X-Files: The SUKHOI Su-6

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In today’s Sydney Flyer article we are delighted to welcome back author Anthony Coleiro and the most recent instalment of his X-Files series. This is Anthony’s 137th article under the ‘X-Files’ banner for the club magazine. What a record!

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Developed as a ground attack anti-tank aircraft, the Sukhoi Su-6 was designed in direct competition to the Ilyushin Il-2 Shturmovik that was developed for the same role. While the Ilyushin was a two seater, the Su-6 was designed for only one occupant. This was soon changed by the authorities as the Il-2 was also being produced as a single-seater as well.

The Su-6 was fitted with the latest and most powerful Soviet radial engine available at the time, the two row 18-cylinder 2,200 hp Shvetsov ASh-71F. The single seat configuration was not the only required change, the planned 23 mm cannons were replaced with 37 mm and better armour protection along with a self-sealing main fuel tank. The aircraft was also fitted with four 7.6 mm ShKAS machine guns, it could also carry a 400 kg bomb load internally and underwing rockets. It flew for the first time in April 1941.

Ilyushin Il-2 Shturmovik single seater

The aircraft was virtually a flying tank weighing over five and a half tons, but while the airframe was good, the engine gave no end of trouble which delayed test flight after test flight. Sukhoi was under the impression that development of their chosen engine had been completed, they were mistaken. It was not until January 1942 before it was able to fly again. When the engine was behaving, it had good performance with a top speed of 513 km/h and a range of 973 kilometres. Its overall performance proved superior to the Il-2.

A variant powered by an M-71 engine (Su-6(A)) was also developed along with an initially intended 2-seater the Su-6(2A) that was fitted with the previously troublesome Shvetsov ASh-71F radial engine. There was one other prototype the Su-6 (2A-AM-42) this aircraft was fitted with a 2,000 hp AM-42 V-12 engine.

With all the delays of this project, even though the aircraft did perform well, it was decided not to interrupt Il-2 production which ultimately over 36,000 of the type were built and so it was not given serious consideration by authorities fighting a desperate war of attrition against a brutal and determined German onslaught. The battle for survival could not wait for Sukhoi to sort out the problems with their aircraft’s engine.


Take Off Vol. 91
Aerospace Publishing Ltd 1990

The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Aircraft
Orbis Publications

The History of Soviet Aircraft
From 1918
Vaclav Nemecek

Anthony Coleiro


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