Ilyushin graduated from the Zhukovsky Air Force Engineering Academy in 1926 and became an aircraft designer. In 1931, he was chief of the Central Design Office and a colonel general. Ilyushin's two-engine bomber, the DB-3F, entered service in 1937. Redesignated the Il-4, it was the mainstay of the Soviet Union's medium bomber fleet in the early years of World War II. The first Soviet bomber to reach Berlin, it was employed as both a torpedo-bomber and a strategic bomber.
Ilyushin is also credited with designing the superb Il-2 Shturmovik. Appearing in March 1941, it was a highly effective, well-armored (about 15 percent of empty weight) ground-attack aircraft known to the Germans as "the black death." Armed with two 30 mm cannon (and later, a 37 mm gun), the Il-2 was a most successful tank killer. The Soviets manufactured some 36,000 Il-2s through 1955, more than any other wartime aircraft. Josef Stalin described the Shturmovik as being "as essential to the Red Army as bread and water," and Ilyushin received the Hero of Soviet Labor award for its design. In 1943, Ilyushin developed the Il-10, a smaller but faster and more aerodynamic bomber based on the Il-2. It saw service well past the war, including in many Soviet satellite states. He also developed a four-engine bomber, the Il-20.
Ilyushin continued to design aircraft after the war, when he also taught at the Zhukovsky Academy. He developed the jet ground-attack Il-40 aircraft and, in 1948, the twin-engined Il-28 attack bomber, the Soviet Union's first jet bomber. He also designed the Il-38, the Soviet Union's first long-range antisubmarine aircraft. Among his civilian aircraft designs were the four-engine Il-12 in 1946 and the
Il-14 in 1954. In 1957, Ilyushin developed the large turboprop Il-18. He also designed the intercontinental passenger jet known as the Il-62 and the larger transport aircraft Il-76 and Il-86 that have served in both the Soviet air force and Aeroflot, the Soviet state airline. Ilyushin died in Moscow on 9 February 1977.
Michael Share and Spencer C. Tucker
Fredriksen, John C. International Warbirds: An Illustrated Guide to World Military Aircraft, 1914–2000. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2001.; Greenwood, John T. "The Designers and Their Aircraft." In Robin Higham, John T. Greenwood, and Von Hardesty, eds., Russian Aviation and Air Power in the Twentieth Century, 162–190. London: Cass, 1998.