TsKB-57 – on the way to the legendary Il-2
It took some time for the Il-2 to receive the shape which is nowadays familiar almost to everybody. The maiden flight of the prototypical armoured ground attack aircraft was prefaced by long hard work of the whole team of the Design Bureau. The prototype of TsKB-57, which performed its first flight 75 years ago on October 12, 1940, became a landmark in this journey.
In January 1938 S. Ilyushin offered the Government to build the two-seated ground attack aircraft, designed by him. The idea was supported by officials.
The first test of the new aircraft, designed by S. Ilyushin and named TsKB-55, took place in 1939. The TsKB-55 was a two-seated cantilever monoplane with the AM-35 liquid-cooled engine (1350 h.p.). All vital units and aggregates of the aircraft (fuel tanks, engine, cooling systems) and the crew were placed in the armoured body.
The official test of the new aircraft took place in April 1940. The aircraft turned out to be easy to control, take-off and landing caused no difficulties. Still there were some observations. Testers pointed to the imperfection of the AM-35 engine and recommended to improve over-the-nose visibility.
At S. Ilyushin’s request Mikulin Design Bureau within a short time created the low-altitude engine AM-38. The new engine was immediately installed on the ground attack aircraft.
The plane underwent other changes too. The crew was reduced to the pilot only. The gunner’s cockpit was replaced by 12-mm armoured plate and a fuel tank, reinforcement of armour, requested by customer, for testing purposes was imitated by increase in the weight of construction. This was how the new prototype, named TsKB-57, was presented for factory tests.
The first flight of the single-seated TsKB-57 was carried out by test-pilot V. Kokkinaki.
The aircraft demonstrated ease of control, better maneuverability, and high speed for that time – 437 km/h.
On the basis of test the construction was changed again. The engine was lowered by 175 mm and the nose lines were altered, the cockpit armouring was reinforced. At the same time the pilot’s seat and the canopy were elevated. In the rear hemisphere
transparent armour and a short transparent fairing were installed. Then the aircraft received its distinctive “humped” look.
The new version of ground attack aircraft was named TsKB-55P. In December 1940 the aircraft received its final legendary name of Il-2. With this name the ground attack aircraft was put into serial production and went through baptism of fire in the first battles of the Great Patriotic War.
By design the Il-2 is a unique combat aircraft among other planes that participated in the Second World War. No other country had such a machine. A total of 36,163 of the Il-2 and its modifications were manufactured. By early 1944 the ground attack aircraft amounted to 30% of the total number of combat planes.
The aircraft that contributed to the victory over fascism is commemorated by monuments in many Russian cities, including the monument in Moscow on the territory of OJSC “Il”.