During the formation of RKKA (Raboche-Krestjanskoj Krasnoj Armii) or Red Army military aviation doctrine in the 1930’s, several military authorities proposed various theories. From its beginning one of the most important missions, in that time using separate aircraft, was support of ground forces on the battlefield. Later, missions were changed creating several new theories of military aviation use, but support of ground forces on the battlefield still occurred in many armies. At the beginning of Second World War, the two main theories of applying AF consisted of the “ doctrine of strategic bombing” and “ tactical support doctrine”.
The idea of creating Sturmovik (armored plane) was discussed following the Great War in several countries (including Russia). However technical level in that time could not produce an aircraft that met the requirements. As we know, close ground support used conventional aircraft-observation and fighters that flew low altitude and had suffered heavy losses from ground unit fire. May 1917 saw the advent of the armored plane idea when the German aircraft – the Junkers J-4 - came to the front. It had poor armament, but by virtue of armor it was practically invulnerable to fire from the ground and enemy fighters. The J-4 earned a reputation for being an invincible aircraft.
On 10 March 1928, NTK (science – technical complex) VVS RKKA approved requirements for building two types of armored sturmovik aircraft: one light, agile single engine and a more heavy two-engine design. But ten years later that project was not accomplished because of the lack of a powerful engine, necessary quality of armor (strong but light), and worse cooling of engines under armor. Fielded planes also were hampered by poor visibility from the cockpit.
On 28 June 1935 the Chief of Administration VVS RKKA, J.I. Alksnis, assigned requirements for “ army aircraft with common functions” in two variants: observer-spotter and sturmovik. The Sturmovik, according to that document, should attack ground targets.
GUAP (Main Department of Aviation Industry), after visiting the United States, bought the license to produce the Vultee V-11GB with Wright GR-1820G2 Cyclone engine (contract was signed 7 Sep 1936). Later after adapting to the Soviet production it was named BSh-1 (combat sturmovik 1). Full combat tests of BSh-1 in 1937 showed it had poor combat effectiveness because of weak defensive weapons and lack of armor for crew and vital parts of aircraft. The next several years’ events saw the production of multifunctional aircraft and the debugging of BSh-1 production. These activities overloaded the scientific and experimental – industrial complex.
Because of that all work on specialized “battlefield” aircraft was practically stopped, which had serious after effects for the country’s defense, and extended the time before special ground force support aircraft entered the AF RKKA. Development of the multifunctional aircraft delayed production of this plane a minimum of two years. The result was that the country did not have enough time for proving the value of battlefield aviation and in the initial phase of the Great Patriotic War the RKKA fought without fire support from the air.
The next step in developing the idea of the sturmovik was a special commission for developing aviation RKKA convened on 19 December 1936. It involved Stalin, Voroshilov, Molotov, Ordzonikidze, Kaganovich, Tupolev, Alksnis and others. The main result was a development program for aviation industry in 1937, and on 25 December a session of the government commission discussed the issue “about new types of observation and sturmovik with greater speed and range”. Stalin’s offer in that session was about the necessity of creating sturmovik – observation first, which of course was accepted with one voice. Based on that offer, a bylaw was issued on 27 December (STO # OK-225) “about building rapid, long-distance sturmovik-observation”.
The result of the effort was that only KB Sukhoi accomplished its work in the period between 1937-1940. Two very good bombers-sturmoviks were created: SU-2 and SU-4 with M-82 engine. These aircraft entered service in VVS RKKA beginning in 1942.
In January 1938 S.V.Ilyushin approached the government with the offer of creating two-seat armored sturmovik by his project. On 5 May 1938 that program was included in the plan of “experimental building”. The draft was shown on 3 January 1939 and on 2 February the prototype Chief of VVS RKKA vice commander A.D. Loktionov approved the model. Sturmovik on the first phase got abbreviation – SKB-55 (military abbreviation BSh-2). The main feature of construction was a streamlined, armored core made from highly durable steel. The prototype IL-2 rolled out of the factory in March 1941 followed three months later by the first production aircraft. By the time the Great Patriotic War began, 249 planes had been produced.
In October 1941 KB S.V. Ilyushina was evacuated from Moscow. Several aviation factories were also evacuated (including factories that produced IL-2) and because of this mass production of IL-2 was reduced and stopped altogether for 35 days. In very hard conditions people started production in new places, sometimes working under the open sky. At that time two aircraft factory directors Shekman and Tretyakov got this telegram:
“You betray our country and our Red Army. You have not to this date produced the IL-2. Red Army needs IL-2 aircraft as air, as bread. Shekman gives one IL-2 per day, Tretyakov one-two MIG-3. There is a rout on the Red Army. I ask you to not frustrate the government. I require you to produce more IL-2. This is your last warning.” (National Defense Commissar I.V. Stalin P553).
After that IL-2 production increased. With 36,183 units of the Il-2 produced during the war, and in combination with its successor, the Ilyushin Il-10 , a total of 42,330 were built, making it the single most produced military aircraft design in aviation history.
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