Ilyushin Il-2 Shturmovik

The Soviet Ilyushin Il-2 Shturmovik ground-attack aircrafl was produced in greater numbers than any other aeroplane in history – at least 35,952 were made. Crudely built as an expendable item, it was not designed to be taken apart or extensively repaired. For mximum protection during ground-attack operations, the crew and engine were enclosed in a “bathub” of heavy armour plate, to which the all-metal rear fuselage and wings were attached.
Designed by Sergei Ilyushin as a t wo-seater, the Il-2 entered service in single-seat form in mid-1941. The two-seat Il-2m3 was introduced in 1942, with a gunner for rear defence.The Shturmoviks fought against the Nazi invaders in 1941-42, but it was during the great battles of the Soviet counter-offensive in 1943-44 that the aircraft became, in Stalin’s words, “as necessan to the Red Army as air or bread”.
Shturmoviks operated in vast numbers against German armour and troops; 2,817 were present at the start of the battle of Kursk. Although many of them were destroyed, they earned a fearsome reputation as tank-busters. German troops nicknamed this aerial plague the “Black Death”. Many Il-2s were also used by the Soviet Navy, whose pilots adopted a skip-bombing technique, bouncing their bombs off the water and into the side of a ship.

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