The Ilyushin Il-2 Shturmovik became the aerial representative of the Soviet response to the German invasion on the Eastern Front during the Second World War. The Il-2 was designed as a low-level close-support aircraft capable of defeating enemy armour and other ground targets. Hardly a fighter, the Il-2 was exclusively engineered to take an enormous amount of punishment and still keep the pilot, rear gunner and critical mechanical components unharmed. In the end, the Il-2 would become the most important aircraft to the Soviet Union in the defence of the homeland against advancing hordes of panzers. At its height, production of the Il-2 hit a peak of 300 aircraft per month and variants boasted potent 23-mm cannon, 200 anti-tank bomblets and 4 x 132-mm rockets. The Il-2 became a highly respected and highly feared adversary. Soviet air crews dubbed the Il-2 as the 'Flying Tank' for its incredible ability to withstand a tremendous amount of damage and still release its payload only to return home intact. Not only did its rear gunners shoot down Luftwaffe aces thanks to its 12.7-mm machine gun, the Il-2 was also used as a fighter and German pilots were amazed to see 20-mm cannon shells bouncing off its armour plates. Crews were also known to weld additional armour to their Il-2s. The Shturmovik proved so effective that many Soviet crews were recipients of the Gold Star of Hero of the Soviet Union. Even today, the Il-2 is regarded as the Russian equivalent of the Spitfire. By the war's end, some 36,000 Il-2s were produced and became the symbol of the Eastern Front.
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Jason Nicholas Moore is an avid air historian and modeller, with a particular interest in Soviet aeroplanes and has spent the last 40 years doing both historical research and constructing model aeroplanes. He has written a comprehensive history on the Il-2 Shturmovik and in addition he has written a comprehensive modelling guide to the Il-2 Shturmovik which has not been published. He has spent much of the last 30 years researching Soviet aircraft in general, and has read very extensively on the war on the Eastern Front.
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