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Colors of markings and high visibility liveries of Soviet warplanes 1937-1947
by Massimo Tessitori
Updated on October 4, 2011
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National marks

Plain red stars:

Glossy red stars were widely utilized starting form summer 1941 to summer 1943.

They were also utilized on some types during 20's and 30's, an age when the national marks weren't strictly standardized.

Red stars with thin black outline

Red stars with thin black outlines were utilized on many types before the war outbreak, and sometimes in 1941-43 too, partly depending on the factory that produced the plane.

Both the red and the black were gloss.

On metal-skinned plane, red A-13 and black A-12 were utilized, while nitro paints (AII red and black) were utilized on fabric-skinned and wooden surfaces.

In close photos, the outline appears darker than the AMT-6 black utilized for camouflage.

Red stars with thin black outline and circle

They were utilized on some types on the late '30s and 1940: I-15bis, I-153, DI-6, UT-1... It was still preserved on many old planes at the war outbreak.


Red star with thin white outline: it was a factory mark of Zavod 18 built Il-2s from fall 1941 to August 1943.

Seldom seen on other types as a field repainting.

Not to be confused with the red star with thick white and thin red outline introduced in August 1943.

Red star with thick white outline and thin red outline

This style was introduced in August 1943 and it has been utilized up to recent days. The white outline was 5 cm thick, the red outer one 1 cm thick.



Red star with thick aluminium outline and thin red outline

Aluminium paint was sometimes utilized instead of white.

The photo represents an insignia on the fuselage of a P-39 preserved in Tikkanoski museum in Finland. In this case, the outline was brush painted with a poorly mixed aluminium paint.

Red stars with yellow outlines can be found on many old profiles and decals sheets, but there is not any proof of their use on real planes of the Second world war.

Photos with outlines darker than pure white could more likely be interpreted as silver (this case is often recognizable for the directionality of reflection) or with aged or dirty white paint.

 Image courtesy: Jan Vihonen

Red star over white circle

This mark was painted by US on the most part of the planes that they delivered to Soviets. It could be painted on factory new planes, or overposed to previous US marks.

The white disks were not welcome by Soviets, that often repainted them with green or other colours as from the photo above.

Red star with yellow outline?

Red stars with yellow outlines can be found on many old profiles and decals sheets, but in recent times their use on real planes of the Second world war was put into doubt.

Photos with outlines darker than pure white could be interpreted as silver (this case is often recognizable for the directionality of reflection) or with aged or dirty white paint.

But let's see the rear fuselage and tail of plane n.40 in 1945, just after the war's end.

The identification bands on fuselage are known to be yellow, and so probably the number. The slogan is clean white. It contrasts over the outline of the star on the fuselage, that could be yellow.

Kremlin star

As an individual variation, five dark red or black triangles were overpainted on a standard national insignia to give a shadow effect.

Aluminium star

Occasionally, light stars can be seen on the overall red I-16 of an aerobatic team and on some prototypes of Polikarpov that are believed to be painted red.

Many of these stars seem painted with aluminium paint because of the directionality of reflection.

Prewar national marks were not strictly standardized. Here we see the tail of a preserved plane.

During the civil war around 1920s the Bolshevik planes utilized black stars too to reduce the evidence of the plane.




Bort numbers


White numbers were in use before the war on planes with green uppersurfaces; at the war outbreak, white became the most utilized color for bort numbers.

Numbers are usually painted at the unit facilities, sometimes using masks, sometimes a simple brush.

Rarely, white numbers can have thin outlines in black or other colors. This white 2 of a Su-2 looks to have a scarcely visible thin outline of the same color of the bolt, perhaps aluminium.


Sometimes white numbers can appear darker than usual because of stains, alterations due to weathering or to poor painting; so it becomes undistinguishable from other light colors on bw photos.

Red with white outline

Red numbers with white outline were widely utilized.

This seem the case of Su-2 n.6 (see on the left).

A surprising variant was the MiG-3 wreck preserved in Veesiveehma, that shows dark red 1 (and trim tabs), and the dark red 1 was outlined with light blue-green. (colorized photo). It's unclear if a cherry red paint did exist or it was obtained by mixing red and black, and what was the origin of the blue-green.


The contours of a plain red numbers on a green camouflage are not clearly visible from far; so, this color was not often utilized over summer camouflaged planes.

Its use on white winter camouflaged planes was very frequent, instead.

On this photo, plane 02 has almost certainly a red number, while plane 12 has a black one.

The third camouflaged plane looks to have a small red number (41?) under the cockpit, but it's nearly invisible on a bw photo.



