- Ilyushin Il-2
name = Il-2
caption = A
Soviet Air ForceIl-2M
Ground attack aircraft
first flight =
introduced = 1941
retired = 1954 (Yugoslavia & Bulgaria)
primary user =
Soviet Air Force
more users =
produced = 1941-1945 [Michulec 1999,pp. 27–28.]
number built = 36,183 [Michulec 1999, p. 27.]
unit cost =
variants with their own articles =
IlyushinIl-2 "Shturmovik" ( _ru. Ил-2 Штурмовик) was a ground attack aircraftin the Second World War, produced by the Soviet Unionin large numbers. In combination with its successor, the Ilyushin Il-10, a total of 36,163 were built, making it the single most produced military aircraft design in all of aviation history as well as the third most produced aircraft in history behind the Cessna 172and the Polikarpov Po-2. It was a prominent aircraft for tank kills with its accuracy in diving bombing.
To Shturmovik pilots, the aircraft was simply the diminutive "Ilyusha". To the soldiers on the ground, it was the "Hunchback," the "Flying Tank" or, the greatest of compliments, the "Flying Infantryman." 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.
Joseph Stalinpaid 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." Hardesty 1982, p. 170.]
Design and development
The idea for a Soviet armored ground-attack aircraft dates to the early
1930swhen Dmitry Pavlovich Grigorovichdesigned 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 Ilyushinand his team at the Central Design Bureauin 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 December1939, won the government competition against Sukhoi Su-6and received VVSdesignation 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-351,370 hp (1,022 kW) engine proved too weak and was replaced by the 1,680 hp (1,254 kW) Mikulin AM-38before the aircraft entered production.
The Il-2 was produced in vast quantities, becoming one of the most widely produced military aircraft in history. The aircraft entered production in 1941 as the Il-2, and 249 had been built by the time
Nazi Germanyinvaded the Soviet Unionon 22 June 1941.
Production early in the
Great Patriotic Warwas 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 Shenkman and Tretyakov:
As a result, "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." [ [http://break-left.org/air/il-2.html web reference] accessed June 2006. See also [http://www.vectorsite.net/avil2.html www.vectorsite.net] article.]
The first use in action of the Il-2 was with the 4th ShAP (Ground Attack Regiment) over the
Berezina Riverdays 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. The training received enabled the pilots to only take-off and land, none of the pilots had fired the armament, let alone tactics. Only 249 IL-2s were available on 22 June 1941. In the first three days 4 ShAP had lost just two IL-2s to enemy action, but a further 19 were lost to other causes, including 8 to enemy fire. 20 Pilots were killed in these incidents. [Bergstrom 2007, p. 26. Cites document "TsAMO f. 319, op.4799d.25." Russian Central Military Archive at Podolsk.] Unsurprisingly, by 10 July, 4th ShAP was down to ten aircraft from a strength of 65. [ Shores 1977, p. 73.]
Tactics changed as Soviet aircrew became 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 the cannon. [Shores 1977, pp. 72–82.] Another powerful weapon of the Il-2 was PTAB-2,5-1,5 HEAT bomblets (ProtivoTankovaya AviaBomba, Anti-Tank Aviation Bomb - the number means that it was the size of a 2.5 kg bomb, but weighed only 1.5 kg due to the empty space in the shaped charge). Up to 192 were carried in four external dispensers or up to 220 in the internal weapon bays. The HEAT charge easily penetrated the relatively thin upper armor of heavy German tanks. PTABs were first used in large scale in the
Battle of Kursk.
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 Itanks. They were also proved capable of defending themselves against enemy aircraft, claiming an occasional Messerschmitt Bf 109. [ [ http://jpgleize.club.fr/aces/ww2stm.htm Aces] ]
The true capabilities of the 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 Divisionwere destroyed by Ilyushin Il-2s in just 20 minutes.Liss 1966] In another report of the action on the same day, a Soviet staff publication states that:
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 [ [http://www.tarrif.net/wwii/interviews/ilmari_juutilainen.htm Interview: Ilmari Juutlainen ] ] . 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 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 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-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.Fact|date=March 2007 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 gave it the nickname "Schlächter" (Slaughterer), perhaps a play on the term "Schlachtflugzeug" ("ground attack aircraft"). Famous nicknames such as "The Flying Tank" and "Der Schwarze Tod" (the "Black Death") were created by soldiers. Luftwaffe pilots called it "Eiserner Gustav" (Iron Gustav) [Source German wiki: Im Landserjargon auch als "Eiserner Gustav" bekannt] or the "Zementbomber" (Concrete bomber). [Michulec 1999, p. 3.] The Finnish nickname "Maatalouskone" ("The Agricultural Machine" or "crop duster") derived from the habitual low attack pattern, "crop dusting", of the Il-2.
