Moving Mud in IL-2 Sturmovik

by Aaron "Spectre" Watson

Article Type: Training
Article Date: March 04, 2002

Product Info

Product Name: IL-2 Sturmovik
Category: WWII Air Combat Simulation
Developer: Maddox Games
Publisher: Ubi Soft
Release Date: Released (Nov. 2001)
Min. Spec: PII 400 (or equiv.), 128 MB RAM, 3D Accelerator
Rec'd. Spec: PIII 600 or better, 256 MB RAM, 32 bit 3D accelerator with 32 MB RAM or better
Files & Links: Click Here

Ju-87 makes a strafing pass

As a long time devotee to the fine art of air-to-ground engagements in combat flight simulations, I felt that I should share my techniques for putting steel on target on the Eastern Front as portrayed in 1C:Maddox Games' excellent IL-2 Sturmovik.

IL-2 Sturmovik is a complex simulation. On the one hand you have a vast number of airframes to choose from, each with a unique flight model. This is a very good thing. On the other hand, these separate flight models make a generic approach to air strikes difficult. When you add in the different gun and cannon calibers, as Viking1 pointed out very well in his air-to-air tutorial. Pile on the different rockets and bombs, and the combinations and permutations become astronomical. In the only off-line campaign I have completed, I was flying the Luftwaffe's Bf-109 variants and laid waste to 127 of the Soviet's finest AA guns, trucks, and tanks. I even had a few ships in that number. But destruction of ground assets is not the intended mission Willy Messerschmitt had in mind for these birds. Nor do the campaign missions accentuate the close air support, or other surface attack aspects for this aircraft.

The best craft to scorch the mud with is the namesake of this simulation—the IL-2 Sturmovik. That is what it was made to do, and it, historically, did it very well.

“With amazement and disappointment, we discovered in late October and early November that the beaten Russians seemed quite unaware that as a military force they had almost ceased to exist.”
—General Blumentritt

The IL-2, in its many iterations, was the most produced aircraft in the world, with over 36,000 having been manufactured. Needless to say, with numbers like these, the Soviets put a lot of stock in these aircraft.

In the game there are a lot of different weapons that can be utilized by the IL-2 to destroy ground targets. The built-in guns and cannon can do significant damage to soft, unarmored targets, such as trucks and AAA. It is worth mentioning that it had two 23-mm guns VYa-23. It only had 3mm more than the ordinary 20mm ShVAK (or similar German MG/FF and MG-151/20). But these types were nothing more than modified heavy machine guns with an increased diameter of the barrel (from 12.7mm to 20mm). As a result the speed of the shell was almost the same for the machine gun original. But the shell of VYa-23 was twice as heavy as the ShVAK, and had a significantly higher speed. German fighters would try to avoid frontal attacks against Soviet Sturmoviks. For destruction of ground targets the VYa-23 was also very effective, especially if gunfire was accompanied by an RS-82/132 rocket salvo. This tactic is used to good effect by the IL-2's flown by the AI.

Guns and rockets Run

The other items the Sturmovik regularly carried into battle are in the small bomb bays inboard of the landing gear nacelles. There is little information in the manual, or anywhere else at my disposal, concerning the multitude of different types of bombs carried by the IL-2. Generally the 50 and 100 kg. bombs are in the bays, while the 250 kg. types are mounted externally on the outside of the small bay doors. There are also cluster type bombs deployable from the bays in groups of 30 or 50. When disbursed from low altitude they had a devastating effect on vehicles in close proximity. Another unusual low altitude area effect weapon that is modeled in this simulation is the VAP-250. These are a pair of flaming ball dispensers mounted in the usual bomb carriage area that may have little practical use, but the visual effects are stunning when deployed.

Early form of napalm

“If he were fighting Hitler, I'd probably find some good to say about the Devil.”
—Sir Winston Churchill

Utilizing all these different weapons in IL-2 Sturmovik can be a challenge. There was a term I picked up while in the Air Force that best describes this challenge. One pass, haul ass. These are words to not only live by, but also survive by in the game.

When I first fired up IL-2 Sturmovik some months ago, I had tried the Sturmovik training missions and fared miserably. The reason was that I could not see the ground targets in DirectX mode. This is the first thing you need for a successful ground strike; acquire the target. When I later switched to OpenGL mode, I noticed lines of little black dots when approaching the target area. That is the next thing that is required: get the correct angle to attack. If you have a column of vehicles, attacking at a right angle will only put your weapons to bear on a single vehicle. If you approach in the same direction as the column, any overshoot or undershoot will affect other vehicles.

Approach direction recommendation.

So, you find the targets, assess their alignment, and start your run in. I have found that a full throttle approach with a high nose up angle of attack to be the most efficient in the IL-2, and other aircraft. As the targets pass from your sight, under the nose, chop throttle, and keep the nose up for a few seconds to lose airspeed. You will pick up plenty on the dive in. Once you are just above stall speed, a gentle push on the stick will only result in a small amount of negative G's. Once the target is re-acquired, use rudder at this slow speed to line up for the shot.

The black dots will, more than likely, have changed to the full shapes of the enemy vehicles. Their direction of movement should be quickly ascertained by the dust clouds kicked up, so you can lead the target to compensate for movement while your chosen projectiles are in flight. Forward firing weapons, guns, cannons and rockets, should be fired when within their respective ranges. You only have a second or two to actually put steel on target as you are quickly approaching the ground.

Pulling back to level after firing will set you up for bomb drop, if carried. As soon as you are level, and still on the same heading, release is recommended. If you have four bombs, release each pair with about one second separation, and then quickly pull to one side or the other of centerline. This throws off the defensive gunners, and allows you to clear the blast effect area. Your own bombs detonating beneath you can take off one of your aircraft's wings.

Egressing the area should be done at high speed and low level. This makes you a target for a minimal amount of time. Random side-to-side maneuvers, called jinking, are also recommended, so that an enemy gunner trying to lead you will not have a good shot.

A lack of jinking can lead to...

Once clear of the area, it is decision time. How important are any remaining targets? Are they heavily defended? Are they hard targets? You have already expended your heavy, hard-hitting weapons. Will the key to winning this battle be turned by your guns and cannons? If there is any doubt, stick to the one pass theory. Gather your wingmen and head home.

If, on the run in, you requested your cohorts to hit the flak, and if they have been successful, and the remaining targets are all soft, by all means, go through the above steps and take another run in. You will, however, find this to be a rare case. I have no data to support it, but I would wager that more shoot downs occur on second passes. The element of surprise is gone and the gomers are gunning for you. Even if you barely scratched the paint of the enemy, it is usually better to bring your aircraft home. This enables another try on a different day, rather than taking a dirt nap. A training track demonstrating a strike by a pair of IL-2's can be downloaded here. Happy hunting.

IL-2 Sturmovik Resources

IL-2: Forgotten Battles

Reviews & Features


Interviews with Oleg Maddox

Other Interviews

How-to Guides

Historic Retrospectives

Files & Utilities


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