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Table of colors utilized on Soviet warplanes June 1940 - July 1941
by Massimo Tessitori
Updated on September 21, 2013
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The combat planes built between June 1940 and July 1941 started to conform to a standard with gloss green uppersurfaces and gloss light blue undersurfaces. This change was related also to the development of new alkyd paints A-18f light blue and A-19f green for metal, and the introduction of AII light blue nitrocellulosic lacquer for wooden/fabric undersurfaces aside AII green already in use for uppersurfaces. Non combat planes, as UT-1 and UT-2 trainers, continued to be delivered in their previous silver/grey livery.

A new directive tried to make some order in the national insignas: before 1940 were used plain red stars, or red stars with black border, or red stars with black borders and thin black circle inside; in 1940, only red star with black outline became the official insigna.

The position of the stars remained unchanged: one above each wing, one below, one on each fuselage side. Bort numbers continued to be painted on the rudder.

Already built planes usually preserved their previous marks and painting.

I-153

 

 

Some I-153s built in this period were painted in the green/light blue scheme, but the old silver/grey scheme looks to have applied also on at least some 1940-standard planes, delivered at the end of 1940.

Left:

a plane captured by Germans during Operation Barbarossa. The fabric skin on the fuselage sides looks vandalized by German souvenir hunters that have removed the star. It's hard to say if it was delivered by factory in the new livery, or repainted green on its uppersurfaces only when already delivered to the unit.

 

 

I-16 type 24 and later

I-16s built in this period conformed to this standard: AII green for uppersurfaces and AII light blue for undersurfaces.

It's not clear if these paints were utilized on metallic parts too, or if they were painted with A-18f and A-19f alkyd paints. Some photos show a lighter shade on the metal parts (cowling, stabilizer root), suggesting that different paint could have been utilized.

Top left:

a rare color photo of an I-16 type 24 taken by Germans. The shade of green shown is darker than the original one.

Left:

a photo of an I-16 type 24 with some damage. Note the still gloss finish. Paints became matt with ageing.

Left below:

a line of I-16s of many versions captured by Germans at the war outbreak. Note the prewar use to paint bort numbers on the rudder.

Left down:

an I-16 type 28.

I-21

The prototype Pashinin I-21 (or IP-21, to distinguish it from a previous project) made its first flight on June 1940. Three prototypes were built, both with Klimov and with Mikulin engines, but they were abandoned in favour of other types.

The painting is AII green overall, with AII blue undersurfaces. Stars were positioned according to prewar standard. Red 21 and a red arrow were painted on its fuselage. The

MiG-1 and MiG-3 early

MiG-1s and MiG-3s were usually painted with different colors on metal-skinned parts and fabric-skinned ones, and the difference, scarcely visible in Russian photos depicting brand new planes, becomes much evident in photos of Gerrman origin depicting weathered planes; the difference becomes striking in planes abandoned by a long period, and is probably due to the tendency of A-19f paint to fade more quickly.

(photo elaboration by Konstantin Lesnikov)

Below: image of parts of MiG-3 preserved in Vesivehmaa. The different shade between metallic parts (tail, frame around the position light) and wooden part (wing panel) is evident. Strangely, the fabric-skinned elevators looks painted with the same shade of the metallic stabilizators.

According to this link , the undersurfaces of these pieces are of the same shade of blue, both wooden and metallic, and the name of the paint could be AE-14.

Image courtesy of Martti Kujansuu

left:

some brand new planes and prototypes appear of uniform color on factory photos; in general, no any photo of Soviet origin shows different shades between wooden and metallic surfaces when painted. This could mean that the colors on metal and wooden parts (A-19f and AII green) were very close when new.

Yak-1 early

 

Photos of this standard of paint on Yak-1s are very rare, because it switched to camouflage quickly.

Above left:tThis photo of I-26 c/n 0209 was taken on 31 october 1940.

Left:

the clearest available image of an early Yak-1 captured by Germans. The uniform green uppersurfaces are evident. Note the black outline on stars.

Left down:

another image of an early Yak-1 n.27 with prewar scheme captured by Germans in 1941. Note the barely visible red stars on wing uppersurface and fuselage sides, while none is visible on tail.

 

Yak-2 and Yak-4

Yak-2 and Yak-4 were produced in 1940/1941, and conform to the standard green/light blue painting of the period.

On photos, when the planes were new, the colors appear uniform, while the colors on aged planes fade in different way between fabric-skinned, wood-skinned and metal-skinned parts.

