Kit No. 3407
Decals: One version – 566 ShAP (Battle Regiment) of the Soviet VVS, Summer 1944
Comments: Detailed construction; engraved panel lines, highly detailed cockpit and interior
The Il-2 Sturmovik was the outstanding ground attack aircraft of the Second World War. Built specifically for that purpose, it was a cantilever, low-wing monoplane with a V-12 liquid cooled A. Mikulin engine, designed around a one-piece armored tub which protected the engine and cockpit from the most savage ground fire, and offered 13mm of armor protection in the rear in both single- and two-seat versions. The canopy was made of armored glass and 8mm steel plates, with an armored windscreen varying between 55mm and 65mm in thickness. While its ideal operating altitude was about 2,000 feet, most of the Sturmoviks’ sorties were flown at between 30 and 150 feet, as they attacked German armor and infantry with a horizontal rain of bombs, rockets, and cannon fire employing very low level angles of attack. In perhaps the greatest indication of its effectiveness, the Germans alternately called the Il-2 “the Flying Tank,” or “Schwarz Tod” — “Black Death.”
The prototype for the Il-2, designated CKB 57, flew for the first time in late 1939. Test flights revealed that it was underpowered, so its 1370 h.p AM 35 engine was replaced with a 1680 h.p. AM 38, and showed great improvement when flown again in October 1940. The forward fuselage was built as an armored shell varying between 5mm and 12mm (0.19 to 0.47 of an inch) in thickness. The aft fuselage was of wooden monocoque construction, and the tail assembly and wings were of metal construction with duraluminum skin. The prototype was armed with two Shkas 7.62mm machine guns, two Shvak 20mm cannon, one in each wing in both cases, rails for up to eight 82mm RS-82 rockets, and a bomb capacity of 400 kg (881 lbs.). Top speed in level flight was 470 km/hour (292 mph) at 2000 meters (6,500 feet).
The Il-2 Sturmovik passed its State Trials in March 1941 and went into production immediately, with 249 produced before the German invasion of Russia on June 22nd. Rushed to the front lines, the Sturmovik fought in small numbers in the opening phases of Operation Barbarossa, providing some of the few local successes in an otherwise disastrous year for the VVS. During 1941, costs were cut 38 percent and production increased; but by the winter of 1941-42 criticisms of the new plane began to emerge. There was no rear defensive armament, which was essential during a period of German air superiority; the 20mm cannon were not effective against the new, heavier German armor; and the Il-2 was rather difficult to handle. The modifications required led directly to the appearance of the Il-2m3 two-seater in August 1942.
With a redesigned cockpit to accomodate a rear gunner, a corresponding lengthening of the armoured “bathtub,” and the addition of a BS or UBT 12.7mm machine gun in the rear cockpit, the Sturmovik took on a new look. The top speed fell off with the increased armor protection, but with the improved aerodynamic silhouette of the longer cockpit, it was reduced to about 250 mph, not as much as initially anticipated. A trainer version, the Il-2U, was also developed, with reduced armament and a second set of controls in the rear cockpit. Additional modifications began to appear in 1943, such as long-barrelled 37mm wing cannon with improved ability to penetrate enemy armor; other options included a container for up to 200 small bombs, and a DAG 10 grenade launcher (a rather unusual device which ejected infantry grenades on small parachutes into the path of pursuing fighters).
The Il-2m3 appeared at the front in strength during the Battle of Kursk in July 1943, the largest tank battle in history. Like its German counterpart, the Henschel Hs129, the Sturmovik distinguished itself during the battle, causing devastating losses among German panzer divisions and self-propelled artillery units. Sturmovik pilots employed a tactic called the Circle of Death: they would cross the front lines with the target area either to their right or left, then circle and attack the German armor from the rear in a shallow dive, in line astern. They would repeat this until all their ordnance was expended. This tactic would place enemy
ground forces under constant air attack for some 15 to 30 minutes at a time. In one encounter at Kursk, massed use of the Il-2 in this fashion destroyed 70 German tanks of the 9th Panzer Division in 20 minutes, on July 7, 1943. In another attack that lasted two hours, 270 tanks of the 3rd Panzer Division were destroyed. Systematically attacking from the rear where the German armor was weakest, the Sturmovik ultimately helped to shatter German offensive capability on the Eastern Front once and for all. The Sturmovik in its many variations, including one torpedo-equipped version, went on to help win Allied victory at the gates of Berlin in May 1945.
The final version of the Sturmovik was actually a complete redesign. Dubbed the Il-10, it had redesigned wings, a different silhouette, new armament and undercarriage, but appeared too late to see widespread action in WWII. It bore the NATO code name “Beast” after encounters with it during the Korean War, but by the early 1950’s it was no longer an effective weapon when forced to contend with jet fighters.
