This aircraft was the true successor to the Il-2 in Soviet service. Although sometimes lumped in together with the Il-2 under the rubric of `Shturmovik’, the Il- 10 was a completely new aeroplane, incorporating lessons learned during the Il- 2’s service. It was constructed completely of metal, and except for steel armour and the fabric-covered control surfaces, was covered by a stressed-skin aluminium alloy. It was a smaller and better streamlined aeroplane than the Il-2, incorporating fully retractable main landing gear that rotated through 86 degrees to retract into the wings and a partially retractable tail wheel, as with the larger Il-8 (second version). It carried the more powerful AM-42 engine, a development of the Il-2’s AM-38, capable of generating 2,000 hp at take-off. These changes made the Il-10 some 85 to 90 mph (137 to 145 kph) faster than the Il-2, with a top speed of 340 mph (547 kph). In addition, its smaller size gave it a manoeuvrability approaching that of single-seat fighters, especially in the horizontal plane.
During the Second World War the Il-10 carried the same fixed armament as the Il-2, comprised of two ShKAS 7.62-mm (30-calibre) machine guns, and two VYa- 23 23-mm cannons. For defence it retained the UBT 12.7-mm (50-calibre) machine gun, although with the Il-10 the gunner was in a completely enclosed position, and was protected by the front fuselage’s armour shell on the sides, back, and bottom of the aircraft. The bomb load of 1,333 lb (600 kg) remained the same as the Il-2’s. It could also carry four rockets under the wing, as with the two seater Il-2s, although it was not normally so equipped. Some commentators on the Il-2 have noted the relatively light ordnance load and short-range of the Il-2 as being drawbacks to its design. It’s interesting that not only did the wartime Il-10s have the exact same gun fit (two ShKAS and two VYa-23s in the wing, and a UBT for defence), but they also had the exact same disposable ordnance load of 1,333 lb. Obviously, this armament, including the disposable ordnance load, was considered sufficient (although the gun armament was made more powerful in post-war Il-10’s; see below). In addition, the range of the Il-10 was only a little more than the Il-2-around 500 miles (805 km) as opposed to around 450 miles (724 km) for the Il-2. If the ordnance load and range had been considered major drawbacks, these would have been changed in the Il-10, which was a completely different design from the Il-2.
The Il-10 continued to be produced long after the war. From 1947 onwards, heavier armament in the form of four NS-23 23-mm cannons was fitted, and the rear gunner was provided with a flexible Berezin B-20 20-mm cannon. The last Il- 10 was the Il-10M, a heavily modified version that was constructed in small numbers in the Soviet Union from 1952 to 1954. The Il-10M featured a longer fuselage and a completely redesigned, more angular and stronger wing. In addition to the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia produced and exported its own version, under the designation of B-33, which featured the heavier post-war armament, although using the shorter fuselage and the wing of the Great Patriotic War Il-10.
As with the Il-2, some Il-10s were produced as trainer versions, with the instructor sitting in the aft position, the same as the Il-2Us. These training versions were known collectively as the UIl-10 (or CB-33 if they were of Czechoslovakian manufacture). Some of these trainers were provided to the foreign air forces which used the Il-10 after the war. The Il-10 saw service during the last month of the Great Patriotic War alongside the Il-2, and during the Manchurian campaign. It was also used during the Korean War by the North Koreans and by the Chinese against the Taiwanese during the 1950s, and against the Tibetans during the early 1960s. It continued in service with the Chinese until the early 1970s.
The Il-10 first entered service trials for the Soviet Union in October 1944 on the Eastern Front. Like most new aircraft, it suffered its fair share of teething problems, and its service entrance was not without problems; for example, the AM-42 engine had a tendency to catch fire-a rather considerable problem that was eventually solved. There were also problems with the landing gear, as the tyres were suited more for unprepared fields than concrete runways, and had a limited life. The landing gear were also less rugged than the Il-2’s, and the wings were weaker and more susceptible to damage.
Its first combat action during the Great Patriotic War took place during 15 April 1945. Only three Il-10 regiments took part in the Great Patriotic War: the 571st ShAP, the 108th GvShAP, and the 118th GvShAP. It was the 571st ShAP that saw the most action, and indeed was the first Il-10 unit to see action.
The Il-10 began to replace the Il-2 in shturmovik regiments during the Second World War, with some twelve regiments having converted, but total replacement took some time, and was not completed until after the war in the late 1940s.
As of 1 January 1955, there were nineteen Soviet attack air regiments, with a total of over 1,800 aircraft. Of those some 1,700 were Il-10s and the much revised Il-10M, with 130 MiG-15bis fighter bombers. The Il-10s were withdrawn from service by the Soviet Union in 1956, with their place being taken by jet-powered fighter bombers, such as the MiG-15bis.
Foreign Users of the Il-10
Some Il-10s may have been sent to this country, but the record is unclear on this.
Bulgaria used both second-hand Soviet-built Il-10s and Czechoslovakian B-33s. It is unclear from the record when Bulgaria retired its Il-10s.
This country received its first Il-10s from the Soviet Union in August of 1950. This Soviet Bloc country not only utilised the Il-10, it produced it indigenously as the Avia B-33 and the CB-33 trainer version with over 1,000 being produced until 1955, some of which were exported to other countries, such as Bulgaria, Poland, and Yemen. The B-33 had the later armament of four NS-23 23-mm cannons in the wings, and a B-20 20-mm cannon for rear defence. The last B-33s were withdrawn from service in September 1960.
The first Soviet-supplied Il-10s were sent to Hungary in September 1949. These were second-hand aircraft, which had been used by Soviet regiments. Hungary also operated some UIl-10s. Hungary retired its Il-10s in 1956.
Second-hand Polish B-33s (Czechoslovakian-built Il-10s) were sent to this country in 1957, but they were rejected for use as being unsuitable.
North Korea used the Il-10 extensively during the Korean War. These were evidently Il-10s from the Second World War, with the lighter gun armament. Although in its own way it was as good of a ground attack aircraft as the famous A-1 (AD) Skyraider, it did not have sufficient fighter air cover and as a consequence suffered heavy casualties. I’ve often wondered that, if their places had been changed, the Il-10 wouldn’t have achieved the same fame and success as the A-1 Skyraider. The North Korean Il-10s may have served until 1956.
People’s Republic of China
China was the last user of the Il-10, with some remaining in service into the early 1970s; one source states that they were not retired until 1972. China actually used its Il-10s in anger, first against Taiwan in the 1950s, then against the Tibetans in the 1960s. They were by far the last users of the Il-10. Some of their Il- 10s still exist as hulks, and a few have been properly preserved/restored.
Poland first received its Soviet-supplied Il-10s as early as February 1949. Poland also used the B-33, the Czechoslovakian-built version of the Il-10. The Il-10 was not finally withdrawn from service until 1961. At least one Polish Il-10 has been preserved.
Although not a user of the Il-2, Romania did make use of its successor. Romania did not receive its first Il-10s until March 1953 when thirty second-hand Soviet examples were sent. Romania was also sent new B-33s from Czechoslovakia. The last Il-10s (B-33s) in service were retired in 1960.
Twenty-four brand-new B-33s were delivered to Yemen in 1957. These saw use in the Yemeni Civil War as late as 1962. It is not clear when they were retired from use.