Maskirovka, VVS camouflage in the Cold War
This article contains extra information in addition to the article as published in IPMS Nederland magazine MIP 5 of 2012. It covers camouflage as to be applied to Soviet Air Force aircraft during the Cold War.
Authors: Almer and Rene / SIG Eastern Europe of IPMS Nederland
English translation by Dick Boogaard (lees dit artikel in het Nederlands... )
The Soviet Air Force or VVS had drafted a very detailed set of regulations for the camouflage painting of aircraft and also buildings in 1974. This system was in use until 1991 after which year gradual changes were introduced. More detailed background information is given on these web pages. The Soviet theory behind camouflage assumed that it was impossible to completely conceal an airplane by means of camouflage painting. However, it was considered possible to "break up" the silhouette and thus make recognition difficult or reduce the distance at which recognition was possible. We also provide some more information about how camouflage patterns could be connected to individual types of aircraft. In addition, we also want to give some insight in deviations of the patterns and alternative colours that were sometimes used. This web article consists of three parts:
1. Camouflage regulation in general.
2. Photos of aircraft and models.
3. Translation of the "official" camouflage regulation from 1974 on.
1. Camouflage regulations in general.
The camouflage painting consisted of five colours for the top and sides and two colours for the underside. First the official Russian name is given. Note that in modelling we have different for some of these colours. For example the Soviet colour Sand is not comparable to “our” understanding of this name i.e. Sand yellow. Be aware that in the text the official Soviet nomenclature is used.
In addition, there were colours for nose radomes, wheel rims and repairs. For example, apaint type KO-814 was used for radomes. This could have different colours. Medium green is most commonly used on MIG-21 and Sukhoi types. On the MIG-23 and MIG-27 one can also come across light grey, dark grey, black and white. Wheel rims were an almost equal green shade, perhaps also a KO-814 paint. For repairs and temporary restoring of the paint, a bright green colour was used. We have not been able to trace the name of this colour (yet). This colour was and is being used in Russia for practically everything that needs to be painted: benches in the park, fences, dachas and everything else. For convenience we call it here "dacha green". This is not an official name, but we have not yet obtained a correct name.
The more common name in the English speaking modelling community for the colours is given in brackets.
- Brown (chocolate brown);
- Protective (Dark green);
- Sand (Earth brown, coffee with milk);
- Light green (Light olive green);
- Light sand (Sand yellow, beige);
- Grey blue (Close match to RLM76);
- Light blue.
Alternative colours as seen on aircraft (mainly for repairs and touch up):
- bright green (dacha green);
- olive drab, army vehicle colour;
- ochre brown, possible also army vehicle colour.
The camouflage colours had to be applied in wide irregular spots, asymmetrically and not in fixed patterns. The colours also had to differ per aircraft, even within the same squadron. Two or three of the colours had to fit into the predominant background colours. Then another contrasting colour had to be added. On an object in desert camouflage one can see a sand-yellow surface with sandy brown spots and then, for example, in contrast dark green.
2.1. Su-17 (NATO code name FITTER)
On this photo of a Su-17 in the German Democratic Republic (DDR) (Brandis base, 1991). It is very nice to see how the pattern was applied according to regulations. The coloured areas are different and sharply contrasting colours are used. However, this scheme of wavy spots is typical for the Su-17. Incidentally, it is easy to see how the colours turn brown and sandy yellow when the paint is weathered. The number "49" is applied on a bright green surface. (Photo Copyright Ronald Kamphuis).
When an aircraft is in service for a longer period of time, the paint will weather and deteriorate heavily. The camouflage regulation then proposes to repaint the aircraft only where needed. On one aircraft one can therefore see all kinds of shades of the same colours and even completely different colours. A colour that often appeared when repairing damaged or heavily weathered paint was the aforementioned "dacha green". Where this practice can lead to is clearly visible in the photo below.
