PlaneSpottingWorld welcomes all new members! Please gives your ideas at the Terminal.

Ilyushin Il-2

From PlaneSpottingWorld, for aviation fans everywhere
Soviet Air Force Il-2M
Type Ground attack aircraft
Manufacturer Ilyushin
Maiden flight 20 December 1939
Introduced 1941
Retired 1954 (Yugoslavia & Bulgaria)
Primary user Soviet Air Force
Produced 1941-1945[1]
Number built 36,183[2]
Variants Ilyushin Il-10

The Ilyushin Il-2 Shturmovik (Template:Lang-ru) was a ground attack aircraft in the Second World War, produced by the Soviet Union in huge numbers. In combination with its successor, the Ilyushin Il-10, a total of 36,163 were built, making it the single most produced military aircraft design in all of aviation history as well as the third most produced aircraft in history behind the Cessna 172 and the Polikarpov Po-2. It was the leading aircraft for tank kills with its accuracy in diving bombing.

To Shturmovik pilots, the aircraft was simply the diminutive "Ilyusha". To the soldiers on the ground, it was the "Hunchback," the "Flying Tank" or, the greatest of compliments, the "Flying Infantryman." The Il-2 aircraft played a crucial role on the Eastern Front, and in Soviet opinion it was the most decisive aircraft in the history of modern land warfare. Joseph Stalin paid the Il-2 a great tribute in his own inimitable manner: when a particular production factory fell behind on its deliveries, Stalin sent cabled the factory manager, "They are as essential to the Red Army as air and bread." [3]

Design and development

File:Il-2-Krumovo, Bulgaria-September 2006.JPG
Il-2M at the National Aviation Museum in Krumovo, Bulgaria

The idea for a Soviet armored ground-attack aircraft dates to the early 1930s when Dmitry Pavlovich Grigorovich designed TSh-1 and TSh-2 armored biplanes. However, Soviet engines at the time lacked the power needed to provide the heavy aircraft with good performance. Il-2 was designed by Sergey Ilyushin and his team at the Central Design Bureau in 1938. TsKB-55 was a two-seat aircraft with an armoured shell weighing 700 kg (1,540 lb), protecting crew, engine, radiators, and the fuel tank. Standing empty, the Ilyushin weighed more than 4,500 kg (almost 10,000 lb), making the armoured shell about 15% of the aircraft's gross weight. The prototype, which first flew on 30 December 1939, won the government competition against Sukhoi Su-6 and received VVS designation BSh-2. However, BSh-2 was eventually rejected in favor of a lighter single-seat design, the TsKB-57, which first flew 12 October 1940. The original Mikulin AM-35 1,370 hp (1,022 kW) engine proved too weak and was replaced by the 1,680 hp (1,254 kW) Mikulin AM-38 before the aircraft entered production.

The aircraft entered production in 1941 as Il-2, and 249 had been built by the time Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941.

Operational history

File:Ilyushin Il-2 Warsaw 1.JPG
Il-2 in Warsaw Military Museum

The first use in action of the Il-2 was with the 4th ShAP (Ground Attack Regiment) over the Berezina River days after the invasion began. So new were the aircraft that the pilots had no training in flight characteristics or tactics, and the ground crew no training in servicing or re-arming. Unsurprisingly, by 10 July, 4th ShAP was down to ten aircraft from a strength of 65.[4]

Tactics changed as the Soviet aircrew got used to the Il-2's strengths. Instead of a low horizontal straight approach at 50 m (150 ft) ltitude, the target was usually kept to the pilot's left and a turn and shallow dive of 30 degrees was utilized, using an echeloned assault by four to twelve aircraft at a time. Although the Il-2's RS-82 rockets could destroy armored vehicles with a single hit, they were so inaccurate experienced Il-2 pilots mainly utilized their cannon armament.[5]

Thereafter the Il-2 was widely deployed on the Eastern Front. The aircraft was capable of flying in low light conditions and carried weaponry capable of defeating the thick armor of the Panther and Tiger I tanks. They were also proved capable of defending themselves against enemy aircraft, claiming an occasional Messerschmitt Bf 109. [6]

The true abilities of Il-2 are difficult to determine from existing documentary evidence. W. Liss in Aircraft profile 88: Ilyushin Il-2 mentions an engagement during the Battle of Kursk on 7 July 1943, in which 70 tanks from the German 9th Panzer Division were destroyed by Ilyushin Il-2 in just 20 minutes.[7] In another report of the action on the same day, a Soviet staff publication states that


