Ilyushin Il-2 Shturmovik

Type: Ground Attack
Origin: Ilyushin
Crew: Two
First Flight: October 12, 1940
Service Delivery: May 1941
Final Delivery: 1944
Production: 36,163

Il-2 Type 3:
    Model: Mikulin AM-38F
    Type: Liquid cooled piston engine
    Number: One      Horsepower: 1,720 hp

Wing Span: 47 ft. 10¾ in. (14.60m)
Length: 38 ft. 2½ in. (11.65m)
Height: 13 ft. 8 in. (4.17m)
Wing Area: 414.42 sq. ft. (38.50m²)

Empty: 9,976 lb (4525 kg)
Loaded: 14,021 lb (6360 kg)
Max. Speed: 255 mph (410 kph) at 4,920 ft.
Service Ceiling: 14,845 ft. (4525m)
Range: 475 miles (765 km)

Two 23mm VYa cannon mounted in wings.
Two 7.62mm ShKAS machine guns mounted in wings.
One 12.7mm UBT machine gun in rear cockpit.

Four 220 lb. (100 kg) bombs carried internally.
Two 220 lb. (100 kg) bombs carried under fuselage.
Two 551 lb (250kg) bombs carried under fusealge.
Eight RS-82 rockets or Four RS-132 rockets under outer wing panels.

Design and development - Source: Wikipedia
The idea for a Soviet armored ground-attack aircraft dates to the early 1930s when Dmitry Pavlovich Grigorovich designed TSh-1 and TSh-2 armored biplanes. However, Soviet engines at the time lacked the power needed to provide the heavy aircraft with good performance. Il-2 was designed by Sergey Ilyushin and his team at the Central Design Bureau in 1938. TsKB-55 was a two-seat aircraft with an armoured shell weighing 700 kg (1,540 lb), protecting crew, engine, radiators, and the fuel tank. Standing empty, the Ilyushin weighed more than 4,500 kg (almost 10,000 lb), making the armoured shell about 15% of the aircraft's gross weight. The prototype, which first flew on 30 December 1939, won the government competition against Sukhoi Su-6 and received VVS designation BSh-2. However, BSh-2 was eventually rejected in favor of a lighter single-seat design, the TsKB-57, which first flew 12 October 1940. The original Mikulin AM-35 1,370 hp (1,022 kW) engine proved too weak and was replaced by the 1,680 hp (1,254 kW) Mikulin AM-38 before the aircraft entered production.

The aircraft entered production in 1941 as Il-2, and 249 had been built by the time Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941.

Operational history - Source: Wikipedia
The Il-2 aircraft played a crucial role on the Eastern Front, and in Soviet opinion it was the most decisive aircraft in the history of modern land warfare. Flying day and night, they could defeat the thick armour of the Panther and Tiger I tanks, and occasionally shot down Bf 109s when the German pilots got careless while attacking them. Josef Stalin paid the Il-2 a great tribute in his own inimitable manner: when a particular production factory fell behind on its deliveries, Stalin sent the following cable to the factory manager: "They are as essential to the Red Army as air and bread."

The first use in action of the Il-2 was with the 4th ShAP (Ground Attack Regiment) over the Berezina River days after the invasion began. So new were the aircraft that the pilots had no training in flight characteristics or tactics, and the ground crew no training in servicing or re-arming. Unsurprisingly, by 10 July, 4th ShAP was down to 10 aircraft from a strength of 65.

Tactics changed as the Soviet aircrew got used to the Il-2's strengths. Instead of a low horizontal straight approach at 50 metres altitude, the target was usually kept to the pilot's left and a turn and shallow dive of 30 degrees was utilized, using an echeloned assault by four to twelve aircraft at a time. Although the Il-2's RS-82 rockets could destroy armored vehicles with a single hit, they were so inaccurate that experienced Il-2 pilots mainly utilized their cannon armament.

Thereafter the Il-2 was widely deployed on the Eastern Front. The aircraft was capable of flying in low light conditions and carried weaponry capable of defeating the thick armor of the Panther and Tiger I tanks. They were also proven capable of defeating enemy aircraft, claiming an occasional Bf 109.

The true abilities of Il-2 are difficult to determine from existing documentary evidence. W. Liss in Aircraft profile 88: Ilyushin Il-2 mentions an engagement during the Battle of Kursk on 7 July 1943, in which 70 tanks from the German 9th Panzer Division were destroyed by Ilyushin Il-2 in just 20 minutes. In another report of the action on the same day, a Soviet staff publication states that

Ground forces highly valued the work of aviation on the battlefield. In a number of instances enemy attacks were thwarted thanks to our air operations. Thus on 7 July enemy tank attacks were disrupted in the Kashara region (13th Army). Here our assault aircraft delivered three powerful attacks in groups of 20-30, which resulted in the destruction and disabling of 34 tanks. The enemy was forced to halt further attacks and to withdraw the remnants of his force north of Kashara.

