Since the early 1930s, the military powers have focused on research and development of attack aircraft models to gain great advantage on the battlefield
The Ilyushin Il-2 had a wingspan of 14.6 m, an empty weight of more than 4 tons, a maximum take-off weight of 6.2 tons. It was equipped with a Mikulin AM-38F liquid-cooled V12 engine, 1,280 hp. The Il-2 could reach a top speed of 410 km/h, a range of 765 km, a service ceiling of 4,525 m, and an endurance of 2.75 hours.
One of the Il-2’s original armaments was the MP-6 machine gun, which was later replaced by 23 mm VYa cannons. According to the documents of the Soviet Red Army, the Il-2 attack aircraft is the most decisive aircraft in the history of modern land warfare. Il-2 could operate in both day and night, capable of destroying the thick armor on the German Panther and Tiger I tanks, shooting down even the German Bf 109 fighters.
In the biggest tank battle in history, the Battle of Kursk, on July 7, 1943, 70 German tanks of the 9th Panzer Division were destroyed by Il-2s in just 20 minutes. According to military experts, in addition to its offensive capabilities, the Il-2 also has the ability to defend itself extremely well against enemy anti-aircraft artillery shells, making it the best attack model in the world in terms of efficiency and cost.
The Il-2’s armor covering the engine and cockpit was 5-12 mm thick, capable of resisting small rounds and fragments of large caliber 20 mm shells. Thanks to its strong armor protection, an Il-2 could withstand multiple shots and was a nasty target, both for ground and air fire by the Nazis.
However, the thick armor only accounts for 25% of the fuselage, other parts such as the main wings, tail and rear fuselage were designed to be quite thin to reduce weight and create maneuverability for the aircraft. This caused the Soviets to suffer many casualties in the beginning, because the German fighters concentrated their fire on the rear of the plane. According to official reports, the rear gunners were not protected by armor and suffered four times higher casualty rates than the front pilots.
After that, Soviet engineers decided to make a cover of special synthetic material, to protect the tail of the Il-2. This reduced the penetration ability of German anti-aircraft artillery shells and fighters to a minimum. On impact with the composite material, all the shells exploded and broke the cover, leading the Germans to believe that the plane had been destroyed. However, the Il-2’s inner steel remained intact, making it fully capable of continuing to fight and returning to base.
The Luftwaffe was surprised, even there were rumors that the Soviet Il-2 was designed with the ability to heal itself. Because they clearly witnessed with their own eyes, hitting the plane, but immediately the hole closed. The reality on the battlefield proved that, special cover gave Il-2 a tough vitality. Hundreds of Il-2s returned to the airfield with dozens of holes in the armored compartments, wings and tail.
Together with the next-generation aircraft, the Ilyushin Il-10, a total of 36,183 attack aircraft were built, making the Il attack aircraft the most massively built military aircraft design in the history of world aviation.