Having established a serial production of the first domestic cars in just a few years (from 1908), Mikhail Vladimirovich thought about expanding production to other engineering industries. The most promising for him was aircraft construction. However, the first attempts of Shidlovsky were unsuccessful. Two French-made "Sommer" models in the spring and summer of 1911 broke down in trials. The plant stopped the construction of airplanes: it was necessary to look for new models, and even better - an aircraft designer. Moreover, M.V. Shydlouski understood that the domestic industry would then be able to reach the advanced level when he was freed from patent dependence and took the initiative to develop airplanes in his hands. Copying foreign aircraft meant a constant lag.
Shydlouski long chose a man who could lead a new business. Finally, he was informed that Igor Sikorsky lives in Kiev, who traveled to France to study, designed, built and tested an airplane himself. So the choice fell on Sikorsky.
Since the autumn of 1912, with the approval of Shidlovsky, the chief designer began the development and construction of an airborne multi-engined giant. It was assumed that the aircraft could be used for urgent passenger and cargo traffic, and even as a reconnaissance ship for the development of vast areas of Siberia.
In the early spring of 1913, the world's first heavy twin-engine aircraft, the Grand, rolled out of the hangar. The weight of the ship exceeded 3 tons, the wingspan was 27 m, length - 20 m, the wing area - 120 m 2. Tests of the aircraft were successful. The only thing that Shidlovsky didn’t like was the foreign name: it was decided to rename the ship “Russian Knight”.
The success of Sikorsky did not remain unnoticed by the official authorities.
The plane was examined by Emperor Nicholas II, the State Duma awarded the designer for the invention with a prize of 75 thousand rubles, the military department was awarded the Order of St. Vladimir 4. Moreover, it ordered 10 ships, hoping to use them as scouts and bombers.
In late September, the "Russian Knight" struck a ridiculous disaster. One of the wings was broken ... by a motor that fell from the sky! As it turned out, this engine fell off near the Meller airplane, on which the famous pilot Gaber-Vlynsky was landing. Having lost the motor, the pilot did not lose his head, and landed safely on the airfield.
The ship was not repaired: Sikorsky studied its positive and negative properties and decided to build a new air giant. At the end of the fall he was ready. The new ship was given the name "Ilya Muromets" - in honor of the legendary Russian hero.
The characteristics of the “Russian hero” for 1913 were really amazing: body length up to 19 m, wingspan up to 30 m, wing area (on various modifications) from 125 to 200 м2. The mass of the empty aircraft exceeded 3 tons, the duration of the flight of the loaded aircraft was up to 4-5 hours (empty - up to 10 hours). At the same time, due to the lack of reliable high-powered engines in Russia, the aircraft had a fairly good speed (from 100 to 130 km / h) and rate of climb (climb of 2 km in half an hour). The combat use ceiling ranged from 2000 to 3000 m (on various modifications), which fully corresponded to modern ideas about the required height of the bomber.
At first, the aircraft was supposed to arm the 37-mm cannon, but then they refused to do this and gave it a 2 machine gun. During the war, the number of machine guns increased to 6-8. The bomb load of Ilya Muromets ranged from 300 to 500 kg of fragmentation, high-explosive and incendiary bombs.
From the “Russian Knight” in the new giant Sikorsky, only the general scheme of the aircraft and its wing box with four engines installed on the lower wing in a row remained. The fuselage was fundamentally new.
Already in the winter of 1913, the first "Ilya of Murom" was tested near St. Petersburg. During a demonstration flight in February, for the first time in world history, an 16 man and an airfield dog with the unflattering nickname Shkalik simultaneously took to the aircraft. The total weight of the passengers was 1290 kg. Piloted the plane itself chief designer.
However, the military department had doubts about the advisability of adopting a new aircraft. In order to finally convince the generals of its reliability, Sikorsky decided to carry out a long demonstration flight from St. Petersburg to Kiev and back. The flight took place at the end of June 1914 and ended with the triumph of a young aircraft designer. Incidentally, in honor of the flight of the lead ship of the squadron "Murom", later became invariably called "Kiev".
