In 1937, the Polikarpov design bureau carried out studies to improve on the performance of its first production series of the I-15 and I-15bis biplane fighters without sacrificing manoeuvrability. The new fighter was based closely on the design of the I-15bis, with a stronger structure, but was fitted with a manually retractable undercarriage to reduce drag.
The I-153 saw combat in 1939/40 against Finland where it was their main fighter plane, some were captured and then used by the Finns. When Germany attacked the Soviet Union they destroyed many I-153‘s on the ground. In the later stages the plane was superseded by the Yak-1 and MiG-3. The I-153 was then used as a ground-attack aircraft.
During the war, Finland gave capture 21 planes from the Russians and used them back against them, included 10 delivered aircrafts by Germany, of which 11 were actually bought.