Legends of the East Part Four: IL-2 Sturmovik

It’s time for part four of my ‘Legends of the East’ series focusing on both the history and the virtual representations of WWII era Soviet aircraft featured in the IL-2: Great Battles Series. The goal as stated in earlier version is to try and shed light on both the history and the use of these aircraft and hopefully expand your simulation experience.

Early design and development

Our Red Army now needs Il-2 aircraft like the air it breathes, like the bread it eats.

Joseph Stalin

The IL-2 Shturmovik (or simplified Sturmovik) rightly holds a place in the annals of both aviation and military history by holding the record for the most produced combat aircraft and the second most produced aircraft in history. The IL-2 is beat out in numbers only by the ubiquitous Cessna 172.

36,183 IL-2 Sturmoviks were produced between 1941 and 1944 before production switched to the IL-10. At one point in 1943, the IL-2 comprised 30% of the total Soviet Air power.

IL-2’s run up their engines prior to a mission over a wintery Moscow.

The design of the IL-2 was intended to make it easy to mass produce – sometimes even by unskilled labour. Despite, or perhaps because of those qualities, the IL-2 became a constant presence on the battlefields of the Eastern Front causing havoc to the forces of the German Wehrmacht. Infantry, horses, trucks, trains, artillery and even tanks were prime targets for the IL-2 –anything on the battlefield was a target. So too were fuel depots, airfields and other support infrastructure just behind the front lines.

The original TsKB-55 prototype was created by Sergey Ilyushin in 1938 and unlike its closest rival, the Su-2, the IL-2 was designed with a special armored mold. The armor, ranging from 4mm to 8m thick, covered most of the front section of the aircraft protecting the pilot, engine, and coolant systems from light ground fire. Right from the start the aircraft offered internal carriage of four FAB100 bombs with racks for an additional two bombs. Other bomb and rocket combinations would later be added.

Field modified rear gunner positions were hazardous places to be but the gunner helped reduce losses to fighter attacks.

The standard armament consisted of two 23mm VYa cannons and two 7.92mm ShKAS machine guns. When the VYa cannons weren’t available 20mm ShVAK cannons were substituted. Various other cannons were hung in gondolas beneath the wings including the Shpitalny Sh-37 and Nudelman-Suranov NS-37 37mm armor piercing cannons.

The original IL-2 was designed with an AM-35 engine and a rear gunner. Authorities weren’t fully satisfied with the performance until the rear gunner position was removed and a new low altitude optimized AM-38 engine installed.

In combat and further development

This train locomotive is about to have a bad day.

The story of the IL-2 in combat tracks closely with the story of the war in the east. Suffice to say, from nearly first day of combat to the last, it was likely that an IL-2 was flying or engaged in combat somewhere on the 4,000+ kilometer front.

Production was disrupted when Soviet industry moved into the Urals and out of the range of German medium bombers. When production numbers dropped, Stalin interceded with a threatening message intended to get factory leaders producing aircraft and producing them quickly. It’s a piece of that quote that I put at the start of the piece that compared the essential qualities of the IL-2 to bread and water for the Red Army.

Production issues were overcome and design work on the IL-2 ultimately continued. Various changes were introduced over the 4-years of production including some that were hard learned combat lessons.

A pair of IL-2’s flying a mission over the Volga

Combat realities had shown that the IL-2 could always not always count on effective fighter escort protection. The addition of rear gunners in field modifications had begun to dramatically reduce the number of loses to enemy fighters and so the reintroduction of the gunner station was made formal in subsequent production lots.

One of the more effective anti-tank weapons employed by the IL-2 was the PTAB bomblet, which, when deployed in large numbers beneath an IL-2, could sometimes cause damage to multiple tanks and light armored vehicles at once.

IL-2’s proved to be more of a psychological weapon against hardened targets and its heavy armor limited its ability to carry larger bombs. Still the IL-2 proved particularly effective against lighter targets and perhaps the best example of that was a January 1943 attack against a German airfield near Salsk (south west of Stalingrad). The airbase was packed full of nearly 150 Luftwaffe aircraft and a daring low altitude raid to the base saw German defenses caught completely by surprise with 72 aircraft ultimately destroyed.

Legacy

Production on the IL-2 ceased in late 1944 as production ramped up on the improved IL-10.

Development on the IL-2 ceased in 1944 as production on an enhanced version of the aircraft, the IL-10 started, and this successor saw use in the last days of the war and into the 1950s. Some IL-10s were employed during the Korean war. The last of the IL-10s were ultimately retired in 1962.