From the army aviation to strategic
News about the murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand Sikorsky found out already in Kiev. A month later, the First World War began ... In its very first days, an order by the Military Department established 10 combat squads of Ilya Muromets airplanes. Each detachment consisted of a proper heavy bomber and 2-3 light aircraft and was subordinated to the aviation inspector general Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich. Detachments "Murom" was decided to attach to the headquarters of the fronts or armies.
By November 1914, the use of two cars showed that without centralized leadership and constant technical assistance, they are not adapted for military operations and quickly fail.
The Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich, who in principle considered heavy bombers to be an ineffective invention from the very beginning of their appearance, fell asleep to the Headquarters of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief reports on the unsuitability of the Murom people for combat work.
The telegrams of the aviation inspector general took effect: the old order for Russo-Balt on 10 new machines and the new October (on 32 machines) were stopped.
In response, M.V. In mid-November, Shydlouski arrived at headquarters in Baranavichy for a personal report to the Supreme Commander on the use of “Muromans”. Shydlouski proved that the reason for their inefficiency lies in the wrong organization. Mikhail Vladimirovich considered that the only measure capable of removing the case from the deadlock that had been created was the establishment of a squadron like a squadron of sea ships.
Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolayevich agreed with Shidlovsky’s arguments and ordered the disbanding of the military units. In their place was organized by the squadron of aircrafts with a staff of 10 combat ships and 2 training. The commander of the squadron, in the rank of Major General, the Supreme Commander, approved M. V. Shidlovsky, who was now subordinate to the General Staff General on Duty, and not to Alexander Mikhailovich. In fact, for the first time in world history, aviation was divided into light and heavy (strategic).
In the winter of 1915, the city of Sikorsky finally began training for flight personnel. The crew consisted of 5 man: the commander (pilot), his assistant (co-pilot, acting as navigator), artillery officer in charge of the bombing, mechanic and mechanic. Subsequently, they added a few more machine-gunners, who also served as motor mechanics in critical cases. Soon the squadron, first on its own initiative, and then with official permission, organized its flight school for pilots.
In addition, it was necessary to install, test and rationalize small arms and bomb weapons, instruments for aerial photography and guidance. All this had to be done for the first time: there was no experience yet.
Large space inside the aircraft allowed to place light bombs in the fuselage on the inner suspension - due to which the aerodynamics of the aircraft did not suffer. All bombs were supplied with three fuses. Initially, they were reset manually, but with 1916 for the first time in the world, an electric disc was installed on the bomber. Heavy bombs weighing up to 245 kg were placed on the external sling.
To obtain intelligence data and check the results of the bombing at the Muromtsy, the best VF cameras in the world were installed at that time. Pott, officer of the Russian army.
They allowed you to get in automatic mode without reloading up to 50 images of excellent quality. According to the squadron, an order was announced, according to which each report was to be accompanied by photographs. On each plane there was an acting staff photographer - one of the crew members, and in the detachment - a laboratory assistant. At the headquarters of the Squadron worked a special cartographic department. In fact, this was the beginning of a real aerial photography.
Meanwhile, in January, the Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich personally visited the squadron of 1915. He invited the officers to write reports on the transfer to him, in light aircraft. Obviously, he expected to dissolve the squadron soon, proving its ineffectiveness to the Supreme Commander. However, none of the officers left their compound. And soon there was a chance to convince the generals and the public about the effectiveness of the domestic invention.
On the wings of glory
At dawn 21 February 1915 g. Airship "Ilya Muromets Kiev" under the command of the staff captain George G. Gorshkov flew in a westerly direction. It was the first flight of the “Murom people”, but due to an error in navigation, a successful baptism took place only the next day. Then the captain successfully bombed the Willenberg station. The results of the bombing, taken on a photographic film, were sent to the Supreme Commander General Headquarters, and the squadron was saved from dissolution. Russo-Balt returned old and new orders for heavy bombers.