Thanks to the heavy armor protection, an Il-2 could take a great deal of punishment and proved a difficult target for both ground and aircraft fire to down. Some pilots favored aiming down into the cockpit and wing roots in diving attacks on the slow, low-flying Il-2 formations.[8] Several Luftwaffe aces claimed to attack while climbing from behind, out of view of the rear gunner, and aim for the Il-2's non-retractable oil cooler. The veracity of this has been disputed by some Il-2 pilots in postwar interviews since Il-2s typically flew very close to the ground (cruise altitudes below 50 m (160 ft) were common) and the radiator protruded a mere 4 in (10 cm) from the aircraft. A major threat to Il-2 was the German ground fire. In postwar interviews, Il-2 pilots reported 20 mm and 37 mm artillery as the primary threat. While the fabled 88 mm gun was formidable, low-flying Il-2s presented a fast-moving target for the 88's relatively low rate of fire and while occasional hits were scored, Soviet pilots apparently did not treat the "88" with the same respect high-flying Allied bomber crews did.

The armored tub ranging from 5 to 12 mm (0.2 to 0.5 in) in thickness and enveloping the engine and the cockpit could deflect all small arms fire and glancing blows from larger-caliber ammunition. There are reports of the armored windscreen surviving direct hits from 20 mm rounds. Unfortunately, the rear gunners did not have the benefit of all-around armor protection and suffered about four times more casualties than the pilots. Added casualties resulted from the Soviet policy of not returning home with unused ammunition which typically resulted in repeated passes on the target.[citation needed] Soviet troops often requested additional passes even after the aircraft were out of ammunition to exploit the intimidating effect Il-2s had on German ground troops, who had given it the nickname Schlächter (Slaughterer), perhaps a play on the term Schlachtflugzeug ("ground attack aircraft"). Famous nicknames such as "The Flying Tank" and "Der Schwarze Tod" (the "Black Death") were created by soldiers. Luftwaffe pilots called it Eiserner Gustav (Iron Gustav) or the Zementbomber (Concrete bomber).[9] The Finnish nickname Maatalouskone ("The Agricultural Machine" or "crop duster") derived from the habitual low attack pattern, "crop dusting," of the Il-2.[10]

While Il-2 proved to be a deadly air-to-ground weapon, heavy losses resulted from vulnerability to fighter attack, consequently, in February 1942, the two-seat design was revived. The IL-2M with a rear gunner under the stretched canopy entered service in September 1942 with surviving single-seaters eventually modified to this standard. Later changes included an upgrade from 20-mm to 23-mm to 37-mm cannons, aerodynamic improvements, use of wooden outer wing panels instead of metal and increased fuel capacity. In 1943, the IL-2 Type 3 or Il-2m3 came out with redesigned wings, swept back 15 degrees on the outer panels. Performance and handling were much improved and this became the most common version of the Il-2. A radial-engine-powered variant of the Il-2 with Shvetsov ASh-82 engine was proposed in 1942 to remedy projected shortages in Mikulin inline engines. However, ASh-82 was also used in the new Lavochkin La-5 fighter which effectively secured all available engines to the Lavochkin bureau. The radial-engined Sukhoi Su-2 ground attack aircraft was produced in small quantities, but was generally considered unsuitable due to inadequate performance and lack of defensive armament. Soviet anti-aircraft artillery frequently mistook it for German aircraft, often with lethal consequences.

After the war, the Il-2 could be found in service with several Eastern European countries, with most of the Il-2/10 aircraft eventually scrapped with the advent of military jets. Only a handful of Il-2s survive, including museum rebuilds of crashed airframes. In recent years, several Il-2 wrecks have been located and recovered from Lake Balaton, a large, shallow lake in Hungary, located near the historic site of a large World War II tank battle.


Famous Il-2 Pilots

Senior Lieutenant Anna Yegorova flew 260 missions

Among the pilots who gained fame flying the Il-2, was Senior Lieutenant Anna Yegorova, a female pilot who flew 260 missions. She was decorated three times, the last "posthumously", as she was presumed dead after being shot down. In fact, she managed to survive imprisonment in a German concentration camp. Jr Lt Ivan Grigorevich Drachenko, another Il-2 pilot, was reputedly one of only four men who were both decorated as Heroes of the Soviet Union and also won all three of the Orders of Glory. Pilots Begeldinov, Mylnikov, Alekseenko, and Gareev received two gold stars of the Hero of the Soviet Union, last of them got both stars in one day.

