IlyaM /Part 2

Lionel Kearns (
Mon, 24 Apr 1995 23:55:41 -0700

>Date: Mon, 24 Apr 1995 22:48:31 -0500
>Precedence: bulk
>Subject: The Beginnings of Air Power/Part 2
>X-Listprocessor-Version: 6.0a -- ListProcessor by Anastasios Kotsikonas
>X-Comment: Military History of the First World War
> This first variant of the G series was designed to carry a greater usable
>load so that in addition to carrying more armament it flew typically with a
>six man crew. In 1916 the G-2 which was designed with a strengthened wing
>structure was produced. With the need for a greater defensive potential the
>innovation of the tail gun position was introduced in this model. To get to
>this location at the end of the fuselage a trolley was installed. It ran on
>a pair of angular rails to the rear through the fuselage. By pulling on the
>cross wire bracing the crew member pulled the trolley to the rear or forward
>to return to the cabin. With the addition of a tail gun the central large
>rudder was first removed, then later in subsequent models a small fixed fin
>was employed in front of the gunners position. The two enlarged rudders were
>moved further out on the larger stabilizer. One particular G-2 which was
>powered by four 160 h.p. Beardmore engines was capable of operating at a
>5,200 meter (17,000 feet) altitude with a full load. It is interesting to
>note that G-2's as well as G-4's were later employed by the first civil
>airline in the USSR. They saw service in 1921 between the cities of Moscow,
>Orel, Kursk and Kharkov as well as between Sarapul and Sverdlovsk. There
>were only about eight examples of the G-2 produced. In 1916 the Il'ya
>Muromets underwent further modifications in order to meet the expanded
>offensive and defensive capabilities required. This resulted in
>approximately eight examples of the G-3 being produced. Aside from the bomb
>load capacity being increased, the defensive firepower was added to by
>providing a hatch in the fuselage floor for a machine gun so that the ship's
>field of fire would then include the area beneath the aeroplane. The cabin
>size was increased by extending it down the length of the fuselage. The
>tailplane area was increased to accommodate the larger space being utilized
>by the tail gun. This G model was reinforced and strengthened in a number of
>areas such as additional welded tubing which was utilized in its
>construction. All these features increased the overall weight. Once again
>in an attempt to provide better visibility the nose was fully glazed.
>Between the years 1914 and 1917 over seventy Murometsy were manufactured in
>Petrograd. The manufacture of the aircraft was a complex process. There
>were constant design changes to meet the combat requirements at the front.
> In response to these virtually unopposed incursions over the line the
>Germans increased its presence of fighter aircraft, which were faster and
>better armed than ever. In order for the EVK to continue operations Igor
>Sikorsky and his team of engineers produced what would become the final
>variant of the Il'ya Muromets series. The type E were the largest and most
>advanced of all the Murometsy built. Aside from carrying as many as eight
>crew members, its armament and bomb load capabilities were increased. Some
>ships carried eight machine guns or automatic rifles. The first of the type
>E were not fitted with a tail gun but rather a platform that was lowered
>from the fuselage floor aft of the wings. From this position the gunner,
>lying on the platform, could fire toward the rear. The nose was fully glazed
>and the fuel tanks were enclosed in the fuselage. In the first version there
>appeared only one large rudder but with the return to a tail gun position in
>the second variant this was changed to two smaller rudders on the stabilizer.
>The EVK had its own photographic section which would process and develop all
>the negatives as well as the prints. They would supply them to the regional
>command headquarters as well as to Stavka. The distribution and delivery of
>these important photographs was carried out by couriers, many who would drive
>motorcycles over the rough terrain at breakneck speeds in all kinds of
>weather. The large size and load carrying capability of the Il'ya Muromets
>provided the perfect platform for high altitude reconnaissance. Aside from
>carrying a larger and more sophisticated camera, the quantity of glass plate
>negatives far exceeded what any other observation craft could carry. In
>addition to all this the large enclosed cabin provided the crew with a
>singularly unique environment to work in, particularly in the cold Russian
>winters. A marvelous overlay system was developed which would display the
>altitude and the time that each photograph was taken, these were particularly
>helpful when it came to photographic interpretation.
>The squadron also had its own meteorological section which obtained from
>various sources the current weather conditions along the vast eastern front
>as well as the rest of Europe. It was sophisticated enough to make weather
>predictions which were extremely critical for the long range flights which
>the IM's routinely flew. The science of meteorology was fairly well
>developed in Russia at the time and General Shidlovskiy was able to man his
>squadron with some of the more noted specialists of the day.
>The EVK systematically bombed enemy positions, specifically transportation,
>supply and communication facilities. Generally a mixture of high explosive,
>fragmentation and incendiary devices were utilized. High explosive bombs
>ranged in weight from 16 kg. (35 lbs.) to 160 kg. (353 lbs.) depending on the
>missions profile. Fragmentation bombs weighing from 16 kg. (35 lbs.) to 48
>kg. (106 lbs.) and an incendiary type of 10 kg. (22 lbs.) was also employed.
> The evolution of the bomb sights used by the Squadron is an interesting
>story in itself, suffice to say that eventually a very sophisticated optical
>system which allowed for drift was employed with startling success.
