- Engine: 1770 HP AM38FV12
- Length: 11,6 meters
- Wing span: •14,6 meters
- Weight: approx. 4360 kg netto – 6160 full loaded
- Crew: 2 (pilot and tailgunner/telegraph operator)
- Speed: approx. 410 km per hour
- Armament: Two 37 mm guns
- One rear 12,7 mitrailleuse
- Two 7,62 machine guns
- Bomb load: 400 kg of bombs or 8 missiles weighing 25,4 kg each
Ilyushin IL-2M3 “Sturmovik” – was constructed by the Russian Sergej Vladimirovitsj Iljusjin (1894-1977) for attacking ground targets. “Sturmovik” means stormer, attacker
A total of36183 planes were produced in a 4-year period., probably the most produced aircraft in the world.
Ilyushin IL-2M3 was the first warplane in the world equipt with missiles. It was especiallyfeared when used in attacks on tanks, cars, trains and boats. The Germans called the plane “Der schwartze Tot” – The Black Death.
The first Ilyushin -model, designed as a single seater fighter, was in use from 1941, but was vurnable from the rear. In 1942 the plane was extended to give room for a rear tailgunner with a 12,7 mitrailleuse.
Due to its durable armor plating and its powerful weapons, the plan was considered a flying tank.
More common were the use of two 23 mm guns. Ilyushin IL-2M3 distinguished itself against the tanks in the great battle by Kursk 450 km south west of Moscow during the summer of 1943. Very few Iljusjin aircrafts were shot down.
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 December 30, 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 October 12, 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 June 22, 1941.
The Il-2 was produced in vast quantities, becoming one of the most widely produced military aircraft in history.
Production early in the Great Patriotic War was slow, due to the aircraft factories near Moscow and other major cities in western Russia being relocated east of the Ural mountains after the German invasion.
Ilyushin and his engineers had time to reconsider production methods, and two months after the move, Il-2s were again being produced. The tempo was not to Premier Stalin’s liking, however, and he issued the following telegram to Ilyushin: YOU HAVE LET DOWN OUR COUNTRY AND OUR RED ARMY. YOU HAVE NOT MANUFACTURED IL-2S UNTIL NOW.
THE IL-2 AIRCRAFT ARE NECESSARY FOR OUR RED ARMY NOW, LIKE AIR, LIKE BREAD. SHENKMAN PRODUCES ONE IL-2 A DAY AND TRETIAKOV BUILDS ONE OR TWO MIG-3S DAILY. IT IS A MOCKERY OF OUR COUNTRY AND THE RED ARMY. I ASK YOU NOT TO TRY THE GOVERNMENT’S PATIENCE, AND DEMAND THAT YOU MANUFACTURE MORE ILS. I WARN YOU FOR THE LAST TIME.
STALIN. According to one reference, “the production of Shturmoviks rapidly gained speed. Stalin’s notion of the Il-2 being ‘like bread’ to the Red Army took hold in Ilyushin’s aircraft plants and the army soon had their Shturmoviks available in quantity.” web reference accessed June 2006. See also www.vectorsite.net article.
The Ilyushin IL-2M3 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 factory building them fell behind on its deliveries, Stalin sent the following cable to the factory manager: “The Red Army needs the Il-2 as it needs air or bread. I demand more. This is my last warning.”
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 July 10, 4th ShAP was down to 10 aircraft from a strength of 65. Christopher Shores “Ground Attack Aircraft of World war II”, 1977. 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 utilised, using an echeloned assault by four to twelve aircraft at a time. Although the Il-2s’s RS-82 rockets could destroy armoured vehicles with a single hit, such was their inaccuracy that experienced Il-2 pilots mainly utilised their cannon armament.<ref> Christopher Shores “Ground Attack Aircraft of World war II”, 1977, pages 72-82 </ref> 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 armour 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. Aircraft profile 88: Ilyushin Il-2. Profile publications. 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.
Thanks to the heavy armour protection an Il-2 could take a great deal of punishment and proved a hard target for both ground and aircraft fire. Some pilots favoured 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 post-war 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 post-war interviews, Il-2 pilots reported 20 mm and 50 mm artillery as the primary threat. While the fabled 88 mm gun was formidable, low-flying Il-2s presented a fast-moving target for its relatively low rate of fire and while occasional hits were scored, Soviet pilots apparently did not treat the “88” with the same respect as high-flying Allied bomber crews.
