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Evolution of the Shturmovik and its camouflage:

Ilyushin Il-2 single-seaters

(Il-2)

Updated on20 July 2011
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The combat planes built between June 1940 and July 1941 conformed 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.

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.

Il-2

(single-seater)

 

Very early Il-2s, of all-metal construction, were painted with alkyd paints:

  • A-19f gloss green on upper and side surfaces
  • A-18f gloss light blue on undersurfaces.

The drawing shows the typical position of red stars before the war outbreak; they were six, outlined in black and all of the same size, or about.

According to the prewar use, the prop blades were left unpainted aluminium on the front face, and painted black on the rear face (not to their root).

This Shturmovik shows the typical characteristics of the very early production machines:

  • metal rear fuselage
  • early type metal wing, with mass balance weightd both on the tibs and on the ailerons, metal-skinned ailerons, half-round head rivets, 20 mm ShVAK in inner position and 7,62 mm ShKAS in outer position, landing light ob both leading edges, simplified hatches above the wingroot;
  • early canopy without the armor plates bove the pilot's head and above the tank behind him, that were ofter refitted, and slightly larger side window
  • PBP internal gunsight, without devices protruding over the nose;
  • low-type fuel tank visible behind the pilot
  • 4 rocket rails under each wing (not visible on this drawing) in outer position (in front of the inner segment of the ailerons)
  • AM-38 engine with unfiltered intake at the right wingroot;
  • small tailwheel (typical of all single-seaters).

 

Above: PBP-1 internal gunsight of early Il-2s. It was not fully satisfactory, so sometimes it was removed and the plane utilized without any gunsight.

 

This early Il-2 damaged and captured by Germans is similar to the drawing above. Note the code made by numbers 5 and 2, possibly in yellow or silver.
Plane n-3-6 looks an early Il-2 as 2-5, but its rudder seems painted with a lighter color. The trim tab seems red.
Another Il-2 n.2 captured by Germans in Summer 1941; the number could be in yellow or blue. It's of the early type, with no armoured canopy, metal fuselage and wings.
Another early Il-2 'red 2 with white outline' with all-metal rear fuselage.

The wooden rear fuselage was introduced in May 1941, but perhaps the production of planes with metal rear fuselages continued for some time. This because the only factory that produced Il-2s in serious quantity in 1941 was factory n.18 in Kuybyshev, on the Urals, and at the beginning it had not wood processing equipment and specialists.

Factory n.381 had completed only two Il-2s before its evacuation from Leningrad to Nizhniy Tagil, and delivered only 27 planes in the whole 1941.

Factory n.1 started to produce Il-2s, dismissing MiG-3s, only in December 1941, after his move to Kuybyshev, and completed only 5 Shturmoviks in 1941.

Factory n.30 started to build Il-2s only in March 1942.

 

While the metal parts were still painted with A-9f alkyd gloss green, the wooden/fabric-skinned parts were painted with the slightly darker AII green.

The same thing happened on undersurfaces: the wooden/fabric-skinned parts were painted with the nitro AII light blue, that was more saturate in color than the A-18f utilized on metal parts.

 

 

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

Note how small is the red star under the wing if compared to its chord.

Here the painting of the prop blades is clearly visible; the black paint is very worn close to the tips, that is typical ap prewar Soviet planes.

Usually bort numbers were painted on the rudder, as typical of prewar planes.

Just before the war outbreak, an unclear order to camouflage planes was issued, but without precise instructions. At the war outbreak, the already existing green planes were overpainted with black bands, sometimes resembling enough the successive standard camouflage, sometimes in a more fantasious way with the use of further colors.

A pair of Il-2 at Shatalovo airfield, Smolensk region, when invaded by Germans; the photo was taken on 15/08/41.

The first plane wears a fantasious camo on the base of the all-green livery (the different shade of the background color between the metal part and the rear fuselage, probably wooden, looks apparent.

On the background, another Il-2 with uniform green uppersurfaces. Traces of vandalization are visible on the rudder and on the rear fuselage, where the stripping of the fabric layer covering the wooden skinning let see the yellowish putty.

The planes were of early type, with early metal wings and canopy; the second one has certainly a wooden rear fuselage.

Single-seater Il-2 shot down in 1942, clearly showing a non-standard 3-shades camouflage.

(From Il-2 In action of Squadron-Signal)

 

An early Il-2 with 3-shades camo, executed by brush with glossy colors probably over an A-19f green base. (thnks to AR)

This Il-2 looks repainted with black bands on the base of the prewar green painting (note the glossy colors). The shape of the lacking fabric on the rudder suggests that there was a red star, although not contrasting on the rudder.

