Ilyushin IL-4 Torpedo Bomber / Bomber Aircraft
The Ilyushin IL-4 appeared in over 5,000 examples and became an equally important aircraft to the Soviet Air Force than its more popular sister, the IL-2.
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In many ways the Ilyushin-brand IL-4 was a "forgotten" bomber of the Second World War - at least in the West - though it formed the majority of Soviet bomber wings and was produced in excess of 5,000 examples. The system performed admirably well and was of a sound design though a poor defensive armament array ultimately led to high and unacceptable losses to the extent that production was completed by 1944 (though the aircraft continued to serve till the end of the war). In any case, the system was a large part of Soviet Air Force and naval operations and was the first bomber of Soviet origins to attack from within Berlin airspace.
The IL-4 had the appearance of a very capable design, fitted with a low wing monoplane assembly. Each wing sported an engine, with the cockpit situated in-between. A glazed nose section offered up good visibility and the streamlined fuselage design continued to a stout point. An identifiable turret was positioned at mid-rear with a single vertical tail surface dominating the empennage. Crew accommodations amounted to just four personnel. Defensive armament consisted of machine guns - though only in single instances - and mounted in the nose, the dorsal turret position and a ventral gun position. It should be noted that early models sported a rather smallish caliber of these guns in the 7.62mm range though later variants would sport a more impressive 12.7mm caliber. Despite this, the guns were still fielded in single mounts and the defensive armament was never improved beyond that. Though where the defensive side of the IL-4 failed, the offensive nature of the system was on par with the aircrafts intended role - up to three 1,102lb torpedoes could be carried aboard in place of a standard limit of 2,205 pounds of drop bombs.
The initial IL-4 design appeared in flying form by 1935 and was designated as the TsKB-26. Though the aircraft would enter production with the designation of DB-3B (the "DB" denoting "long-range bomber" in Russian), the system was re-designated as the IL-4 in 1940. Initial combat successes were hard to come by for the aircraft (particularly in the war with Finland) and her crews and were mostly based on inadequate protection against even the more common of fighters. Despite the drawback, the aircraft pressed on in service and eventually took part in the aforementioned attack on Berlin - a strategic note that would long be a part of Soviet strategy in the air war throughout the course of the conflict. A few variants eventually existed but all were very similar to the original production design - with the notable exception of the improvement in defensive machine gun caliber.