S-22 Ilya Muromets
Russia was the only country that had a long-range bombing aircraft at the beginning of the Great War - the Ilya Muromets aircraft. These were created in a special laboratory at the Russian-Baltic Plant, headed by I.I.Sikorsky. In October 1914, the Muromtsev were combined into a squadron of aircraft under the command of Major-General Shidlovsky. The squadron was based in the village of Staraya Jablonna in the strip of the North-Western Front. Each aircraft was armed with 2 machine guns and 1 carbine with 360 cartridges and 500 kg of bombs. The crew of the aircraft consisted of 3 people - a commander, a co-pilot and an observer officer. The aircraft were quite vulnerable from fighter fire and ground forces.
The massive Ilya Muromets bomber, named after a legendary Russian folk hero who destroyed the Tartar Army single handed, was the largest four-engine airplane of its era. Russia had grown as miraculously as the Ilya Muromets of the famous Russian legend. A great hero of the time of Vladimir, Ilya Muromets was an unwieldy giant, in whose history some writers have seen a symbolism of Russia herself.
His rapid growth and his sudden accession to power and renown being supposed to signify the speed with which a nation which for a long time was despised by the outer world, and which could scarcely maintain its existence under the repeated blows dealt it by the Poles on the one side and by its Asiatic invaders on the other, suddenly rose from its abject position, put forth a strength of which it had not been conscious, drove its enemies out of its gates, and after freeing itself from the yoke of the foreigner, consolidated its own power, until it was able to go forth conquering and to conquer, extending its frontiers on all sides and incorporating land after land, until from a petty princedom it became one of the mightiest empires in the world.
For Ilya was ridiculed, but he grew and grew till he became a giant. Ilya. Muromets lay beside the stove in his father's hut during the first thirty vears of his life, a cripple of feeble frame. But at last a sudden change was wrought in him; he became in an instant strong both in body and in mind. From that time his life was passed in a series of heroic adventures. He went forth into the world a mighty warrior who drove before him the enemies of his country and his faith.
The favorite hero of the Russian folk tales [bilini], a representative of the peasant class, the strongest of the "younger paladins," Il'ya Muromets spent his life in guarding his country against her enemies and in protecting widows and orphans. In extreme cases only did he shed blood. Usually the foe was frightened away by the exhibition of Ilya's strength in turning some mighty oak into splinters or some similar display of prowess.
In the treaties concluded in the tenth century between the Russians and the Byzantine Greeks, the Russians, according to Nestor, swore by Perun and Veles, the god of flocks. Although the idol of Perun was destroyed by Vladimir, the prince of Kiev, when Russia received Christianity, now more than nine hundred years ago, yet the god was transmuted into the saint Ilya (Elijah). He became the saint of thunder, and his chariot was said to roll through the sky by a confusion with Elijah's chariot of fire, and the attributes of the two had somehow or other got mixed up with the story of Ilya Muromets, or Ilya of Murom, the giant, who was the hero of many a Russian lay, and was still talked of by the peasantry.
The idea to create a heavy multi-engine aircraft originated with I.I.Sikorsky in 1912 after he headed the Aviation Design Department of the RBVZ ("Russian-Baltic Wagon Plant"). Having received the approval of the management of the plant, he proceeded to design a twin-engine aircraft. On April 27, 1913 the world's first heavy aircraft S-21 "Grand" was raised into the air by Sikorsky himself.
For that time, the aircraft had very impressive dimensions: the scale of the biplane box was 27 m, and the length was 20 m. Two inline engines were installed on the lower wing (the cylinders were combined into a common block, having them hardly) Argus (140 hp) with pulling air screws. The long fuselage began with a balcony, which could be accessed during the flight, followed by a large cabin for the crew and passengers, where the straw chairs were located. The lower wing of the biplane box was much shorter than the upper one. The chassis consisted of twin wheels, as well as anti-mud and anti-skidding skis. Soon the aircraft was renamed the Russian Knight (series A) and two more Argus engines (80 hp) were installed on it.
The State Duma was against buying such aircraft for the military department and did not want to allocate the necessary funds. Members of the State Duma believed that such a plane is too big and heavy to climb to a height of more than a thousand meters. Then Igor Sikorsky invited the five members of the Duma to go up with him. Five members of the State Duma witnessed a new world record to conquer the altitude of 2000 meters.
At the beginning of the Great War, the only pilot who independently operated these vehicles was the aircraft designer Igor Sikorsky himself. In addition, at that time there was only a very small number of ready ships (in August 1914 - 2 aircraft). In December 1914, Emperor Nicholas II approved the decision of the Military Council to create a squadron of bombers "Ilya Muromets", which became the first bomber unit in the world. The first time on a combat mission, squadron aircraft flew on February 14, 1915.
Sikorsky created more than 20 modifications of this long-range bomber. Unprecedented hitherto characteristics simply astonished aviators-contemporaries. "Ilya Muromets" (or S-22) was a biplane with a swing of the upper wing to 32 meters. The length of its fuselage, depending on the model, was 17.1 - 23.5 meters. The maximum permissible weight of the aircraft together with the cargo (take-off weight) was more than five tons. The aircraft could climb to a height of 4000 meters, and the speed of its horizontal flight was 140 kilometers per hour. At the S-22 were designed special devices for fixing bombs. In the design of the management of ammunition (in the bomb-throwers and fire-control devices), too, were making their own adjustments.
"Ilya Muromets" was an excellent tool for long-range reconnaissance and bombardment. The duration of the flight with a bomb load was 5 hours and about 10 hours without bombs. The bomb load was collected from many small bombs or large ones weighing 160, 240, 400 and even 640 kg. The bomb was very accurate: 60-90% of the bombs hit the target. Other instruments allowed the "Murom" to make night flights from the very beginning of the war. For the whole of 1915, the "Murom" carried out about 100 combat flights, dropping to the enemy up to 22 tons of bombs. In 1916, the pilots of "Ilya Muromets" carried out 156 sorties, dropping up to 20 tons of bombs on the enemy.
In 1917 there were already 5 divisions of the "Muromtsev" with a total of 38 vehicles, which directly subordinated to the headquarters of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief. The squadron's personnel numbered 1,350 men. For the entire 1917 heavy aircraft carried out about 70 combat flights, dropping to the enemy up to 11 tons of bombs. In general, 51 combat ships entered the front, about 40 of them fought. They carried out up to 350 sorties, dropping about 58 tons of bombs.
There were successful raids by large Russian aeroplanes of the Slyr-Murometz and Ilya-Murometz type in the Gulf of Riga against a German seaplane station in Decembrt 2016, in the course of which four aeroplanes dropped a ton of explosives on the sheds, fought eight German seaplanes which rose to attack them, and in spite of an intense fire from anti-aircraft guns, retired safely with a "bag" of eight enemy seaplanes destroyed either in the air or on the ground.
During the entire war, these vehicles carried out about 400 combat flights, and only once the airship did not return to its own. This time the apparatus and its valiant crew were killed in a heavy fight in the air. In all other cases, the aircraft safely returned home, sometimes with one or even two damaged motors, often with dozens of holes from the enemy shrapnel. There were many air battles with enemy airplanes. In addition, the squadron did not lose a single ship in combat, but about ten enemy planes were destroyed. It would be fair to point out that the Russian officers and soldiers who made up the crews of these ships, as well as the "Ilya Muromets" themselves, honestly fulfilled their duty to their homeland in this difficult but glorious time.
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