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Weapons of World War Two

Ilyushin Il 2

Ilyushin Il 2

Autumn of 1942. A German airfield in the immediate rearguard of the Russian Front is suffering the attack from a Soviet assault squadron. This is how the scene is described by a witness destined to become famous as a destroyer of Russian tanks, the then Lieutenant pilot Hans Ulrich Rudel: "Soon the Flak is triggered, but we see that the 20-millimeter antiaircraft projectiles rebound in the armor of the attackers. Only a light battery, which fires antitank grenades, manages to shoot down a couple of Ilyushin 2". Indeed, there is no exaggeration in this report.

The Ilyushin 2, pride of the Red Army's aviation, was truly an aerial tank. Born as a response to the German Stuka, it had in common with those an exceptional robustness. But while the robustness of the Stukas was due to the wise structural formula of the aircraft, the one of the Ilyushin was achieved simply by armoring the aircraft. Or better said, by building the fore section directly in a steel framework of variable thickness 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 an advocate of the air support to land forces, but the Russian projectors had not managed to provide to the state industry valid formulas that allowed, as it had happened in Germany with the Stuka, to develop that very important collaboration technique between land and air combatants. Finally, at the end of 1938 engineer Ilyushin elaborated a project for a heavy fighter, well armed and strongly armored, to be used in assaults. The "Sturmovik" (Assailant, in Russian) would become, during the war, sadly famous among the German troops, and specially among the crews of the Panzer.

After having flown as 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 low-winged monoplane with retractable landing gear, with an initially mixed, and successively entirelly metallic, structure. The fore section, including the cockpit, was, as aforementioned, a stell shell in the upper part in light alloy of an average thickness of 5 millimeters. The rear part, in turn, initially made of wood coated with plywood, would be built in metal from 1942. The cockpit canopy was totally made of armored glass and the windshield had 65 millimeters in thickness.

The Il 2, initially a single-seater, would be soon 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 12 cylinders in V cooled by water, of a maximum power of 1600 horsepower in the first type, which would be increased to 2000 on the model 42 installed on 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 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 the entire 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 operative employment 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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