The same 1967 Soviet Air Force requirement that spawned the Sukhoi Su-25 "Frogfoot" attack platform also gave birth to the competing Ilyushin Il-102 prototype. Both were designed around the ground attack role in support of advancing ground forces, able to bring considerable armament to bear upon unsuspecting enemy elements. The Il-102 endeavor netted just two prototypes for its contribution to the program while the Su-25 has gone on to have a healthily long - and successful - career which continues today.
One of the more important ground attack aircraft of World War 2 (1939-1945) was supplied by Ilyushin - the twin-seat, single-engine Il-2 "Sturmovik" - so the concern already held a long-running history in the field of ground attack platforms. The jet age changed the role considerably as higher operating forces were now in play and pilot training and ordnance delivery made more complicated as a result.
For the Soviet requirement, the aircraft would have excellent loitering capabilities, strong cockpit and systems protection, and an above-average ordnance load capability. This meant a more conventional design approach as opposed to the sleek, fast-flying aircraft permeating the Cold War inventories of both sides of the decades-long conflict. The Il-102 essentially became a further evolution of the company's "Il-40" which was worked on in the early 1950s - just seven being built. This provided a suitable framework for the new requirement which was made into the "Il-42" and incorporated a internal twin-engine configuration, two crewmembers, and a "stinger" tail turret to protect the aircraft's vulnerable "six". The Il-42 was not endorsed by Air Force authorities which forced Ilyushin to continue work (privately) down another development path and this produced the twin-seat, twin-engine "Il-102".
The Il-102 was not an aesthetically-pleasing aircraft by any regard - but then again most ground attackers were not: the classic World War 2-era Il-2, the Su-25, and the American Fairchild A-10 "Thunderbolt II" all followed similar utilitarian-minded design lines. In regards to the Il-102, the pilot sat in an armored cockpit ahead of a raised fuselage spine and under a canopy featuring heavy framing. The cockpit was set behind a nose assembly which was sloped to provide an over-the-nose view. The wing mainplanes were swept aft (30-degrees) and mounted at midships, connected to the slab-sided fuselage through the side-mounted engine nacelles. The engines were spaced apart for a built-in survivability quality and aspirated through circular ports ahead of the cockpit walls and aft of the wing trailing edges. The tail unit used a single vertical plane and two low-mounted horizontal planes, these given noticeable dihedral (upward angle). The undercarriage was wholly-retractable and consisted of a single-wheeled nose leg with a pair of twin-wheeled main legs. The main legs retracted into assemblies held outboard of each engine installation along the wing mainplanes. Unlike the competing Su-25, which relied on a single pilot, the Il-102 had a crew of two seated-back-to-back. The tail gun was remotely-controlled by the second crewman ala the classic Il-2. Beyond the crew spaces being armored from ground-based fire, so too were the critical fuel stores and vital engine compartments.
Power to the aircraft was from 2 x Klimov RD-33I turbofan engines developing 11,465lb of thrust each. These also powered another crucial Soviet Cold War player - the Mikoyan MiG-29 "Fulcrum" lightweight fighter.
Proposed armament became 1 x 30mm GSh-30-2 cannon fitted externally under the fuselage in a fixed-forward-firing installation. The rear gun emplacement was given 2 x 23mm GSh-23L cannons in a trainable mounting providing traversal and elevation for the gunner. Beyond these conventional weapons, internal bays were located within wing element to provide housing for six bombs total (three bombs per wing bay). Beyond this, ordnance would be fitted across eight external hardpoints with six featured under each wing and two under fuselage-centerline. On paper, this made the Il-102 a very well-armed attack platform by any measure.
As finalized, specifications for the aircraft went on to include a length of 17.5 meters, a wingspan of 16.9 meters, and a height of 5 meters. Empty eight was 28,000lb against a Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) of 48,500lb.
Ilyushin first flew their Il-102 on September 25th, 1982 but the attack contract had gone to Sukhoi for their Su-25 submission (it was introduced into service during July 1981). A second airframe followed but this was reserved solely for static testing and never went airborne. In flight testing, the Il-102 revealed a maximum speed of 590 miles per hour with a ferry range out to 1865 miles. Combat range was up to 435 miles.
The original, flyable example went on to complete some 250 flights before 1984 at which point development was finally concluded by the company. The Il-102 was revived in 1992 when it was displayed at the Mosaeroshow International Air Show for possible export sale - there were no takers. This example found a permanent home as a display piece at the Gromov Flight Research Institute and formally concluded the Il-102 attacker story - destined never to reach the level of stardom that its forefather had attained some decades earlier.
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
✓Ground Attack (Bombing, Strafing)
Ability to conduct aerial bombing of ground targets by way of (but not limited to) guns, bombs, missiles, rockets, and the like.
✓Close-Air Support (CAS)
Developed to operate in close proximity to active ground elements by way of a broad array of air-to-ground ordnance and munitions options.
✓X-Plane (Developmental, Prototype, Technology Demonstrator)
Aircraft developed for the role of prototyping, technology demonstration, or research / data collection.
57.4 ft (17.50 m)
55.4 ft (16.90 m)
16.7 ft (5.08 m)
28,660 lb (13,000 kg)
48,502 lb (22,000 kg)
+19,842 lb (+9,000 kg)
(Showcased structural values pertain to the base Ilyushin IL-102 production variant)
2 x Klimov RD-33I turbofan engines developing 11,465lb of thrust each.
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