Ilyushin IL-1 Ground Attack Fighter Prototype
The Ilyushin IL-1 ground attack fighter arrived at a time in World War 2 where its services were no longer in dire need.
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The Ilyushin Design Bureau was founded in Moscow, Russia during January of 1933 and its services were in great demand during World War 2 (1939-1945). In 1939, the company delivered perhaps its best known and most successful product of all time - the tank-busting IL-2 "Sturmovik" ground attack aircraft. This platform was instrumental in turning the tide of war against Germany who had invaded the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941 to open up the East Front. Over 36,000 of its type were manufactured during the course of the war and many remained in circulation in the years that followed the grand conflict.
One of Ilyushin's lesser known contributions to the war effort was an aircraft designed to a new Soviet Air Force requirement calling for a well-armored and armed Close-Air Support (CAS) platform with fighter-like qualities. Its intended over-battlefield roles included decimation of armored ground forces and columns as well as holding inherent performance and agility to counter the best low-altitude fighters that the German Luftwaffe could muster - mainly the Messerschmitt Bf 109 and Focke-Wulf Fw 190 types.
Development work by Ilyushin began in 1943 and the design approach involved two similar, though distinct, designs - a single-seat model and a two-seat variant ultimately designated IL-1 and IL-10 respectively. Beyond the two-seat capability of the latter, both featured largely the same form and function - wings were low-mounted cantilever types and the fuselage well-streamlined from nose to tail. The empennage used a small-area vertical tail fin with low-set horizontal planes. The armored cockpit was near midships and aft of a long nose assembly housing a Mikulin AM-42 12-cylinder inline piston engine of 1,973 horsepower output. Proposed armament became 2 x 23mm VYa-23 series cannons, one fitted to each wing, as well as support for up to 440 pounds of carried ordnance - conventional drops and rockets. Ten AG-2 "aerial grenades" could be dropped behind the aircraft in the event of an attempted interception.
The IL-1 prototype went airborne for the first time on May 19th, 1944. Testing showcased a maximum speed of 360 miles per hour and ranges out to 620 miles. Its service ceiling was in the 28,215 foot range. The specifications were decent though they did not overtake those already being exhibited by in-service Soviet fighters from suppliers such as Mikoyan-Gurevich and Yakovlev. The IL-1 also carried limited standard armament and its bomb load was rather meager.
Momentum along the East Front was decidedly pro-Soviet by the end of 1944 and dominance in the air followed. The IL-2 was consistently providing excellent service in the ground attack role and there proved little need for the compact IL-1. The prototype was only ever evaluated by the company and never sent in for approval by governing bodies, leaving the sole airframe as the only product of the venture. It was ultimately abandoned when it became clear that there would be little interest in perusing the IL-1 design. The two-seat IL-10 fared better and was eventually adopted as a successor to the IL-2, managing for itself a healthy post-war career with production reaching into the thousands.