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Ilyushin IL-2 Sturmovik

Soviet Union (1941)
Picture of Ilyushin IL-2 Sturmovik Ground Attack / Close Air Support Aircraft
Picture of Ilyushin IL-2 Sturmovik Ground Attack / Close Air Support Aircraft Picture of Ilyushin IL-2 Sturmovik Ground Attack / Close Air Support AircraftPicture of Ilyushin IL-2 Sturmovik Ground Attack / Close Air Support AircraftPicture of Ilyushin IL-2 Sturmovik Ground Attack / Close Air Support AircraftPicture of Ilyushin IL-2 Sturmovik Ground Attack / Close Air Support Aircraft

The Ilyushin IL-2 series became a critical component of the Soviet response to the German invasion of 1941.

Detailing the development and operational history of the Ilyushin IL-2 Sturmovik Ground Attack / Close Air Support Aircraft.

 Entry last updated on 2/21/2018. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©

The Il-2 Sturmovik (or "Shturmovik") was designed as a low-level close-support aircraft capable of defeating enemy armor and other ground targets. Hardly the fighter, the system was exclusively engineered to take an enormous amount of damage and still keep pilot and critical mechanical components safe. In the end, the IL-2 would become the most important aircraft available to the Soviet Union in their defense of the homeland against the advancing Panzer brigades.

Interestingly enough, the IL-2 began as a two-seat aircraft project, but was then modified to only accommodate one crewman. Apparently the armored 'bath' that the pilot and rear gunner sat in proved to make the aircraft much to heavy in this role - one can imagine that a slow moving low altitude aircraft became a sitting duck to both ground and air fire. Thusly the rear gunner position was removed entirely for the first production models. This single-seat IL-2 model was the IL-2 that became available to Soviet air crews at the start of the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1942.

With the invasion in full swing, production of the IL-2 hit a peak of 300 aircraft per month. In the first few months of operation, the aircraft was found to be extremely susceptible to rear attack from enemy fighters and the rear gunner position (with applicable 12.7mm machine gun) was reinstituted in the IL-2M. The rear gunner position was added in an extended cockpit area behind the pilot with a fuel tank separating the two positions.

As mentioned, the rear-firing gunner area featured a .50 caliber (12.7mm) positional machine gun with a somewhat limited arc of fire. Aircrews were known to completely remove the rear-ward part of the canopy to allow the rear-gunner and increased field of vision. The implementation of the originally designed rear-ward firing position afforded the IL-2 an increased loitering time over the battlefield as the system could now offer up a defense against oncoming enemy fighter escorts.

Several aerodynamic refinements were instituted in further models and the 20mm wing mounted cannons replaced by 23mm types. Improvements to the bomb-dispensing cell doors in the wing-underside were also implemented, allowing for a quicker response times of the 200 dispensing anti-tank bomblets. Provisions for 4 x 132mm rockets replaced the 8 x 82mm rocket armament arrangement from before. A torpedo bomber and a two-seat trainer version followed.

The IL-2 became an highly respected and highly feared adversary. Soviet air crews dubbed the machine the "Flying Tank" for its incredible ability to withstand a tremendous amount of damage and still release its payload only to return home intact. Naturally, one would think this would be related more to the structural core of the armored bath cockpit but the overall structural design contributed greatly to the systems resilience. Likewise, the German infantry referred to the Sturmovik as the "schwarzer tod", or "Black Death" for its very capable payload arrangement.

As improvements were made to the airframe and tactics, so too did the armament improve. More powerful cannons were integrated as were more potent rockets and bombs. The system proved so effective, in fact, that most of the Soviet aircrews piloting IL-2's were recipients of the "Gold Star of Hero of the Soviet Union" award.

At war's end, it was reported that upwards of 36,000 IL-2's were produced for the Red Air Force (1943-1944 alone reported up to 12,000 IL-2's in operational service). The aircraft more than returned the value of initial investment and went on to become the symbol of the oft-forgotten East Front in World War Two. The much improved IL-10 would go on to supplant the successful IL-2 by 1944, but the IL-2 would still remain in service in one capacity or another through the end of the war.