The original colours are weathered. On the back of the fuselage and in front of the cockpit, fresh surfaces can be seen in sand yellow. Spots in a fresh clear green colour have been applied all over the aircraft. The entire wing leading edges are also repaired in this colour. Because the colours of this photo have faded it is no longer clear whether this bright green is the official colour "light green" or "dacha" green.
2.2. Su-25 (NATO code name FROGFOOT)
The Su-25 seems to have had a standard pattern. This scheme can be seen especially on Czechoslovak Su-25 aircraft. This real aircraft is a good example:
Typical for the Su-25s of the VVS is the high running demarcation between the light blue underside and the upper camouflage. The antenna panels are green (KO-814).
Below a Su-25 of the 357 OShAP was stationed at the air base Brandis (ex DDR). The number is placed on a light green surface. The wing front edge has also been repaired with light green (dacha green). Furthermore, the aircraft is covered with brown spots over the original camouflage. This pattern differs markedly from the regulations. These brown spots are also too small to be effective at greater distances. They then melt into the background. (Photo Copyright Frank Rozendaal).
2.3. MIG-21 (NATO code name Fishbed)
The MIG-21 painting diagram has been extensively applied to export aircraft. Also the Czechoslovakian air force also applied it consistently. One can also observe it on aircraft in various African countries.
MiG-21MF 9503, Czechoslovakian AF, Ostrava-Mosnov, september 1989. Photo of R. van Woezik (copyright)
On Czech aircraft the cockpit is made less visible with dark green and the shadows between fuselage and wings are filled with dark green. MIG-21s were also used during the war in Afghanistan (1979 - 1989), including the 263 ORAE.
These aircraft arrived metallic and were painted on the spot. The basic colour was sandy yellow. The other colours used can no longer be determined with certainty. This is a MIG-21R of the 263 ORAE. And then another MIG-21PF that nicely shows how the effect of the contrasting colours works out. The dark colours are broken with sand yellow.
The MIG-SMT was probably unsuccessful as an airplane. But for the model builder it is one of the nicer versions to model and paint. They were almost always camouflaged. On the basis of information from the pilot of the aircraft below, the painting of sand-brown, light-green and black has been applied. This is a 1/72 kit made by OST.
2.4. MIG-23 (NATO code name Flogger)
The MIG-23 UB is often seen in a different pattern, namely broad, straight and regular bands that are often repeated. This was contrary to the rules for camouflage but apparently much was allowed. Seen here a nice photo of a row of MIG-23 aircraft.
On this photo one can clearly see the variation in patterns, using identical colours. And to close the MIG-23 series a photo an old Airfix model 1/72 MIG-23MF hand painted in a scheme for a southern region: sandy yellow with sand brown and as a contrasting colour dark green. The underside is light grey. Incidentally, the regional camouflage patterns were not strictly enforced. All colours could be used when camouflaging.
2.5. MIG-27 (NATO code name FLOGGER)
The camouflage of the MIG-27 has as a characteristic feature a large dark green surface surrounding the cockpit that extends over the nose. This surface then acts as an anti-glare panel and conceals the cockpit. This dark area is clearly visible on this photo of a MIG-27D. One can also observe how "dacha green" was used to repair the edges of the inspection hatches on the nose. The camouflage is of the "broad stripes" type we often see on MIG-23 UB.
And this MIG-27 clearly shows how far the touching up of damage can get out of hand. Even the wing front edges have been updated with "dacha green". The armour plate next to the cockpit is freshly painted while the rest of the painting is pretty weathered. One can also see the characteristic dark area in front of the cockpit.
One can also clearly see on this MIG-27 the dark area around the cockpit and the nose. The drop tanks under the fuselage are bare metal.
2.6. MIG-25 (NATO code name FOXBAT)
Camouflaged MIG-25s are rather rare. These aircraft were intended to operate at high altitude at supersonic speeds. The MIG-25RB was also a bomber and had to be able to operate in a low-flying role. This is why some MIG-25RBs have been camouflaged. This "red 38" has green and dark brown spots. Sand yellow stripes are placed on this. However, these stripes all have the same general direction. This leads to a too regular pattern. The di-electric panels are grey.
