The Ilyushin Il-2 was one of the most significant ground-attack aircraft of
WWII. It incorporated a sturdy monocoque construction and excellent armor
protection to make it perfect for ground attack operations. It was initially
conceived as a two-seat design but due to weight issues it was re-designed as a
lighter single-seat aircraft in 1940. As production began in 1941, the aircraft
was designated as the Il-2. Heavy losses of the single-seat aircraft during
combat forced the addition of a rear gunner position in 1943. Later variants
featured improvements such as swept outer wings for better handling. The Il-2
contributed greatly to the eventual Russian victory over Nazi Germany. Joseph
Stalin himself famously noted that the aircraft was as vital to the Russian Army
as air and bread.
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