. Moreover, Lavochkin could not solve this issue, so when testing the serial La-7, the temperature in the cockpit with the canopy closed was 47 degrees.
February 03, 2013

- The I-185 wing, two-spar, all-metal, had a sheathing made of duralumin sheets, riveted "spot". Isn't it an unprecedented "waste", because aluminum is so needed for tens of thousands of T-34s. (details on aluminum on the forum thread)
So the drawings of metal wing spars for Lavochkin's aircraft were developed only in the summer of 1943 in Nizhny Tagil at plant No. 381 under the guidance of chief designer P.D. Grushin ...

- Again, an aircraft with a large wing load had to have good mechanization, the I-185 had it, and in this case it had a low landing speed. As we know, non-release of flaps, then just flaps, was a scourge for Lavochkin's aircraft, due to the loss of hydraulic fluid, due to defects in the hydraulic system tubes. Obviously, these tubes would have the same defects on Polikarpov's aircraft.
The question is, was landing possible and what would be the landing speeds for the I-185? Obviously, they would be more than Lavochkin's.

- The M-71 engine was never completed. Unfortunately, the appearance of the I-185 did not take place.

However, it should be said that Soviet aircraft designers were able to achieve the best possible results in the most difficult conditions with simple means and the most primitive structural materials.
In wartime conditions, aircraft were manufactured by factories whose technological level, as well as the qualifications of workers, could not be compared with Western factories.
April 15, 2014

The M-71 engine had a takeoff power of 2000 hp; and nominal - 1550 liters; at an altitude of 5500 m. In the M-71F version, the engine had a takeoff power of 2200 liters; and nominal 1800 l.; at an altitude of 3600 m.
It is difficult to explain why both motors were not brought to mass production. In any case, the point is not in the objective difficulties of fine-tuning and overstressing of the motors. Comparison of the M-81 and M-71 with the serial M-63 in terms of specific takeoff parameters (Table 1) shows that both engines were less loaded than their well-mastered predecessors, and there is no reason to consider them overly forced.
Table 1
Engine M-63 M-81 M-71
Liter power, hp/l 36.8 34.4 33.4
Average effective pressure, kgf/cm² 14.4 13.5 13.1
Average piston speed, m/s 13.4 13.4 13.4

Most likely, the main role was played not so much by insufficient communication as by subjective reasons and distrust of the governing authorities in the competitiveness of air-cooled motors compared to water-cooled motors. The first failures with the M-87 and M-88 engines, the superiority of the Messerschmitts over the I-16, the successes of fighters with the M-105 engines - all this back in 1939 - 1940. caused a wary attitude towards air-cooled motors in general, which left its mark on the subsequent attitude towards them. Of course, the significant weakening of the leadership of the serial plant had a certain significance. In 1938, the main executives of this motor plant, the best in terms of culture, were arrested. A.D. Shvetsov had to combine the duties of the chief designer of the Design Bureau and the technical director of the plant during 1939-1940.
(Aircraft building in the USSR 1917-1945 /TsAGI/)
August 29, 2016

Lieutenant General Repnin A.K. having seen the best foreign models of fighters in the USA officially recognized that the I-185 is the best fighter in the world.

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Vladimir