Early Russian fighter The Russian Polikarpov 1-16 fighter first flew in December 1933. At a time when many nations were still flying biplane fighters the 1-16, or 'Rata' as it became known in the West, was an advanced design and one which incorporated a then-unique feature for a monoplane fighter aircraft, namely a retractable undercarriage. A tail skid took the place of the more conventional tail wheel. It resembled its predecessor, the 1-15, a biplane of similar squat design which, in 1935, established the new world altitude record of 47,818 feet. The first prototype designed by Nikolai Polikarpov was powered by a Bristol Jupiter engine licence-built by the Russians as the M-22 450 hp radial. There followed in 1934 a second prototype, this time powered by a Wright Cyclone 725 hp radial engine. The latter licence-built engine was called the M-25. Using a slightly up-rated M-22 engine, the Polikarpov 1-16 Mark 1 began to equip Russian fighter squadrons by 1935. Subsequent Marks varied in power plant and armament, using quadruple 7.62-mm ShKAS machine-guns and some two 20-mm wing-mounted ShVAK cannon. Earlier Marks such as the Mark 10 had open cockpits, which must have made operating in the depths of the Russian winter extremely unpleasant at any altitude, while later ones had cockpit canopies. Marks went through 17 and 18 to 24B, the last of the line, and powered by the l,100hp M-63 engine. In this version the Rata was capable of 326 mph a respectable speed considering that ten years had elapsed since the aircraft's first flight. Blooded in the Spanish Civil and Russo-Finnish wars, the Rata equipped fighter squadrons until 1943, and also served as a fighter bomber, for which the design proved most suitable. In this role it carried bombs or six 82-mm RS-82 rocket projectiles beneath its wings. Some 20,000 Ratas are reputed to have been produced. Specifications: Span: 29ft Length: 20ft 1 in Gross weight: 45191bs Ceiling: 29,500ft Range: 249 miles Armament: two 7.62-mm machine-guns between nose and cockpit, one 20-mm cannon in each wing.