A unique example of a long reconnaissance raid aimed at photographing the deployment of enemy troops is the flight of Captain Gorshkov over East Prussia March 18 1915. The path more than 600 miles was completed in less than 5 hours. The combat mission was completed: it turned out that the Germans were trying to misinform the Russian command, preparing the attack on a completely different sector of the front. All members of this expedition were promoted, awarded orders and weapons. But most importantly, this flight had a great influence on the psychology of the flight personnel of the entire squadron.
At first, the use of the Muromans against the Germans was especially effective because the enemy initially did not even anticipate the presence of such huge ships in Russia - and therefore persistently underestimated the characteristics of the aircraft.
As a result, German rangefinders indicated an incorrect height - and it was not possible to hit our ships.
In April, the 1915, the Germans finally attended to not only the strengthening of air defense, but also sent a detachment of 6 airplanes to the Eastern Front, whose task was to destroy the squadron. On April 11 they tried to bomb the “Murom” airfield in Jablonna - but did not achieve much success: several ships were easily damaged. Much more significant than the loss of technology, could be the loss of commanders. Several bombs nearly killed the squadron commander Shidlovsky and Sikorsky. Moreover, the brave general, who did not want to bow to the German fragmentation bombs, was saved by the chief designer, forcing him to lie down outside the affected area. In the end, both escaped with only a light contusion.
In response, 14 of April "Muromets" bombed an enemy airfield in Sanniki and actually razed it to the ground. It is noteworthy that some pilots offered to use the Muromets as amphibious ships: land on an enemy airfield and land an infantry platoon to destroy airplanes and capture aircrews.
At the beginning of summer, several combat detachments were formed in the squadron, originally consisting of a pair of vehicles. In the conditions of strategic retreat, the command of the fronts and armies it was extremely necessary to receive timely information about the movement of enemy troops. The first detachment of two ships under the command of captain Gorshkov (in July, for the differences he was made to lieutenant colonel) was assigned to the South-Western Front, where after the Gorlitsky breakthrough the situation was critical.
During June, the combat detachment conducted constant bombardment of junction railway stations and aerial photography. In the end, the German command was so worried that it decided to do away with the "Russian monsters." Several aces fighters were deployed from the Western Front. A special order in the German aviation was assigned a large reward to the pilot who shot down "the big Russian Sikorsky aircraft."
The first encounter of the Murom fighters took place on July 5 in 40 km south of the town of Kholm. At an altitude of 3,5 km the ship was attacked by three German fighters. The enemy put out of action two left-handed engines, the ship's commander, lieutenant I.S. Bashko.
The gabbed ship managed to knock down one "German" and get away from the enemy, impressed by the firepower of the "Russian giant."
Convinced of the difficulty of destroying Russian heavy bombers with their aircraft, the Germans decided to strengthen anti-aircraft artillery. Noticing that the ships fly through the front line over approximately the same places, they concentrated a large number of batteries there. However, the Russian pilots unraveled this trick and began to shy away from the usual routes.
At the same time, German artillerymen began to use high-caliber blasters to bombard airships. For example, in one of the flights the staff of the captain S.N. Nikolsky was subjected to strong shelling of anti-aircraft artillery and with difficulty flew to the airfield. After the flight, the ship counted more than a hundred holes.
In addition, the Germans unraveled the Russian bombardment tactics: the first approach to determine the targets, the second — the bombing, the third — the photography — all at the same height, speed, and direction. And they opposed this tactic to their own: measuring the height of our aircraft at the first approach, and anti-aircraft fire - before the second.
The commanders of the ships had to use different methods of maneuvering in order to avoid defeat from anti-aircraft artillery: more than three times not to fly by the same route, during bombardment of the target, to change the height at each approach. Flight times alternated during the week, departing one day in the morning, the other in the afternoon. Some experienced pilots even began to fly on missions on moon nights.
