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Evolution of the Shturmovik:

chronological table

Updated on 10 November 2012
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Prototypes (1939-40)

The TsKB-55 prototype flew on October 1939 and was long tested at the beginning of 1940. Both the first and the second prototype had a two-seater configuration with both crew protected by the armoured bath, the nose higher than the definitive planes, AM-35 engine, 4 ShKAS on the wings and small stabilizators. The plane was later named BSh-2.

To improve the speed and range, the first prototype was converted into the single-seater TsKB-57, with modified wing, nose and stabilizator and the new AM-38 engine.

The second prototype was modified in more radical way (or completely rebuilt?), assuming a look very close to the successive production planes; it was renamed TsKB-55P (for gun-armed) and was flown on 29 December 1940.

Il-2 type 1941 early

Typical early production Il-2 had these characteristics:

  • single-seaters with reduced armour on the cockpit, and armorglass instead of steel armor behind the pilot;
  • PBP internal gunsight;
  • metal rear fuselage and fin (those built in Zavod 18, often recognizable in photos because of the poor connections and riveting); the few planes built in other factories had wooden rear fuselage and fin;
  • all metal wings of early type, with a ShVAK 20 mm guns posed inside a ShKAS 7.62 mm machine gun on each wing, metallic ailerons, landing lights on both wings, balancing weights both on the wingtips and under the ailerons, 4 rocket rails under each wing;

After the war outbreak, early Il-2s were painted or repainted with black-green camouflage, black prop blades, red stars with black outline on the tail, wing undersurfaces and fuselage (the fuselage stars were often very large), but not on the wing uppersurfaces; the patterns of the black bands were free, or conform to a symmetrical interpretation of the NKAP template of 1941 characterized by black 'balls' on both fuselage sides.

Zavod 1, in Moskow-Khodinka, was still building MiG-3s.

Zavod 18 was designed as chief plant. It started the production before the war outbreak.

Nearly all the Il-2s built in 1941 were from Zavod 18.

In consideration of their lack of wood working facilities, the first hundreds of Il-2s had both the wings and the rear fuselage made by metal.

The typical prewar painting with A-19f green solid uppersurfaces, A-18f light blue-grey undersurfaces, red stars with black outline on the fuselage sides, wing upper and undersurfaces (not on the tail), bort numbers on the rudder, unpainted prop blades with the rear onlt partially painted black;

Zavod 381 started to build Il-2s before the war outbreak, but had soon to be evacuated.

Zavod 35 in Smolensk built only few Il-2s before the German conquest of the town.

It's likely that the few prewar-built Il-2s with wooden rear fuselage were from these factories.

The planes were as described for those of Z.18, but the wooden rear fuselage is distinguishable in photos for the use of darker colors (AII green and light blue), for being very smooth and, on wrecked planes, for the peeling off of the fabric skinning on the wood along horizontal and vertical lines (as in all other wooden rear fuselages).

After the war outbreak, the planes were painted or repainted with black-green pattern and new markings style as written for those of Zavod 18

Il-2 type 1941 late

The evolution of Il-2 in late 1941 included:

  • the generalized wooden rear fuselage (from August 1941?), while the wings remained metallic as before; a new type of metallic wing (described as type 1942) was introduced about at the end of 1941
  • the extension of the armour to the upper and rear part of the canopy including the fuel tank ; a slight extension of the side plates on the sliding hood; replacing the rear armorglass with a metal armor with two side armorglass windows;

Zavod 1 was evacuated into Kuybyshev in the Urals in October-November; built very few Il-2s in December 1941; then, after an angry order of Stalin, stopped the production of MiG-3s to spend all the efforts on Il-2s.

On the planes built in Zavod 18, the black-green camouflage soon (August ?) assumed a new pattern, very variable but characterized by a z-shaped black band on the tail, later (October?) replaced by a black amoeba as a background for the tail star that lasted up to August 1943.

As a factory mark, nearly all the red stars (including those on the wings undersurfaces) received a very thin white or silver outline, (not to be confused with the large white-red outline introduced in August 1943).

Zavod 18 experienced the installation of one or two fixed rearward-firing ShKAS on single-seated Il-2s as a rear defence, and built few ones without a great success.

Plant 380 and 381 were merged into one and moved to Nizhny Tagil in the Urals, where built Il-2s up to October 1942, then turning to La-5s.

Il-2 type 1942

A new type of wing was introduced, characterized by the larger VYa-23 guns covered with a visible bulbous fairing and installed outside the ShKAS mg, fabric-covered ailerons without underwing balancing weights, landing light on the left wing only; this new wing was both in wooden and metallic version.

