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Il-2 at 1942
Heavy Attack Aircraft
The Il-2 from from 8-th Guards ShAP VVS ChF at 1943.
Despite the strong fire resistance, the Il-2 showed high combat effectiveness. The need for this type of aircraft was enormous. The well-known telegram of I.V. Stalin to the directors of aviation factories, which, in particular, said: "Il-2 aircraft are needed by our Red Army ... like air, like bread."
However, the combat use of the Il-2 also revealed its major drawback, which led to large losses - vulnerability to fire from enemy fighters who attacked the attack aircraft from the rear unprotected hemisphere. The need for a second crew member to protect the attack aircraft from behind became apparent.
In the fall of 1941, Stalin received a letter from Captain E.P. Koval, navigator of 234 ShAP, in which he wrote “... The main drawback of the aircraft is that it is completely defenseless from the rear from fighters. An enemy fighter in most cases approaches from behind and from the side at 10-15 meters and hits the plane from cannons and machine guns, trying to hit the engine or pilot. ... Conclusion: it is necessary to plant a gunner with a machine gun behind the pilot (where the technician sits during flights). To do this, you need to move the pilot's armor to the very rear of the armored hull so that the shooter is behind reliable armor. ”
His reaction to this letter was very quick and very determined. In February 1942, he summoned Ilyushin to the Kremlin, and, according to his recollections, said: “Immediately provide a two-seater plane. Do what you want, but we will not allow the assembly line to be stopped. ” (I will allow myself to question the words of Ilyushin, since this“ immediately ”dragged on until autumn, and Stalin had a very good memory). Since it was impossible to change the main tactical and technical characteristics of the machine on the one hand, and on the other hand, the alteration should not have led to the restructuring of the production process at the factories, the designer could not send the IL-2 version based on the design solutions used on the IL-2 to the assembly lines. M-82. Nevertheless, the first works in this direction were developed on the basis of constructive solutions of this particular prototype.
Already in February, Ilyushin and his group built a prototype of a two-seater "attack aircraft", in which, in accordance with the wishes of Captain Koval, the rear gunner's place was placed immediately behind the fuel tank. The end of the single-seat cockpit was removed and a fully enclosed gunner's cockpit was installed in its place, well protected by 6 mm armor. For defense, the shooter had one 12.7 mm machine gun with an ammunition capacity of 200 rounds, which was later reduced by 50 pieces. He could fire the floor in the following angles: upwards - 35 °, to the right - 35 °, to the left - 25 °. The aircraft was not equipped with radio equipment. The entire cabin, along with weapons and ammunition, weighed 270 kg. what changed the alignment of the aircraft and its aerobatic properties, it was revealed in the process of factory tests carried out in early March. The plane pulled off the tail late at the start and lowered it too quickly during landing. In addition, the maximum speed has significantly decreased and control has become difficult. In order to "correct" these shortcomings, the rear landing gear was reinforced, the rear wheel was enlarged, the main landing gear was modified and a decision was made to install a new, more powerful engine model. Due to the lack of such a propulsion system, as well as for many other reasons, this project was quickly rejected. To avoid the same problems, the next prototype, built in April, removed the fuel tank and replaced it with two other armored tanks in the internal bomb bays. In its place, a new fully armored reconfigured gunner's cabin was arranged, somewhat similar to the one that was installed on the Il-2 M-82. However, in this case, the shooter had a ShKAS 7.62 mm machine gun, although it is very likely that this weapon was later replaced ... with a 7.62 mm DT light machine gun for firing at ground targets and fighters attacking from the side. This second prototype, despite some of its shortcomings, was immediately liked by the crews. Pilots - thanks to the aerobatic properties that practically do not differ from the one-seater Ila, and the shooters due to the spacious armored cockpit. The machine, however, did not like the management because of the almost half the bomb load, as a result of which it was not launched into mass production. This decision seems to be a significant error of the "top", since in fact, the Il-2 could continue to carry its 400-600 kg of bombs, only in their bomb compartments there would be no more than 200 kg. The remaining 200-400 kg could be suspended under the center section, on external locks, approximately as it was later done on the IL-10 (200 kg inside and 200 kg outside). The arguments of the manual are. that significant technical innovations would be required is unfounded, since changing the fuel system presented no problem, and the installation of the cab did not require major changes. Thus, it is not clear why the decision was actually made to abandon mass production, but perhaps the fact is that it was during this period that a propaganda campaign was conducted urging pilots to take the maximum bomb load, and on the new version of the aircraft there was a problem with placing bombs in bomb bays.