Otto Kittel, the fourth highest fighter ace (268) was named "the Annihilator of Sturmoviks".Fact|date=May 2008
While the Il-2 proved to be a deadly air-to-ground weapon, heavy losses resulted from its 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 eventually modified to this standard. Later changes included an upgrade from 20 mm to 23 mm to 37 mm cannons,
aerodynamicimprovements, 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 the Shvetsov ASh-82engine was proposed in 1942 to remedy projected shortages in Mikulin inline engines. However, the ASh-82 was also used in the new Lavochkin La-5fighter which effectively secured all available engines to the Lavochkin bureau. The radial engine Sukhoi Su-2ground attack aircraft was produced in small quantities, but was generally considered unsuitable due to inadequate performance and lack of defensive armament. Soviet anti-aircraft artilleryfrequently 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 aircraft eventually scrapped with the advent of military jets. Only a handful of Il-2s 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 World War II tank battle (see Operation Frühlingserwachen).
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 Gareev received two gold stars of the Hero of the Soviet Union, the last of them received both stars in one day.
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 around 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.
Georgi Beregovoi, flew 185 missions on Il-2s. In 1962, he joined the Soviet space program and flew into space on Soyuz 3in 1968.
Typical of Soviet Second World War aircraft, many Il-2s 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.
Il-2 Rear gunners: a deliberate sacrifice?
In his book "Inside the Soviet Army",
Viktor Suvorovalleges the lack of protection for Il-2 rear gunners was part of a deliberate policy. Suvorov claims from 1942 on, all Soviet airfields had attached penal companies of air gunners. Such companies were made up of prisoners who were considered to be "enemies of socialism" or "enemies of the people." The air gunners were not provided with either armour protection, or allegedly, parachutes and were reliant entirely on their machine guns to ensure their own survival. The death rate among the air gunners was exceptionally high and Suvorov alleges Marshal of the Air Forces A. E. Golovanov came up with a special device to keep the guns pointing up after the gunners were killed, or attacking " Luftwaffe" pilots would realise the air gunner was dead and concentrate on that aircraft. According to Suvorov, prisoners who survived could theoretically clear their sentences after nine missions. The prisoners, however, were always transferred to mine clearing or other units for "medical reasons" before this could happen.
Many Il-2 pilots and rear gunners do not remember seeing or hearing about any prisoner crews, and German propaganda may have broadcast this claim as well. In recent years documents from the Soviet archives have come to light indicating the Soviet Air Force did in fact use "penal squadrons" in some situations, [ [http://www.vor.ru/55/Stalingrad/History_4_eng.html Voice of Russia article accessed May 2006] ] but although they may have been considered expendable, there is no evidence that they would have been deliberately sacrificed.
The rear gunner was in fact provided with armor protection from the start, but this was only 6 mm thick, and protected the gunner only from behind and was not effective against rounds more powerful than rifle-caliber MG. [ [http://airwar.ru/enc/aww2/il2m.html Airwar] ] It moreover excluded field modification made to single-seater Il-2s, in which a hole was cut in the fuselage panelling behind the cockpit for a gunner, sitting on a canvas sling with an improvised turret for a Degtyarev MG – so desperate was the need for rear protection.
;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-37cannons 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.
