The NKAP Camouflage Recommendations --
A Complete Misunderstanding

One of the great banes of modern archaeologically based historical investigation has been the appearance of the Armchair Docu-Dogma Fantasist. This appalling species of delusional Anti-Historian is not new, to be sure, but these fools and their dogmas have been unleashed by the Internet and all of the sordid laziness, popularism and sheer ignorance which the modern digital age brings with it. They are, quite succinctly, the perfect expression of the modern generation's concept of Truth By Popularity. Obtaining "likes"-- or whatever these stupid popularity culture things are called-- is clearly a sign of historical authenticity. Such turgid "old" methods like evidence, physical examination, competence borne of many years' work and all that sort of tedium are right out. No need for that; there are lots of on-line shopping to be done and video games to be played. And, of course, all truth can be found on Google anyway. A good search or two (an advanced search, of course), write a little web blog (with optional bad drawings), and *poof* you're an Expert! Amazing...

1941: New Paints and Old Paints

The NKAP (Narkomaviaprom) first stuck their proverbial oar into the matter of Soviet aircraft camouflage and painting during the summer of 1940. A series of orders and resolutions from the Government were realised from the autumn of that year through to May 1941 which comprised a large number of instruments, N 4 188, N 53ss and N 220ss being a small sample of the most important such documents. Together, these are often referred to as the Camouflage Directives, as they laid down the requirement to abandon pre-war single-colour upper surface finishes for disruptive camouflage schemes. In this work, specific colours were not mentioned, other than to refer to the current protective military finish as "green", and to include "silver" and "grey" single-colour liveries on the list of finishes to be replaced with disruptive camouflage.

These various resolutions culminated in the now famous NKAP Order N 417ss, the first draft of which was released on 6 May 1941. It is wildly misguided to regard N 417cc as some kind of monolithic order (it actually was an order-- prikaz-- for once; most such documents were resolutions or policy statements). Between May and October it was amended at least five times, and more than that, senior historian Ivan Rodinov has found alternate versions of the document from October which contradict other versions! How, in the midst of this chaos, we are meant to know which versions were the most widely distributed and acted upon, who can ever know? By July, a Technical Specification (TU) was issued which stipulated that the new finishes would be called "AMT" and "AGT", matte and gloss surface sheen respectively, and that there would be seven colours in the new system. A further TU amendment from the same month introduced a requirement for analogous varnishes (of identical colour) to be used on all-metal structures, these to be called Ax-m (matte) or Ax-g (gloss). During June it was also suggested that 100 aircraft would be painted with the new lacquers so that they could be evaluated by the various government organs. One version of N 417ss stipulates that each of the new finishes would be available into two formulations, one specifically intended for application with a spray gun and one for application by brush. Lastly, it was decided that from September-- or October, depending upon which version of the order one prefers-- all fighter aircraft were to switch over to the new lacquer system.

It is at this juncture that Docu-Dogmatists leap forward with glee and announce that every aircraft produced in the USSR from 1 September 1941 was thusly painted with AMT finishes. No. Not only is this patently untrue, it is utterly absurd-- no such proposition could be put forward by any person with even the remotest understanding of the real world (of course, this observation dismisses the Docu-Fantasists for a start). Any historian working with period documentation will be quite familiar with the fact that most-- the vast majority, in fact-- of the plans or decisions (by whatever name they are known in any respective bureaucratic system) do not come to fruition. This is true for many reasons, not of least of which being the extraordinary complexity of translating a concept scribbled on a sheet of paper into physical reality. This is nowhere more evident and obvious than within the wartime Soviet ministries.