In case of unavailability of VYa-23 guns, ShVAK 20 mm guns can have been installed on the new wings, and were distinguishable for the smaller barrel.

During the year 1942, some improvements were made:

  • introduction of the external VV-1 gunsight well visible over the nose (in summer 1942?)
  • introduction of aiming lines painted over the nose to make easier the release of bombs (in late summer 1942?);
  • introduction of a protruding air filter on the carburettor intake on the right wingroot (October 1942?) later refitted to already-built planes in 1943;
  • refitting of four external metal ribs on the rear fuselages of many Il-2s to streghten them for hard landings;
  • refitting of a place for a gunner and relative machine gun on already built single-seaters in late 1942 and 1943; the conversion was made on about 1000 planes.

 

Zavod 1 began the mass-production of Il-2s at the beginning of 1942.

They had the new style of wooden wings, distinguishable because of the suppression of the tip balancing weights.

The first production batches had a strange 4-stacks exhaust, then the production passed soon to standard 6-stacks exhausts.

The black-green camouflage pattern was distinguishable because of a tree-shaped black band on the left side of the tail; the red stars were usually plain.

 

Zavod 18 continued the mass production with the new-style wings in metallic version, easily distinguishable because they retained the balancing weights at the wingtips.

They preserved the characteristic camouflage with black amoebas on the tail and white-outlined red stars.

 

 

Zavod 30 started the production of Il-2 in February 1942.

They had the new style of wooden wings, distinguishable because of the suppression of the tip balancing weights.

The black-green camouflage pattern followed the NKAP template of 1941 in its symmetric interpretation, often (but not always) with the characteristic 'balls' on the fuselage sides; it is always recognisable for the shape and regularity of the oblique black bandson the tail; the red stars were usually plain.

Il-2M early (type 1943 early)

Il-2s with rear gunner's position and UB machine gun entered production at the end of 1942 and are referred as Il-2M in postwar literature. The rear part of the canopy was replaced with a longer one, with the gunner's part hinged on the right side; this part was often removed on the field to give more field of fire to the gunner.

The tail wheel was enlarged and stereghtened.

Il-2M were always equipped with dust filter on the wingroot; during the spring, the engine AM-38 was replaced with the more powerful AM-38F, but this isn't distinguishable from the external look of the plane.

All Il-2M had only two rocket rails for each wing (instead of 4) to save weight.

The Il-2M of the first half of 1943 had:

  • long tunnel-like rear canopy for the gunner;
  • short antenna mast;
  • early type rocket rails (as on singleseaters)
  • pitot probe closer to the guns than to the wingtips (as on singleseaters);
  • black-green camouflage (as on singleseaters).

A variant of the gunner's canopy, shortened and with lateral cuts, has ben seen on two photos only; it's unclear if it was modified on the field.

A new, shortened variant of the gunner's canopy was introduced in late July 1943; it was without the tunnel-like rear part, replaced by a small 'roof' to give more field of fire to the gunner.

Il-2M made in Zavod 1 preserved the wooden wings of 1942.

The camo pattern was usually recognizable for the tree-shaped black band on the left side of the tail.

A reversed pattern (with black and green exchanged) was also observed on one plane.

In mid-1943, this factory put into production the Il-2KR, artillery spot plane, characterized by a more powerful radio with a mast on the windshield and some cameras, bringing the usual armament. The production of the Il-2KR continued in Zavod 1 and followed the successive evolution of Il-2 till the end of the war.

Il-2M made in Zavod 18 received modified all-metal wings without the wingtip balance horns that made them more difficult to distinguish from wooden wings; the shape of the landing light remained angular.

The camouflage pattern preserves the black amoeba on the tail, but looks more simplified on the fuselage; the green prevails over black.

The thin white outline on the stars was preserved.

 

Il-2M made in Zavod 30 preserved the wooden wings of 1942.

The camo pattern was preserved too; it was easily recognizable for the regular black oblique bands on the tail and for plain red stars.

This factory put into production the Il-2KR, , characterized by a more powerful radio with a mast on the windshield and some cameras, bringing the usual armament.

The first batch of Il-2KR artillery spot plane was built in Zavod 30 in mid-1943, then their production passed to Zavod 1 to make room for the production of Il-2-37.

In mid-1943, this factory put in production the Il-2-37, armed with two NS-37 guns in underwing pods, and without the VYa-23 guns and the rocket rails; it could bring up to 200 kg of bombs in overload configuration, but usually it bringed 100 kg only.