On 20 June 1941, the last day of peace, it was published an order of NKAP (the Ministry for Aeronautical Industry) to paint all planes with a new standard camouflage within one month.

Already existing planes with uniform green uppersurfaces had to be added with matt black (A-26m oil paint for metal planes, and AMT-6 nitrocellulosic lacquer for mixed construction planes). Undersurfaces presumably preserved the original finish in A-18F or AII light blue.

For newly built planes, the instructions said to utilize matt light blue for undersurfaces (not specified what type of paint, but all previous light blue paintings were gloss, so they have to be A-28m for all-metal planes and AMT-7 for mixed construction planes).

Apart for some Yaks, the first known photos of planes with the new green/black painting scheme are dated to July 13, 1941.

Many maintenance manuals of the first years of war describe these paints: dope AMT-4 green, AMT-6 black and AMT-7 blue enamel or oil A-24m, A-26m and A-28m of the same colours. Oil colors were less utilized, also because AMT colors can adhere well to primed metal surfaces.

Despite their name (M= matt), AMT colors were semigloss when new, and turned to matt finish with ageing. Occasionally, they could have been overpainted with a layer of gloss varnish AB-4-d to improve aerodinamicity and gain some speed.

While AMT-4 and 6 were codified in July 1941, AMT-7 was codified in August 1941, and is not mentioned on earlier manuals; earlier AII light blue remained in use in parallel with the darker AMT-7 in the first years of war.

Oil enamels were intended to be sprayed on the exterior metal surfaces, even unprimed. Painting with a brush meant poor paint properties, and was allowed only as a second choice, ex. for repairs.

Prop blades were now fully painted black.

The order of June 1941 changed the national marks of planes too. Red stars, of plan tipe or with thin black outline, were now placed in four or six positions:

  • one on each side of fuselage (not always),
  • one on each side of rudder/stabilizer,
  • one on the undersurface of each wing.

Note the deletion of stars over the wings, and the introduction of new ones on the tail.

Sometimes the stars were outlined with white, silver or yellow borders, but this wasn't a national standard; it could has been the factory mark of factory 18.

The general template for these planes was well respected on some Il-2s, probably the ones built in factory n°.30. It is easily recognizable for ball-like black dots on the fuselage sides.

The observed variability is modest, and the borders are always rather sharp:

As visible on the photos below, one of the planes is lacking of the outer green band on the left wing; another bears stars on the fuselage sides too.

 

This typical Il-2 shows the wooden rear fuselage introduced in May 1941, and canopy with armoured plates above the pilot's head and tank introduced in August 1941, and the 'tall' tank introduced in June 1941.

It retains the early type metal wings

Photos of a newly- produced single-seater Il-2 probably in Zavod 30, spring 1942, respecting the standard NKAP template. This factory started to build Il-2s in March 1942, but it is possible that the same template has been utilized before by other factories.

The ball-like black bands on the sides are noteworty.

 

Two photos of a single-seat Il-2 with wooden rear fuselage. Its painting scheme follows well the standard template.

The light stripes are due to ripping-off the fabric skinning ove wood by German souvenir hunters, and show the yellowish nitroputty.

No any star is visible on the fuselage sides, a small one can be seen on the stabilizer.

A panel behind the canopy is lacking.

red (?) 12 follows this camo pattern, but it seems to have a metal rear fuselage; probably it was built by factory n.18 with the prewar livery, and then repainted in some PARM (maintenance unit) to match the NKAP pattern of 1941.

Another variation of the previous camo scheme is shown on this tail, that seems to ge from a metal rear fuselage; probably it was built by factory n.18 with the prewar livery, and then repainted in some PARM (maintenance unit) to match the NKAP pattern of 1941.

Note the wide stars on the fuselage sides, absent on previous photos.

This drawing shows the camo scheme typical of Factory n.18 at Kuybyshev since the war outbreak, in its most usual form.

This pattern is easily recognizable for the large dots under the tail stars.

All stars (or at least on the tail and fuselage) have usually a thin outline, probably in silver; the stars on the tail are larger than those on fuselage.

The camo scheme on the fuselage and tail is fairly unvariable, but the painting of wings is not standardized. Usually there is one long oblique band on each wing, connecting one of the bands in fuselage with one edges of the wing, usually opposite; these bands could have, or not have, a ramification connecting to the other edge; besides, often the wings have black tips.