It was utilized forthemost for thin outlines around the numbers, because it was scarcely contrasting on a black-green camouflaged background. On the image of I-153, we can distinguish well the black lines around the presumably red 25, the star and the cap.

Black was widely utilized to mark light-colored planes, as prewar ones with aluminium or light grey livery.

Black was utilized for bort numbers on white winter camouflaged planes too.


Yellow was widely utilized before the war, but it practically disappeared in late 1941 because it was the distinctive color of Axis planes. It started to be utilized again in late 1944 and was widely utilized after the war.

Yellow numbers often had a thin black outline.


believed to be widely utilized in all periods; they could have utilized the same light blue of undersurfaces, or darker and more saturated ones as A-9, A-10, or the same for civil aviation.

The color on the noses of these postwar Il-10s could be A-10, an azure oil paint used for oxygen bottles. Numbers seem yellow, possibly the same A-6 utilized for fuel pipes. .

White number with blue outline; the only original fragment of La-5FN shows a dark blue outline around the white bort number.

Those numbers were standard and painted in the factory, so it is likely that all La-5F. FN and La-7 had this style of numbers.


Far left:

here we see an unsuspectable emerald green number with red outline on a prewar SB rudder.

Close left:

color photo of SB. The bort number 6 is clearly black, perhaps with a red outline; it is difficult to distinguish the color of the cap on the tail; it seems grey, but comparing it with the woods on the background we can think it is some dark green, perhaps military green.


On this color photo, it seems that the spinner was painted with a light green comparable to the grass color, perhaps the same A-7 utilized for coolant pipes and tanks.

Note the yellow 9 on the tail.


High visibility liveries

red and/or cherry red:

On bw photos, many prototypes appear finished in a dark color without red stars; it is generally thought that they were red, but it is unclear if cherry red or bright red, because they often appear in the same way on bw photos.

TsKB-30 'Moskva' is a lucky case for us, because it is well documented and we see both photos on which the colors are distinguishable and ones where they can't be distinguished.

Besides, two pieces of Moskva were recovered on the place of its belly landing in Canada, showing that it was really in two shades of red.


The TsKB-15 (I-17) preserved at Chkalov Museum still with its original (or accurately restored) red-blue livery without any mark.
Other prototypes, as TsKB-19, are often represented as uniform green in recent Russian literature. I guess that their livery was at least partially red or cherry red as the planes above, this would more coherent with the absence of red national marks.

These planes of an aerobatic team were red overall with silver stars.

These La-9 of an aerobatic team wore red upper and side surfaces with white outlined red stars.


Orange and blue was a typical livery for Polar Aviation after the war; it is unclear if orange was first utilized before or during the war.

Note the light shade of the orange paint.

Other planes of Polar aviation are painted red.


Marking and livery paints table
name of paint indicative chip match typical use notes

semigloss red

AKAN 341 red stars and other marks. 1937-1950 

Nitrocellulosic lacquer

semigloss red 
AKAN 374 red stars and other marks 1937-1950 

Oil enamel


gloss white

  numbers, stars outlines and other marks Oil enamel
AII aluminium   sometimes star outlines, numbers and other marks  
Or. (oranzhevyi) 
gloss orange
FS-12243- 12473 (?) high visibility marks for arctic planes 1940 
Nitrocellulosic lacquer
blue FS-15180 civilian planes ?
gloss black
  outlines of red stars and other marks Oil enamel
gloss yellow 
FS-13655 (3)

fuel tanks and  pipes


oil enamel
gloss green
FS-14187 (3) coolant pipes and tanks oil enamel
gloss dark brown
  lubrification tank and pipes oil enamel
gloss dark blue 
FS-15065 hydraulic system  oil enamel 
Note: according to (4), A-9 was light grey, not dark blue. Probably there is confusion between A-9 and AE-9
gloss azure
FS-15187 oxygen tank and pipes oil enamel

AII light blue


AKAN 342 

FS-15450 ?

undersurface paint possibly used for bort numbers, spinners and other distinctive elements.  

AMT-7 light blue

(semimatt or matt)

FS-25190  or slightly more greyish (fades quickly to a lighter shade)

AKAN 302

undersurface paint possibly used for bort numbers, spinners and other distinctive elements.  



new FS-35450?
very aged FS-34533 (2,3)
undersurface enamel possibly used for bort numbers, spinners and other distinctive elements.  

Cherry red


? Observed as a marking color and livery color for some prototypes. It's unclear if it was made by mixing red and black or was available under an unknown label.