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 How red were the red wings of Red 02?
Latest update on December 30, 2004                                        file name: howred.html
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The problem

This famous photo was taken on March 7, 1942, when the 120th IAP of Moscow Air Defence was was made Guards as the 12th Gv.IAP.
This aircraft was often interpreted as having attractive red wing outer panels; we see it drawn in such a way on: 
  • many old Russian sources;
  • the profiles of John Weal on Air International;
  • the monograph Tipy Broni;
  • all existing instructions of kits and decals sheets;
  • the old version ofmy profile red 02.

Someone shows it with these characteristics :

  • red spinner and even red blades;
  • black digits;
  • white wings undersurfaces;
  • silver engine cowling.

Some reasons to think that the wings are red can be resumed here:

Recently, many sources have hypothized that wings were green; the reasons are resumed here: Between the others, this opinion is sustained by the authors of Black Cross-Red Stars, C.Bergstrom and A. Mikhailov, that have published a profile with green wings, and by the Soviet veteran pilot V.V. Rybalko of 122 IAP, interviewed at (in Russian language) and at (English translation).
Their opinion is likely, in consideration of the fact that both 12 GvIAP and 122 IAP were on the same airport of Vnukovo, near Moscow, in March 1943, so he could have seen this aircraft. But he hasn't explicitely claimed to have seen it.

So, the arguments seen are not definitive. So I have tried another way to obtain informations.

This interesting post appeared on the forum Ezboard 121 "all about warfare", now suppressed.
Re: Jerry's Mig-3 
sorry for messing in.

i read Alexandr's post in FIDONET, RU.AVIATION.

he says that having contacted veterans of 12GvIAP of Moscow PVO, he knew out that 02 returned from the combat with wings badly damaged.

service decided to quickly replace entire consoles from Army storage. consoles were summer GREEN instead of winter white.:*<:-)

regiment was engaged in intensive battles, so they had not enough time to paint consoles into white colour. and, frankly said, they had no white paint by that time.

therefore this plane carried duties with mixed winter-summer colour.

moreover, there were planes with only left or only right console replaced such way. but you cannot see them on this specific photo.

years after, some soviet designer with the task of drawing color profiles, being too lazy to see veterans, used his own fantasy to interpred Guardian Regimen's wings as heroically red.:eek

his personal legend has a luck to be widespread.>:
Edited by: exec228 at: 9/20/03 10:24 pm

Unfortunately, all our attempts to contact this Alexandr, author of the original post, gave not results.
A similar report was made by Christer Bergstrom, author of Black Cross-Red Stars, that confirmed:
...We got confirmation from veterans some years ago that the outer wing panel of this MiG-3 was green. Simply because the original outer wing panels were exchanged for outer wing slots from another, probably scrapped, MiG-3, which had not yet received white winter camouflage.....

This reports made me nearly sure that the wings were green. But I am a bit unsatisfied: I would like to find the names of veterans, and be sure that they were really there and saw this aircraft. Waiting for such a confirmation, I have tried to obtain it by an analysis of the only photo known.

Comparing shades on photos

The following considerations resume the arguments I have exposed on the Ezboard forum about ww2 aircrafts, now unfortunately out of line.
There are many printed versions of this photo. I have excluded all those that were roughly retouched, or that show red, green and black as undistinguishable.
The better scan looks this one, scanned (if I don't miss) from an old issue of Aerei, or from MiG OKB of Piotr Butowski and Jay Miller.

One could try by comparing the shades of grey on the wing and on the fuselage side. The K darkness value given by Photoshop on such surfaces is nearly identical.

But this approach is too superficial, because:

So, the apparent identity of the color of the star to that of the wing is not a proof that they were painted with the same color; in consideration that the wing surface appears lightened by reflexes, this could be a proof that the wing is painted with a darker color than the star.

I made a comparison of the colors of the wing. To compare surfaces, they have to be lightened in the same way, that is to say parallel. A comparison of the wing uppersurface color with the star color would give about the same darkness, but it is without meaning because the wing uppersurface receives more light, it is gloss and has strong reflexes.
Only a small surface of the wing is vertical and parallel to the aircraft side: it is immediately behind the light on the wingtip. 
I compared its darkness with the star on the fuselage, obviously red, and with the green band on the side of the third aircraft.
As a result, it fits far better with this latter green one.

If one takes a chip on a slightly higher position on the fuselage sides of the third aircraft, the match could be even better. This could be justified because the triangle, being on the curved surface of wingtip, is partially bended upward.

Someone critized this test because:

So I made a second test, comparing the wing uppersurface with a parallel green surface over the nose of the third aircraft.
The comparison is a bit altered because the wing is gloss and the fuselage of the other aircraft is semigloss. So I took two chips on the wing, one reflecting the fuselage/sky, and one darker reflecting some darker parts of the nose.
The chip on the fuselage avoids both the sun direct reflexion and the gun barrel reflexions, that appear as two lighter stripes.

As expected, the reflexion of the semigloss green fuselage surface is intermediate between the highly reflecting chip and the lowly reflecting chip on the wing.

This is another argument in favour of green painted wings. Red parallel surfaces are not available on the photos, but it's likely they should appear lighter.

Of course, the wing could be painted with any dark color, but if I have to choose between the red of the stars and the green of the camo, the latter is an obliged choice.

Other considerations on red 02

The wings outer panels could have been a replacement from another aircraft. It is likely that red 02 had white wings before this date.
In fact, we see that the wings were of early type without slats, while the fuselage is of late type.
Hybrids were not impossible during MiG-3 production, but I think it is likely that original wings (white and with slats) were  replaced with spare wings; both wings had to be replaced to avoid asimmetry due to slats absence, even if the damage could have been limited to a wing only.
On many old color profiles, the cowling was interpreted as aluminium, but the photo doesn’t show any metal light reflection on red 02, in comparison with the other aircraft of the same photo, black 12, that appears to be partially silver.
Some old profiles report white wing undersurfaces on red 02, but there is not any reason to trust this. 
Many photos of aircrafts on snowed surfaces show a strong reflex on the wing undersurfaces that makes them seem as white.
On the same photos, the red stars under the wings appear lightened  by the reflex too.
Some photos of overall white painted aircrafts do exist, but they are distinguishable from aircrafts with light blue undersurfaces because of:
  • the absence of the white-blue demarcation line on the fuselage;
  • the different shade of main undercarriage doors.
The appearence of wing undersurfaces on such photos is indifferent, because they appear always as white, even on camouflaged aircrafts that have surely light blue undersurfaces.
Black number 02 and red spinner, appearing on many old profiles, are surely wrong, and are probably due to that they were based on poor versions of this photo, where black, green and red are undistinguishable.
On the whole, I think that the interpretation of this aircraft given by this profile is reasonably sure.
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