> Finally, bomb racks of both electrical and mechanical variants were tested
>and used in the Murometsy over the four year period of the squadrons
>The combat record of the EVK was rather extraordinary, only one Il'ya
>Muromets was shot down and destroyed. Many times the ships would return with
>massive battle damage, on one occasion the entire wing section of one IM
>collapsed shortly after landing. In addition a number of airframes had to be
>written off after some rather bad landings. It is interesting to note that
>the shortages at the front were so acute that after a craft was no longer
>flyable it would be stripped of all of its fittings, cables, instruments and
>engines, only the wood frame would be left. As the war went on the presence
>of enemy fighter aircraft increased, so much so that ships would need to
>carry machine guns on all missions. In the early stages of the war the crew
>of the Il'ya Muromets would either take little or no armament with them.
> This was often done in order to lighten the load for other essentials such
>as fuel, oil or bombs. But after a few nasty confrontations with enemy
>scouts survival dictated that defensive weapons were a necessity. As the
>Germans began to discern a reoccurring flight path anti-aircraft batteries
>were set up in order to shoot down the slow moving giants. On more than one
>occasion anti-aircraft emplacements were aggressively assaulted, by their
>would be victims, with heavy bombardment and machine gun fire until they were
>silenced. The pugnacity of the Il'ya Muromets was well known and respected
>by the enemy. Although the ships flew at a relatively slow speed their high
>defensive profile as well as their ability to withstand massive battle damage
>made them a difficult opponent to successfully intercept.
>The most critical problem the squadron faced was the lack of adequate
>engines. After war had been declared the much valued German Argus engines
>became unavailable. The R-BVZ had to find suitable power plants from other
>sources which included France, Italy, America and Great Britain. The Salmson
>engines from France did not perform well on the Il'ya Muromets for a few
>reasons. The aerodynamic drag created by the use of four of these engines
>and their radiators was considerable. The radiators were also prone to
>failure from vibration. The fact that they did not deliver the full rated
>horse power was probably due to a combination of factors which included the
>type of propellers used as well as the quality of the fuel and oil.
> Therefore even with the higher horse power available the usable load and
>ceiling was greatly reduced.
>Since the Argus engines were no longer available from Germany and the French
>Salmsons had proved to be unsuitable for the high altitude and load carrying
>capacity expected of the Murometsy it became critical to find an acceptable
>power plant. At that time the Sunbeam engine from Britain was the only
>engine available with a power to weight ratio which would be usable. These
>engines proved their worth while serving in the British Royal Naval Air
>Service, where they had expert mechanics to work on them and factories
>relatively close for spare parts. The Russians unfortunately did not have
>the same resources available to them, especially at the front were the Il'ya
>Muromets operated. The logistical problems of getting replacement engines
>and parts to the front from the various ports and terminals was slow at best.
> The Sunbeam engines did not perform well under the harsh conditions they
>were subjected to on the eastern front.
>It was not until later on in the war when the advancement of engine design by
>the allies had caught up to the power requirements of the Murometsy, that any
>suitable engines were available other than Sunbeams or the Russian built
>R-BVZ-6. The Russo-Baltic firm produced a hybrid version of the Argus and
>Mercedes engine to help meet this critical shortage. The R-BVZ-6 engines
>were designed by a Russian engineer named Kiryev. Before the war he had
>worked in Germany at the Mercedes and Maybach plants. With this valuable
>experience, he brought back to Russia the knowledge necessary to design and
>manufacture large engines. These motors were built at the Riga branch of the
>R-BVZ until the advance of the German army in the fall of 1915 forced the
>evacuation of the facility. As a result only a limited number of the engines
>were initially available until production was resumed at the relocated plant.
>During the five year period that Igor Sikorsky and his team of engineers,
>mechanics and craftsman had been building and perfecting the design of the
>Il'ya Muromets no less than seventy aircraft had been built. Although Igor
>Sikorsky originally intended his giants for more peaceful purposes almost all
>of them were used by the Escadra vozdushnykh korabley or Squadron of Flying
>Ships during World War One. This unit, led by General Mikhail V.
>Shidlovskiy, chairman of the R-BVZ, constituted the worlds first long range
>strategic bomber and reconnaissance squadron. It's theater of operations
>covered vast expanses of the eastern front which included the
>Austro-Hungarian region of conflict in the south as well as the East Prussian
>front in the north. The heroics and gallantry of the members of the EVK was
>matched by the superlative performance of the unique aircraft they flew. The
>measured success of the Il'ya Muromets did not go unnoticed by Germany or the
>Allies. This fact is evident in the successive development and
>implementation of such aircraft through out the war by all belligerents.
>Of the Il'ya Muromets that survived the final stages of the war a few were
>pressed into service by the Bolsheviks as part of the fledgling Soviet Air
>Force. Together with former members of the EVK they saw some action during
>the Civil War. A majority of the airframes and engines had already become
>rather worn out by this time from their extensive use as well as their
>exposure to the elements. These factors, combined with the lack of
>experienced ground crews, led to the loss of at least one ship with its
>entire crew. Amazingly a few of the Murometsy still remained in use until
>1921, relegated to civil transport.
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