Bulgarian Air Force- received 120 Il-2 and 10 training Il-2U in 1945. Type was operated between 1945 and 1954Michulec 1999, p. 29.] .;CSK
Czechoslovakian Air Force- received 33 Il-2 and 2 training Il-2U aircraft. This type was operated between 1944 and 1949Michulec 1999, p. 28.] .;POL
Air Force of the Polish Army- (after 1947 Polish Air Force) received about 230 Il-2 aircraft between 1944 and 1946. All were retired in 1949.;USSR
Soviet Air Force
Soviet Naval Aviation;YUG
SFR Yugoslav Air Force- received 213 aircraft all versions and used it until 1954.sed by:
** 29th Assault Aviation Division
***421st Assault Aviation Regt -
***554th Assault Aviation Regt -
** 37th Assault Aviation Division
***422nd Assault Aviation Regt -
***423rd Assault Aviation Regt -
plane or copter?=plane
jet or prop?=prop
crew=Two, pilot and rear gunner
length main=11.6 m
length alt=38 ft 1 in
span main=14.6 m
span alt=47 ft 11 in
height main=4.2 m
height alt=13 ft 9 in
area main=38.5 m²
area alt=414 ft²
empty weight main=4,360 kg
empty weight alt=9,610 lb
loaded weight main=6,160 kg
loaded weight alt=13,580 lb
max takeoff weight main=
max takeoff weight alt=
type of prop=liquid-cooled V-12
number of props=1
power main=1,285 kW
power alt=1,720 hp
max speed main=414 km/h
max speed alt=257 mph
range main=720 km
range alt=450 mi
ceiling main=5,500 m
ceiling alt=18,000 ft
climb rate main=10.4 m/s
climb rate alt=2050 ft/min
loading main=160 kg/m²
loading alt=31.3 lb/ft²
power/mass main=0.21 kW/kg
power/mass alt=0.13 hp/lb
*2x fixed forward-firing 23 mm
VYa-23cannons, 150 rounds/gun
*2x fixed forward-firing 7.62 mm
ShKAS machine guns, 750 rounds/gun
*1x manually aimed 12.7 mm
Berezin UBT machine gun the in rear cockpit, 150 rounds
*Up to 600 kg (1,320 lb) of bombs and/or 4x RS-82 or RS-132 rockets
Junkers Ju 87
Henschel Hs 129
* Bergström, Christer. "Barbarossa - The Air Battle: July-December 1941". London: Chevron/Ian Allen, 2007. ISBN 978-1-85780-270-2.
* Donald, Donald and Jon Lake, eds. "Encyclopedia of World Military Aircraft". London: AIRtime Publishing, 1996. ISBN 1-880588-24-2.
* Glantz, David M. and Harold S. Orenstein. "The Battle for Kursk 1943: The Soviet General Staff Study". London: Frank Cass, 1999. ISBN 0-71464-493-5.
* Gordon, Yefim and Sergey Kommissarov. "Ilyushin IL-2 and IL-10 Shturmovik". Wiltshire: Crowood Press, 2004. ISBN 1-86126-625-1.
* Green, William and Gordon Swanborough, . "The Annals of Ilyusha: Ilyushin's Proliferous Shturmovik" "AirEnthusiast Twelve", April-July 1980. Bromley, Kent, UK: Pilot Press Ltd., 1980. ISSN 0143-5450.
* Hardesty, Von. "Red Phoenix: The Rise of Soviet Air Power, 1941-1945". Washington, DC: Smithsonian Books, 1982. ISBN 1-56098-071-0.
* Liss, Witold. "Ilyushin Il-2 (Aircraft in Profile number 88)". Leatherhead, Surrey, UK: Profile Publications Ltd., 1968. No ISBN. Reprinted in 1971 and 1982.
* Michulec, Robert. "Ił-2 Ił-10. Monografie Lotnicze #22" (in Polish). Gdańsk: AJ-Press, 1999. ISBN 83-86208-33-3.
* Ovčáčík, Michal and Karel Susa. "Ilyushin Il-2 Shturmovik: Il-2 Type 3, Il-2 Type 3M,Il-2KR, UIl-2". Prague, Czech Republic: 4+ Publications, 2006. ISBN 80-87045-00-9.
* Шавров, В.Б. "История конструкций самолетов в СССР 1938-1950 гг. (3 изд.). (in Russisn)" Moscow: Машиностроение, 1994. ISBN 5-217-00477-0. (Shavrov, V.B. "Istoriia konstruktskii samoletov v SSSR, 1938-1950 gg. (3rd ed.)". translation: "History of Aircraft design in USSR: 1938-1950". Moscow: Mashinostroenie Publishing House, 1994. ISBN 5-217-00477-0.)
* Shores, Christopher. "Ground Attack Aircraft of World War II". London: Macdonald and Jane's, 1977. ISBN 0-35608-338-1.
* Stapfer, Hans-Heiri. "Il-2 Stormovik in Action (Aircraft number 155)". Carrollton, TX: Squadron/Signal Publications, Inc., 1995. ISBN 0-89747-341-8.
* [http://people.ee.ethz.ch/~chapman/il2guide/downloads/technical/il2pilotnotes.pdf Original Il-2 Field Manual (in Russian)]
* [http://break-left.org/air/il-2.html The Ilyushin Il-2 Shturmovik]
* [http://www.plastikowe.pl/galerie/lotnictwo/iliuszyn-il-2m3 Photo gallery of Ilyushin Il-2m3]
* [http://scalemodels.ru/modules/photo/viewcat_cid_113.html 25 shots of Il-2 memorial (Novorossyisk, Russia)]
* [http://www.iremember.ru/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=133#jreactions Interview with Il-2 pilot Yuri Khukhrikov]
* [http://wio.ru/gal2a/galstur.htm Shturmovik photo gallery]
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