Picture of the Ilyushin IL-2 Sturmovik Ground Attack / Close Air Support Aircraft
Picture of the Ilyushin IL-2 Sturmovik Ground Attack / Close Air Support Aircraft

Any available statistics for the Ilyushin IL-2 Sturmovik Ground Attack / Close Air Support Aircraft are showcased in the areas immediately below. Categories include basic specifications covering country-of-origin, operational status, manufacture(s) and total quantitative production. Other qualities showcased are related to structural values (namely dimensions), installed power and standard day performance figures, installed or proposed armament and mission equipment (if any), global users (from A-to-Z) and series model variants (if any).

Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.

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Relative Maximum Speed Rating
Hi: 300mph
Lo: 150mph
    This entry's maximum listed speed (251mph).

    Graph average of 225 miles-per-hour.
Relative Operational Ranges
Graph showcases the Ilyushin IL-2m3 Sturmovik's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era Impact
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Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production Comparison
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units

  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.

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Ilyushin IL-2m3 Sturmovik Specifications
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Soviet Union
Year: 1941
Type: Ground Attack / Close Air Support Aircraft
Manufacturer(s): Ilyushin - Soviet Union
Production: 36,183
Supported Mission Types
Ground Attack
Close-Air Support
Airborne Early Warning
Electronic Warfare
Aerial Tanker
Passenger Industry
VIP Travel
Business Travel
Special Forces
Crew: 2
Length: 38.06 ft (11.6 m)
Width: 47.90 ft (14.60 m)
Height: 11.15 ft (3.40 m)
Empty Weight: 9,976 lb (4,525 kg)
MTOW: 14,021 lb (6,360 kg)

Installed Power
1 x Mikulin Am-38F liquid-cooled inline piston engine developing 1,770 horsepower.

Standard Day Performance
Maximum Speed: 251 mph (404 kph; 218 kts)
Maximum Range: 373 mi (600 km; 324 nm)
Service Ceiling: 19,505 ft (5,945 m; 3.69 mi)

2 x 20mm cannons in wings
2 x 7.62mm machine guns

Mission-specific armament included:
8 x 82mm rockets
2 x bombs

Later IL-2:
2 x 23mm cannons in wings
2 x 7.62mm machine guns
1 x 12.7mm rear-facing machine gun

Mission-specific armament included:
4 x 132mm rockets
32 x 82mm rockets
2 x bombs
200 x PTAB hollow-charge anti-tank bomblets

Operators List
Bulgaria; Czechoslovakia; Poland; Yugoslavia; Soviet Union

Series Model Variants
• TsKB-55 - Two Seat Prototype Model (sometimes designated as the BSh-2 or DBsh); fitted with Mikulin Am-35 inline generating 1,350hp.
• TsKB-57 - Single Seat Prototype Model fitted with a Mikulin AM-38 inline engine generating 1,700hp.
• BSh-2 - Single Seat Production Model Designation; redesignated as the IL-2 in April of 1941.
• IL-2M - (or IL-2m3) Rear-gunner position with corresponding .50 caliber machine gun reinstituted with an extended cockpit area; 2 x 20mm cannon replaced with 2 x 23mm cannon; provisions for 8 x 82mm rockets converted to accept 4 x 132mm rockets.
• IL-2 Type 3 - Aerodynamic refinements to airframe; 1,770hp powerplant; implementation of faster-acting bomb cell doors for bomblet dispensing.
• IL-2 Type 3M - 2 x 37mm cannon with up to 32 x 82mm rockets; aerodynamic adjustments to airframe.
• IL-2T - Torpedo Bomber Variant
• IL-2U - Two-Seat Trainer Model

Supported Weapon Systems
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Graphical image of an aircraft heavy machine gun
Graphical image of an aircrat automatic cannon
Graphical image of an aircraft anti-tank guided missile
Graphical image of aircraft aerial rockets
Graphical image of an aircraft conventional drop bomb munition

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