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-calibre ammunition. There are reports of the armored windscreen surviving direct hits from 20 mm rounds. Because of this ability to absorb damage Luftwaffe pilots referred to the Il-2 as the Betonflugzeug (Concrete aircraft).
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.
February 1942 the two-seat design was revived. The IL-2M with a rear gunner under the stetched canopy entered service in September 1942, and 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 ends.
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.
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 after 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.
Famous Il-2 Pilots Among the pilots who gained fame flying the Il-2, was Senior Lieutenant Anna Yegorova, a female pilot who flew 260 missions. She was decorated three times, the last “posthumously”, as she was presumed dead after being shot down. In fact, she managed to survive imprisonment in a German concentration camp.
Jr Lt Ivan Grigorevich Drachenko, another Il-2 pilot, was reputedly one of only four men who were both decorated as Heroes of the Soviet Union and also won all three of the Orders of Glory. Pilots Begeldinov, Mylnikov, Alekseenko, and Gardeev received two gold stars of the Hero of the Soviet Union.
Hero of the Soviet Union T. Kuznetsov survived the crash of his Il-2 in 1942 when shot down returning from a reconnaissance mission. Kuznetsov was able to escape from the wreck and hid nearby. To his surprise, a German Bf 109 landed near the crash site and the pilot began to scrounge the wrecked Il-2 for souvenirs. Thinking quickly, Kuznetsov ran to the German fighter and used it to fly home, barely avoiding being shot down by Soviet fighters in the process.
Typical of Soviet WWII aircraft, many Il-2 were “gifts” presented to specific pilots and partially paid for by organizations like hometowns, factories, or comrades of another fallen pilot. The most famous of these was an aircraft purchased with the savings of a seven-year-old daughter of the fallen commander of the 237th ShAP. Learning of her father’s death, the girl sent 100 rubles directly to Stalin asking him to use the money for an Il-2 to avenge her father. Remarkably, Stalin actually received the letter and 237th ShAP received a new Il-2m3 with the inscription “From Lenochka for father” on the side.
This Iljusjin aircraft crashed in the Sennagress Lake on the Jarfjord Mountain in Norway on October 22, 1944 was recovered in 1947.
The first attempt at retrieving it from the water was in 1972. This resulted in the tail being torn off, and it was left in some bushes by the lake foryears.
In 1984 some enthusiasts decided to retrieve the wreck.
The plane lay on its back with its propeller facing downward. They used five pontoons, each with an ability to lift one ton, and connected one on both wheels and three on the propeller shaft which lay deep in the mud at the bottom of the lake. Air was pumped in the containers, but the attempt was unsucessful.
It was as if the plane clinged on to the bottom. In a final attempt, more air was supplied and the mud gave way.
The 40 year old Iljusjin-craft rose up in the light. They managed to get it on an even keel.
Later that summer they brought the plane on land with Army tackles and tracked vehicles. With the aid of the Sør-Varanger Garrison the rescue was made possible.
A war historical group was founded in co-operation with the Sm- Varanger Museum.
Ahead of them awaited the difficult task of restoration. All the work was done on a volunteer basis.
Five years were to pass before the work was completed. And it was this very plane that became a symbol of co-operation between the former Soviet and the new Russia in the Glasnost period.
The Russians had undertaken the task of restoring the plane. At no cost.
On June 23, 1988 a strange transport crossed the border to Nikel. It was the airplane from the Sennegress Lake returning to its home country.
It came to Norway carried by its own wings, but returned home on “lit de parade ‘t. The transport created a stir, attracting crowds ofpeople and reporters in Nikel.
It had been 44 years since a Sturmovik had crossed the border.
The Russians had offered to restore the plane in Revda, a mining town south of Murmansk, at no cost for Norway.
The plane was taken to a work shop, its parts lay around the body awaiting the work that lie ahead. A storm hit suddenly, short-circuiting the power, causing a fire in the building.
Two men entered the building, tied a rope around the propeller shaft and pulled the plane out of the flames.
The Iljusjin had survived both water and fire.
At last the work could begin.
It turned out to be a more difficult task then first expected.
Parts were salvaged from plane wrecks throughout the entire Kola penisula.
They even had to make some of the parts themselves. Finally in 1981, on December 1st, the celebration could begin in honor of the Russians that had done such an impressive job. The aircraft arrived in Kirkenes, shiny and freshly painted with a a bright white reindeer head on both sides. It was a solemn occasion.
Glasnost had started.
The Iljusjin aircraftfrom the Sennagress Lake became a symbol of the new openess in the Borderland.