A nice and informative article, with some cool ideas for your future model aircraft.
World War II Aircraft and Antitank Tactics
Guest Post by Marius Bujor on behalf of Model Aircraft Universe
Tanks appeared for the first time on the battlefield, as an entirely new weapon, during the First World War, and caused a shock to the German combat units headquarters. However, a pragmatic analysis of the situation followed: how to deal with the new threat? As the machine guns were not effective against the armored giants, the military’s attention turned to artillery. From the offensive grenades to manufacturing the first anti-tank guns, it was just one step.
Since the beginning of the armored tactics history, the strategists have taken into account the idea to use the aviation against the deadly tanks. At first glance, the maneuverable and agile plane seemed to be superior to the slow and heavy armored machine crawling on the ground. The first tankers did not have many chances when dealing with the biplanes attacking them at a speed of two hundred kilometers per hour. However, knocking out a tank was not an easy task for the pilots, too. On the West Front, the German aviators tried to destroy the huge British tanks by sending prolonged close-range gunshots against the upper part of the tank where the armor was thinner. It was a slight chance the projectiles would have pierced the armor and killed some of the crew, damaged the engine, or fired the vehicle. Moreover, the pilot was exposed to the infantry punishment, who could shot him down with the machine guns and rifles.
The effectiveness of the first air strikes against tanks did not meet the expectations. Same thing happened with the attempts to hit a tank with a bomb. The aiming was so inaccurate that hitting successfully such a small target was to a high degree a matter of pure luck and a happy event for the pilot. During the interwar era, the tanks fighting tactics improved, following the aircraft development closely. Some experiments with large caliber cannons mounted on aircraft were conducted, but fully functional anti-tank aircraft models appeared in the Second World War when most of the technical issues were solved.
The Sturdy Sturmovik
Even before the Second World War, the Soviet designing bureaus were working on developing an aircraft primarily intended for tactical attacks on land targets. The airplane was not supposed to achieve great performance at high heights, as it was designed to operate mainly at low altitude. The focus was geared towards a great ability to carry large quantities of equipment, for both shooting and bombing and also a strong armor. This aircraft was not expected to win a dogfight as it had to be protected by escorting fighters. This design led to the construction of the Iliusin Il-2 fighting plane, known as the Sturmovik. On the 2nd October 1939, the first prototype took off with the CKB-55 markings. At that time it was an unusual plane because of the extensive use of armor, from propeller to cockpit. In its original form, it had one place, but the designer immediately took into consideration a the two-seater version with a rear gunner.
During the Second World War, a total of 34,943 Ilyushin Il-2 planes were produced, of all versions. They served for 356 squadrons, and it is worth mentioning that 140 of them had to be fully rebuilt over time, some of them even several times, as a result of the severe damages inflicted. It is reported that 27,600 crew members died throughout the entire war.
In the exhausting war waged on the Eastern Front, the Sturmoviks were primarily used as antitank weapons and took part in most of the major operations. They flew over the routes to Moscow, in the sky of Stalingrad, and had a major role over the course of the Battle of Kursk. The Soviet aviation used attack tactics that involved large aircraft formations that approached the target area at a low height, trying to cover a wide area of the battlefield. However, sometimes the pilots were exposed to the infantry fire due to the low flight ceiling, a risk that could not be ignored.
If you love building scale model aircraft, these legendary warbirds we have just talked about in the rows above are some really good sources of inspiration. You can build them and even fly them; the imagination is the limit, as the scale modeling market is full of thousands and thousands of models, that suit virtually every taste and skill level.
What better way to study the past than building with your very own hands replicas of those wonderful machines that made history.
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