Designed in 1938 as a medium range, single-seat bomber the IL-2 became the most produced aircraft of World War II. The initial single seat version entered production in early 1941 and remained in production until the summer of 1942 when it was replaced on the assembly line by the IL-2M two-seat version. The IL-2M was a stopgap design rushed into production to address the most serious flaw in the aircraft, the lack of a rear firing gun. This version of the Shturmovik was replaced by the Il-2 Type 3 in late 1943 which further modified the design to improve performance and stability. The modifications included a 15-degree sweep on the leading edge of the wing which improved the plane’s stability, and a more powerful engine. The shortage of aircraft aluminum that plagued the Soviet Union for most of the war resulted in some of the Shturmovik’s most interesting features. Until late in 1944 the wings and rear fuselage of the plane were built of wood, with only the heavily armored center section and nose of the aircraft being of metal construction. Eventually, over 36,000 Shturmoviks of all models were produced, making it the most produced aircraft of the war.
Soviet Navy, 7th Guards Assault Aviation Regiment, Red Banner Baltic Fleet, 1944
Pima Air & Space Museum