Similar camos have been observed on some early Il-2M3, probably built in the same factory, and it's fair to assume that it was utilized on Il-2M too.

 

Factory 18 built planes with metal wings at least up to late 1943, never converting (or at least never converting completely) to wooden wing panels.

 

 

Photo of single-seater Il-2 taken in factory 18, in Kuybishev. Note the silver outline around the stars, a factory mark that was prosecuted till to the introduction of the new style stars in August 1943.
The camo scheme has a partial resemblace to that visible in the previous image, including the outlined stars.
A plane of 174 ShAP shows resemblance in painting to the previous images. (From Il-2 in action-Squadron Signal)
Those planes of 217 ShAP, Bryansk front, photographed in August 1941, show how this camo pattern appears on the other side of the plane.

Another plane with the characteristic camo, although altered by a fire.

The camo of the left wing is visible; it wasn't very standardized, consisting usually in a black tip and an oblique black band that can have, or not, some ramification.

White 3 wears a camo with strong resemblance to the tail-dotted one. In the small window, a darkened detail of the wing where the camo is barely visible.
Red 1 shows a strong similarity to Il-2s photographed in Factory 18. The light stripes on its back are due to ripping-off of the fabric skinning on the wooden rear surface by German souvenir hunters, leaving to see the yellowish putty.
White 15 features a wooden rear fuselage; the camouflage witha black dot of the tail's side resembles that of Factory n.18, but unusually the plane has red stars without any white/silver outline. Note that the bort number is unusually below the star. The plane has metal wings, recognizable for the balance weights.
Another downed plane with the tail-dotted camo. Note the new type of metallic wing, recognizable for the protruding fairings of VYa-23 guns and other details.

A detail of late-type metal wing introduced in 1941. The armament consisting in VYa-23 guns, ShVAK mounted inside, and RS-82 rockets is well visible.

(From Squadron-Signal, Il-2 in action)

 

Il-2 red 4, through not fully representative of Factory 18's style of painting, allows to illustrate some 'longitudinal' variations of this pattern that can be found on some planes:

  • the black dot on the tail is irregular, enlarged, and touches the leading edges; on some planes, it becomes an horizontal band
  • the bands on the rear fuselage are merged on the sides; this seems to be rare, all other available photos show that the band under the star remained trasversal, short and separed from other ones
  • the nose band has a serpentine and symmetrical longitudinal shape; this is common enough, in other planes the serpentine starts even from the band behind the canopy (not connected to the star's band)
  • the bands on the left wing seem longitudinal, that is rare for a plane with this scheme
  • the bands on the right wing are representative enough of the scheme of factory 18, with even more ramifications than usualthe red stars on the tail have a white or silver outline as usual, while those on fuselage have a black outline instead.

This drawing has some uncertainties on the pattern of the left wingroot, unclear on photos because of worn paint, and on the left elevator, not visible.

The plane traced here has late type all-metal straight wings, introduced in late 1941/ early1942. They feature:

  • balance weights on tips only, not on ailerons;
  • fabric-skinned ailerons
  • VYa-23 23 mm guns replaced the 20 mm ShVAK, and received a new fairing protruding on the leading edge; some planes received ShVAK guns, but in the same protruding fairings of VYa-23; the new guns had a longer and thicker barrel than the older ones;
  • ShKAS 7,62 mm machine guns were moved outside the guns
  • head ribs were flushed
  • landing light on the left wing only
  • 4 rocket rails under each wing in inner position (between the aileron and the landing gear nacelle)
  • new hatches were opened over the wingroots.

Some images of red 4.

While the more usual variant of this camo 'dotted tail' has trasversal bands on fuselage and oblique on the wings, this variant has a predominantly longitudinal/oblique disposition on the fuselage too.

Unfortunately the photos don't show clearly the camo at the left wingroot because of worn paint and reflections.

The late style wing is recognizable because of the lack of landing light on the right wing and for the visible gun bulges on the leading edge.

On the photo below, the right tail surface is separed from the plane and stays on some strut.

The same plane as above, Red 4, remarked by Germans. Note the green repainting on the tail and the yellow band on fuselage. A small part of the red star looks still visible between the band and the black cross.
Another plane with an interesting camo that has some resemblance with a 'serpentine' variant of the already seen one. The balance weight of the ailerons is well visible; it was characteristic of the early type metallic wings.

An Il-2 armed with ShFK-37 37 mm guns was built in late 1941 and even tested in combat, but the results were unsatisfactory because of the increase in weight and the lack of precision due to the strong recoil.

