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Sikorsky Ilya Muromets

By Wikipedia,
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Sikorsky Ilya Muromets
Role bi-plane bomber
Manufacturer Russo-Baltic Wagon Company
Designed by Igor Sikorsky
First flight 1913
Introduced 1913
Number built 80+

The Il'ya Muromets (Russian: Илья Муромец) was a Russian aircraft created in 1913. It was based on the Grand Baltiski, the first 4-engined aircraft designed by Igor Sikorsky. The Il'ya Muromets aircraft was Russia's and the world's first four-engine strategic bomber and was used to form the first dedicated strategic bombing unit. The aircraft was named after Ilya Muromets, a hero from Russian mythology.


The Ilya Muromets (Sikorsky S-22) was designed and constructed by Igor Sikorsky at the Russo-Baltic Carriage Factory (RBVZ) in Riga in 1913. It was based on his earlier S-21 Russky Vityaz,{left} which had played an important role in the development of Russian aviation and the multiple-engine aircraft industries of the world.

Interestingly enough, Russia had a chance to become the birthplace of the first multi-passenger and multi-engine airliner. The Ilya Muromets was first conceived and built as a luxurious aircraft. For the first time in aviation history, it had an isolated passenger saloon, comfortable wicker chairs, bedroom, lounge and even a bathroom. The aircraft also had heating and electrical lighting. On December 10, 1913, the Ilya Muromets was tested in the air for the first time, and on February 25, 1914, took off for its first demonstrational flight with 16 passengers aboard. From June 21-June 23, it set a world record by making a round-trip from St Petersburg to Kiev in 14 hours and 38 minutes with just one landing. If it had not been for World War I, the Ilya Muromets would have probably started passenger flights that same year.

With the beginning of World War I, Sikorsky decided to change the design of the aircraft to become the world's first purpose-designed bomber. Internal racks carried up to 800 kg of bombs, and positions for up to nine machine guns were added for self-defense in various locations, including the extreme tail. The engines were protected with 5 mm-thick armor.

Operational history

Yosip Stanislavovich Bashko, pilot of plane Ilya Muromets based in Kiev
Yosip Stanislavovich Bashko, pilot of plane Ilya Muromets based in Kiev

In August of 1914, the Ilya Muromets was adopted by the Imperial Russian Air Force. On December 10, 1914, the Russians formed their first ten-bomber squadron, slowly increasing the number to 20 by the summer of 1916. During World War I, the Germans often refused to attack Ilya Muromets in the air due to their defensive firepower. On September 12, 1916, the Russians lost their first Ilya Muromets in a fight with four German Albatroses, three of which it managed to shoot down. This was also the only loss to enemy action during the war, while three others were damaged in combat, but managed to return to base to be repaired.

The heavy bombers of other participants appeared in 1916, all resembling the Russian pioneer to a certain degree. The Russian government and Sikorsky himself sold the design and production license to the British and the French. The Germans tried to copy its design, using the fragments of the example they had shot down over their territory in September 1916.

By the end of 1916, the design was generally believed to have exhausted itself. The ensuing modifications, such as additional armor, made the aircraft too heavy and not worthy of upgrading. Even though the English, French and German bombers were faster, Sikorsky decided to switch to a new type of aircraft he would call the Alexander Nevsky.

The Russians built 73 Ilya Muromets bombers between 1913 and 1918. During this period, the Russians were the first in aviation history to perform bombing from heavy bombers, group bomber raids on enemy targets, night-time bombing and bombing photographic control. They were also the first to develop defense tactics for a single bomber engaged in an air combat with a number of enemy fighters. Due to systematic weapon upgrades, the effectiveness of bomb-dropping reached 90%. The Ilya Muromets performed more than 400 sorties and dropped 65 tons of bombs during the war.

The last flight of an Ilya Muromets bomber took place in 1922 at the Air Shooting and Bomb-dropping School in Serpukhov.

The most common model of the Ilya Muromets was the S-23 V, with 32 built 1914-1916. The most common configuration, reportedly used for 22 of the 32 V aircraft, is shown below.


 Poland air force
  • (one aircraft operated in 1918)
 Russian Empire air forces
 USSR air forces

Specifications (Ilya Muromets Type S-23 V)

General characteristics

  • Crew: four to eight (up to twelve)
  • Length: 17.5 m (57 ft 5 in)
  • Wingspan:
  • Top wing: 29.8 m (97 ft 9 in)
  • Bottom wing: 21 m (68 ft 11 in)
  • Height: 4 m (13 ft 1 in)
  • Wing area: 125 m² (1,350 ft²)
  • Empty weight: 3,150 kg (6,930 lb)
  • Loaded weight: 4,600 kg (10,140 lb)
  • Powerplant:Sunbeam Crusader V8 engines, 148 hp (110 kW) each
  • * Fuel and oil: 600 kg (1,320 lb)


  • Maximum speed: 110 km/h (68 mph)
  • Wing loading: 36.8 kg/m² (7.5 lb/ft²)
  • Power/mass: 7.7 kg/hp (16.9 lb/hp)
  • Endurance: 5 hours with 300 kg (660 lb) of bombs & armament, 10 hours with extra fuel.


  • Various numbers and combinations of guns at different points during the war, including 12.7 mm, 15.3 mm, 25 mm, 37 mm, and 76.2 mm guns, Maxim guns, Lewis guns, Madsen guns, Colt machine guns and Leonid Kurchevsky's experimental recoilless guns among them.
  • Various loads of 50 kg, 100 kg and 656 kg bombs or 6 x 127 mm rockets (under the wings) depending on fuel, armament and crew carried. With three crew and two defensive machine-guns, a V type Ilya Muromets could carry 500 kg (1,100 lb) of bombs.

See also

Related development

Comparable aircraft

References and notes

  • A. Durkota, T. Darcey & V. Kulikov, The Imperial Russian Air Service: Famous Pilots and Aircraft of World War I (Flying Machines Press, 195) ISBN 0-9637110-2-4

External links


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Published in July 2009.

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