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Your best bet is to head over to http://www.mission4today.com/index.php and see what is available and how to do it. There is such a wealth of add-ons that I can't go into it here (and don't really understand it all to be honest!).
As a first step I would copy your IL2 install to its own directory - this can be done by just cutting and pasting. The reason for this is that Win 7 protects you from yourself by stopping you fiddling with files in \programs and \programsx86, and it is helpful to be able to alter the conf.ini file. Copy rather than cut and paste, so that you have a "safe" version.
The next thing to do is patch your version up to the most recent one - now 4.11.1. - downloads available at M4T as above. This is akin to "official" modding in that there are several game-play tweaks and new aircraft available, but it is still the base game. It also means that you will be compatible with some (ie non-modded) servers if you wish to go online. Once you have a working 4.11.1 install, I'd back that up, before looking at mods.
Keep that "clean" copy so that if any modding goes wrong you can start again.