Reviewing IL-2’s A-20B Boston

Part two of my IL-2 patch 3.001 series involves looking at the new light bomber on the Allied side, the Douglas A-20B ‘Boston’, used by multiple air forces as a light bomber and ground attacker to great effect. How does it compare to some of the other bombers in the IL-2 series and does it give the Allied side a more powerful bomber option? Read on!

Causing havoc in the A-20B

Douglas Aircraft was responsible for a number of key and almost legendary aircraft designs in World War II and among them was the A-20B. The A-20 started out as the DB-7 and competed against a trio of other light bomber designs that the USAAC was considering for service. Impressed by the performance, the French government made urgent orders for the DB-7, though few were sent to France before that country fell.

In Soviet service, the A-20 had a long and useful life flying a multitude of roles from attack and bombing missions to anti-bomber patrols. Two thirds of A-20B production was sent to the Soviet Union and here they participated in several key battles – notably the Kuban battle.

A-20B-greengrass-bluewater.jpg
The A-20 is a surprisingly powerful and agile light bomber.

Considered robust, agile, and reasonably easy to fly, the A-20 made a positive impressions on pilots in multiple air forces.

How does it compare with the fast bomber competition in IL-2? Let’s have a look at some key performance indicators.

Raw performance

Speed

A-20B

  • Maximum true air speed at sea level, engine mode – Combat: 505 km/h (314 mph)
  • Maximum true air speed at 1000 m, engine mode – Combat: 524 km/h (326 mph)
  • Maximum true air speed at 5000 m, engine mode – Combat: 544 km/h (338 mph)
  • Maximum true air speed at sea level, engine mode – Nominal: 467 km/h (290 mph)
  • Maximum true air speed at 2000 m, engine mode – Nominal: 500 km/h (311 mph)
  • Maximum true air speed at 5000 m, engine mode – Nominal: 525 km/h (326 mph)

Pe-2 Series 87

  • Maximum true air speed at sea level, engine mode – Nominal: 446 km/h
  • Maximum true air speed at 2000 m, engine mode – Nominal: 476 km/h
  • Maximum true air speed at 5000 m, engine mode – Nominal: 498 km/h

Ju88A-4

  • Maximum true air speed at sea level, engine mode – Climb: 424 km/h
  • Maximum true air speed at 2000 m, engine mode – Climb: 462 km/h
  • Maximum true air speed at 5000 m, engine mode – Climb: 486 km/h

In both Combat and Nominal engine settings the A-20B is far faster than some of the other bombers currently available in the IL-2 series. At 2000 meters, the A-20B is nearly 25 km/h faster than the Pe-2 Series 87 (already a fast bomber), and nearly 40 km/h than the Ju88A-4. With Combat mode (5 minute limit) the A-20B is even faster although this power is extremely limited and prone to overheat.

Climb

A-20B

  • Climb rate at sea level: 10.0 m/s (1969 ft/min)
  • Climb rate at 3000 m: 8.2 m/s (1614 ft/min)
  • Climb rate at 6000 m: 5.0 m/s (984 ft/min)

Pe-2 Series 87

  • Climb rate at sea level: 10.4 m/s
  • Climb rate at 3000 m: 7.8 m/s
  • Climb rate at 6000 m: 3.0 m/s

Ju88A-4

  • Climb rate at sea level: 7.0 m/s
  • Climb rate at 3000 m: 5.1 m/s
  • Climb rate at 6000 m: 3.4 m/s

The A-20B once again takes the lead at most altitudes compared to other bombers available in the series. There’s virtually a tie at sea level between the Pe-2 and A-20B, however, as altitude increases the A-20B starts to maintain an edge. The Ju88A-4 climbs more slowly than both.

