“They are as essential to the Red Army as air and bread.” – Josef Stalin
With this quote the the Ilyushin IL-2 Sturmovik’s place in WWII was cemented. Produced in higher numbers then any other aircraft of it’s time the IL-2 played an important part in the Great Patriotic War. Feared by the Germans the same way the rest of the world feared the Stuka.
Most people are unaware of the Russian part of World War II. The sheer number of Russian lives lost was staggering. History would show the Germans were correct in their belief that they could conquer Russia quickly with their might. So what were the Germans thinking by standing still for three months?
The decision of the German military to stop because of the Russian winter. For the second time in the war the Germans were mere weeks away from winning a major battle. First was the Battle of Britain when the Germans were unaware they had all but won and backed down. The second was the Russian Front when they stopped and gave the Russians a chance to move their manufacturing behind the Ural mountains.
The IL-2 was born of a time with the Russian Air Force was very out of date. When the Germans invaded the Russians threw everything they had into the air. Most of it wouldn’t have looked out of place in World War 1. If you look at the list of German aces you will some with over 200 or even 300 kills. This is because the Russians just ran a meat grinder with their old equipment.
This ended for two reasons. First was the American equipment that was sent over. Mostly planes we didn’t want ourselves and just gave to the Russians. Planes like the P39 Airacobra which the US Air Force couldn’t find a use for. The Russians swore by them as attack aircraft.
Then there were the new Russian designs such as the IL-2. Planes that served a single purpose and only only one. The Germans and the US Airforce preffered multirole aircraft but the Russian perfected the single role. The IL-2 was a tank buster and it was good at it. With the 37mm upfront it could tear through the back of a Panzer. Something even a Sherman would have issues with.
So sit back and grab your hammer and sickle. The Wings of Russia episode below will tell you more then you ever wanted to know about the Sturmovik and is an interesting watch for aircraft nuts like myself.
[Ed. This was written by reader fodder650, also known as Wayne Moyer. Pretty interesting stuff, I must say. He does a “Plane of the Week” blurb on Google+. I recommend adding him to a circle if you are hip to the Google social network.]
[Image Credit: Public Domain]