The Stormovik was one of the most important aircraft of World War Two, its appearance over the battlefield struck fear into German troops and helped turn the tide of the war for the Soviets. The initial Il-2s were very similar to the RAF’s Fairy Battle. The Battle was one of the first stressed skin monoplanes to see service with the RAF in the 1930s. It was designed as a light bomber but proved a death trap and was quickly withdrawn from service. The Il-2 appeared a few years later almost identical in role, shape, performance but with a heavy forward firing cannon, a lethal anti tank rocket system and superb armour protection. These qualities were to form the basis of ground attack aircraft of the future such as the A-10 Warthog and the Il-2 was so important that Stalin once described it as “ as necessary as air and bread to the Red Army”. An amazing 36,000 were produced (with a further 6,300 Il-10s) making it one of the most produced military aircraft in history.
Having seen the German build up the Soviet government issued a requirement for a specialist anti tank aircraft in 1935. This resulted in the VIT-1 which was very heavily armed but was never to enter service, due to the fact that its guns were so powerful that it was thrown off target when it fired. In 1938 with war looming the specifications were reissued and Ilyushin’s design team produced the BSh-2 prototype, which flew on 30th December 1939. After adding a more powerful engine it went into production in March 1941 and the first squadrons were forming as the Germans invaded in June 1941. The single seat production version had an engine which just coped with carrying a good fuel load, its weapons and the 700kg (1,543lbs) of steel armour it had. Large units swept the battlefield working out the first aerial anti tank tactics, despite German efforts to fool them with flares and smoke canisters.
A new 23mm gun was added and eventually a rear gunner behind the pilot (Il-2m3) in October 1942. Just before the battle of Kurst the guns were upped again to 37mm, which could get through the armour of the new German Panther and Tiger tanks.
Known as the Ilyusha by its crews, the Stormovik (or Shturmovik) carried out all kinds of tactical missions from anti tank to recon, to laying smoke screens. Some even carried a passenger in the landing gear housing! It did suffer against German fighters but victories over Bf 109’s have been recorded due to its impressive survivability. At its height 1200 a month were being built and by 1943 design for a replacement had already begun. The Il-10 looked similar but was a completely new aircraft replacing the wood parts of the Il-2 with light alloy and having a new engine, radiators and landing gear, extended armour and a powered 20mm turret. The Il-10 began to reach units in October 1944 and large numbers were in action by the end of the war.
|415km/h (258 mph)
|600km (373 miles)
|Typically 2 forward firing machine guns and 2 heavy cannon, plus 1000lbs of bombs or rockets, later rear machine gun turret.