SB late production and Ar-2

 

Late SB M-103 built in this period and all their followers, Ar-2, were painted with A-18f and A-19f paints .

Top left:

an Ar-2; all of these came out of the factory painted with the new livery.

 

 

Below: this SB with frontal radiator and MV-3 turret, windscreen mounted antenna mast) is a good example for May 1940 scheme. This plane was made after August 07 1940.

image by Piotr Biskupski

U-2

Being in production since 30s up to after the war's end, it's difficult to know if this plane photographed in summer 1941 is painted according to the pre-1937 standard, 1937/40 or to 1940/41 ones, differing mainly for the color of undersurfaces.

Note the presumably red 1 on the rudder, the typical position of bort numbers before the war.

Certainly it had red stars on the fuselage (stolen by souvenir hunters), above and below the wing surfaces.

Su-2

Early Su-2s were mixed costruction planes; metal parts painted with A-18f and A-19f paints, while wooden/fabric skinned ones with AII green and light blue.

Top left:

Unfortunately, it's difficult to find photos of early operative Su-2s in good condition, forthemost photos are of planes wrecked by Germans as this one lacking of the engine cowling.

Down left:

Light patches on fuselage are due to German souvenir hunters that ripped off some of the fabric covering the wood skinning, showing the yellowish nitroputty covering the wood.
As for MiG-3, metal parts fade more quickly with ageing.

Il-2

Top:

very early Il-2s, of all-metal construction, were painted with A-18f and A-19f paints.

down:

later Il-2s with wooden rear fuselage show the different shade of it, painted with AII green and AII light blue.

DB-3F

New DB-3F conformed to the new standard for metal planes: A-18f and A-19f.

Some already built planes could have been repainted in the new scheme, but the most part of DB-3 and DB-3f preserved the original aluminium livery till the war outbreak.

Pe-8 (TB-7)

TB-7 n.42015 at state tests in spring 1941. Being an all-metal plane, it was painted with A-19f green and A-18f light blue, with six plain red stars.

Pe-2

Early Pe-2s, being all-metal planes, were painted with A-18f and A-19f paints. The prop blades were unpainted.

Above:

a factory photo, showing the uniform green uppersurfaces and the stars over wings, as usual in this period.

Below:

an image of an early Pe-2 captured by Germans at the war outbreak. As usual on prewar planes, there was not any star painted on the tail.

 

Camouflage and livery paints for Soviet aircraft June 1940 -July 1941
 
name of paint indicative chip match typical use notes
AII Sv.gol. (svetlo goluboi) 
gloss light blue
AKAN 342 
Undersurfaces of mixed construction planes
(I-16, MiG-3, Yak-2...)
Nitrocellulose lacquer 
Specification issued around 1937
A-18f 
gloss light blue
AKAN 372 Undersurfaces of metal planes
(SB, Ar-2, Il-2, Pe-2, Il-4, Yer-2)
June 1940 
Alkyd enamel for metal
AII Zashch. (zashchitnyi) 

gloss green

AKAN 318 overall wooden, fabric (and eventually, metallic) uppersurfaces Around 1937 
Nitrocellulosic lacquer
A-19f 
gloss green
AKAN 373
Upper surfaces of metal planes
(SB, Ar-2, Il-2, Pe-2, Il-4, Yer-2)
June 1940 
Alkyd enamel for metal

 

 

The difference in shade between AII Z green utilized for fabric and wood-skinned parts and A-19f utilized for metal is evident on these images, but let space to some doubts:

Why this difference never appears of Soviet photos, but only on German and Finnish ones? Were those colors very close when new, and became different with fading due to sun exposure? If so, did AII green become darker, or only less faded than A-19f? Had Russian films a different sensitivity to hues? Is AII green the same color described by Jiri Hornat as Factory n.1 green for I-16s and Migs in his 'Colors of the falcons', where he doesn't write anything about AII paints?

Why are the fabric-covered elevators painted with the same color of stabilizators?

(Image courtesy of Martti Kujansuu)
Image of factory-painted AII green fabric compared to an AKAN 83018 paint chip (image courtesy of Mr. Akanihin)

Piece of wing of MiG-3 in Vesivehmaa, showing the color of the undersurface both of metal and wooden parts. The light blue shade of this wreckage has been described as FS-35352, without distinction between metal and wooden parts. This color conforms to the known shade of A-18f, that is more greyish and greenish than the 35550 given by other sources as the standard AII blue paint; it's not clear if the same paints has been utilized both on metal and wooden parts, or it's due to ageing.

According to Averin, this color is AE-14
(Image courtesy of  Thomas Siepert)