During World War II, the Soviets mass-produced the Ilyushin Il-2 Sturmovik ground assault airplane to counter the Nazi German army on the Western front. 30,000 of the planes were produced between 1941 and 1945. Still, there are few in existence today. There is one that was recently discovered – in Tucson, Arizona, of all places.
The plane crash-landed in a lake during the siege of Leningrad. Forty years later, it was recovered, sold to a collector in the US and recently donated to the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson.
Like the Spitfire and the Flying Fortress, the Sturmovik is an iconic plane which helped to win World War Two. Like the modern A-10 Warthog, the Sturmovik used steel on its underbelly instead of aluminum to protect it on its low-flying missions. Sometimes the Sturmovik flew only 70 feet above the ground. Being a rear gunner in a Sturmovik was such a certain death sentence, the Soviets filled the position with people from their gulags, Popular Mechanics reported.
The Pima Air & Space Museum is currently restoring the airplane with an original engine, replica machine gun, and a new tail and wings. The plane is surprisingly well-preserved for having spent 40 years underwater.
The museum expects to have the plane ready for display by the summer.