After this development was also rejected, the designers built another prototype, this time equipped with an MV-3 turret with a UBT machine gun and significantly increased firing angles. It might seem that this prototype was the best of the three, if not for the fact that the turret was not armored, and besides, it was too large and heavy for Il, which made it impossible to use it effectively in combat. The characteristics of this aircraft were very close to those of the first prototype (the unit was mounted behind the fuel tank), but with the difference that the speed loss was even greater, because the turret had greater aerodynamic resistance.
So, after five months of labor, Ilyushin's group remained in the same place, and the factories continued to produce a single-seat version. At this time, in August 1942, the idea of a simple alteration of a single-seat Ila into a double-seater appeared, which was very intensively promoted by two officers of the 6th Air Army: Lieutenant Colonel I.V. Delnov, commander of the 243 ShAD and chief engineer of this army V.I. Koblikov. The modernization they proposed consisted in cutting a hole at the site of the former "entrance" into the trunk and installing a shoulder strap in it with a ShKAS 7.62 mm machine gun, which was served by a shooter. Both main authors of this decision were guided primarily by the desire to give the aircraft at least some opportunity to repel the attack of fighters from behind, and not by ensuring the protection of the shooter and the interaction of the crew. Therefore, the second crew member did not have a flashlight, no armor protection at the back, or communication with the pilot. However, the need for a rear gunner was so great that some of the 6 VA officers made great efforts to promote this project, already implemented in the 11th Army and some other units in that sector of the front. (Converted in this way (in workshops) two-seater planes appeared much earlier. The first mentions of the alteration of the trunk in a place for the shooter at the airfields near Moscow date back to the beginning of 1942. Probably these works were the source of inspiration for the pilots of the 243 ShAD from 6VA) As a result, on September 7-8, one of the modified Ilov was presented to competent officers from the Air Force headquarters at the central airfield. Frunze in Moscow. The plane was examined by a number of specialists headed by the deputy chief of the Red Army Air Force for engineering issues L.K. Rekin, the deputy people's commissar of the aviation industry for experimental construction A.S. Yakovlev (the creator of Yak fighters) and the aircraft designer Ilyushin. In a letter to the commander of the 6th VA, General Fyodor Polynin, the head of the experimental construction department of the Red Army Air Force wrote: “We highly appreciated the initiative of 243 ShAD in the field of arranging a shooter's place and we consider it installation. Design bureau comrade Ilyushin was given the task to take into account the experience of your division and develop a more advanced rear cockpit ". On the margins, it should be noted that in the summer of 1942 in the same division, at the initiative of the same pilots, they tried to install rifle turrets from SB-2 on Ilakh. It is also plausible that these developments served as the basis for Ilyushin's subsequent works.
Ilyushin's design bureau very quickly developed another modification and in the same month a prototype of a two-seat Ila built at the plant was tested. This aircraft was very slightly different from its predecessor. Simply behind the end of the fuel tank # 3, a primitive gunner's cabin was arranged, which had a partially glazed non-armored canopy connected to the pilot's canopy. Unlike the rear fuel tank, the gunner's cabin was not protected in any way at all. However, to provide him with at least a good mood, a 6 mm thick armor plate was installed in the fuselage behind his cockpit, protecting only his ... legs. In the course of mass production, somewhere in the middle of 1943, the armoring system of the front of the cockpit was changed. In place of the rear armor plate on the inclined armor in its upper part, a vertical plate was installed completely separating the arrow from the tank. As before, the gunner's cabin itself remained unprotected. To protect the tail of the Black Death, a 12.7 mm UBT machine gun with an ammunition of 200 rounds was intended, but due to the fact that a significant additional weight (the ammunition weighed about 100 kg. And the machine gun itself was 21.5 kg) significantly worsened the aerobatic properties, the stock of cartridges significantly reduced - to 150 pieces (thus saving about 25 kg).
Taking into account the rate of fire of this weapon - 1050 rounds per minute - such a stock of cartridges was only enough for ... 8.5 from a volley! This made it possible to give only 2-3 bursts of attacking enemy fighters.
In addition to the alteration of the cockpit area, various upgrades were also made relative to the single-seater: for example, the fuel system was changed (However, it is very likely that this change was introduced later) due to which each plane was refueled not in 25 minutes, as before, but only in 8 minutes.
In order to ensure the modification of aircraft, the technical documentation for the equipment of the new shooter's seat was sent to the repair units of all air armies, where in October they began modernization work, guided by the factory documentation or using similar solutions. Serial production of the first two-seater "flying tanks" began in October 1942. These aircraft did not receive any additional designations (the constantly used names Il-2m or, which is the same Il-2M), but differed only in the next series number. Already in mid-November 1942, before the counter-offensive at Stalingrad, in 267 SHAD out of 17 VA, there were 66 attack aircraft thus converted, a slightly smaller number had 288 SHAD out of 16 VA, and slightly more of them were in various regiments of the 8 VA.
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