After the resolution in question has actually been agreed (which is quite some matter in most cases), then the work of realising the plan must be enacted. In order to put new aviation paints into army service, the following steps would be-- and indeed factually were-- required to accomplish this task:
  1. Establish the technical chemical details of the new paints via NKKhimProm (People's Commissariat for the Chemical Industry, after the war replaced by the MKhP)
  2. Co-ordination and agreement/acceptance of these chemical standards by VIAM for suitability with Army aircraft and aviation factories
  3. Publication of a Technical Standard (TU) for these paints for distribution across the manufacturing, military and labour organizations related to their production and use
  4. Establishment of a plan for the manufacture of the new paints, including integration into existing production resources if possible, or the creation of new facilities for this purpose
  5. Sourcing adequate supplies of the minerals and chemicals needed to sustain production, with new facilities built when required
  6. Integration of the new paints into the transport, distribution and storage assets of the related industries
  7. Creation of a budget for the manufacture and distribution of the new paints, and resourcing adequate funds to pay for it
  8. Testing and evaluation of pre-production samples for quality control and to confirm the theoretical properties of the chemical formulae on real world structures (various State organs)
  9. Evaluation and acceptance testing by the NKAP
  10. Evaluation and acceptance testing by the Red Army
This is, of course, an abbreviated list, and one could carry on for much longer. But the point is made: the effort required to introduce these new paints was considerable. And so it proved, and then some.

Historically, the actual plan to produce these new aviaton paints was troubled and a great deal of difficulty was experienced in this effort. The late June version of the TU regarding the new paints had established only one colour so far, AMT-4 Green, and did not stipulate a specific formula for its manufacture and gave several 'suggestions'. Not until August did a TU appear specifying three new paints-- AMT-4, AMT-6 and AMT-7-- with a list of ingredients. Factory No 36 (formerly No 16 Aehrolak) was approached to manufacture the new AMT varinshes, but refused; they were far too busy with mass production of the existing lacquers, AII being the main variety. As a result, it seems that Factory No 34 NKKhimProm (Moscow)[1] likely started work on these new AMT finishes from August, but at a correspondingly moderate scale (e.g. not anything like mass production) related to the size of this facility.
The absurdity of the NKAP's Order 547ss is hard to exaggerate, therefore. This instruction demanded that all aviation facilities building fighter aircraft (save for Factories No 153 and 126 which were given a two week leniency) on the date of issuance, 20 June, would employ the new AMT paints forthwith. This despite the fact that such paints did not yet exist; that the TU specifying the paints did not yet exist; that no facility was making such paints; and that no production nor economic facilities were in place to do so. One may only conclude that certain persons within the NKAP at the moment were Docu-Fantasists of the worst variety.

There appears to be no surviving evidence on how Factory No 34 (if indeed it was this plant) progressed with the creation of these paints. Despite Vaklamov and Orlov's excellent archival work in their original M-Hobby articles on VVS colours, no official documents were referenced by them regarding this situation. The authors concluded that Factory No 36 began the mass manufacture of AMT finishes straight away, but unless this facility performed a significant about-face folllowing their refusal to do so in August, this seems very unlikely. NKKhP-34 was the only other factory still producing aviation lacquers in Moscow at this time, possibly save for the mysterious break-away facility from No 36. No documents relating to these plants nor their manufacture have been located nor submitted by any source, which might well be a problem relating to the timing of these events-- chaos and panic in Moscow as the Germans advanced. A search is now underway in the City of Moscow archives for any related documents, and we will have to await the results of these efforts for clarification.

Later, as noted by these authors, the NAKP managed to convince the workshop staff at Factory No 21 (Gor'ki)[2] to conduct experiments with a three-colour scheme on some LaGG-3 fighters. The first of these, P/N 3121376, is shown in a photo which purports to be dated 10 July 1941[3]. It has always been assumed that these tests utilised the new AMT finishes, but if this date is accurate then that notion is impossible. The association of the Gor'ki plant with the new lacquers, on the contrary, likely resulted from a decision of the Factory No 21 Directorate during August: as wartime machines do not have long lives, and thusly to reduce production man hours per aircraft, the facility resolved to abandon the practice of priming external aircraft surfaces prior to the application of camouflage paint. Needless to say, this decision alarmed the NKAP greatly, but as any student of Soviet aviation manufacture will know forwarding a complaint in the direction of the Gor'ki staff would be a waste of time. However, the NKAP contemplated that AMT lacquer was formulated to be used on mixed surfaces (suitable for the LaGG), and moreover that it was designed to be applied to un-primed surfaces with good results. The author believes that this consideration was the key element in drawing Factory No 21 into the testing and evaluation of the new paint system.

