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Ilyushin Il-2 Sturmovik dive bomber

Written by Sakhal

The Il-2

In the autumn of 1942, a German airfield in the immediate rearguard is suffering the attack of a Soviet assault squadron. Here is how the scene was described by a witness destined to be famous as tank destroyer, the then lieutenant pilot Hans Ulrich Rudel: "Soon it is triggered the Flak, but we see that the 20-millimeter anti-aircraft projectiles ricochet in the armor of the attackers. Only a light battery, which fires anti-tank grenades, manages to shoot down a couple of Ilyushin 2." In fact, there is nothing exaggerated in this story. The Ilyushin 2, pride of the Soviet aviation, was truly a tank of the skies. Born as a response against the German Stuka, it had in common with that one an exceptional robustness. But while the robustness of the Stuka was due to a successful structural formula, the one of the Ilyushin had been achieved simply by armoring the aircraft. More specifically, constructing the fore section directly in a steel frame of variable thickness between 4 and 13 millimeters.

Let us see from the beginning the history of this interesting warplane. From the 1930s, the Soviet High Staff had been an advocate of the air support for ground forces, but the Russian projectists had not achieved to provide to the state-owned industry valid formulas to develop, as it had happened in Germany with the Stuka, the very important technique of collaboration between air and ground forces. Finally, ending 1938, engineer S. V. Ilyushin elaborated a project for a heavy fighter, well armed and strongly armored, to be used in assaults. The Il-2 would become sorrowfully famous among the German troops, specially the crews of the panzer. After having flew as a prototype in the spring of 1939, the first aircraft of the family Shturmoviki (Ground-strike aircraft) started to be delivered during the first semester of 1941, just in time for the German invasion, suffering initially several setbacks. However, during the winter 1941-42 it demonstrated to be an excellent anti-tank weapon, albeit being and easy prey for the fighters of the Luftwaffe.

The original Sturmovik was a single-seater aircraft built with low wings, retractable landing gear and structure of mixed construction (later fully metallic). The fore section, including the cockpit, was in the upper part a steel shell in light alloy with an average thickness of 5 millimeters. The rear part was constructed as a wooden frame coated with plywood (also built in metal from 1942). The cockpit canopy was totally covered with armored glass and the windshield had 65 millimeters in thickness. The Il-2 would soon be modified to allocate a second crew member behind the pilot, a radio operator/machine gunner manning a Beresin 12.7-millimeter machine gun. This version (Il-2m3) entered service in the autumn 1942, constantly supporting since then the Red Army, from Stalingrad to Berlin. It was delivered to Polish and Czech units in the last months of the war. The engine was originally a Mikulin 38, with 12 cylinders in V refrigerated by liquid, with a maximum power of 1600 horsepower, which would be increased to 2000 horsepower in the Mikulin 42 installed in the Il-8 and Il-10. The armament comprised, besides the Beresin 12.7 millimeters, two 7.62 -millimeter machine guns and two cannons of 20, 23 or 37 millimeters installed in the wings. Under the wings there was place for up to 600 kilograms of bombs or rockets (four or eight depending on type), and the naval version could carry a 533-millimeter torpedo. Built in many thousands of exemplars, the Il-2 took part in the fight until the end of the war. Its last version, the Il-10, was provided from 1945 to the air forces of all the countries of the Communist Bloc. Its last operative use was in 1956, during the Hungarian Uprise, in the hands of the insurgents, who used it to attack the Soviet tanks.