Hero of the Soviet Union T. Kuznetsov survived the crash of his Il-2 in 1942 when shot down returning from a reconnaissance mission. Kuznetsov was able to escape from the wreck and hid nearby. To his surprise, a German Bf 109 landed near the crash site and the pilot began to scrounge around the wrecked Il-2 for souvenirs. Thinking quickly, Kuznetsov ran to the German fighter and used it to fly home, barely avoiding being shot down by Soviet fighters in the process.[7]

Typical of Soviet Second World War aircraft, many Il-2 were "gifts" presented to specific pilots and partially paid for by organizations like hometowns, factories, or comrades of another fallen pilot. The most famous of these was an aircraft purchased with the savings of a seven-year-old daughter of the fallen commander of the 237th ShAP. Learning of her father's death, the girl sent 100 rubles directly to Stalin asking him to use the money for an Il-2 to avenge her father. Remarkably, Stalin actually received the letter and 237th ShAP received a new Il-2m3 with the inscription "From Lenochka for father" on the side.

Il-2 Rear gunners: a deliberate sacrifice?

In his book Inside the Soviet Army, Viktor Suvorov alleges the lack of protection for Il-2 rear gunners was part of a deliberate policy. Suvorov claims from 1942 on, all Soviet airfields had attached penal companies of air gunners. Such companies were made up of prisoners who were considered to be "enemies of socialism" or "enemies of the people." The air gunners were not provided with either armour protection, or allegedly, parachutes and were reliant entirely on their machine guns to ensure their own survival. The death rate among the air gunners was exceptionally high and Suvorov alleges that the Marshal of the Air Forces, A. E. Golovanov, came up with a special device to keep the guns pointing up after the gunners were killed, or attacking Luftwaffe pilots would realise the air gunner was dead and concentrate on that aircraft. According to Suvorov, prisoners who survived could theoretically clear their sentences after nine missions. The prisoners, however, were always transferred to mine clearing or other units for "medical reasons" before this could happen.

Many Il-2 pilots and rear gunners do not remember seeing or hearing about any prisoner crews, and German propaganda may have broadcast this claim as well. In recent years documents from the Soviet archives have come to light indicating that the Soviet Air Force did in fact use "penal squadrons" in some situations,[11] but although they may have been considered expendable, there is no evidence that even they would have been deliberately sacrificed.

With respect to armor protection, most Il-2s produced after 1944 and the follow-on Il-10 had armor for the rear gunner. The initial omission may well have been result of the rear gunner being a design afterthought for a single-seat aircraft that was implemented during the crisis years of the war, rather than a deliberate act.


The Il-2 was produced in vast quantities, becoming one of the most widely produced military aircraft in history.

Production early in the Great Patriotic War was slow, due to the aircraft factories near Moscow and other major cities in western Russia being relocated east of the Ural mountains after the German invasion. Ilyushin and his engineers had time to reconsider production methods, and two months after the move, Il-2s were again being produced. The tempo was not to Premier Stalin's liking, however, and he issued the following telegram to Shenkman and Tretyakov:


As a result, "the production of Shturmoviks rapidly gained speed. Stalin's notion of the Il-2 being 'like bread' to the Red Army took hold in Ilyushin's aircraft plants and the army soon had their Shturmoviks available in quantity."[12]


Two-seat prototype
VVS designation for TsKB-55 prototype.
Single-seat prototype.
Armoured fighter, prototype only.
Single-seat production model powered by AM-38 engine.
Two-seat production model, 20 mm ShVAK cannons replaced with 23 mm VYa cannons, powered by uprated AM-38F engine.
Il-2M3 (Il-2 Type 3)
Swept outer wings, further uprated AM-38F.
Il-2 Type 3M
37 mm Nudelman-Suranov NS-37 cannons instead of 23 mm VYa cannons.
Torpedo bomber version for the Soviet Navy armed with a single 533 mm (21 in) torpedo, largest sunk ship was about 6,000 t of displacement.
Training version, also known as UIl-2.