These difficulties in introducing AMT lacquers were compounded astronomically when, in October 1941, the entire Factory No 36 enterprise was packed up and evacuated to Chelyabinsk in the Urals! A new facility for aviation (and other) paints was established there, along with staff and equipment from other evacuated plants, as Factory No 34 NKAP[4]. The problems and shortages caused by these evacuations were predictable, and in some cases acute, and resulted in the dodgy emergency schemes seen at times during the spring of 1942. In terms of manufacturing and distributing AMT varnishes on a mass production basis, the ramifications should be obvious: before the late spring of 1942 there were no meaningful quantities of AMT lacquer to be found in the entire country, even if the various aviation factories were interested in using them. Whatever quantities of AMT lacquer were being produced in Moscow-- who recall at this time were busy producing very large amounts of MK-7 White paint for winter use-- these were sent to Gor'ki for application to the LaGG-3 programme. During October and November, by Factory No 21's own account, they finished "some" series LaGG fighters in AMT-4/-6/-7 liveries. Alas, we have no idea what 'some' means-- how many aircraft were finished this way, a Series, part of one...? We just don't know. By the second week of November all of the aircraft at Gor'ki were being finished with MK-7 winter camouflage.

The resulting divergence between the reality of this episode-- to introduce AMT aviation lacquers-- and the intentions of the orders and official documents relating to the matter are marked, and should serve as a warning to Docu-Dogmatists. Obviously, documents are an excellent source of information upon which all proper historians rely heavily. However, to accept only documentary evidence by preference and discount or ignore other equal or even superior forms-- achaeological finds, chemeical analysis, photographic analysis and so forth-- is unacceptable and anti-scientific, but alas this is the condition which prevails now. In the factual reality, very few of the intentions laid down in N 417ss came to pass, as was (and is) usually the case. Firstly, the specified Ax-m and Ax-g metal use lacquers simply failed to materialise, and would not be seen until 1944 (as will be demonstrated). The dates established for implementation of the directive were high farce. The factory intended to manufacture the paints evacuated and was unavailable for months. The distribution of the testing sized quantities of AMT which could be scraped together were limited to a single factory, who built 'a few' aircraft with it. No 'specific use' lacquer varieties (spray, brush) were ever created. AMT-1 Light Brown was agreed, but since no one was interested in three-colour camouflage it was not produced. AMT-2, -3 and -5 disappeared without trace; no one knows what colours these were meant to be. All in all, hardly the sweeping re-invention of Soviet VVS camouflage in which these Dogmatists wish us to believe.

The true facts of the introduction of AMT lacquers are confirmed by many other forms of proper evidence, to include (ironically) additional documentary sources. Production quantities of AMT varnish were not available across the country until at least the late spring or early summer of 1942, this the logical consequence of relocating the evacuated factories and re-establishing manufacture. Even so, here we can mention only factories engaged in the production of fighter aircraft, which were the priority of the order in the first place. Bomber, liaison, attack and other such aircraft programmes often did not see deliveries of AMT finish until the autumn, and moreover some of these factories and bureaux had no interest in the new paints at all. Some examples will suffice:

1943: A Repeat of 1941

During 1943 the Government again became acutely interested in aircraft camouflage. This revived interest was apparently set in motion by a report by two experienced VVS fighter pilots (from the end of 1942) which claimed that their own green-black colour scheme was inferior to the German grey-grey scheme. As always, the Government placed maximum stock in any comment by front-line pilots, above and in contradiction to any data from any testing fraternity or ministry. Therefore, investigations of this matter were soon undertaken.

