Accurate Miniatures 1/48 Il-2m3 Stormovik
Though the idea for a Soviet armored ground-attack aircraft dates to the early 1930s, when Dmitry Pavlovich Grigorovich designed TSh-1 and TSh-2 armored biplanes, Soviet engines of the time lacked the power needed to provide the heavy aircraft with good performance. It was only until 1938 that such a concept came to fruition, when Sergey Ilyushin and his Central Design Bureau Team designed the twin seater TsKB-55, which was to become the Il-2. Uniquely for a World War II attack aircraft and similarly to the forward fuselage design of the World War I-era Junkers J.I armored, all-metal biplane, the Il-2's armor was designed as a load-bearing part of the monocoque structure, thus saving considerable weight.
Since the emerging design was still overweight and underpowered, not only the original Mikulin AM-35 engine was replaced by the more powerful (and optimized for low altitudes) AM-38, but also the rear gunner’s “office” was deleted, enabling the prototype to pass State Acceptance Trials in March 1941, with deliveries to operational units commencing in May.
Upon Nazi invasion, only 249 “Stormoviks” were available, with production immediately slowing down, as the aircraft factories near Moscow and other major cities in western Russia had to be relocated east of the Ural Mountains for obvious reasons. Ilyushin and his engineers made good use of that time, in order to reconsider production methods, with Il-2s again being produced a mere two months after the move. Production rate, however, was not to Premier Stalin's liking and, after a threatening telegram, production rapidly gained speed, with units subsequently becoming available in quantity.
Being a new type in which aircrews had no experience at, might explain the dodgy first period the aircraft had, but, soon, the gained experience, combined with improved tactics, brought the Stormovik to its full potential.
Though a generally tough aircraft that would absorb a lot of punishment, its rear proved unproportionally vulnerable, so the aforementioned deleted rear gunner’s area was very quickly reintroduced, with the existing single seater machines field-modified by cutting a hole in the fuselage behind the cockpit. Upgraded engine variants were also introduced some time in 1942, offering improved takeoff and low-altitude performance.
To counteract the air gunners exceptionally high death rate, late models produced after 1944 had the rear armor plate moved rearwards to allow the gunner to sit behind the fuel tank.Since this modification moved the center of gravity significantly rearwards, swept back outer wings were also introduced, in order to shift the aerodynamic center equally rearwards.
Essentially deployed on the Eastern Front, the aircraft could fly in low light conditions and carry weapons able to defeat the thick armor of the Panther and Tiger I tanks. Ground forces highly valued the presence of the “Ilyusha” on the battlefield, with enemy attacks frequently thwarted thanks to them.
Owing to a shortage of fighters in 1941–1942, Il-2s were occasionally used as fighters. Though grossly outclassed by dedicated types such as the Messerschmitt Bf 109 and Focke-Wulf Fw 190 in dogfights, Stormoviks could take on other Luftwaffe aircraft with some success.
Despite the ultra heavy losses (to degree justified by the quirky operational environment and, particularly, the lack of available Russian fighter protection), the iconic and vastly produced Il-2, the so called “Flying Tank” (a nickname earned thanks to the heavy armor protection), can be regarded as an effective weapon deployed by the Soviet forces, in a way being the forerunner of the equally iconic A-10 and Su-25.
Though first released in 1997, this is still a very good kit of the iconic Stormovik.
This kit was build after a mutual decision with my good friend @johnb to "combo-build" our quarter scale Stormoviks (he did the Revell reboxed one). Other Fine People joined us in what became a successful and mostly enjoyable "multi combo build".
This was not the first time that I built together with @johnb and it was, as usual, an amazing, utterly enjoyable experience. I am proud John is my friend.
Should you wish to read the full build review, you might do so by visiting my beloved site Modelingmadness: