Discussing the A-20B

When IL-2: Battle of Kuban was announced, I was pleased to see that the A-20B had made the list as an available aircraft to the series.The A-20 has become one of my favourite aircraft of the era and I wanted to explore a little bit more about the model that we’re getting.

The right aircraft for the time

Some have lamented the fact that the Allied side is lacking in the medium bomber department in the IL-2 series so far. We have two Pe-2 models versus the German’s medium bomber types… namely the He111H (in H-6 and H-16 variants) and the Ju88A-4. What the Allied side looses in pure heavy bombload power it makes up in versatility and historical value to the series.

Though the USAAC made the A-20B order the first large series production order of the type, in practice two thirds of the A-20B order went to the Soviet Union through the lend-lease program. In total, 665 were shipped to the Soviet Union and many of those fought along the Black Sea and specifically in the Kuban battle.

The Soviets ultimately received A-20B, A-20C and A-20G variants in significant numbers and these were heavily used in 1943 and 1944.

051118-F-1234P-026.jpg
A-20B with bombs attached to the wings in Moroco. Via USAF Heartland of America Band.

Flexibility

What can the A-20 do? In war-time practice it ended up being used in a variety of different ways from strafing, low level interdiction and attack duties to level bombing and sea lane mining. It was also pressed into service as a night fighter and bomber interceptor too.

The A-20B version that we’re getting can do quite a bit:

  • Level bomber
  • Low level interdiction and attack
  • Anti-ship operations (mast-top skip bombing)

We sadly won’t have access to the A-20C and its torpedo slinging loadout which is a bit disappointing given the renewed emphasis on ships in Battle of Kuban. But I also have to look at it this way: The Russians didn’t exclusively use torpedo bombers and many of the anti-shipping operations were with A-20s and Pe-2 carrying bombs.

With a 2,000 lb or approximately 900 kg standard loadout the A-20B has a pretty good air to ground arsenal as well.

What about those loadouts

a20b-wip-03
Bomb bay doors open, FAB-100 bombs in abundance

We don’t have the full picture on what the available armaments are but let us discuss what we do know and what we can guess at.

The A-20B comes with a standard set of twin .50cal machine guns mounted in the nose. These are aimed and fired by the pilot and these two guns are indicative of the future modifications made in the Pacific and then into standard use in the A-20G where the glass nose was replaced with six .50cal machine guns for low level strafing. Though we won’t be seeing that six gun version right now – even twin .50cals is plenty powerful to hit trucks, parked aircraft, an keep AA guns suppressed. Keeping AA guns out of the fight will probably come in to extra use when flying those low level shipping attacks at high speed.

In the rear gunner station the A-20B has a single .50cal machine gun on a flexible mount. The A-20C had a pair of .30cal machine guns and the A-20G and J came with a powered turret with twin .50cals. Russian modifications also included a UTK-1 powered turret with a single .50cal or UB 12.7mm.

In the rear ventral gunner station there was usually a single .30cal fitted. That ventral station is not currently visible on the work in progress shots which leads to the question of if it just hasn’t been modeled yet or if the station wasn’t used in Russian modified aircraft and has been deleted in the game version.

The A-20 has a single bombbay with two internal divisions. With some modifications, the A-20B internal bombbay could carry 6 FAB-100 bombs in each section for a total of twelve bombs. Two additional bombs could be carried on wing pylons on each side bringing the total up to 16 FAB-100s.

According to Viks on the Russian forum, the A-20B will have the wing pylons and that those pylons can carry FAB-250 bombs on them as well. Does that mean that a total of 4 FAB-250 and 12 FAB-100s as an overload is an option? I’m not certain.

With or without the wing pylons fitted, the A-20B can carry a significant bombload.

The original IL-2 A-20C could also carry some interesting combinations:

  • 4 x FAB-250
  • 1 x FAB-500 + 2 x FAB-100
  • 1 x FAB-500 + 2 x FAB-250
  • 1 x FAB-1000

We can add to that with that has been confirmed:

  • 12 x FAB-100 + 4 x FAB-100

That is a sizable bombload for a “light bomber” aircraftt with the speed and agility that the A-20B possesses. Though less than the heaviest bombloads available to German medium bombers, its still in a similar ballpark and the aircraft certainly has the ability to carry more individual bombs than the Pe-2 is capable of.

Performance and agility

The A-20B is equipped with two R-2600-11 Double Cyclone air-cooled radial engines. These two engines are individually rated at 1600 hp for takeoff and 1275 hp at 12,000 feet. That allowed the A-20B to attain a maximum speed 350 mph at 12,000 feet.

I’ll wait for final specs from 1CGS on what the in-game A-20B performance levels are like but historical indications are that this aircraft is in a speed range only marginally slower than the Pe-2 and 20-30 mph faster than the Ju88A-4 and faster still than the He111.

The A-20 in the original IL-2 and by real pilot accounts was also relatively agile and was capable of making tight turns and banks that other bombers were not capable of doing as quickly. Once we get to fly the aircraft later in the year, we’ll get a sense of how 1CGS has modeled it and what its strengths and weaknesses are.

An exciting addition

a20b-wip-02
Full view of the “stepped” nose-glass indicative of the DB-7A/A-20B design.

To summarize the A-20B, it is a fast, well armed, flexible, light bomber with good speed and gility. It is one of two aircraft with a tricycle landing gear arrangement. It’s also an American designed and built aircraft that we haven’t seen too much of (for obvious reasons) on the Eastern front so far. Drawing in all of these factors the A-20B for Battle of Kuban therefore represents an extremely interesting aircraft to add to the hangar.

Fellow “mud movers” should enjoy both the attack and level bombing options of this aircraft.

Can you tell I’m excited to fly the A-20 again?

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