Ilyushin Il-2 Sturmovik dive bomber

Ilyushin Il-2 Sturmovik dive bomber

Development record

The BSh-2 (TsKB-55) was the initial prototype; two-seater ground-attack version, fitted with engine AM-35A of 1350 horsepower and armed with four ShKAS 7.62-millimeter machine guns; two units built. The TsKB-57 was the single-seater prototype, fitted with engine AM-38 of 1600 horsepower and armed with two ShKAS 7.62-millimeter machine guns and two ShVAK 20-millimeter cannons; increased fuel capacity, additional armor and capability to carry eight rockets under the wings; one unit built. The Il-2 was the initial series model, identical to the TsKB-57. The Il-2M was like the original Il-2 but fitted with engine AM-38F of 1770 horsepower and with the two ShVAK 20-millimeter cannons replaced by two VYa 23-millimeter cannons. The Il-2m3 was the two-seater conversion from the Il-2M, with an UBT 12.7-millimeter machine gun installed in the rear cockpit; increased offensive load and possibility to equip the grenade launcher DAG 10. A variant of the Il-2m3 was armed with 37-millimeter anti-tank cannons N-37 or P-37; later models armed with different types of anti-tank and anti-personnel bombs under the wings (PTAB-2, 5-1 or 5). The Il-2T was the naval version capable of carrying a 533-millimeter torpedo. The Il-2U was the two-seater training version, with reduced armament and capable of carrying up to 400 kilograms of bombs. The Il-8 was a redesign of the Il-2, fitted with engine AM-42 of 2000 horsepower, armed with four cannons installed in the wings and capable of carrying up to 1000 kilograms of bombs; built only as prototype. Total production for all the versions reached 36150 exemplars.

Ilyushin Il-2 Sturmovik dive bomber

Ilyushin Il-2m3 of the V-VS (Soviet Air Force) 1st Belarusian Front (Berlin Area), May 1945. Note the tactical distinctives in the tail and the one of the belonging unit.

Specifications for Il-2m3

Entry in service: Autumn 1942

Wingspan: 14.60 meters

Wing area: 38.50 square meters

Length: 11.60 meters

Height: 3.40 meters

Weight (empty): 4225 kilograms

Weight (full load): 5510 kilograms

Weight (maximum): 6360 kilograms

Engine: Mikulin AM-38F of 1770 horsepower

Time to reach 5000 meters of altitude: 12 minutes

Service ceiling: 6000 meters

Maximum speed at 1500 meters of altitude: 405 kilometers/hour

Operational range: 765 kilometers

Defensive armament: Two VYa 23-millimeter cannons installed in the wings; one Beresin UBT 12.7-millimeter orientable machine gun in the rear cockpit; two ShKAS 7.62-millimeter machine guns installed in the fore fuselage

Offensive load: 600 kilograms of bombs or four RS 132 132-millimeter rockets or eight RS 82 82-millimeter rockets

The Il-10

The Il-10, chosen to the detriment of the Il-8, was smaller but much more maneuverable, becoming the successor of the famous Il-2. It entered service in February 1945, alongside the former Il-2m3, taking part in all the final operations of the war in Europe. It was very used after the war by the countries of the Eastern Bloc, being delivered as well to China and North Korea, where it took part in the Korean War. The last exemplars serving in Czechoslovakia were retired in 1958.

Development record

The Il-10 was the prototype and series model, some of them armed with four NS-23 23-millimeter cannons installed in the wings and one UBT 12.7-millimeter machine gun in the rear cockpit. The Il- 10M was a modification of the Il-10, with redesigned wings and different tail surfaces; auxiliary rocket engine in the rear fuselage; built only as prototype. The Il-10U was the unarmed training version. The B-33 and BS-33 were the Il-10 and Il-10U produced under license in Czechoslovakia after the war. Total production for all the versions exceeded 6960 exemplars: 4966 built by Ilyushin and more than 2000 built by Avia in Czechoslovakia under license.

Ilyushin Il-2 Sturmovik dive bomber

Specifications for Il-10

Entry in service: February 1945

Wingspan: 13.40 meters

Wing area: 30 square meters

Length: 11.20 meters

Height: N/A

Weight (empty): 4500 kilograms

Weight (full load): 6535 kilograms

Engine: Mikulin AM-42 of 2000 horsepower

Time to reach 3000 meters of altitude: 5 minutes

Service ceiling: 7500 meters

Maximum speed at sea level: 510 kilometers/hour

Operational range: 1000 kilometers

Defensive armament: Two NS-23 23-millimeter cannons installed in the wings; one 20-millimeter orientable cannon in the rear cockpit; two ShKAS 7.62-millimeter machine guns installed in the wings

Offensive load: 400 kilograms of bombs and a load of rockets (four RS 132 132-millimeter rockets or eight RS 82 82-millimeter rockets)

Article updated: 2015-07-10

Categories: Aircraft - World War Two - 20th Century - [General] - [General]


Website: Military History

Article submitted: 2015-05-21

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