Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute
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TsAGI Centenary in the history of aviation: the IL-2 aircraft

7 February 2018

Manufacturing production of the IL-2 aircraft began in February 1942. Designers named the Soviet attack aircraft the “flying tank” while German soldiers called it the “plague” and “black death.” It became the most popular combat aircraft in the history of world aviation. More than 130 thousand of these aircraft and its derivatives were produced during the war.

The combination of lethal firepower, ground-attack capacity and increased survivability due to new armor made the chief Soviet aircraft a legend.

A series of aerodynamic and strength studies were held at the Zhukovsky Central AeroHydrodynamic Institute, TsAGI. The testing took place during the design stage and aircraft operation. Many pilots flew the IL-2 into the target nose down then abruptly pulled out as they would a bomber. Such a maneuver load factor could crash the aircraft. To avoid this happening, TsAGI experts gave it a slightly swept wing, shifting the center-of-gravity slightly forward so that a pilot physically could not bring the aircraft into dangerous angles of attack.

As a follow up, specialists of the Institute made strength analysis to determine the causes of individual wings destruction in the air. It turned out that the problem was due to the poor quality of materials and manufacturing technology. Compared to the prototype model, they reduced the IL-2 maximum speed by 30 km/h. TsAGI specialists studied thoroughly the causes of this phenomenon and provided recommendations for fixing them.

Institute scientists conducted research on the form optimization of aerodynamic fairings of heavy-caliber guns fixed under the wing of the plane, the best configuration for the canopy, etc. Modifications of the IL-2 became the IL-8 and IL-10. Serial production of the latter started in 1944.

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