Ilyushin Il 2 Shturmovik

One of the most formidable military aircraft of World War II, the lIyushin Il-2 was produced in vast numbers, with Soviet sources giving the total figure as 36,163 aircraft. It began as the TsKB-55 (The designation TsKB was often incorrectly reported in the West as CKB) developed by Sergei lIyushin and his team, who formed in 1938 part of the Central Design Bureau (TsKB). It was designed to fight tanks and the first significant design appeared in 1938 as Sergi Vladimorovic Ilyushin’s TsKB-55. This aircraft was a two-seat prototype which was in competition with the Su-6 designed by Pavel Sukhoi, in which Ilyushin eventually won. For his contribution, Sergei Vladimorovic Ilyushin was awarded the "Hero of Soviet Labour" in 1941 and a Stalin Prize in 1945 for his design of the Shturmovik.

The special feature of the two-seat TsKB-55 or BSh-2 (The Bsh stood for "Bronirovani Shturmovik" or armoured ground attack) was the 7 mm armoured shell (12 mm near the rear cockpit) which formed an integral part of the fuselage structure and protected the crew, engine, radiators and fuel tanks (often referred to as the "bath tub") and was powered by a 1,350 hp (1007 kW) AM-35 engine. The resulting aircraft was well suited to its designated low-level ground-attack role, but was rejected in favour of a lighter single-seat development, the TsKB-57, which had a 1,700 hp (1268 kW) AM-38 engine (which gave better low level performance over the AM-35 engine), a raised, faired canopy for the pilot, the aft fuselage was a wooden monocoque and the tail unit was metal with a Dural skin and substituted 20 mm ShVAK cannon for two of the four 7.62 mm (0.30 in) ShKAS wing mounted machine-guns, and had provision for underwing rocket launchers. The first prototype flew on 12 October 1940.

Official trials ended just three months before the German invasion in June 1941. By then, large-scale production of the Il-2 (initially as single seaters), as the type was designated, had been started, the first unit receiving its aircraft in May 1941. The 1,700 hp (1268 kW) AM-38 engine produced its maximum power where it was needed, at low altitude, giving a speed of 251 mph (404 km/h) and enabling the Il-2 to carry eight 82 mm RS82 rockets or 1,320 lbs (599 kg) of bombs in addition to two 23 mm VYa cannon and two 7.62 mm (0.30 in) ShKAS machine guns in the wings. By the end of June, only 249 Il-2s had been taken on charge by the Soviet air force (the VVS). Production aircraft were generally similar to the TsKB-57 prototypes, but some modifications had been introduced, principally to the pilot's accommodation to give improved protection, including a modified windscreen and a shorter fairing aft of the cockpit. In some aircraft wood replaced metal in the outer wings and tail unit. It was at this time some production delays were encountered while the soviets move production facilities east towards the Ural mountains.

Stalin had made production of the Il-2 an urgent priority and within twelve months the number of man hours required to produce an Il-2 had been cut by 38 percent and improved production resulted in a 400 percent increase in service deliveries between July 1942 and July 1943. Eventually total production was to be 36,163 aircraft, with later aircraft being mostly two-seat Il-2m3, with air frame refinements which raised the top speed by 21 mph (33.8 km/h), and a formidable 37 mm NS-11 or P-37 cannon in place of the 20 mm ShVAK or 23 mm VYa cannon, four 132 mm RS-132 rockets and launchers able to dispense 200 PTAB hollow-charge anti-tank bombs.

The single-seat Il-2 was used on a vast scale and proved itself a potent weapon against German transport and armour but also proved easy prew in a sky dominated by the Luftwaffe, and without soviet fighter cover (which during 1941-42 was often the case), losses were heavy. In February 1942 it was decided to introduce a two-seat Il-2 in line with Ilyushin's original concept. The resulting Il-2M had provision for a rear gunner under an extended canopy operating a single 12.7 mm (0.50 in) UBT machine gun. Two conversions were flight tested in March 1942, and production aircraft appeared from September 1942, with other aircraft being converted into two-seaters in the field. The introduction of a rear gunner on the Il-2 came as a nasty surprise to Luftwaffe pilots who had previously found the single-seat Il-2 easy prey. Since in combat, it was hard to distinguish between the single seat and two seat versions, the Luftwaffe ordered pilots to change tactics from a rear attack to a head-on attack. The Soviets noticing the shift in Luftwaffe tactics, continued to operate single seat aircraft, and often "dummied" them to appear more like the two-seat version.

Other changes introduced on the production lines included the installation of the more powerful 1,720 hp (1283 kW) AM-38F engine, replacement of the two 20 mm ShVAK cannon with more effective 23 mm VYa weapons, various aerodynamic refinements meant to improve performance and to compensate for the increased weight of the gunner and revised armament, the enforced introduction of wooden outer wing panels (replacing metal), and increased fuel capacity.