The plane features:

  • wide underwing nacelles for the guns and their magazines
  • early style metal wing without the ShKAS and ShVAK armament
  • early style canopy.

Unfortunately the photo doesn't reveal much on how the lane was painted.

(From Ilyushin Il-2 by Oleg Rastrenin)

This early all-metal Il-2 drawing is made on the base of the following photos.

Being probably a plane built before the war outbreak, it is likely that the black camo and the markings, characterized by the very wide red stars on the fuselage, were applied in some PARM (maintenance facility) according to a camo scheme that can be recognized on photos of many planes.

Unfortunately the upper surfaces are scarcely visible in photos, so the drawing from above has been traced in a partially hypotetical way.

Probably the original A-19f green was preserved, as well as the A-18f light blue of the undersurfaces.

The shiny metal spinner is noteworthy, as well as the black-striped prop blades.

 

This single-seater Il-2 shows a scarcely seen variation of the black-green camo scheme, easily recognizable for the black oblique band on the stabilizer and the very wide black-outlined stars on the fuselage, and the smaller ones on the tail.

bove: a detail of another plane with similar painting, but soft-edged.

Two images of the plane above, showing a glossy metal spinner, that makes a strange contrast with the striped prop blades. The shining seems to have been roughly masked by some washable light paint that has gone away.
Detail of the same plane, revealing the rivets lines of the early metallic rear fuselage. This reveals that it's a plane built before the war, so with a green livery, and repainted after the war outbreak, perhaps according to the pattern of some factory, possibly n.30, or to a pattern of some PARM.

This look a variant of the same camo on another plane.

Other photos of planes and wrecks with similar colors and style of stars are known.

 

This Il-2 with metal fuselage shows the same style of stars of the previous ones, with a different camo pattern. I's probably the work of repainting of some PARM on a prewar all-metal Il-2.

It's the same pattern later utilized in factory n.30 that replicates carefully the NKAP template of 1941, with the large black 'balls' on the fuselage sides.

Il-2 white 6 (apparently with a thin red outline) features the late metal wing introduced during the summer 1941, recognizable for the fabric-covered ailerons, or perhaps even the wooden wing introduced in 1942.

The camo pattern seems not the same of other photos. No any red star is visible on the fuselage sides; the front of the spinner is white.

This is another 'white 6'; the absence of peeling off despite all the German soldiers and the black holes suggests that it is an early plane with metallic rear fuselage and wings.
Although the camouflage is unrecognizable, the photo is interesting because it shows the external reinforcements added on the rear wooden fuselages of many Il-2s on October 1941. They were soon replaced by internal reinforcements on newly produced planes.
Another Il-2 red 2 with the external ribs on the rear wooden fuselage. The camouflage is unclear, perhaps because of the fading of the black, but the light outlines on the stars (silver on the fuselage, white on the tail) and some dark shades in the recesses of the tail star suggest that it was produced in Factory n.18.

Good color photo of a wreck of Il-2. The cano pattern of the tail could suggest that of Factory n.18, but the lack of white or silver outline on the stars seems against this identification. Note the wooden fuselage (revealed by the yellowish color where the fabric skinning is skipped away) and the longitudinal reinforcements suggesting that the plane was built around October 1941.

From http://elhangardetj.blogspot.com

This unusually camouflaged plane is particularly interesting, even if not very representative.

The canopy style and the external reinforcements on the rear fuselage reveal that this photo was taken after October 1941, and the plane probably was built after the war outbreak and delivered with a factory black-green camouflage, on which the light (brown?) dots and possibly light bands on wings and tail were added in a second time.

(thanks to AR)

Another Il-2 featuring a dotted rear fuselage and white outlined red stars, probably on the base of a black-green camo on the style of Factory n.18, not recognizable on the photo. The plane features a wooden rear fuselage with external reinforcements and probably a metallic early type wing.
White 3 has the typical camo with side 'balls' that was later utilized by factory n.30, well recognizable on its tail; it features a wooden rear fuselage with external reinforcements.
Plane n.32 doesn't fit with other known schemes. Given the high contrast on the canopy area and the shades visible on the tail, it could be repainted with a later three-shades scheme, or be similar to red 4 built by factory n.18.

Il-2 with non-retractable ski installation at the state tests in January 1942.

The plane features an early unarmoured canopy and an early type metal wing with well visible balance weights for ailerons and wingtips.

All the upper and side surfaces are painted with Mk-1 washable white distemper.