Combat loadout

A-20B

  • Up to 20 x 104 kg general purpose bombs FAB-100M
  • Up to 4 x 254 kg general purpose bombs FAB-250ck

Pe-2 Series 87

  • Up to 10 x 104 kg general purpose bombs “FAB-100M”
  • Up to 4 x 254 kg general purpose bombs “FAB-250sv”
  • Up to 2 x 512 kg general purpose bombs “FAB-500M”
  • 10 x 23 kg rockets “ROS-132”, HE payload mass 9.1 kg

Ju88A-4

  • Up to 44 x 55 kg general purpose bombs “SC 50”
  • Up to 6 x 249 kg general purpose bombs “SC 250”
  • Up to 4 x 500 kg general purpose bombs “SC 500”
  • Up to 2 x 1090 kg general purpose bombs “SC 1000”
  • 1780 kg general purpose bomb “SC 1800”

The A-20B carries a similar payload to the Pe-2 with some key differences. The Pe-2 can carry a pair of FAB-500 bombs ideal for busting tough targets while the A-20B cannot fit those bombs. On the other hand, the A-20B can carry twice as many FAB-100 bombs for missions that require a large area to be hit ‘carpet bombing’ style. Of the bombers available only the Pe-2 can carry a rocket loadout.

The Ju88 makes up for its other performance deficits in the payload category by being able to carry more and larger munitions than both.

A-20B in combat

A-20B-climbing-to-target
A formation of A-20Bs climb towards their target of the day.

I was a fan of the A-20C and G in IL-2: 1946 and was overjoyed to see the A-20B make the list for IL-2: Battle of Kuban.

The A-20B is an extremely fun plane to fly that is fast and responsive on the stick. It’s even capable of a little aerobatic maneuvering  (although I keep in mind that in real life it was limited to 4G). This makes it a very effective platform to fly low level avoiding terrain and performing low altitude attacks.

It feels lighter to fly than the Pe-2 thanks to excellent control responsiveness. Its also a faster climber and has a far higher top speed even at nominal power modes. Kick in the 5-minute Combat mode and you have a sprint capability that other bombers lack.

Flying in a big formation online or in career mode is exhilarating. I also just love to look over my shoulder at the giant R-2600 radial engines hanging off the wings. What an impression they make versus in-line engines that I’m used to seeing.

A-20B-out-the-window
Looking out the window towards the rest of the formation.

Defensive capability is good too. The dorsal .50cal gunner has a telescopic sight to look through for better ranged shots and the .50cal itself makes quite an impression. It needs constant reloading as the magazine size is only 60 bullets.

Underneath there is a .30cal mount that is far more limited in fire but it does dissuade attacking fighters from thinking the A-20’s belly is an easy target.

Up front the A-20B has a pair of fixed .50cal machine guns which are good for defense against head-on attacks and as an offensive weapon against ship gunners and light vehicles.

A-20B-reargunner
The dorsal gunner station features a single M2 .50cal machine gun.

All of these capabilities give the A-20B considerable flexibility operating either as low altitude attacker with considerable speed and agility or a medium to high altitude fast bomber with a significant though by no means record breaking loadout. The A-20B is also the best skip bombing ship attacker on the Allied side in my opinion. Something important for Kuban map battles.

The A-20B is not the medium to heavy bomber that some Allied bomber pilots are looking for and it can’t compete by tonnage on target with its Axis competitors. Those points aside, the A-20B is tough, fast, agile and it makes surviving difficult target areas possible. For many bomber pilots I think this will check a lot of boxes and be a lot of fun to operate. I know I’ll be spending a lot of time in this aircraft. It’s an excellent aircraft that has been faithfully recreated in the IL-2 series.

Overall report

Pros

  • Extremely fast for a bomber
  • Well defended and armed
  • Flexible armament and mission options

Cons

  • Not as well armed as some Axis bombers

Screenshots

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. Rich says:

    Have you tried entering a dogfight with the A-20? I think some folks on the Il-2 forums have been looking at the turning ability and energy retention of the A-20 with some curiosity.

    I know I have a better time engaging a lone G-2/G-4 in the A-20 than I do with the LaGG-3 for some reason.

    What’re your thoughts on this?

    Like

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      It’s a bit surprising but maybe it shouldn’t be.

      The Russians considered the A-20 overpowered and nearly everything written about it suggests that it was highly agile. Especially for a light bomber. I wouldn’t want to be in a drawn out dogfight (I feel like LaGG-3 would be the better option there) but in short defensive moves against enemy fighters… Yeah, I could see engaging them directly. That will bleed your speed, however, and I think it may be a winning option against one fighter but a loosing move against multiple.

      Like

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