Soviet Air Force
Soviet Naval Aviation


  • SFR Yugoslav Air Force received 213 aircraft all versions and used it until 1954[13]. Used by:
  • 29th Assault Aviation Division
    • 421st Assault Aviation Regt - Skoplje
    • 554th Assault Aviation Regt - Niš
  • 37th Assault Aviation Division
    • 422nd Assault Aviation Regt - Zagreb-Pleso
    • 423rd Assault Aviation Regt - Ljubljana

Specifications (Il-2M3)

Template:Aircraft specification

See also

Related development
Ilyushin Il-10 Comparable aircraft
Junkers Ju 87 - Henschel Hs 129 -

See also



  1. Michulec, Ił-2 Ił-10, p. 27-28.
  2. Michulec, Ił-2 Ił-10, p. 27.
  3. Hardesty 1982, p. 170.
  4. Shores 1977, p. 73.
  5. Shores 1977, p. 72-82.
  6. [ Aces]
  7. 7.0 7.1 Liss,1966
  8. Interview: Ilmari Juutlainen
  9. Michulec, Ił-2 Ił-10, p. 3.
  10. Source German wiki: Im Landserjargon auch als "Eiserner Gustav" bekannt
  11. Voice of Russia article accessed May 2006
  12. web reference accessed June 2006. See also article.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Michulec, Ił-2 Ił-10, p. 29.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Michulec, Ił-2 Ił-10, p. 28.


Otto Kittel(the fourth top fighter ace (268) was named "the Annihilator of Sturmoviks"

  • Donald, Donald and Lake, Jon, eds. Encyclopedia of World Military Aircraft. London: AIRtime Publishing, 1996. ISBN 1-880588-24-2.
  • Glantz, David M. and Orenstein, Harold S. The Battle for Kursk 1943: The Soviet General Staff Study. London: Frank Cass, 1999. ISBN 0-71464-493-5.
  • Gordon, Yefim and Kommissarov, Sergey. Ilyushin IL-2 and IL-10 Shturmovik. Wiltshire: Crowood Press, 2004. ISBN 1-86126-625-1.
  • Green, William and Swanborough, Gordon. "The Annals of Ilyusha: Ilyushin's Proliferous Shturmovik" AirEnthusiast Twelve, April-July 1980. Bromley, Kent, UK: Pilot Press Ltd., 1980. ISSN 0143-5450.
  • Hardesty, Von. Red Phoenix: The Rise of Soviet Air Power, 1941-1945. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Books, 1982. ISBN 1-56098-071-0.
  • Liss, Witold. Ilyushin Il-2 (Aircraft in Profile number 88). Leatherhead, Surrey, UK: Profile Publications Ltd., 1968. No ISBN. Reprinted in 1971 and 1982.
  • Michulec, Robert. Ił-2 Ił-10. Monografie Lotnicze #22 (in Polish). Gdańsk: AJ-Press, 1999. ISBN 83-86208-33-3.
  • Ovčáčík, Michal and Susa, Karel Ilyushin Il-2 Shturmovik: Il-2 Type 3, Il-2 Type 3M,Il-2KR, UIl-2. Prague, Czech Republic: 4+ Publications, 2006. ISBN 80-87045-00-9.
  • Шавров, В.Б. История конструкций самолетов в СССР 1938-1950 гг. (3 изд.). (in Russisn) Moscow: Машиностроение, 1994. ISBN 5-217-00477-0. (Shavrov, V.B. Istoriia konstruktskii samoletov v SSSR, 1938-1950 gg. (3rd ed.). translation: History of Aircraft design in USSR: 1938-1950. Moscow: Mashinostroenie Publishing House, 1994. ISBN 5-217-00477-0.)
  • Shores, Christopher. Ground Attack Aircraft of World War II. London: Macdonald and Jane's, 1977. ISBN 0-35608-338-1.
  • Stapfer, Hans-Heiri. Il-2 Stormovik in Action (Aircraft number 155). Carrollton, TX: Squadron/Signal Publications, Inc., 1995. ISBN 0-89747-341-8.

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:

cs:Iljušin Il-2 de:Iljuschin Il-2 el:Ilyushin Il-2 eo:Il-2 es:Ilyushin Il-2 Shturmovik et:Iljušin Il-2 fi:Iljušin Il-2 fr:Iliouchine Il-2 Sturmovik he:איליושין Il-2 hu:Il–2 id:Ilyushin Il-2 Shturmovik it:Ilyushin Il-2 Šturmovik ja:Il-2 (航空機) lt:IL-2 Šturmovik nl:Iljoesjin Il-2 no:Iljusjin Il-2 pl:Ił-2 pt:Ilyushin IL-2 Sturmovik ru:Ил-2 sk:Iľjušin Il-2 sl:Iljušin Il-2 sr:Иљушин Ил-2 sv:Iljusjin Il-2 tr:İlyuşin Il-2 vi:Ilyushin Il-2

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.
It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Ilyushin Il-2".