During 1942 the NKAP had expressed an interest in three-colour aircraft camouflage. Building upon these tests, the NII VVS became involved in the matter as well. Gen-Maj P.A. Losyukov of the NII VVS Directorate composed a draft order on 24 February which stipulated that all aircraft would be camouflaged with a three-colour upper surface scheme comprising lacquers AMT-4, AMT-6 and AMT-1 (it was later appended in an approximate ratio of 5:2:3). Yet another version of the same order appearaed in April 1943, this also signed by the Directorate of the Air Force (UVVS) as well as the NII VVS. During April, the NII VVS conducted tests with a Yak-9 fighter which had been painted with two grey colours a la the front-line pilot's earlier suggestion. The Institute's evaluation of this scheme was extremely negative, and may be summarised briefly here:
"...Both shades of grey are unsuitable for the terrain found in most of our districts. This fact makes the aircraft clearly visible when stationary on the ground, [and also] when visually observed with the naked eye... Both types of grey paint are discernible when viewed in the air, and through the use of special glasses are rendered easily detectable. From the point of view of camouflage, this type of colour is completely unsuitable for combat aircraft... The only allowable use [of a] grey colour is as one of the components in 3 or 4-colour camouflage...."

Given the strong condemnation of the proposed two-grey colour scheme, the events of June 1943 could hardly be foreseen. During June 20 to June 27, a wide-ranging series of camouflage evaluation tests were carried out by the NII VVS by order of the NKAP. Amongst these evaluations were direct comparisons between the Yak-9 painted as before with two grey colours[5] and two Yak-1s, one in contemporary AMT-4/-6/-7 finish and one in an AMT-4/-6/-1 three-colour (upper) scheme. The aircraft were spotted in the air at various distances and under various conditions, and were photographed from various heights and distances sitting on the ground ranging from 500 m to 10 km. Incredibly, the same Institute which had excoriated the two-grey scheme 60 days previously now declared that the same camouflage scheme was superior to the three-colour variant! As researcher Rodinov notes in his superb work on VVS production, many of the conclusions presented in this report are contradictory, vague or even deliberaely misleading[6]. Whatever political machinations were at work, the grey-grey camouflage scheme was declared the victor.

Therefore, on 18 July 1943 the Resolution (Razresheniya) "Camouflage Colouring Schemes for Aircraft" was passed by the Air Force Command implementing the joint order No 389/0133 (July 3) of the NKAP and the Red Army. This Order was a large and ambitiouis document, and it was subsequently amended and updated several times, both with new instructions and also technical specifications issued by VIAM. The main points of the new instuuctions may be summarised here:
The hubris implied by this type of official language simply beggars belief. The entire aviation industry of the enormous, far-flung USSR was meant to develop, manufacture, test, distribute and implement new aviation lacquers in a week!? That is, of course, if one is inclined to regard all of these pronouncements dogmatically as with a religious doctrine. The author is certain that this is not the case by any stretch, and that no one in the NKAP nor the Army was that stupid or unrealistic. Rather, the compulsory language in 389/0133 was intended to lay down a marker; to apply pressure to the industry to enact these instructions as soon as was possible. It is most fascinating to compare the language in this order (prikaz) with that found in "Camouflage Colouring Schemes for Aircraft". The former is replete with compulsory phrases, "...shall...", "...must...", "...will..."; the latter absolutely is not, and on the contrary uses phrases such as, "...could...", "...may...", "...can...", etc.

Naturally, it proved much more difficult in practice to enact these new orders than on paper, just as was seen two years previously in the last attempt to "immediately" reform VVS camouflage. The technical specification for A-21m lacquer was not actually issued until September 1943, and that for A-28m was not finally approved until February 1944. Order 389/0133 also specified that all paints would be issued in two variants-- one for brushing and another for spraying-- but as with the earlier AMT varnishes this never happened. The VIAM technical supplement to the order also states that the metal Ax-m paints were to have an identical colour to their AMT equivalents. This we know for an obvious fact never occurred, as all of the Ax-m paints were very dark in shade and did not resemble the colours of any AMT version to any degree whatsoever. Despite these, and copious other, difficulties in revamping aircraft camouflage for a second time, and not to mention the sheer irrationality and illogic of believing that such could be done in an instant,
Docu-Dogmatists world-wide demand that every airframe manufactured in the USSR from July 16 was painted in these lacquers without fail! You just couldn't make it up....