3. Full camouflage regulations and rules
The original Russian regulation can be found on the internet. You can view it on the Airforce.ru website. The document also contains a chapter on different types of paint, diluting and applying them. That part has not been translated as this information is not important for building and painting a model. The text has been translated as literally as possible. Where a literal translation would lead to an impure text due to differences in definitions, alternatives were sought.
Technique of applying camouflage to objects of the VVS
Reference: UDK 629.7.083.222 / Prepared according to assignment No. 604 (8099) of the chief engineer of the VVS on 2 October 1974.
The current technology is part of the materials of the NII MAP and of the combat units of the VVS. The technique of application is one of the basic principles of the camouflage painting (maskirovka) of the objects of the VVS, the adaptation of the materials to the painting, their preparation and the application and drying of the coating. The technology also provides for restoring the camouflage coating. The technology is intended for the technical departments of the VVS, which are concerned with the application of camouflage patterns on aircraft for the conditions where they are based and the application of the camouflage coating in the desired patterns of the aircraft in ARP and the building units from the VVS. (Prepared by Sjapovalenko KM):
CONTENT of the regulations
General rules for camouflage painting of aircraft ...... 3
Technology of the painting of aircraft with the enamels S-38M and AC-5130 .... 10
General regulations Materials, application in painting ....... 11
Preparing the painting materials at work ........ 13
Preparation of solution....... 15
Preparing the aircraft for dyeing Painting with enamels S-38A....... 16
The recovery of the coating in base enamel S-38M Paint with enamel EhP-140KM
The recovery of the coating in base enamel EhP-140KM........ 17
Paint with enamel AC-5130
The restoration of the coating in base enamel AC-5130
Checking the quality of the pain................ 18
Safety technology...................... 19
GENERAL RULES FOR CAMOUFLAGE OF AIRCRAFT
1. Camouflage paint of aircraft is used to reduce the possibility of detection on the ground and in flight at low altitudes using visual, optical and photographic aerial surveying equipment.
2. Depending on the nature of the object, the background and the purpose of the following types of camouflage obliteration: protection, imitate (mimicry) and distortion.
3. Protective painting, usually in one colour, the least visible against the background of the area. For example, in the summer this is green vegetation with the brightness and colour of grass; in winter, when there is snow - white paint with a brightness of 0.7 - 0.8; for desert areas, the protective layer must be a sand colour (sand or light sand). The protective colour is applied to weapons, tanks, vehicles, stationary objects against a uniform background.
4. Simulating (imitative) painting - multi coloured, which reproduces the specific background of a certain spot on the object to be camouflaged - in order to maximize the fusing of the colours and the pattern of the surface with the background. This can only be used with stationary objects.
5. Deforming painting (formerly known as camouflage) - large-spotted, multi- coloured painting is used exclusively for moving objects, including airplanes, with a clearly distinctive shape and size so that it can be seen against a varying background. The distorting effect of the painting is based on the colours of certain spots falling away against the changing background. The other colour (s) must then be so arranged that the contour of the object can not be recognized out of these.
6. The painting of the aircraft must precede the design of the camouflage of the airfield. For that project, the characteristics of the cover, the characteristics that there are airplanes and the appropriate need for camouflage material must first be explained. One should also look into the conditions of observation by aircraft and have knowledge of staying in a complex (complex) of camouflage measures. This work is carried out on the basis of aerial exploration or aerial photographs.
7. During the exploration one draws a diagram with a graphical representation of the background of the airfield, typical surfaces and lines are indicated in colour, shapes and brightness. This scheme is used as a basis for designing the painting of the aircraft.
8. Camouflage must, regardless of size and purpose, be fitted in the background of a certain part of the airfield. It should be kept in mind that even with a proper implementation of a camouflage scheme, it is impossible to completely hide the aircraft from an observer. This is not possible because of the shadows that show the shape and because of the unique character of smooth painted surfaces.
