The preliminary design for the I-165 fighter was created in late 1937 and became the basis for the I-180 project design in March 1938. It was supposed to become a further evolution of the I-16 fighter with a slightly increased size and the M-88 engine.
The machine took final form in its third prototype, but the road to it was very hard. The first prototype was constructed in summer 1938 and took flight on 15 December 1938 piloted by the famous USSR aviator Valeriy Chkalov. The machine suffered an engine failure in flight but the pilot managed to steer the aircraft away from populated areas before crashing. Tragically, Chkalov did not survive the accident.
The second prototype was no more fortunate and was responsible for the demise of another test pilot, Tomas Suzy.
Construction of the third prototype was started in mid-1939 and the first flight took place on 10 February 1040 with E. Ulyakhin as a test pilot.
By the end of the first testing stage of the third prototype, several I-180S machines had been built and took part in a May Day parade in Moscow.
The aircraft strongly resembled the I-16 in its behavior in the air, but had advantages over its predecessor in higher speed and faster climb times. It was also easier to control and more stable in maneuvers, as well as during landing and take-off regimes.
Among the main drawbacks of the project were the lack of a canopy, various mechanical defects and poor plane surface finishing. A lot of problems were fixed eventually but, on 6 July 1940 the third prototype was lost due to pilot error.
A plethora of issues with the aircraft caused the work on its preparation for production to be stopped in late 1940.
The I-180-3 was a high-speed, low wing monoplane fighter. It was powered by an air-cooled M-88 engine that was not yet finished and proved to be quite problematic at the time of the aircraft’s testing. The motor passed the government testing only in December 1940, after the destiny of the I-180 project had already been decided.
The armament consisted of four machineguns: two 12.7 mm TKB-150 and two ShKAS. They were mounted on a special carriage in the front part of the motor covering and fuselage.
It’s worth noting that radio equipment could only be carried in an overloaded loadout.
In the game the Polikarpov I-180-3 inherits its predecessor I-16 series’ character. Great maneuverability and decent speed allow it to enter dogfights with any enemy or evade attacks from high-speed altitude machines and quickly get on their tails. Machinegun armament has good accuracy and shooting duration which leaves few chances to its targets.
Battle tactics for this machine are similar to those on the I-16, pick a less maneuverable enemy, engage it at close range and quickly destroy. While flying the I-180-3 you should always be aware of your surroundings and stay at optimum altitude – just like its ancestor, this fighter is too fragile to survive under heavy fire. Yet its maneuverability allows a brave pilot to quickly out-turn the attacker and switch the engagement around. The I-180-3 can even fight several enemies at the same time, active turning will make it impossible to get it in their sights.
The main new feature that we are adding with the Polikarpov I-180-3 is the introduction of unique modules. Along with the new fighter, every player who successfully completes all the missions in the Spring Offensive special will receive a Gun Camera equipment piece that further increases both credits and experience awards for battles, and a unique custom paint job that improves speed parameters by 5%. It’s important to emphasize that these parts are unique — they can only be installed on the I-180-3.
Overall the Polikarpov I-180-3 is a great Tier V fighter for those of you who like adrenaline-soaked dogfights at low and medium altitudes. If you enjoy the active playstyle of the Tier III and IV machines of the I-16 series, this warplane will definitely become one of your favourites.