Not surprisingly, the timing of the adoption of the new paints resembled the previous case during 1941. The first batches of AMT-11 and -12 which were ready for application to a service fighter appeared in October, just as before, and these were sent to Factory No 31 at Tbilisi for introduction on-- of all types-- their last LaGG-3 series. Deja vu, to say the least. These machines were mainly distributed to the regiments in and around the Northern Caususus, and a number to the 9 IAP-ChF, where they were extensively photographed during the spring of 1944. Also as two years previously, these new AMT-11/-12 painted LaGGs were likely seen as an initial and somewhat experimental batch, naturally to see how the new paints would perform under service conditions, and that no other such fighter camouflage application is mentioned prior to 1944. It it should be born strictly in mind here that no photograph-- none whatsoever-- exists of any aircraft which can be realiably dated within the calendar year 1943 showing an AMT-11/-12 upper surface scheme, not even of these Tbilsi built LaGGs.

The last permutation of Order
389/0133, signed by Marshal Novikov, also makes a number of interesting concessions to practicality and various suggestions. The use of winter white lacquer MK-7 was formally banned, although given its unpopularity within the VVS this instruction was hardly necessary. The head of the Directorate of Formation and Combat Training was told that existing aircraft in the 'old' AMT-4-6/-7 livery did not need to be re-painted, new lacquers being used only with repairs or other work as required. Factories were told that it was acceptable to replace existing AMT-6 Black paint with AMT-12 Dark Grey on concurrent fighter manufacture until supplies of the new varnish were to hand. Moreover, it was suggested that a temporary replacement for AMT-11 Grey-Blue could be mixed in an ad-hoc fashion by blending equal parts of AMT-6 and -7, resulting in a dark-ish blue-grey shade[7]. This latter instruction was interesting also due to the context in which it appears. This suggestion was supplied immediately after that to ban the use of MK-7, and the topic of the document in this part is dedicated to winter aircraft camouflage. Even if it was not Novikov's intention to suggest a single-colour upper grey scheme for winter use during 1943-44, it would seem that many units understood this to be exactly the case. The sudden appearance of such schemes at this time can hardly be regarded as a co-incidence-- why would regiments such as the 240 IAP and the 4 GvIAP-KBF, just for example, go to such efforts to mix up such paints and use them on their aircraft? And furthermore, why does one see so many AMT-11 single-colour schemes in use during the spring of 1944? It would appear that this mystery, at long last, has been solved.

The exact timing of the transition in the use of AMT-4/-6/-7 and AMT-11/-12/-7 NKAP camouflage on fighter aircraft is not precisely known. Indeed, the use of the word "transition" is likely to be too hard edged, and that the changes took place rather gradually and perhaps even in a chaotic fashion. The author has paid very close attention to the photographic record of testing at the two aviation facilities (NII VVS, LII) during the winter of 1943-44. La-5FN p/n 39210206, which was the intended 1944 etalon -FN example, was completed during January 1944 at the Gor'ki plant and delivered to the NII VVS in Green-Black (AMT-4/-6/-7) colours. The second Yak-1M dubler prototype was evaluated by the fraternities wearing Workshop style camouflage with lacquers AMT-4/-6/-7 (Oct-Dec 1943), but even the first examples of production Yak-3s were received at their respective regiments in NKAP schemes (May 1944). Factory No 82 built Yak-7 fighters with AMT-4/-6/-7 camouflage until the late spring of 1944, but Novosibirsk delivered the prototype of the new Yak-9DD model in AMT-11/-12 colours (February 1944). These, and copious other examples, suggest that the new NKAP fighter camouflage as applied at the various factories was introduced roughly after the beginning of the New Year, 1944. Certainly one imagines that there could have been exceptional examples either earlier or later than this general date, but by and large the wholesale change in factory finish and colouration likely occurred at this time.

