The Polikarpov I-16 "Ishak" (Donkey) fighter is terrible in its role; weak, lacking firepower, and only fairly quick. It's only advantage is its extremely small cost of $15. From a strategic standpoint, this makes the Ishak perfect for absorbing flak while bombers and fighter-bombers perform their missions without resistance.
If a player wants to defend his base from attack, the Ishak is not the way to go. Only the advanced fighter, the Yak, is able to provide any sort of air cover. The I-16 can provide a good air defense network if paired with some AA. The fighters can distract planes and along with AA finish some off.
This Interbellum-era craft (first flight - 30.12.1934, under the semi-legendary Chkalov) had been described by its Luftwaffe opponents as archaic at best, but it was the main Soviet fighter in 1941, as newer models were merely starting to hit production lines. Its first war was the Spanish Civil war in 1936, where it (nicknamed either "rat" or "fly", officially designated "Boeing") fared well, until the Bf 109s of the Kondor squadron rolled in.
Among its archaisms was the open cockpit (the pilots were afraid of getting locked into a plane, and the glass quality was poor) and the absence of armor, as well as a manually-deployed landing gear (44 rotations of a crank, mind you). It also had the "twitchy" Polikarpov handling, sacrificing stability for maneuverability in close combat.
I-16 pilots often ended up ramming their foes because they had jams in their guns. The Soviets eventually turned ramming into an art, scoring up to 4 rammings per pilot, using propeller blades, on newer fighters.
The TB-3/I-16 "SPB" (Составной Пикирующий Бомбардировщик, Combined Dive Bomber) parasite aircraft system consisted of two I-16s modified into dive bombers (2 x FAB-250 HE bombs each) carried to their target under the wings of a TB-3 heavy bomber, then dropped off, and the nimble fighters penetrating the target's air defenses. It was actually used several times, unlike every other parasite aircraft system ever developed.
Pros & Cons
+Cheapest fighter in the game.
+/-It's... faster than a Stuka.
-Unable to down an enemy plane in one run
-Cannot go 1v1 with anything armed except for various bombers and recon... Barely...
-with more than 21 variants made and an a wide selection of guns... we have the basic with 4 x ShKAS MGs.
The I-16 was medium powered fighter two 7,62 mm machine guns, it also had two deadly 20mm cannons. Those features don't reflect it in the game - it actually lists it with the armament of the I-153 biplane, 4 x 7.62mm MGs - but the I-16 was a pretty well armed airplane for its time, better then the Yak 3's two HMGs and one cannon.
- The Ishak is not capable of downing any plane in a 1v1 situation, lacking the firepower to destroy enemy planes at full health.
- It's best to use these in pairs against individual enemy aircraft. Having a numbers advantage gives you the best chance of beating superior enemy aircraft.