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Ilyushin IL-28 Beagle: The Soviet Tactical Medium Bomber Aircraft

The aircraft for today is one of the earliest jet bombers of the Soviet Union Air Forces which was named Ilyushin IL-28 with the NATO reporting name being Beagle. This Ilyushin IL-28 Beagle aircraft was the product after the end of World War II which was designed solely for serving the Soviet Air Forces and holds the title for being one of the first jet bombers of the Soviet Union to undergo mass serial production.

The Ilyushin IL-28 Beagle also underwent serial production in China under license as Harbin H-5. As for the total number of Ilyushin IL-28 Beagles manufactured in the Soviet Union, the number reaches about 6316 while the Chinese built H-5 reaches a number of 319 aircraft while the training aircraft designated HJ-5 reaches 187 aircraft.

By the time it was the 1990s, hundreds of these Harbins were still in service of military forces. The USAF and DoD’s (Department of Defense) reporting name for Ilyushin IL-28 Beagle was Type 27 while the trainer variant of Ilyushin IL-28 Beagle designated as II-28U, it has the USAF reporting name of Type 30 while NATO reporting name is Mascot.


After the Ilyushin Design Bureau had 4 failed attempts towards the development of the 4 engine bombers like Ilyushin II-22 and Ilyushin II-24, the company started working towards the development of a new jet-powered aircraft which would serve as the role of the tactical strike bomber. The work on this aircraft was started soon after World war II in 1947. This new aircraft was to meet the requirement of carrying the bombing payload of 3000 kg at a speed of 500 mph.

The new design of Ilyushin IL-28 Beagle was much smaller as compared to its predecessor aircraft of the same family with the ability to be operated by only 3 crew members; a pilot, a navigator and a gunner. The design of the Ilyushin IL-28 Beagle was also much smaller compared to the design of the competing aircraft Tupolev Tu-73 of the Tupolev Design Bureau, who started their project much earlier than Ilyushin and also flew much earlier than the Ilyushin IL-28 Beagle.

An unusual design feature of Ilyushin IL-28:-

He Ilyushin IL-28 Beagle had an unusual design feature which was its tail and wings being split through the middle of the wing horizontally whereas the fuselage was split in the centerline vertically. This allowed the separate part of the aircraft to be built individually and easily fitted out with the systems before they were bolted to finish the aircraft’s final assembly. Although this led to the aircraft’s weight being slightly increased, it brought ease in the manufacturing process and also to be an economical solution to the project.

First Flight and Serial Production:-

The very first prototype of the Ilyushin IL-28 Beagle was ready for flight test and had its maiden flight on July 8th, 1948 as the pilot named Vladimir Kokkianaki, a renowned Soviet Pilot who set 22 world records in aviation. This test was a successful one and following it came to the 2nd prototype of the Ilyushin IL-28 Beagle which had its first flight on December 30th, 1948.

Following the completion of the tests, the aircraft was ordered for the serial production in May of 1949. Production was started in grooves in 3 factories back in September of 1949 with the deliveries being made in the 1950s. The first of 25 of these Ilyushin IL-28 Beagle aircraft were displayed to the world back in 1950 at the Moscow Day Parade under orders of Joseph Stalin. The Ilyushin IL-28 Beagle went on to become the primary tactile strike bomber of the Soviet Air Forces and was also heavily exported.

Power & Performance:-

At first, the Ilyushin IL-28 Beagle was powered with the Soviet-built RD-5 engines that replaced the earlier Nenes engines. The final product of the engine was the improved version of the RD-45 which was named Klimov VK-1 engine.

A standard Ilyushin IL-28 Beagle was fitted with twin Klimov VK-1 turbojet engines that would develop the thrust of 5825 lbs each. This allowed for the aircraft to have the following performance parameters.

  • Cruise speed being 480 mph for a ferry range of 2180 kilometers.
  • The maximum speed was 560 mph for a combat range of 1700 kilometers.

The aircraft’s service ceiling was about 40500 feet which it could achieve with a rate-of-climb being 3000 feet per minute.


The standard armament configuration of the Ilyushin IL-28 Beagle would see it being equipped with 4 of the Nudelman-Rikhter NR-23 cannons. 2 of these cannons were fitted in the nose while other two were fitted in the aircraft’s tail barbette.

In addition to this, the Ilyushin IL-28 Beagle was initially a tactile bomber, so it houses the ordnance carrying capacity of 3000 kilograms in the internal bay. This was mostly sued for aircraft to carry 2 Torpedoes.

Entering service of Various Air Forces from Warsaw Pact:-

The Ilyushin IL-28 Beagle is one of the most exported aircraft of the Soviet Union to nearly 20 nations under the Warsaw Pact to the African and Middle Eastern Countries. One of these early customers was Egypt. During the Suez Crisis, the British Royal Air Force’s main targets were 28 of these Egyptian Ilyushin IL-28 Beagles and also the concern for the Israeli Air Force during the Yom Kippur War and the Six-Day War.

Soviet Union was also allowing the local assembly of Ilyushin IL-28 Beagle in Cuba when the project was halted following the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Roles of Ilyushin IL-28 taken over by Yak-28:-

By the late 1950s, the Ilyushin IL-28 Beagle aircraft in service of Soviet Union were given 2nd line duties with the role being handed over to the Yak-28; the supersonic bomber of Soviet Union which was introduced back in 1960s.

Chinese Ilyushin IL-28 designated as H-5:-

Soviet Union allowed for license development of the Ilyushin IL-28 Beagle In China under the designation Harbin H-5 which was developed by HAMC. The aircraft has 33 main following variants.

  • HJ-5 trainer bomber
  • H-5R; a long-range reconnaissance aircraft
  • HD-5, an electronic countermeasure/ electronic support measure (ECM/ECS) aircraft.


The role of the Ilyushin IL-28 Beagle was handed over to the Yak-28 back in the early 1960s for its low-level attack missions. Still, many of the Soviet-built Ilyushin IL-28 Beagle aircraft went on to serve well until the 1980s with Egyptian Ilyushin IL-28 Beagles serving well until the 1990s.

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