 

Il-2M late (type 1943 late)

In August 1941, many changes affected both the painting and other visual characterstics of Il-2M:

  • new shortened 'roof-style' rear canopy (already seen before August in one photo);
  • new three-shades camouflage in green (AMT-4 and/or A-24m), light brown (AMT-1 and/or A-21m), dark grey (AMT-12 and/or A-32m), being the AMT nitro colors intended also for fabric/wooden parts and A-xxm oil colors intended for metal parts only);
  • new style national insignas, with large white and thin red outlines.

Few time later (September 1943?) further improvements were introduced:

  • flushed rocket rails;
  • modified straight wings with pitot probe moved towards the wingtip.

Later (October 1943?) the short antenna mast (350 mm) was replaced with a taller one (800 mm); this made this late variant hard to distinguish from the successive Il-2M3 in photos.

Zavod 1 continued to produce planes with wooden wings.

Zavod 1 introduced a new style of tail wheel hood, longer, wider and with an oblique rear cut, similar to a fingernail, that was overposed to the usual small one.

It was introduced a small openable vent on the left side of the gunner's canopy.

The planes produced in Zavod 1 are characterized by wide red stars, and a sharp and strongly contrasted camo on the wings, tail and rear fuselage probably made by mask and with AMT colors, while the front fuselage and wingroots are more blurried and less contrasting, probably painted with A-xxm paints.

Sometimes a flexible tail boot was utilized, often associated with a soft-edged camouflage conform to the 2nd template.

Zavod 18 continued to build planes with metallic wings and the old-fashioned tail wheel fairing, narrow and short.

It was introduced a small openable vent on the left side of the gunner's canopy.

The planes produced in this factory have less contrasted camouflage and they don't follow accurately the patterns suggested by NKAP templates of 1943. On many planes, green and light brown appear exchanged, and a brown band covered the rudder on both sides.

Zavod 30 continued to produce planes with wooden wings and the old-fashioned tail wheel fairing, narrow and short. A flexible boot was often utilized on the tail wheel.

The camouflage of these planes follow the standard templates in simplified form, with straight (or slightly curved) and soft lines.

The red stars of new type were a bit smaller than those utilized by other factories.

Planes built here hadn't the small openable vent on the left side of the gunner's canopy.

These modifications can be found on the Il2-37, that remained in production up to January 15, 1944 for a total of 1175 planes.

Probably all the Il-2-37 built had straight wings.

Il-2M3 (type 1944)

In October 1943 an Il-2 with swept-back wings (15° instead of 9°) was successfully tested, resolving problems of stability and of CG introduced by the weight of the gunner and his weapon and armour.

It was introduced into production at the end of 1943 without a particular name; it's often referred as Il-2M3 in postwar literature.

The wing existed both in wooden and in metal version; this later variant was generalized in May 1944.

Wooden arrow wings had a rectangular ammo hatch for VYa-23 gun on each wing, just as the straight wings.

Metal arrow wings had the rectangular hatch replaced with two smalled squared hatches.

Apart for the wings, there was no any important evolution for the Il-2 in 1944, because its successor Il-10 was entering into production.

Zavod 1 started to build Il-2M3 with wooden arrow wings at the end of 1943 or beginning of 1944, then switched to metal arrow wings in April 1944.

All the visual characteristics (camouflage, markings, tail wheel fairing etc) were as on late Il-2M described above.

Zavod 18 started to build Il-2M3 with metal wings at the end of 1943.

The fairing of VYa-23 assumed a flushed shape on all, or the most of, the planes built here.

Apart for this, the visual characteristics (camouflage, markings, tail wheel fairing) were as on late Il-2M described above.

Zavod 30 started to build Il-2M3 with wooden arrow wings at the end of 1943 or beginning of 1944, then switched to metal arrow wings in May 1944.

All the visual characteristics (camouflage, markings, tail wheel fairing etc) were as on late Il-2M described above. The tail wheel flexible boot was generalized.

Year 1945

It is possible, but not sure, that some of the Il-2s built in 1945 received a metallic rear fuselage. Visual evidence exists only for postwar planes.

Zavod 1 stopped production of Il-2 in June 1945, having passed gradually to built Il-10s. Zavod 18 stopped the production of Il-2 on July 1945, having passed gradually to the production of Il-10s.

Zavod 30 stopped the production of Il-2s on October 1945.

In 1946/47 Zavod 30 built some hundreds of metal rear fuselages to update existing UIL-2 and Il-2s, being the wooden fuselages less durable.