SOVIET AIRCRAFT BUILDERS CREATED A PLANE, unique in the world, which had an armoured fuselage. The IL-2 was virtually a flying tank with extremely high powered weaponry, including eight rocket launchers. Soviet planes were the first in the world to use rockets in combat.
“The fatal weakness in this formidable air force was that none of its pilots had been trained for dogfights with enemy planes. The Soviet battle plan relied on a massive surprise attack to knock out the enemy air force on the ground in the first hour of the war. “By mid-June 1941, in final preparation for such a blow, Stalin’s planes themselves presented an ideal target, packed wingtip to wingtip on temporary airstrips immediately behind the front line, rather than dispersed several hundred miles to the rear – as they would have been in preparation for a defensive war.
“Likewise, airborne assault troops are only useful to an aggressor. Countries concerned with defence need very few. Hitler had created only 4,000 paratroopers by 1939, but Stalin already had more than a million – 200 times more than the rest of the world, including Germany, put together. There were 10 Corps, each supported by airborne artillery and even battalions of light amphibious tanks.
“Soviet engineers were also hoping to land hundreds, or even thousands of tanks in the west. Antonov, the aircraft designer, suggested that the ordinary tank be fitted with wings and a tail with its hull used as a framework. The tank crew controlled the flight by turning the turret and raising the barrel of the cannon!