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Ilyushin IL-28 (Beagle) Tactical Strike Medium Bomber Aircraft

The Ilyushin IL-28 Beagle was a successful Soviet product of the early Cold War years, being fielded in quantity by a variety of Soviet customers.

 Updated: 6/19/2017; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©

The Ilyushin IL-28 (codenamed "Beagle" by NATO) holds many distinctions in the annals of aviation history - some combat related and others more political. The IL-28 became the first jet-powered bomber in service with the Soviet Union in 1949 and became a mainstay of the Soviet Air Force for decades after that. The Beagle was also included in a military package to Cuba, along with missiles, that would go on to fire off the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Additionally, reception of several IL-28 examples to Egypt was one of the more decisive factors in hostilities between the Arab nation and Israel in the Suez War of 1956. Aside from those historical intricacies, the IL-28 itself was an excellent aircraft for the light/medium bomber role and widely exported to Soviet-friendly states and nations.

Design of the IL-28 culminated in first flights taking place by 1948, just three short years after World War 2 had ended and a several years into the jet age. The fuselage was extremely slender with a bubble canopy on top for the single pilot. The nose was of the glass-house variety and held a position for the bombardier. An additional crew member was fitted in the extreme rear section of the fuselage and operated both the radar and a twin NR-23 23mm cannon turret. The most distinct design feature of the IL-28 was the elongated engine nacelles that were fitted under each high-mounted monoplane wing assembly. The engines were of Klimov-type and supported close to 6,000 pounds of thrust each. Another pair of 23mm cannons were afforded the pilot, with these being mounted just under the nose assembly. Though the wings were of straight design, the tail section featured swept-back vertical and horizontal surfaces of a traditional and more modern aircraft. Bomb loadout consisted of up to 6,600 pounds or 2 x light torpedoes in the anti-ship role.

The IL-28 appeared in several operational variants, most notably the aforementioned torpedo bomber version along with a 3-seat tactical reconnaissance aircraft fitted with photographic cameras. A two-cockpit version (a second raise cockpit could be seen immediately behind the traditional cockpit in the trainer) served as a radar-less and cannon-less trainer in the IL-28U known to NATO as the "Mascot". Though China received many examples of the base IL-28, they took on license production of the system and designated it as the Harbin H-5. In all, some 6,000 to 10,000 IL-28 Beagles are said to have been built in all variant types.

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Ilyushin IL-28 (Beagle) Technical Specifications

Service Year: 1949
Type: Tactical Strike Medium Bomber Aircraft
National Origin: Soviet Union
Manufacturer(s): Ilyushin - Soviet Union
Production Total: 8,000

Structural (Crew Space, Dimensions and Weights)

Operating Crew (Typical): 3
Overall Length: 57.91 feet (17.65 meters)
Overall Width: 70.37 feet (21.45 meters)
Overall Height: 21.98 feet (6.70 meters)

Weight (Empty): 26,213 lb (11,890 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 46,738 lb (21,200 kg)

Installed Power and Standard Day Performance

Propulsion: 2 x Klimov VK-1 turbojet engines delivering 5,852lb of thrust each.

Maximum Speed: 560 mph (902 kph; 487 knots)
Maximum Range: 1,355 miles (2,180 km)
Service Ceiling: 40,354 feet (12,300 meters; 7.64 miles)

Armament / Mission Payload

2 x 23mm Nudelman NR-23 cannons under nose
2 x 23mm Nudelman NR-23 cannons in tail turret

2 x Torpedoes

Ordnance loads up to 6,614lbs.

Global Operators / Customers

Afghanistan; Albania; Algeria; Bulgaria; China; Cuba; Czechoslovakia; East Germany; Egypt; Finland; Hungary; Indonesia; Iraq; Nigeria; North Korea; North Vietnam; Poland; Romania; Somalia; South Yemen; Soviet Union; Syria; Vietnam

Model Variants (Including Prototypes)

IL-28 - Base Bomber Version; crew of three.
IL-28D - Long-Range Nuclear-Capable Bomber.
IL-28R - Tactical Reconnaissance; crew of three.
IL-28REB - Electronic Warfare Variant
IL-28RTR - Electronic Reconnaissance Variant
IL-28S - Proposed swept-wing model; never produced.
IL-28T - Torpedo Bomber
IL-28P (IL-20) - Aeroflot mail service transport conversion model.
IL-28U - Trainer Conversion Model
IL-28ZA - Atmospheric Research Variant
H-5 - Chinese Designation for base bomber.
HJ-5 - Chinese Designation for trainer variant.
H-5R (HZ-5) - Chinese Designation for long-range photo-reconnaissance variant.
HD-5 - Chinese Designation for Electronic Countermeasures/Electronic Surveillance platform.
H-5 (Testbed) - Chinese Ejection Seat Trials Model.
B-5 - Chinese Export Designation of H-5 bomber.