(From Ilyushin Il-2 by Oleg Rastrenin)

This heavily retouched photo of black 6 is what I have on operative Il-2s with retractable ski gear.

Note the late type metal wing with VYa-23 guns and extended landing gear nacelles to fit the retracted ski.

Below: an Il-2 with retractable ski gear inflight.

(from Viktor Publishing, Il-2 part 1)

 

A single-seater Il-2 roughly converted into two-seater cutting the fuselage and installing a canvas belt as seat for the gunner, and a SkKAS gun.

The partial winter finish is made with MK-7 washable paint.

(From Ilyushin Il-2 by Oleg Rastrenin)

Two images of the VV1a metal aiming device, that replaced the previous PBP-1b on August 1942; so, it can be seen only on very late single-seaters.

The first photo seems to show both the VV1- mounted outside and the PBP-1b mounted inside the canopy; the second image shows that the PBP-1b was absenrt, replaced by an aiming cross on the armorglass.

Note the white curved lines painted on the nose, that help to aim for the release of freefall bombs.

(From Ilyushin Il-2 by Oleg Rastrenin)

Il-2 Silver 6 flown by Snr.Lt. A.I.Borodin of 504. ShAP (74. GShAP – Guards Assault Aviation Regiment – from 18 March 1943),
Stalingrad front, winter 1942/43.

The plane features the late type metal wings and, probably, the VV-1 aiming device, whose probe looks vaguely visible on the photo, and the PBP-1 is clearly absent inside the windshield.

The smaller image let see how soft is the transition line between the temporary white finish on the rear fuselage and the black-green camouflaged nose; unfortunately, the camo pattern is unrecognizable on these photos.

The bort number 6 is probably silver, because of its strong change in darkness with the angulation of the photo.

(from Viktor Publishing, IL-2 part 1)

Image of planes of 667 ShAP, Kalinin front, in early 1943. The unit utilized both single-seaters and two-seaters.

This single-seater could be of late production, probably with wooden wing, VV1 aiming device and perhaps dust filter on the right wingroot.

The red inscription means Yaroslavskij Komsomolet (the youngs communist organizations of Yaroslav, that donated funds for these planes)

(from Viktor Publishing Il-2 part 1)

The wooden wing was introduced in 1942 in some factories only (excluding factory n.18). It can be distinguished from the late-style metal wing because of the absence of balance weights at the wingtips and, a close view, for the absence of the most of panel lines.

Unfortunately, the photo doesn't allow to distinguish the camouflage and code of this plane.

(From Ilyushin Il-2 by Oleg Rastrenin)

A photo of an Il-2 taken in Factory n.1 at Kuybishev. Note the shorter barrels of the ShVAK guns on the wooden wings, instead of the longer barrels of VYa-23guns on metal wings that characterized the Il-2s built in Zavod 18 in the same period.

The fuselage of this one looks painted in the same way illustrated for many Il-2M and KR, but the wings appear painted in different way.

The late Il-2 of Titovich shown in the photo below.

The camouflage, although partially repainted by brush, is clearly similar to that of factory n.1. The white or silver outlines around the star could suggest that this is a plane of factory n.18.

My idea is that the camo is that of Factory n.1, although repaired, and the thin white or silver border was added at the unit.

The plane probably was a late Il-2 featuring:

  • wooden rear fuselage
  • surely the VV1a aiming device introduced in August 1942 and visible on the photo.
  • wooden wings
  • possibly dust filter;

 

 

Il-2 of jr. lieutnant Titovich, 872 ShAP, at the return of his first combat mission in summer 1943. The plane landed safely although hit by 5 37 mm shells.

About the camouflage, it looks similar of that of the plane of the previous photo, but it has clearly been modified on the field.

Despite being a single seater and repainted by brush, the camouflage scheme of Red 1 clearly conforms to that of Il-2M produced in Zavod 1 (see here).

The plane is of late production, with VV1a external aiming device probe visible on the nose, wooden wings, and possibly with an air filter at the intake. The white contoured stars are unusual on the planes built in factory n.1, being typical of the planes of factory n.18.

(Oleg Korytov)

A damaged Il-2 of 872 ShAP in 1943.

One can see the wooden wing (recognizable for the absence of balance weights) and the air filter at the intake on the right wingroot, introduced in January 1943.

The camo seems a variation of that of factory 30, or perhaps of factory 1 in consideration that, according to the text, the planes were usually taken at Kuybyshev where factory 1 and 18 were located, but planes of Factory 18 usually had metal wings).

(Oleg Korytov)