A new version, the Il-2 Type 3 (or Il-2m3) made its first appearance at Stalingrad in early 1943. Tested during 1942, it had redesigned wings with 15° sweepback on the outer panels. Performance and flying qualities were much improved and the Type 3 went on to become the most important and numerous version of the Il-2.

The Il-2s became renowned in the Soviet Union, used with much increased tactical effect in 1944-45 after their mode of operation had been studied carefully and fighter cover provided on a large scale. Improvement in armament included cassettes containing 200 PTAB hollow-charge anti-tank bombs, the use of a DAG-10 anti-aircraft grenade launcher, and the introduction of a limited number of Il-2 Type 3M aircraft with a pair of 37 mm NS-11 or P-37 cannon mounted in fairings outboard of the landing gear.

Il-2s were used by the Soviet navy for anti-shipping duties, and the specialised Il-2T torpedo-bomber was also developed. On land the type was used on occasion for reconnaissance and laying smoke-screens. In the last year of World War II Il-2s were used by Polish and Czechoslovak units flying with the Soviets, and the type continued in service for several years post-war with the VVS and for a slightly longer period with other East European regimes.

Between September 1941 and April 1942 an experimental Il-2 powered by an M-82 radial engine was tested extensively, but no production was undertaken. Trainer versions of the Il-2 were known variously as the U-Il-2 or Il-2U which duplicated all flight controls in the rear cockpit.

The Il-2’s best known tactic was the so-called "Circle of Death", in which the aircraft would cross the front line off to the side of the target, then reverse course and attack from the rear in a shallow dive and, after recovery, repeat the manoeuvre often reaching as low as 20 ft (6 m). A typical example of the Il-2’s effectiveness happened in the Battle of Kursk on 7 July 1943, when the German 9th Panzer Division lost 70 tanks in 20 minutes. Extremely rugged, it earned the nickname "Flying Tank" by the Soviets, and so feared, the Germans simply referred to it as "Schwarzer Tod" (Black Death). The final development of Il-2 was a complete redesign which was given the designated the Il-10 and after the Korean War it was given the codename "Beast" by NATO. 

Specifications (Ilyshin Il-2m3 or Il-2 Type 3 Shturmovik)

Type: Two Seat Ground Attack

Design: Ilyushin Design Bureau led by Sergei Vladimorovic Ilyushin

Manufacturer: State Industries

Powerplant: (Il-2) One 1,700 hp (1268 kW) Mikulin AM-38 piston engine. (Il-2m3) One 1,720 (1282 kW) Mikulin AM-38F piston engine.

Performance: Maximum speed 255 mph (410 km/h) at 4,920 ft (1500 m); service ceiling 14,845 ft (4525 m)

Range: 475 miles (765 km) on internal fuel.

Weight: Empty equipped 9,976 lbs (4525 kg) with a maximum take-off weight of 14,021 lbs (6360 kg).

Dimensions: Span 47 ft 10 3/4 in (14.60 m); length 38 ft 2 1/2 in (11.65 m); height 13 ft 8 in (4.17 m); wing area 414.42 sq ft
(38.50 sq m).

Armament: (TsKB-57) Four 7.62 mm (0.30 in) ShKAS machine-guns. (Il-2) Two 20 mm ShVAK cannon and two 7.62 mm (0.30 in) ShKAS machine-guns. (Il-2m3) Two 7.62 mm (0.30 in) ShKAS machine-guns and two 23 mm VYa cannons all in the wings, and one rear facing 12.7 mm (0.50 in) UBT machine gun for the gunner, plus six 220 lbs (100 kg) bombs (four carried internally and two under the fuselage), or two 551 lbs (250 kg) bombs under the fuselage and eight 82 mm RS-82 rockets or four 132 mm RS-132 rockets under out wing panels. (Il-2 Type 3M) This limited type saw the addition of two 37 mm NS-11 or P-37 cannon mounted in fairings outboard of the landing gear.

Variants: TsKB-55 or Bsh-2 (two seat prototype), TsKB-57 (single seat prototype), Il-2 (single seat production), Il-2M (two seat production), Il-2 Type 3 or Il-2m3 (main production), Il-2 Type 3M (equipped with 37 mm cannon), Il-2T (torpedo bomber), Il-2U or U-Il-2 (two seat trainer).

Avionics: None.

History: First flight (TsKB-55) 1939; first flight (TsKB-57) 12 October 1940; initial deliveries (Il-2) May 1941; first flight (Il-2M) March 1942; first flight (Il-2m3) early 1943 with deliveries shortly afterwards first seeing combat at Stalingrad.

Operators: Soviet Union (VVS) with Polish and Czechoslovak units flying as part of the Soviet Air Force.