The Polikarpov I-190 was the last of Nikolai Polikarpov's biplane fighter designs to take to the air, but only the first prototype was completed and the project was abandoned early in 1941.
Work on the I-190 began in January 1938, at a time when the Soviet authorities still believed in a two-branch fighter policy, with high speed monoplanes to break up enemy formations and more manoeuvrable biplanes to take advantage of the resulting dogfight. The I-190 was to be powered by the new M-88 14-cylinder double-row radial engine, being designed by Sergey K. Tumanskiy, and problems with that engine would play a part in the failure of the project.
The I-190 was generally similar to the I-153, but with a number of detail changes to improve its aerodynamics. This included the installation of a retractable tail wheel and a larger vertical tail. The aircraft was to be armed with either four 7.62mm machine guns or two 20mm cannon and carry up to 442lb of bombs.
A mock-up was completed in the autumn of 1938, but more than a year passed before the first prototype was ready for its maiden flight, which took place on 30 December 1939 with A. I. Zhukov at the controls. At this point the aircraft was powered by a direct drive M-88 engine which ran very unevenly and caused an emergency landing at the end of the seventh flight. The aircraft was damaged in an accident in April 1940, and when test resumed it had been given an M-88R geared engine. This new engine suffered from overheating, and was replaced by the M-88A.
Work began on two further prototypes. The second, which came closes to completion, was powered by an M-88 engine with a single TK-1 turbocharger. The third had a pressurized cabin and two TK-1 turbochargers, but very little progress was made on this aircraft.
The first prototype suffered a second, more serious accident on 13 February 1941 and was written off. With this the entire project was abandoned. The top speed of the I-190 is recorded at 279mph with the original M-88 engine and 303mph with one of the later engines. The original top speed was somewhat of a disappointment, and was no quicker than the standard I-153. The later top speed was better, but still not good enough to compete against more modern monoplanes, but the problems with the engine probably caused the cancellation of the project.