9. The effectiveness of aircraft camouflage is determined by visual observation by flying over the aircraft at different heights, from different directions in sunny, cloudy weather, etc. and also by means of aerial photographs (in colour or black and white).
10. If it appears that the deforming painting of the aircraft does not fit into the primary and secondary colours of the background, then the painting will be adapted to one of these colours. This is done by drawing up colour schemes and the aircraft are repainted in whole or in part.
11. The repainting of aircraft is usually done when there is a strong change in the background, such as can occur during the change of seasons, relocation to another airfield, etc. Updating parts of the camouflage done if there are seasonal changes in the background colour, paint fading and wear.
12. In order to mask the aircraft more effectively against the background of the airfield, the camouflage can also be applied to parts of the ground surface (concrete parking places, ground, etc.) in the immediate vicinity of the aircraft using other materials: black earth, crushed coal, peat, lime, whitewash, various colours of clay etc. If possible, the concrete parking places can be painted the same colour as the aircraft.
13. In order to increase the effect of the camouflage painting, aircraft are sometimes provided with horizontal canvas cloths or nets in the form of tent cloths, painted in the required colour. In this way the contours of the aircraft are distorted and it becomes more difficult to discover the aircraft.
14. Deforming camouflage paint is applied to the top of the fuselage, wings and elevator, the sides of the fuselage and the tail surface of all types of aircraft in the spring and autumn period. This painting is done with S-38M enamel protective, light green, sand, light sand and brown colours. The underside of the fuselage, wing and stabilizers are painted in colours that merge with the colour of the sky with enamel S-38M grey blue or light blue. In the winter period, a number of spots (up to 70%) are painted over with enamel AS-5130 white.
15. The camouflage painting of each aircraft must be chosen in relation to the region where it is based. That is, adapted to vegetation, desert area and snow, and embossed on the chosen colour scheme.
16. The surface of the aircraft must be divided into a deforming drawing of 4-6 spots. This can be applied in large spots or small spots of other colours.
17. The main colour of the deforming painting must be the background colour for 50% of the surface of the object. This must be at least 70% in winter.
18. The primary and secondary colours of the deforming painting in summer and winter periods are divided into three natural zones: northern, central and southern and are shown in Table 1.
Table 1. Primary and secondary colours of deforming painting per season and natural zone.
White, light green
Protective, light sand
Brown, light sand
Protective, brown, sand
Protective, brown, light green, light sand
19. The drawing of the deforming painting consists of two types of spots: - Closed, these are located within the contour of the aircraft or touch them; - Open, these intersect the contours of the aircraft over more than one side.
20. Closed and open spots should be as diverse as possible in design and size, and curves in the spots should not be larger than half the diameter of the spot. Curves and protrusions of the spots must be varied in shape, direction and dimensions.
21. The location of spots on the outer contours of the aircraft must not be symmetrical. The contours of the spots must not follow the contours of the aircraft. The main axis of the spots must make an angle between 30 and 60 degrees in relation to the main axis of the aircraft.
22. The positions of the spots in relation to each other must always be asymmetrical, such that their combination does not emphasize the contours of the aircraft.
23. Do not apply regularly formed spots (circle, oval, rectangle etc.).
24. A spot must be applied at an angle on all surfaces concerning surfaces. The centre line of a nose cone may not coincide with the geometric centre of a spot.
25. In order to better mask the main shape of an aircraft when viewed from different directions, large spots should extend over several surfaces. They may not coincide with a symmetry axis of the line between two aircraft.
26. The biggest effect in breaking up the contour is made by dark spots. These should be placed on those parts of the fuselage and the wings join, where there are changes in the form, and where specific shapes and details give characteristic shadows.
27. The spots in light colours light sand, sand and light green should be applied mainly along the circumference (contour) of the aircraft. The best effect is achieved when combined with the background.