Some trace the battlefield effectiveness of the IL-2, a dedicated close support aircraft, to the development of couple of more modern-day examples with the Su-25 and A-10 being the most notable examples. It’s that legacy, as a symbol of defiance, and the very real historical mark that the IL-2 left on the battlefields of WWII, that helped propel it to be the title aircraft of three generations of combat flight sim.

In the sim

On an anti-ship strike mission with a brace of IL-2’s flying near the Taman Peninsula.

The IL-2: Great Battles Series is in a lot of ways based around the famous battles that the IL-2 fought. The sim does tremendous justice to the aircraft as a result with three main variants and about a dozen sub-variants modeled as part of the aircraft’s line-up.

The IL-2 Model 1941 represents one of the earliest examples of the aircraft and in many ways the purest example of the type. With a reflector gunsight, all metal construction, and a clear armored glass rear view, the base version of the Model 1941 has a few extra luxuries than later versions. The armored glass rear canopy was removed early in production and this is represented by picking the 23mm VYa cannon on this model. You’ll be looking back at the more common steel armor plate when you do this.

The IL-2 Model 1942 is heavier and lower performing than the Model 1941. It has partially wooden wings and has its own set of modifications such as the field modified machine gun position as an option. These were added in a variety of unique ways during 1942 as a stopgap before factory produced versions could be introduced. The Sh-37 anti-tank cannon is also available.

The Model 1943 version of the IL-2 regains some of the lost performance from the Model 1942 by introducing more powerful engine boost options. This version of the IL-2 offers optional PTAB anti-tank bomblets, improved NS-37 anti-tank guns and the rear gunner position fields a powerful UBK 12.7mm heavy machine gun. Lines are painted on the nose in view of the pilot for angle/speed accurate bombing. The Model 1943 also had a simplified ring and bead gun sight on request from pilots as it was less likely to cause injury during a crash landing.

Performance

IL-2 Model 1941

Speed

  • Maximum true air speed at sea level, engine mode – Boosted: 430 km/h
  • Maximum true air speed at sea level, engine mode – Nominal (at 2150 RPM): 421 km/h
  • Maximum true air speed at 2500 m, engine mode – Nominal (at 2150 RPM): 455 km/h

Climb

  • Climb rate at sea level: 9.4 m/s
  • Climb rate at 3000 m: 8.9 m/s
  • Climb rate at 6000 m: 3.9 m/s

Turn

  • Maximum performance turn at sea level: 23.1 s, at 250 km/h IAS.
  • Maximum performance turn at 3000 m: 32.6 s, at 250 km/h IAS.

Armament

  • Forward-firing armament:
    • 2 x 20mm gun “SsVAK”, 210 rounds, 800 rounds per minute, wing-mounted
    • 2 x 7.62mm machine gun “ShKAS”, 750 rounds, 1800 rounds per minute, wing-mounted
    • 2 x 23mm gun “VYa-23”, 150 rounds, 600 rounds per minute, wing-mounted (modification)
  • Bombs:
    • Up to 6 x 50 kg general purpose bombs “FAB-50sv”
    • Up to 6 x 104 kg general purpose bombs “FAB-100M”
    • 2 x 254 kg general purpose bombs “FAB-250sv”
  • Rockets:
    • 8 x 7 kg rockets “ROS-82”,
    • HE payload mass 2.5 kg 8 x 15 kg rockets “RBS-82”
    • HEAT payload mass 7.2 kg 8 x 42 kg rockets “ROFS-132”
    • HE payload mass 21.3 kg

IL-2 Model 1942

Speed

  • Maximum true air speed at sea level, engine mode – Boosted: 400 km/h
  • Maximum true air speed at sea level, engine mode – Nominal: 380 km/h
  • Maximum true air speed at 2500 m, engine mode – Nominal: 414 km/h

Climb

  • Climb rate at sea level: 7.1 m/s
  • Climb rate at 3000 m: 5.6 m/s
  • Climb rate at 6000 m:m/s

Turn

  • Maximum performance turn at sea level: 25.7 s, at 250 km/h IAS.
  • Maximum performance turn at 3000 m: 37.3 s, at 250 km/h IAS.