Accurate Miniatures Il-2m3 Sturmovik is molded in gray and consists of 104 parts. The kit bears engraved panel lines and a highly detailed instruction sheet, with a paint reference chart providing a guide for Aeromaster, Humbrol, Floquil, Gunze Sangyo (Aqueous and Mr. Color), Model Master and Federal Standard colors. There are detailed cockpit, radiator, and oil cooler assemblies, and internal wing spars are included. There is also an option for two wing-mounted 37mm cannon in gondolas. Armament is rounded out by two 250 kg bombs and four RS-132 rockets. Landing gear are very detailed, with an option for flattened or fully rounded out tires. There is a detailed 12.7mm machine gun on a swivel for the rear gunner’s compartment, and the multi-part canopy can be assembled opened or closed.
It is literally necessary to read the detailed instructions line-by-line for some assembly steps, since the sometimes complex construction of this kit is definitely sequential, at least until the wings are on. For example, the pilot’s rear armor is to be painted, but this is a clear part containing two windows, which must be left untouched. The cockpit consists of 13 parts, including a well-detailed floor, clear instrument panel with raised details and a decal for the dial faces, bucket seat, pilot’s rear armored bulkhead, fuel tank, fuel tank armor, control stick, side instrument panel, and rudder pedal assembly. The cockpit includes a long, exposed elevator control rod running along the right side of the floor near the starboard sidewall, and when fitting the cockpit (which by that time has been cemented to the lower wing section) into the fuselage, care must be taken not to break the control rod.
The fuselage consists of multiple parts, including a separate nose section containing the radiator assembly. More on that later. The two main fuselage halves have good if simple interior sidewall detail, reflecting the functional nature of the Sturmovik cockpit. A few instruments (bomb release control, throttle control, etc.) are cemented to the sidewalls, but for the most part they are bare, since on the actual aircraft they consisted of armored plates. The nose section includes six parts and also forms the radiator assembly. These parts are noticeably thinner than the main fuselage halves and are a bit fiddly. The three largest parts forming the exterior of the nose have longitudinal seams which will keep the modeler busy, as they require putty and a good filler such as Mr. Surfacer before fitting together securely enough to be cemented onto the main fuselage.
There is no seat for the rear observer, but rather a sling reminiscent of a child’s swing seat. This part may have to be heated up and bent a bit before it will fit inside the fuselage. The lower wing center section includes two wing spars and four additional parts forming the oil cooler assembly. Care must be taken with the oil cooler as some study of the illustration of this step is necessary to ensure that the parts fit together as intended. When complete, fitting this assembly into the fuselage will seem challenging at first, but the parts will fit together. At this stage it becomes clear that parts of the Sturmovik are meant to almost lock together, with cement added mainly as insurance.
Some minor sanding of the spars may be needed to get the wings cemented on securely. The landing gear are a bit fiddly but with patience will come together exactly as intended — however, the instructions recommend gluing the landing gear struts in first, before the landing gear braces. In this modeler’s opinion, reversing this order is far simpler, as the braces are the longer of the two parts, and cementing the struts in first only puts an obstruction in the way when you are trying to maneuver the braces into the landing gear nacelles. This kit was assembled out of the box with three exceptions. Quickboost Sturmovik exhausts replaced the kit examples, being a little larger and more detailed; the kit’s 23mm cannon were replaced with 20mm cannon barrels by Master; and the kit wheels were replaced with resin wheels from True Details.
All interior surfaces are painted in a White Ensign Models enamel, Blue-Grey metal primer (for WWII Soviet VVS). The camouflage scheme consists of Model Master Earth Brown, together with British Dark Green and USSR Dark Topside Grey, over USSR Underside Blue, all Polly Scale acrylics. All paints are highly recommended except for the USSR Underside Blue, which may be too deep in hue based on color reference photos of Soviet WWII aircraft. A closer match to VVS aircraft undersides of WWII may be the German Hellblau. All guns and bombs were painted with a Humbrol enamel, Black Metallic.
Markings are provided for an aircraft of the 566 ShAP (Battle Regiment) on the Leningrad front in the summer of 1944. Only the national insignia and aircraft number markings are displayed on this kit.
On what was perhaps the last ground attack sortie of the war in Europe, on May 9, 1945, two squadrons of Il-2m3 Sturmoviks rendezvoused with four Lockheed P-38 Lightnings over St. Polten in Austria, strafing and destroying a German column, with one Ilyushin unit providing top cover and beating off an attempted interception by a group of Fw 190s. This is the only known ocassion in which American and Soviet aircraft forme d up for a joint attack during the war.
- Ilyushin Il-2: Profile Aircraft No. 88; Profile Books Limited, Windsor, Berkshire, England; Copyright 1982.