Thanks to the heavy armor protection, an Il-2 could take a great deal of punishment and proved a difficult target for both ground and aircraft fire to down. Some pilots favored aiming down into the cockpit and wing roots in diving attacks on the slow, low-flying Il-2 formations. Several Luftwaffe aces claimed to attack while climbing from behind, out of view of the rear gunner, and aim for the Il-2's non-retractable oil cooler. The veracity of this has been disputed by some Il-2 pilots in postwar interviews since Il-2s typically flew very close to the ground (cruise altitudes below 50 m (160 ft) were common) and the radiator protruded a mere 4 in (10 cm) from the aircraft. A major threat to Il-2 was the German ground fire. In postwar interviews, Il-2 pilots reported 20 mm and 37 mm artillery as the primary threat. While the fabled 88 mm gun was formidable, low-flying Il-2s presented a fast-moving target for the 88's relatively low rate of fire and while occasional hits were scored , Soviet pilots apparently did not treat the "88" with the same respect that high-flying Allied bomber crews did.

The armored tub ranging from 5 to 12 mm (0.2 to 0.5 in) in thickness and enveloping the engine and the cockpit could deflect all small arms fire and glancing blows from larger-caliber ammunition. There are reports of the armored windscreen surviving direct hits from 20 mm rounds. Unfortunately, the rear gunners did not have the benefit of all-around armor protection and suffered about four times more casualties than the pilots. Added casualties resulted from the Soviet policy of not returning home with unused ammunition which typically resulted in repeated passes on the target[citation needed]. Soviet troops often requested additional passes even after the aircraft were out of ammunition to exploit the intimidating effect Il-2s had on German ground troops who had given it the nickname Fleischer (Butcher). Famous "The Flying Tank" and "Der Schwarze Tod" (the "Black Death") nicknames were not created by soldiers. First one was created by the designer in early stages of design. The secon d one was created by the Soviet propaganda. Luftwaffe pilots called it Eiserner Gustav (Iron Gustav) or the Zementbomber (Concrete bomber) - both created due to poor flight performance. The Finnish nickname Maatalouskone ("The Agricultural Machine" or "crop duster") derived from the habitual low attack pattern, "crop dusting," of the Il-2.

While Il-2 proved to be a deadly air-to-ground weapon, heavy losses resulted from vulnerability to fighter attack, consequently, in February 1942, the two-seat design was revived. The IL-2M with a rear gunner under the stretched canopy entered service in September 1942 with surviving single-seaters were eventually modified to this standard. Later changes included an upgrade from 20-mm to 23-mm to 37-mm cannons, aerodynamic improvements, use of wooden outer wing panels instead of metal and increased fuel capacity. In 1943, the IL-2 Type 3 or Il-2m3 came out with redesigned wings that were swept back 15 degrees on the outer panels. Performance and handling were much improved and this became the most common version of the Il-2. A radial-engine-powered variant of the Il-2 with Shvetsov ASh-82 engine was proposed in 1942 to remedy projected shortages in Mikulin inline engines. However, ASh-82 was also used in the new Lavochkin La-5 fighter which effectively secured all available engines to the Lavochkin bureau. The radial engine Sukhoi Su-2 ground attack aircraft was produced in small quantities, but was generally considered unsuitable due to inadequate performance and lack of defensive armament. Soviet anti-aircraft artillery frequently mistook it for German aircraft, often with lethal consequences.

After the war, the Il-2 could be found in service with several Eastern European countries, with most of the Il-2/10 planes eventually scrapped with the advent of military jets. Only a handful of Il-2 survive to this day, including museum rebuilds of crashed airframes. In recent years, several Il-2 wrecks have been located and recovered from Lake Balaton, a large, shallow lake in Hungary, which is located near the historic site of a large WWII tank battle.

Variants - Source: Wikipedia
TsKB-55 - Two-seat prototype

BSh-2 - VVS designation for TsKB-55 prototype.

TsKB-57 - Single-seat prototype.

Il-2I - Armoured fighter, prototype only.

Il-2 - Single-seat production model powered by AM-38 engine.

Il-2M - Two-seat production model, 20 mm ShVAK cannons replaced with 23 mm VYa cannons, powered by uprated AM-38F engine.

Il-2M3 (Il-2 Type 3) - Swept outer wings, further uprated AM-38F.

Il-2 Type 3M - 37 mm Nudelman-Suranov NS-37 cannons instead of 23 mm VYa cannons.

Il-2T - Torpedo bomber version for the Soviet Navy armed with a single 533 mm (21 in) torpedo, largest sunk ship was about 6,000 t of displacement.

Il-2U - Training version, also known as UIl-2.