Staff Writer (Updated: 5/2/2016):
The early 1950s saw the first frontline combat use of jet-powered fighters (through the Korean War) and bombers were soon surpassed by jet-powered designs. Additional work on turbojets meant that they were made more efficient, compact, reliable and powerful. Single engine jets were becoming commonplace and proven in such stellar designs as the Soviet Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 and the North American F-86 "Sabre" lines.
Work on a new ground attack platform for the Soviet Air Force began in 1950 by the Ilyushin concern with jet powerplants being the focus. Up to know, the company was well-known for its World War 2-era contribution of the two-seat, prop-driven IL-2 "Sturmovik" which was more or less an armored flying tank of sorts. For the new design, the engine installations became a pair of Mikulin AM-5 turbojets developing 4,740 pounds thrust and set in nacelles alongside a largely tubular metal airframe. The cockpit was set aft of a long nose cone assembly and a conventional, single-finned rudder approach was given to the tail with mid-set horizontal planes featured. The wing mainplanes were swept back 35-degees and given large boundary layer fences for the needed control at high speeds. A tricycle undercarriage, wholly wheeled and completely retractable into the design, added a most modern element. Three dive brakes allowed for improved control when coming into an attack action. The crew was two and they seated in tandem with full cockpit armoring planned due to the low altitude levels the aircraft was expected to attack in. Each crew position was also to feature an ejection seat.
Proposed armament was 6 x 23mm Nudelman-Rikhter NR-23 series cannons fitted to the nose section. An additional NR-23 system would be fitted to a tail barbette to protect the aircraft's more vulnerable "six" from interception. Beyond this fixed, standard armament set the aircraft was also being designed with a bomb-carrying capability in mind, this through in-wing bomb bays and underwing rack support. Underwing bombs could be supplanted by either air-to-surface rockets or fuel tanks (the latter improving operational ranges). Much of this armament suite was based on Ilyushin's experience in delivering its classic IL-2: this cannon-and-machine-gun-armed beast was produced in over 36,000 examples from 1941 to 1945 and supported air-to-surface rockets. Its rear was defensed by a machine gun. The IL -2 proved the ultimate "tank-buster" and ground-attack aircraft for the Soviet Air Force of the Second World War.