However, in 1916, the Germans learned how to fight the “Muromists” and began to more actively use the fighter aircraft that had been developing rapidly during the war years to counter. Russian heavy bomber increasingly had to fend off enemy airplanes. At the same time, clearly understanding the advantage of the Murom troops in armament (6-8 machine guns), the enemy never attacked them with single planes.
However, with the advent of synchronous machine guns firing through the plane of the propeller, the Germans no longer needed to substitute their own side for the Muromets machine gun. Now it was enough for them to get on the plane from behind with a dive or to sneak up against the background of the earth and attack from the bottom into the most vulnerable place. In response, Sikorsky proposed to establish a tail firing point. In fact, he turned the plane into a “flying fortress” capable of firing from all directions.
To protect bomber against enemy fighters on the orders of the Chief of Staff of the Supreme Commander General M.V. Alekseeva in the staff of the squadron in November 1915, were supposed to include light aircraft. However, their timely receipt was delayed all the time because of the obstacles created by the Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich. In addition, pilots of light and heavy aircraft still had to train to interact with each other.
The only downed by German fighters during the First World "Muromets" Lieutenant DD. Maksheeva died in an unequal single battle with German fighters.
The commander broke away from the two ships of his combat squad. During the war years, 3 aircraft were shot down by anti-aircraft fire or received such damage that they could not be restored. The Muromians themselves destroyed 12 enemy vehicles - a truly unique ratio of casualties in duels between fighters and bombers. Much more ships (13) were lost as a result of technical malfunctions and pilot errors. Several ships were destroyed or badly damaged as a result of enemy bombardments.
After the death of the first “Murom” in the squadron, the single flights of the bombers were prohibited, the effectiveness of their use began to fall. Gradually, they began to lose in speed and maneuverability enemy fighters. The practice of escorting the bombers with their fighters was still in its infancy. Despite the hard work of Igor Ivanovich Sikorsky to create new, more modern versions of Ilya Muromets, better armed and more speedy, only a new powerful and reliable domestic aircraft engine could solve the obsolescence problem. Such in Russia to create and implement in industrial production before the end of the war did not have time.
However, during the war years, the Muromans managed to make around 400 combat missions and drop 60 tons of bombs. A total of 93 aircraft were produced, 70 of them were sent to the front. A little by the standards of the First World War, although it is fair to say that both the Allies and the Germans were able to create and launch into mass production comparable heavy bombers only at the very end of the war. And it was precisely the “air heroes” of Sikorsky who prompted them to this idea.
Igor Ivanovich Sikorsky himself, by the way, perfectly understood the shortcomings of his brainchild and hoped in 1917 to develop a new, faster type of heavy bomber for flights at a height significantly higher than 3 km. The allies promised to supply new reliable and powerful engines, and domestic developments were close to success.
But Russia slid into confusion ... The overwhelming part of the squadron's aircraft was burned when the Germans threatened to capture them. Flight and ground composition dispersed in the warring armies.
Mikhail Vladimirovich Shidlovsky was dismissed as early as April 1917, and in August 1918 the Red Guards shot a retired major general along with their 18-year-old son while trying to cross the border with Finland.
Under the threat of execution, Igor Ivanovich Sikorsky emigrated in February 1918 to France and then to the United States. Talented designer was not difficult to obtain a passport. However, there his services after the end of the war turned out to be unnecessary. The star of Sikorsky temporarily rolled up, so that after years of stagnation and at the same time of hard work, once again to ascend to the world level in the field of developing seaplanes and the main invention, the helicopter.
The remaining units of the “Russian warriors” exhausted their resources by the beginning of the 1920's. in the first in the Soviet Union, postal and passenger traffic. To this day, not a single “Ilya of Murom” has survived.
The Soviet Union nevertheless paid tribute to the memory of the designer who created the first heavy bomber in the world and in Russia. At the Air Force Museum in Monino, visitors can see a full-size model of Ilya Muromets. It was originally created for the filming of the movie “A Poem on the Wings” of 1979 dedicated to two great Russian designers - Andrey Nikolayevich Tupolev and Igor Ivanovich Sikorsky.