Tamiya 1/48 IL-2M3 Shturmovik

KIT #: 113
PRICE: $85.00 SRP
DECALS: Four options
REVIEWER: Charlie Isaacs
NOTES: New tool kit


Ilyushin’s  Shturmovik was the iconic Soviet warplane of the Second World War. It remains the highest-produced warplane in history (over 36,000 and over 42,000 if its successor, the Il-10 is included in the mix.) Sergei Ilyushin’s design team first designed the Il-2 for the 1938 Soviet requirement. Originally designated the TsKB-55, it was a two-seater with a Mikulin AM-35 engine. It was found to be underpowered, and Ilyushin was directed to redesign it as a single seater and to increase engine power. It was felt that with its 1500 pound armor shell surrounding the pilot, fuel tank and engine, that a rear gunner was unnecessary. The newly redesigned Il-2 entered service just in time to face Operation Barbarossa.  Soviet pilots received little training,  tactics for use of the Shturmovik had not been perfected, and losses were heavy. Shturmoviks were considered lucky to survive ten missions.

Field modifications added a back seat. The resulting  production Il-2M increased survivability, but the rear gunner had much less armor protection than the pilot, and losses of rear gunners were high. Furthermore, the addition of the rear gunner and 12.7 UBT machine gun added over 800 pounds making the already difficult to handle Il-2 even more unstable. Interrupting production of the much- needed Shturmovik was risky. Early in its production, while moving the factory to the Urals, Stalin had sent the following telegram to the factory managers:

“You have let down our country and our Red Army. You have the nerve not to manufacture IL-2s until now. Our Red Army now needs IL-2 aircraft like the air it breathes, like the bread it eats. Shenkman produces one IL-2 a day and Tretyakov builds one or two MiG-3s daily. It is a mockery of our country and the Red Army. I ask you not to try the government's patience, and demand that you manufacture more ILs. This is my final warning.”

To address the issue with the center of gravity, the Il-2 was cautiously redesigned with slightly swept back wings to move the lift rearwards to counter instability issues .The Mikulin 46.6 liter AM-38F was improved by lowering the compression ratio and increasing the boost, thus enabling it to run on standard truck-grade gasoline. In addition, the rear gunner’s armor was increased. The resulting Il-2M3 was superior and became the new standard for Soviet ground attack units. It remained in use until supplanted late in the war by the more powerful and streamlined Il-10.

Even with these improvements, The Shturmovik remained vulnerable to German fighters. Its armored shell was proof against even 20mm cannon rounds, but the Il-2 remained slow and ponderous to handle in combat. Its rockets remained inaccurate, and because of its heavy armor, it could not carry as much ordnance as a Ju-87, P-47, Typhoon,(or an SBD!) It was not stressed for dive bombing, so Soviet tactics evolved in which the Il-2 units would circle the battlefield and attack in shallow (30 degree) dives. Soviet pilots would remain over the battlefield until their ammunition was consumed because they were not allowed to return to base with leftover ammo. Shturmovik units were still subject to high attrition, and 30 missions were considered the norm for the life of a Shturmovik pilot.


 Tamiya’s new release of the Shturmovik fills a hole left by the departed Accurate Miniatures 1/48 Il2M3. I have built both, and although the Accurate Miniatures kit was excellent, it did have some fit issues between the wing and fuselage. The Tamiya kit addresses these with a different wing to fuselage assembly. This is a typical Tamiya ‘shake and bake’ kit and even includes canopy masks. My only complaint about the kit would be the involved construction of the ducting to the radiator and oil cooler, which is quite involved and is completely invisible once the plane is buttoned up.


I started with the cockpit interior. The armored bulkhead behind the pilot seat is a clear piece that must be painted before adding it to the interior. Tamiya calls for a gray interior, so I mixed up some Tamiya flat white and flat black to a gray that looked suitable to my ignorant eyes. Tamiya supplies a decal for the seat belts which promptly disintegrated. I had decided to build it with a closed canopy anyway to complement my Accurate Miniatures Il-2 which has an open canopy. Next came the ducting for the cooling system and the various screens which I dutifully painted black and then dry brushed with flat aluminum. The rest of the ducting was painted in flat gray – all ultimately invisible! Thankfully, Tamiya made the exhaust separate from the fuselage, so I could save that for the last. The rest of the build was uneventful, and with careful gluing and construction no putty and very little sanding was needed. Assembly did call for attaching the landing gear legs before final construction. Fortunately, they were strong enough to resist multiple masking attempts during the painting process. I used old guitar strings for the pitot tube and 7.62 machine guns on the leading edge of the wings.


Tamiya includes decals for four different versions – all from 1944/1945. I also had a set of Superscale decals for the Il2M3. I eventually decided on the version depicted on the front of the box. I chose this one because there are photos of both pilot and gunner for this version, but especially because it was featured in the center profile of the Profile Publications No.88 by Witold Liss that I had bought new while I was a teen. The original grainy photo of this version caused Kenneth Rush to paint it in an overall olive drab. Newer and clearer photos show the multi-hued scheme. I mixed Tamiya colors – two different greens (dark and deep green), brown and red, and white and black for gray. For the bottom I mixed Vallejo light blue with Tamiya medium blue. I did all this mixing not because I am especially skilled at it, but because these were the paints I had in my stash and I was too lazy and cheap to go to the hobby shop to buy more!

At this point, my Badger 150 airbrush decided to throw a hissy fit ( and me along with it). My fine nozzle actually broke (not the needle, but the nozzle), so I had to use the medium tip. Even with masking, I had to keep going over areas with overspray and even thought of just chucking the model at one point. I took a break for a while and then came back to it, cleaned up the most glaring areas and realized that Shturmoviks were ridden hard and put away wet. They weren’t lovingly coddled like fighter planes and would show wear. I sprayed some thinned flat black on the sides to show overall grime and exhaust stains. I then sprayed the whole plane with Future to gloss it up for the decals. I have found that the new Future tends to darken the model and lessen contrast between colors (unlike Glosscote). The Tamiya decals went on without a hitch. I only made a couple of mistakes with them (which I won’t mention...) A few coats of Dullcote followed. I then dinged it a little where the crew would have walked around the wing root. I worked the tires into the landing gear legs after the Dullcote process because Dullcote sometimes shows a coating that keeps tires from looking like aged rubber. The Tamiya canopy masks worked great, and the model was finally done.


Tamiya’s Il2M3 Shturmovik is an excellent kit that is easy to build and looks very accurate. It is easier to build than the also-excellent Accurate Miniatures Il2. The slope of the top of the nose is a little different between the two kits – The A-M is more blunt, and I can’t really tell which is more accurate. The Shturmovik is very impressive once built and actually looks like a 1/48 model should look, especially next to 1/48 Yaks and Lavochkins which are so small they almost look like they are 1/72! I recommend both the Accurate Miniatures and Tamiya kits with the one warning that the Tamiya kit is much easier to build.


 Red Phoenix by Von Hardesty

Profile Publications No.88

Il-2 In Action by Hans-Hieri Stapfer

Osprey’s IL-2 Guards Units of World War 2 by Oleg Rastrenin

Charlie Isaacs

July 2013

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