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Weapons of World War Two

The Battle of Stalingrad (Aug 1942 - Feb 1943)

Ilyushin Il-2

Ilyushin Il-2

Autumn of 1942. A German airfield in the immediate rearguard of the Eastern Front is suffering an attack from a Soviet ground-attack squadron. This is how Lieutenant Pilot Hans Ulrich Rudel, a witness who was destined to become famous as a destroyer of Russian tanks, described the scene: "The Flak is soon triggered, 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 projectiles, manages to shoot down a couple of Ilyushin Il-2". Indeed, there is nothing exaggerated in this report. The Ilyushin Il-2, pride of the Red Army's aviation, was truly an aerial tank. Born as a response to the German Stukas, it had in common with them an exceptional robustness. But whereas the robustness of the Stuka was due to the right structural design of the aircraft, that of the Ilyushin had been obtained simply by armoring the aircraft. More precisely, by building the fore section in a steel framework of thickness variable between 4 and 13 millimeters. Let us see from the beginning the history of this interesting combat aircraft. Since the 1930s, the Soviet High Staff had been a supporter of air support for land forces, but the Russian designers had not managed to provide the state industry with valid formulas which allowed, as it had happened in Germany with the Stuka, to develop this very important collaboration technique between land and air combatants. Finally, at the end of 1938 Engineer Ilyushin would elaborate a project for a heavy fighter, well armed and strongly armored, for being used in ground strikes. The "Sturmovik" ("Assailant", in Russian) would become, during the war, sadly famous among the German troops, and especially among the crews of the Panzer. After having flown as a prototype in the spring of 1939, the Il-2 would start to be delivered during the summer of 1942, just in time for the war. The "Sturmovik" was a monoplane aircraft of single seat, low wing and retractable landing gear, with a structure which was initially one of mixed construction, and subsequently an entirelly metallic one. The fore section, including the cockpit, was a steel shell with the upper part made of a light alloy with an average thickness of 5 millimeters. The rear part, initially made of wood coated with plywood, would be made of metal from 1942. The canopy of the cockpit was entirely made of bulletproof glass and the windshield had 65 millimeters in thickness. Being initially a single-seater, the Il-2 would be soon turned into a two-seater with the addition of a telegraphist-machine gunner behind the pilot, with a Beresin 12.7-millimeter machine gun. The engine was a good Mikulin 38, with twelve cylinders in V cooled by water, with a maximum power of 1600 horsepower in the first type, which would be increased to 2000 in the Model 42 installed in the Il-8 and Il-10. The armament comprised, besides the Beresin, two 7.62-millimeter machine guns installed in the wings plus two 20, 23 or 37-millimeter cannons. Under the wings they could be accommodated 200 kilograms of bombs, four or eight rockets (depending on the type) or a 533-millimeter torpedo in the naval version. Built in many thousands of exemplars, the Il-2 would take part in actions until the end of the war. Its last version, the Il-10, would be supplied from 1945 to the air forces of every country in the Communist Bloc. Its last operational utilization would be in 1956, during the Hungarian Uprising, by the rebels, who would use it to attack the Soviet tanks.

Ilyushin Il-2
Designer: Engineer S. V. Ilyushin

First flight: 1939 (Il-2); 1942 (Il-2m3)

Wingspan: 14.60 meters

Wing area: 38.50 square meters

Length: 11.65 meters

Height: 3.40 meters

Full load/Empty weight: 5300/4120 kilograms (Il-2); 5510/4220 kilograms (Il-2m3)

Payload/Crew: 1180 kilograms/1 (Il-2); 1290 kilograms/2 (Il-2m3)

Engine: Mikulin AM-38 of 1600 horsepower (Il-2); Mikulin AM-38F of 1770 horsepower (Il-2m3)

Time to reach 5000 meters of altitude: 10 minutes 6 seconds (Il-2); 12 minutes (Il-2m3)

Maximum speed: 451 kilometers/hour (Il-2); 440 kilometers/hour (Il-2m3)

Service ceiling: 7500 meters (Il-2); 6500 meters (Il-2m3)

Defensive armament: Two ShKAS 7.62-millimeter machine guns, one UB 12.7-millimeter machine gun and two 20, 23 or 37-millimeter cannons

Drop armament: 200 kilograms of bombs or underwing rockets or one 533-millimeter torpedo

Operational range: 600 kilometers

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