28. The number of colours in a camouflage scheme can vary from two to five, depending on the background colours.
29. In a two-tone scheme, the protective colour should match the predominant background colour. Another colour - as a contrast (light or dark), depending on the areas (lighter or darker) in the background.
30. In a three- colour scheme the following options exist: for a background colour with a clear contrast: the first colour - protective colour that matches the background, the second colour the same brightness but contrasting with the first, the third colour - contrasting with the first and second in colour and clarity; For the background with one colour but with spots of different brightness, the first colour - protective and then with the background colour; the second - the same colour but of a faded shade from the first; the third colour as contrasting as possible with the first two in colour and clarity.
31. The dimensions of the spots depends on the most likely distance of observation and should be such that the spots as such are observable. For products of types 66 - 96 and other types of aircraft, which are comparable in size, the dimensions of the spots should be between 0.75 and 1.8 m. A colour on a protrusion (nose, fuel tank, etc.) should cover no more than 1/3 of the length of the projection.
32. In order to prevent units from forming VVS and aircraft repair units from applying uniform (stencilled) schemes with the same number of colours and scheme, the following must be done: - Making different variants of the painting; - Introducing different colours in the scheme; - Using different numbers of colours in the painting.
33. A number of variants of the painting can be achieved by: - Changing the dimensions of the spots in relation to previously painted aircraft; - Variations in the main axes of the spots in relation to the contour of the aircraft; - Replace simple spots with complicated ones.
34. Spots of different colours should be placed in such a way that they do not disturb the deforming effect.
35. Using different numbers of colours in the painting means that the choice of colours will be greater in comparison with the original version. For example, when aircraft are painted in areas dominated by forests, grassland and undulating aircraft, then the most suitable three-four colour painting is with spots with distorted, undulating drawing. The basic version of the painting can be adapted in the following way (for the uniform distribution of the different coloured vessels in each unit of the VVS):
- Part of the aircraft is painted according to the main variant: 50% protective, 20% light green, 15% brown and 15% light sand;
- Part of the aircraft is painted in three colours: 50% protective, 25% light sand and 25% brown;
- Part of the aircraft is painted in two colours: 70% protective and 30% light green;
- Part of the aircraft is painted in two colours: 70% protective and 30% light sand.
36. The contours of the spots are indicated by lines (simple with a soft pencil) in accordance with the drawing and according to the basic principles as explained here. Within each line, the colour is indicated with a wipe of the corresponding colour. The overall placement of the spots of deforming paint for aircraft types 66-68 (Note in translation: type or product 66-68 refers to Mig-21) is shown in the drawing.
37. All national identification signs, lights and cockpit are covered with brown paper and self-adhesive tape before painting.
38. First the darkest colour is applied, followed by the light spots. The overspray is allowed to no more than 10 cm. The order of application must be such that it does not run over the freshly painted surfaces.
39. After application of the spots and drying of the paint, attention must be paid to imperfections in the painting. These must then be removed by re-applying paint.
THE TECHNIQUE OF PROTECTING AIRCRAFT WITH EMAILLES S-38M AND AS-5130
(Note: This section contains technical regulations for handling the different types of paint, which is irrelevant for the modelling and therefore has not been translated).
Example of a camouflage scheme for product 66-68 (southern zone, summer period):
1,2,3 - coating in enamel S-38M made of sand, green and light blue;
4 - details (cone, shutters and plating, emaille KO-814 aluminum and other), no camouflage colour.
We hope this article helped modellers to understand the camouflage on VVS aircraft during the Cold War.
IPMS: For modellers, by Modellers!
Authors: Almer and Rene / SIG Eastern Europe from IPMS Nederland (COPYRIGHT)
Translated by Dick Boogaard
(c) Copyright by the Authors
Note on photos: approval have been given by authors which we could reach for useage here; if you feel that any of your photos are inappropriately used, contact us (we will credit you or remove it).
Also check out the various real Aircraft Walk arounds here on the website with various MiGs, Sukhois and others...
This article was first published in Dutch language on this website December 2012; the English translation was published January 2018