This week 1CGS, developers of the IL-2 series, updated us on the status of the project and gave us our first look at the 3D model of the P-39L-1 which is one of the last aircraft arriving in the series for IL-2: Battle of Kuban. After the week we’ve just had, any update would have been fine but this is a nice extra!
This is the Cobra
Bell Aircraft produced the P-39, a unique fighter in World War II in more ways than one.
The highly unconventional design featured:
- a tricycle undercarraige when other fighters were tail draggers.
- a “car door” on side of the cockpit where the pilot entered and exited.
- a massive 37mm cannon was fitted to fire through the nose of the aircraft
- an engine mounting to a space behind the cockpit.
The P-39 was also one of the cleanest designs of any aircraft in World War II. It’s drag coefficient was likely close to that of the P-51 (another clean design) and this gave it very good performance – but only at low level as the Allison engine fitted was only good up to about 15,000 feet.
It wasn’t well liked by the service it was initially designed for. The USAAF had limited use of the P-39 after the first couple of years of war (many were rushed to the Pacific to stem the tide against the Japanese). The British ordered hundreds and ultimately rejected using them thanks to some issues with the compass being rattled out of calibration during firing and fumes getting into the cockpit from the nose guns. They ultimately sent their Airacobra Mark I’s to the USSR which is where the fighter came into its own and prompted further orders.
In Soviet hands the P-39 became their top lend lease fighter and the one flown by multiple aces. The P-39 is very much the star of the Kuban battle as well. It’s where multiple fighter units scored large numbers of kills with this fighter.
We’ve never seen a P-39L-1 variant in a flight sim before. Not that I know of anyways. In IL-2: 1946 we had the P-39N-1, Q-1 and Q-10. The P-39L-1 differs a little from the N-1 that we’ve seen in the original series but only in small ways and the developers at 1CGS are determined to give us some options.
The P-39 differs from the earlier P-39D model mostly in the fitting of a 1,325 hp Allison V-1710-63 engine and a revised nosewheel. It and the P-39K are essentially the same aircraft with different propellers.
The default armament for the P-39L-1 is four M2 .30 cal light machine guns (these are in the wings), two M2 .50cal heavy machine guns in the nose, and a M4 37mm cannon (incidentally was made by Oldsmobile) cannon firing through the hub.
Here are some of the modifications that we’ve learned about:
- Removal of the four .30cal machine guns in the wings
- Removal of the rear armor plate
- Optional 37mm AP cannon armament
The first two total up to about 200kg worth of weight reduction making the P-39 turn tighter and climb more quickly at the cost of some protection and firepower. Surely this will be a popular option but maybe not all the time.
Information suggests that no AP rounds were sent to the Russians for the M4 37mm cannon but other information says the opposite. The cannon has a low muzzle velocity and poor armor penetration even with the AP rounds so the P-39 doesn’t make an ideal tank killer despite the popular belief that it was used for anti-tank operations. Instead the Russians used the P-39 as a fighter operating it at lower altitudes like it did with most of its fighter fleet.
Here’s a period video of the 37mm cannon firing. You can get a sense of the recoil from this powerful cannon.
Project status and other aircraft
Three aircraft remain to be released for IL-2 and two major features await implementation. The P-39L-1, the Yak-7B and the A-20B are all lined up next for final release.
Han tells us that the A-20B external model is finished but more work is required on the internal cockpits. As a multi-station bomber, the A-20B is likely the most complex aircraft in the project (the He111H-16 previously existed in H-6 form).
Meanwhile the Yak-7B Series 36 will apparently be a part of the next developer update as its external model is nearly finished. We’ve so far only seen it without textures and clearly unfinished.
Han told us some details in a separate discussion that I found interesting as well:
Yak-7Bs early series were one of the main Russian fighters in the battle of Stalingrad but we made the late series of Yak-7B for BOK, which were produced in February-March 1943.
The air regiments of the 3rd Air corps received a modification without the dropped rear fuselage and bubble canopy in March 1943. It was these aircraft that fought in the Kuban in the spring of 1943.
I was also interested to learn that a common misunderstanding is that the Yak-9 did not fight at Stalingrad or Kuban. Not in any numbers at the very least. Han informs us that its a misprint common in both Russian and Western literature:
Yak-9s did not participate in the battle of Stalingrad. For the first time they were massively used during the Battle of Kursk. Also, 3rd Air Corps received dozen of Yak-9s during Battle of Kuban. We conducted a special study of this issue.
He also goes on to say…
This error is present in almost the entire Russian-language literature about Yakovlev’s fighters or Battle of Stalingrad… It also got into the translations for the English-speaking audience.
Shows you the depths of the research that the 1CGS team is doing constantly to get things right for their sim. This is also great historical information for someone like me who has spent the last ten years or so learning about the Eastern front after spending so many years learning about the West and the Pacific. Absolutely fascinating!
Career and co-op mode
Two other big ticket items for the IL-2: Battle of Kuban update are the Career and Co-op modes. Both of these have far reaching consequences for the entire series offering a better single player and a new multiplayer method of play.
Jason has said previously that work is underway and that the team even found some time to iterate on the previous Career mode from Rise of Flight. If its anything like Rise of Flight’s Career mode, we’re in for a treat. It’s a great compromise between a truly dynamic campaign and a scripted campaign – endlessly replayable and with the kind of pilot/squadron persistence that players have been asking for since the start.
I’ll have a write-up on how Rise of Flight’s career mode works soon so look for that.
In the meantime…
In the meantime we have an awesome amount of content currently available. Patch 2.012 added the Kuban map and all three seasons which was a very exciting and momentous moment for the series. Kuban is easily the best of the three maps and yet the three exist together cohesively looking like they all belong together.
We already have access to the Bf109G-4, Bf110G-2, FW190A-5, He111H-16, IL-2 Model 1943, Spitfire Vb and Hs129B-2. This gives us a great collection of aircraft next to the types already available in the series. The next three types will round out the series collection in some new and interesting ways.
For the rest of the developer update (with some interesting charts on just how well they model .30cal M2 and 37mm M4 rounds) go visit the IL-2 forums!