Aviation of Word War II
The I-5 fighter was of mixed construction. The fuselage framework was constructed of welded steel tubes covered with Duralumin (a light metal alloy) skin riveted to the frame. The nose section of the fuselage housed the engine bulkhead and engine mount which was made of steel tube. The front section of the fuselage, as far back as the mid-cockpit position, was covered by easily detached Duralumin panels, while the remainder of the fuselage was fabric covered. The rear section of the fuselage, under the tailplane had detachable aluminum panels permitting access to the tailskid suspension. The pilot's seat was made of corrugated Duralumin and there was provision for a seal type parachute. The I-5 had a fuel capacity of 54 gallons (205 liters) along with 10.5 gallons (40 liters) of castor oil lubricant.
The upper wing was built in three sections. The upper wing center section was made of Duralumin and was attached to the fuselage by N-struts made of steel tubing. The outer wing sections were made of wood. The wing leading edges were plywood covered. The lower surface had plywood at the wing root, while the remainder of the wing had the plywood extending back to the from wing spar. The tail surfaces and the movable control surfaces, including the ailerons, were made of metal framing with fabric skinning.
The main wheels were sprung by sixteen rubber bungees 20mm thick. Initial production batches had a fixed tailskid to prevent ground looping. After several accidents the height of the tailskid was reduced and it was attached to the rudder post.
There were a number of detail changes during the production life of the I-5. Early aircraft all had a wooden 9.51 foot (2.9 meter) diameter propeller with metal covered leading edges and a small spinner. Later I-5s had an all-metal 8.85 foot (2.70 meter) diameter propeller without a spinner. This propeller could be adjusted in pitch on the ground before a mission.
Late production I-5 also had two tear drop shaped balance weights fitted on top of the upper wing near each wing tip.
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Early production I-5s had a slightly longer main landing gear strut and a smaller shock absorber cover and as well open main wheels. Visually, these early I-5s could be distinguished by a slightly "forward" slant to the landing gear, caused by the larger rear strut. Late production batches had a shorter main landing gear strut and a larger shock absorber cover as well as covered main wheels. Not all these changes were introduced at the same time on the production line at GAZ-21*, and there were some hybrids that had late production type metal propellers but still had the early type landing gear.
A number of I-5s were fitted with a ski-type landing gear in place of the normal wheeled landing gear. A feature of these ski-equipped fighters was that they were equipped with the small spinner and all-metal propeller.
I-5s equipped the first Soviet Air Force acrobatic team under the leadership of V.A. Stepanchenok.
The I-5 was withdrawn from front-line service during 1936, when the I-15s began to appear in numbers. Most of all remaining I-5s were then transferred to training units. Some aircraft; however, were modified as fighter-bombers, retrofitted with two bomb racks under the fuselage. These racks could accommodate two FAB general purpose bombs. When the Germans invaded the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941, there were still a number of I-5s on forward airfields in the Ukraine which were being used in the fighter-bomber role. A small number of I-5s were also transferred to Naval units. When the Great Patriotic War began, the 11 th Fighter Regiment of the Black Sea Fleet, based at Jankoy Airfield near Sevastopol, was equipped with the I-5.
* GAZ-21 - Gorky Aircraft Plant (in Russian - "Zavod"). In the Soviet Union, the city of Nizhny Novgorod was called the city of Gorky, in honor of the great Russian writer Maxim Gorky.