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Striped 27: tiger or camaleon?
Modified on March 30, 2004                                                                         file name: striped27camo.html
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Some amazing MiG-3s white 27 appear in a lot of profiles, of decals sheets, of model photo galleries and of flight simulation skins.
All these painting appear to refer to the same aircraft, interpretated in a great number of ways; the most spectacular of them show a sort of "tiger" with sand and green bands and vertical black stripes.
The forerunner of all these artworks seems to be a profile made by John Weal and published on Air International. It shows a brown-green camo of unusual shape, with crude black stripes made by hand brush. 
As you see, its comment says that it was an aircraft of 7 IAP, Leningrad June 1941.
At first, I was able to obtain a scan of the photo of this aircraft from an old Air International.
Its caption says that this aircraft is of  7th IAP, 1942, near Leningrad.
Here is a highlighted version to try to see the blotches in darker areas.
The camo appears to be composed by four shades, including a light one that I had interpreted as sand or light grey.
No stars are visible on the usual tail or fuselage position; a blotch with a vague star shape looks visible on the rudder.

On this base, I drew the profile below.

In the latest years, a lot of publications have been released about this previously neglected aircraft.
This scan, of neatly better quality than the previous one, was obtained from 
Mikoyan's piston-engined fighters of Yefim Gordon and Keith Dexter, Red Stars vol.13.
Another version of the same image was published on Istrebitel MiG-3 of Medvedv, Kazanov and Maslov.
At a first glance, one sees that the 27 is too dark to be white, and gives the impression of yellow. 
Besides, there is not yet trace of the shadow that had given the impression of a small red star on the rudder. 
So I felt that my previous profile had to be deeply fixed.

This has become urgent after having seen the profile drawn by Adam Batkiewicz of DataDecals for his decals sheet. 
This profile is obtained by an independant interpretation work, and opens obvious problems:
is it possible to interpretate the camo as due to two shades instead than three or four? 
Is there really a star on its tail?
At first, I've accepted the yellow number as sure.

I decided to proceed by colorizing a photo.
Don't look to the scarce realism, this work was done only for research, not with any aesthetic ambition.
I've tried to interpretate colors as AII green and AII dark green, while some black spots are obvious on both the new photos. 
Besides, the black spots are about as shown on the drawing of John Weal, so they were visible on the copy he has used too.
A red star is vaguely visible at the center of the tail, but it looks to be partly covered by black, and perhaps even by dark green stripes.
A point is still unconvincing. If the number is yellow, some stripes on the back are only slightly darker than it, so they can hardly be AII green, but they could be light grey or sand.
This opens another problem: which light stripes are green, and which are grey on the other parts of the aircraft?

Here is a detail of the tail from Red Stars n.13. 
Only the right horizontal arm of the star is clearly visible; some other parts can be hardly seen, while some dark stripes look to pass over the lower and upper arms.
Close to the star arms, we note a light camo color, slightly darker than the red star. This is the typical contrast between red and AII green visible on most photos.
This image has a strong granulosity; to make further analysis, it was blurred to uniform the darkness between close pixels and reduce noise.
Now we can compare the darkness of the red star with a part of the number 27 that lies on a parallel (vertical) plan, receiving the same sunlight. The choice of the exact point on the number is critical: the darkness changes strongly at different heights.
Both the red star and the number sample have the same darkness, 65%. This could mean that the number was red.
No any green surfaces seem visible under the same light closer to the number, that appears surrounded by dark green and black spots.
What about the lighter camo color on the fuselage back, that gives the idea of light grey or sand stripes?
On a slightly higher position, we can compare the darkness of red number (45%) with that of a light camo spot (50%). Again, this contrast suggests that, if the number is red, the light camo stripe is AII green.
The comparison was repeated with the scan from Istrebitel MiG-3.
Here the star appears to have an irregular dark outline on a good part of his contour. 
This is not visible on the previous scan; it is not clear if this depends on a black outline of the star, or it is some artifact.
The comparison between darkness of  different spots gives more or less the same results than the previous examination. 
The numeric values of darkness of different points can't be compared between different scans, but when the comparison is done within pixels of the same scan, it gives the same conclusions than before.
Strangely, the darkness obtained for AII green on the tail is slightly lower than this of the red star, despite this gives the impression to be lighter. This can be due to photo grain, and is within the tolerance of the employed method.
This image was colorized again to show the conclusions: red number, and green/dark green/black camouflage.
The greater evidence of the red 27 in comparison to the poor evidence of the tail star can be justified:
  • the 27 is entirely surrounded by dark green and black spots, creating stronger contrast than the star, partially surrounded by the lighter AII green;
  • the 27 is painted over the already camouflaged aircraft, while the red star was previous, and was partially overpainted with black stripes that break its shape;
  • the upper part of 27 is in good light, and this puts into evidence the lower part too, as its prosecution.
This is the new profile that I have drawn from the image above.
Click on the profile for more comments about this aircraft.

Clearly, I can't claim to have demonstrated this interpretation, but I think that it is more coherent than all the other ones that I have taken in consideration.
Overall, I consider this conclusion with some regret: I liked very much my four-shaded previous profile and its small red star.
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