65 years ago the Il-28U trainer made its first flight.In 1948 the Il-28 tactical bomber, one of the most successful aircraft, designed in Ilyushin Bureau, took off for the first time. With its good performance characteristics, well-armed, simple and reliable in operation, this aircraft first through tough competition earned the right to be in operational service of the Air Force, and then it earned the love of flying and technical personnel.
The appearance of this aircraft marked a new stage in the development of Soviet tactical aviation: the large scale shift from piston bombers to jet engines began. S.V. Ilyushin and his team of designers received the State Stalin Prize.
The decision to put the Il-28 into production was made at a special meeting by Stalin himself. In the Ministry of Defense the opinions were divided: some people offered to put into service the Tu-14 that already was in production and had a slightly bigger flying range, but at the same time was more complex in production and operation, while others voted for the simpler Il-28. As S.V. Ilyushin remembers it, Stalin considered the information, presented to him, listened to the opinions of military representatives, and decided to accept the Il-28.
Less than a month later after he received the task, on October 14, 1949, S.V. Ilyushin approved the detailed design of the Il-28 training aircraft with two VK-1 turbojet engines. It had a fuselage nose section that was different from that of the Il-28: the navigator’s cockpit was replaced with the cockpit of flight instructor.
The student’s cockpit was a copy of the pilot cockpit of a combat plane, apart from some minor changes in the configuration of instrument panel. In this panel there was made a cut-out for visual communication between instructor and student, which was considered crucial for the training process. All aircraft, aggregates and system controls were doubled. As decided by instructor, who had selection levers and switches, the aircraft could be controlled either from the front or from the main cockpit.
The armament was removed from the Il-28U. But, whenever necessary, the Il-28U could be used to train radio gunners, for which purpose the aft cockpit could be fitted with suitable equipment.
On March 18, 1950 test-pilot Vladimir Kokkinaki flew the Il-28U for the first time. Tests showed that flight performance of the aircraft, apart from a better rate-of-climb and pitch stability, was no different from the performance of the combat aircraft.
The aircraft proved to be stable throughout the whole speed range, it easily executed all maneuvers, required for this type of bombers. Aircraft control from the flight instructor’s cockpit was just as simple and comfortable as control from the cockpit of the combat Il-28.
Factory tests for the Il-28U continued until March 30. By that time first production bombers Il-28 came into operation with air regiment of Moscow District, under the command of Hero of the Soviet Union, Colonel Anatoly Anpilov. It was decided to use the test Il-28U for retraining of the pilots of this regiment.
27 operational pilots were retrained from Tu-2 to fly the new aircraft in 10 days, in the course of which they performed 112 training flights. Earlier it took the same pilots more than two months and more training flights to learn how to operate Tu-2. On May 1, 1950 Anpilov’s air regiment, almost fully crewed, flew over Red Square, demonstrating the new Il-28 jet bomber to the world.
In combat regiments the Il-28 quickly earned the respect of ground and flying crews. Designers paid special attention to the working conditions of aviators. Pilots, who were used to cold and noisy cockpits of piston bombers, marveled at the comfort of the new aircraft, intuitive configuration and numerous equipment items. They also pointed out the simple piloting technique, especially during take-off and landing, largely increased speed and rate-of-climb, good maneuvering capability. For navigators it discovered new, earlier inaccessible, means of aircraft navigation and bombing, especially in bad weather. The maintenance of the new aircraft was simple and convenient for technical personnel: engine cowls were easy to open, units were interchangeable, areas that required permanent monitoring were accessible. Reliability of the aircraft and its structural toughness became truly legendary.During six years of serial production in the USSR there were manufactured 6316 Il-28 in different modifications. They were widely used by Air Forces or Navy of other countries, and were mass produced in the People’s Republic of China and Czechoslovakia. A number of combat aircraft later found their way to flight schools, where they were used together with Il-28U until mid-eighties.