Armament

  • Forward-firing armament:
    • 2 x 20mm gun “SsVAK”, 250 rounds, 800 rounds per minute,
    • Wing-mounted 2 x 7.62mm machine gun “ShKAS”, 750 rounds, 1800 rounds per minute,
    • Wing-mounted (modification) 2 x 23mm gun “VYa-23”, 150 rounds, 600 rounds per minute,
    • Wing-mounted (modification) 2 x 37mm gun “Sh-37”, 40 rounds, 185 rounds per minute
  • Defensive armament:
    • Backward: 7.62mm machine gun “ShKAS”, 500 rounds, 1800 rounds per minute (modification)
  • Bombs:
    • Up to 6 x 50 kg general purpose bombs “FAB-50sv” Up to 6 x 104 kg general purpose bombs “FAB-100M” 2 x 254 kg general purpose bombs “FAB-250sv”
  • Rockets:
    • 8 x 7 kg rockets “ROS-82”, HE payload mass 2.5 kg
    • 8 x 15 kg rockets “RBS-82” HEAT payload mass 7.2 kg
    • 8 x 42 kg rockets “ROFS-132”, HE payload mass 21.3 kg

IL-2 Model 1943

Speed

  • Maximum true air speed at sea level, engine mode – Boosted: 407 km/h
  • Maximum true air speed at sea level, engine mode – Nominal: 389 km/h
  • Maximum true air speed at 1200 m, engine mode – Nominal: 400 km/h

Climb

  • Climb rate at sea level: 7.5 m/s
  • Climb rate at 3000 m: 4.2 m/s

Turn

  • Maximum performance turn at sea level: 26.6 s, at 250 km/h IAS.
  • Maximum performance turn at 3000 m: 39.3 s, at 250 km/h IAS.

Armament

  • Forward-firing armament:
    • 2 x 20mm gun “SsVAK”, 250 rounds, 800 rounds per minute, wing-mounted 2 x 7.62mm machine gun “ShKAS”, 750 rounds, 1800 rounds per minute, wing-mounted 2 x 23mm gun “VYa-23”, 150 rounds, 600 rounds per minute, wing-mounted (modification) 2 x 37mm gun “NS-37”, 50 rounds, 250 rounds per minute, wing-mounted (modification)
  • Defensive-armament:
    • Backward: 12.7 mm machine gun “UBT”, 150 rounds, 1000 rounds per minute (modification)
  • Bombs:
    • Up to 240 x 1.5 kg HEAT bomblets “PTAB-2,5-1,5”
    • Up to 6 x 50 kg general purpose bombs “FAB-50sv”
    • Up to 6 x 104 kg general purpose bombs “FAB-100M”
    • 2 x 254 kg general purpose bombs “FAB-250sv”
  • Rockets:
    • 4 x 7 kg rockets “ROS-82”, HE payload mass 2.5 kg
    • 4 x 15 kg rockets “RBS-82”, HEAT payload mass 7.2 kg
    • 4 x 42 kg rockets “ROFS-132”, HE payload mass 21.3 kg

Great Battles Videos

Final thoughts

The IL-2 series has, at its core, been focused on the tactical air war fought during WWII on the eastern front with the IL-2 acting as the star of the show. As often as the series strays from that one aircraft I think its ultimately a good thing to come back to it as well. This aircraft isn’t the best looking, or the highest performing, but it’s necessity as a close air support aircraft and the immense numbers in which it was constructed make it …

Screenshots

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8 Comments Add yours

  1. Jonathon Coughlin says:

    There is nothing more fun to me than plinking AAA guns from 600m with an IL-2. This plane is a wonderful gun platform when you fly it correctly.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Huckle says:

    I got a great deal more out of the Il-2 after watching Requiem’s video that showed how to use the lines on the windscreen to bomb with. Of course, flying in a straight line at a certain altitude and speed makes you a nicer target…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. bigalrico says:

    Outstanding article! Like the others 🙂 I’m looking forward to more 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you very much! Your site, quality of the articles and hard work is very much appreciated!
    Brdgs, LeLv30_Redwing

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Michael Dwyer says:

    When I first got BoS I flew the Il-2 a ton, it was my favorite aircraft. It is easy to fly, even in complex mode has some interesting loadouts and actually has internal bomb bays, something I never realized until after I had flown it a lot. Love the cluster bombs on the ’43 version…such fun!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      Absolutely spectacular aircraft and sometimes, despite being the title aircraft, is overshadowed by all of the other types. The IL-2 I keep coming back to and having a lot of fun with it!

      Like

  6. Canada One says:

    Good article. Nothing wrong with covering the basics and reminding us about the stories of the planes we’re flying. A nice way to rekindle interest.

    I still spend more time in the IL2 than all other planes combined.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      Thanks Canada One! IL-2 is a great aircraft to fly in the sim!

      Like

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