Il-2, S.V.Ilyushin 'Bark'

At the Monino AF Museum near Moscow; Photo (20k) by John Sloan;

A heavily armored ground-attack monoplane, the backbone of the Soviet ground-attack units in WWII. Its deadly efficiency originated not only from powerful weapon, but also from unprecedented (and for years not overcome) armoring of all vital elements: pilot cockpit, engine, cooling system, internal bomb bays. Other earlier and contemporary aircraft (with few exceptions) had armor as a addition to the airframe, and suffered from its passive weight.

In case of the Il-2 armor became a part of aircraft structure, carrying substantial part of structural functions. This resulted in great weight savings. Plus armor itself was specially designed to withstood small caliber (and so fragile!) shells, bullets and shrapnel. This protection allowed pilots to perform multiple bomb/strife runs over target area, to spend more time aiming...

General layout of the Il-2 made it maneuverable enough to allow skilled pilots to perform active air-to-air combat against fighters... Unfortunately there were not enough time for pilots to get enough training, and they had to learn it in a real combat, paying heavy toll in lives.

The first production modification of Il-2 had no rear gunner position. This was just ordered by Kliment E. Voroshilov (then Commissar and Chairman of the Red Air Force), who felt that the rear gunner position is not necessary.

Though come heavy losses from fighters in first months of the Great Patriotic War, when Il-2's were forced to operate without both escort and rear defense. Despite excellent armor and firepower of Stormovik, German fighters had enough time for multiple attacks, specially when Stormoviks were on target.

The second crewman with the gun for rear protection in production aircraft was introduced in fall 1942, in the Il-2M version. But as early as in May-June 1942 some regiments started to improvise with rear gunner position on their own, adopting turrets from old reconnaissance biplanes such as R-5;

Il-2 Type 3 crew. Four stars on starboard side represent four air-to-air victories.

Latest modifications (Il-2type3 and later) had slightly reshaped wing to compensate center of gravity shift, caused by added gunner and machinegun. Gunner's position was not specially armored, and despite good protection from front fire by pilot's cockpit, gunner's combat life was in average 7 times shorter than pilot's or plane's ones....

As Shturmovik pilots skills grew with time and more efficient tactics (the circle) was developed, losses went down considerably. During 1943 only 2.8% were lost during missions, despite 50% of aircraft returned to the bases with some damage. 90% of damaged Il's were repaired at the front - thanks to simple design and armor protection of all vulnerable parts. There were serious ground crew complains against wooden wing sections: enemy shells make holes like 1 square meter... and it takes too much efforts to fix! What other aircraft of this class can claim such a 'complains'?

41k B/W, Il-2M opening fire with its cannon in a shallow dive, photo TASS from 'Ground attack' by Christopher Chant;

Probably the military aircraft with the largest production ever: 36163.




See also articles:
  • 'Special Class' by A.Shishkov;
  • 'Il-2 - our proud or tragic error?' by V.Bakurskij.

  • And Links:
  • Il-2
  • Il-2 at Michael Fletcher's Site;
  • Il-2, Ilyushin 'Bark'
  • IL-2 at Virtual Aircraft Museum
  • Il-2 single-seater and Il-2M by Dariusz Tyminski
  • Il-2 and Il-10 walkaround, Moscow Victory Park Museum;
  • Soviet female pilots on WWII by Rolando Silva
  • Soviet Warbirds
  • Common Myths and Misconceptions
  • Ivan Pavlov's Il-2 Type 3

  • Technical data for Il-2 mass production versions
    Type Il-2 Il-2M Il-2 Type 3 Il-2 Type 3M
    Function Ground attack
    Year March 1941 September 1942 December 1942 March 1943
    Crew 1 2
    Engines 1*1600hp AM-38 1*1700/1780hp AM-38F
    Weight Empty 4200kg
    Maximum 5788
    Empty
    Maximum 6740kg
    Empty 4525kg
    Maximum 6360kg
    Maximum 6103kg ?
    Wing Span 14.60m
    Length 11.6m
    Height 4.11m 4.17m
    Wing Area 38.50m2 38.50m2 38.50m2 38.50m2
    Speed on ground level 433km/h
    on 2460m 450km/h
    on ground level
    on 2460m
    404km/h 387km/h on ground level
    410km/h
    Range 740km 765km 764km ?
    Ceiling service 4000m 6360m service 3500m ?
    Armament (standard)
    Cannons 2*20mm ShVAK 500/gun 2*20mm ShVAK
    or 2*23mm VYa 300/gun
    2*g23mm VYa 2*g37mm NS-37
    Machineguns 2*7.62mm ShKAS 750/gun 2*7.62mm ShKAS
    1*12.7mm UBT
    Bombs 400kg 400kg 750kg 600kg
    Rockets 8*RS-82mm or 8*RS-132mm 4*RS-82mm or 4*RS-132mm 4*RS-82mm or 4*RS-132mm 4*RS-82mm or 4*RS-132mm
    Armament (optional)
    Sub-machinegun ? ? ? ?
    Reward-firing
    grenade launcher
    - - - DAG-10
    Anti-tank cluster bombs - - - 4 containers
    192 PTAB each

    Group of Il-2M's in flight over Berlin, 1945, photo TASS (40k) from 'Ground attack' by Christopher Chant;

    PrototypesModifications
    TsKB-55 the first 2 prototypes with AM-35 engine. The second TsKB-55 had also designation BSh-2 for pre-production series Both had a rear gunner position. 5*mg7.62mm ShKAS

    TsKB-57
    - TsKB-55-1 rebuilt into single seat aircraft... 2*g23mm "PTB-23" 2*mg7.62mm ShKAS

    TsKB-55P
    - Redesigned TsKB-55-1 with 2*g20mm ShVAK cannons;
    With 2*g37mm "Sh-37". Abandoned because on low reliability of guns and large diving moment when fired.
    Late 1941;

    Il-2M-82
    with M-82 air cooling engine.
    Il-2KR
    Artillery spotter (1943). Same design and armament, but some changes in cockpit equipment, fuel system and armor;

    With 2*g45mm NS-45. Tested, but not entered mass production. 1945;

    Il-2I single seat fighter version;

    Il-2T torpedo bomber;

    Il-2UT trainer with instructor in gunner's cockpit;


    Il-8
    long-range


    Il-10

    1944;

    Series of Il-2 Type 3 B/W Photos at Fandal's Photoarchive :
    - in "brush" camouflage (52k);
    - crew in the cockpit - did those men survive the War ? (48K)
    - in winter colours. Letters on fuselage say "Salute to representatives of Tuva People" (Tuva is an national autonomy in South Siberia); (28K)
    - group on airfield, couple of U-2 biplanes in background; (75K)
    - 2 taxing; (51K)
    - 2 in flight; (28K)


    Il-2 at the Knowledge Adventure Encyclopedia;

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