Fighter aircraft already in service wearing the older finishes were often not re-painted. As per Novikov's order, there was no requirement to do this, and many regiments showed no enthusiasm for such extra work. Indeed there were exceptions to this observation, and some regimental commanders would appear to have been very jobs worthy and insisted upon thorough re-finishing to the new NKAP standard, but in the main, no. Service fighters wearing black-green colouration were ubiquitous in the summer of 1944, and some were still seen even a year later at the end of the War.

And The Rest...

As with the previous changes to VVS camouflage practice, the 1943 NKAP instructions focussed as a priority on fighter aviation. The remaining entirety of the VVS inventory of aircraft were blithely listed in
Order 389/0133 literally as "all other types"-- without any distinction-- and indeed after specifying a three-colour upper surface scheme were not subsequently mentioned again in the entire document, not even the later drafts of it! This choice of colouration was most peculiar in any event, in that a technical instruction dating from February 1943 by General Losyukov to develop three-colour camouflage for fighters (green/black/sand) was contravened and cancelled by-- you guessed it-- Marshal Novikov. How, then, in the wake of this rejection that essentially the same scheme found its way into 389/0133 as being suitable for the majority of the Air Force's aircraft requires some considerable explanation; and none on this point is available.

The adoption of three-colour camouflage at the various aviation factories producing non-fighter type aircraft was not a priority to say the very least. This observation, however, should not be confused with the field application of various three-colour schemes (employing all manner of aviation paints) at certain regiments, some cases of which were very striking and are widely known in the photographic record. But at the various factories there was no apparent appetite for such changes and certainly no evidence of their immediate implementation. In fact, save for a few experimental applications-- on 'several' U-2s at Factory No 494, for example-- we know of no case of any aircraft wearing an NKAP stipulated AMT-4/-1/-12 scheme applied at the factory prior to the spring of 1944. The first aircraft finished at a factory in this way which we can date and document with confidence was actually Il-2 AM-38F p/n 1871595, built during March 1944 and tested at the NII VVS from 3-7 April. This wooden arrow winged machine was selected for examination specifically because it was painted in the 'new scheme', and indeed it can be seen in a lovely series of well published photographs to be wearing AMT-4/-1/-12 colouration in a pattern matching those found in "
Camouflage Colouring Schemes for Aircraft". One can imagine that it would have been one of the first such examples in this finish (to have been so selected), and in fact this idea is substantiated by Il-2 p/n 1871485 which was evaluated by the NII VVS and LII from 17 April with armament modifications, this delivered in AII Green/Brown(Tobacco)[8] colours.

Il-2 AM-38F No.15-95, 3 April 1944. WARNING: This photograph has been digitally colourised

Elsewhere across the non-fighter aircraft manufacturing industry the response to the new camouflage applications were equally lacklustre, if not even less than that. No Pe-2 has been located wearing AMT-4/-1/-12 paints prior to p/n 13-377 (built summer '44), and an extensive series of TASS photos is known showing about 20-30 aircraft on the production lines at Factory No 22 during March 1945, and none of them is wearing a three-colour finish. Images of Il-4s wearing the NKAP scheme are rare, and these all date from 1945. And so forth; the point is well made here that examples of various non-fighter aircraft painted in this way at the factory are quite uncommon and not seen before (approximately) the summer of 1944.

Those Little Drawings

A great deal has been made of these small, cartoon-ish illustrations found with the material in later versions of the UVVS' 1943 Resolution,
"Camouflage Colouring Schemes for Aircraft". Rather too much, perhaps. It must be stressed here emphatically that these drawings are not part of Novikov's Order 389/0133 and do not appear in any version of these documents, and are thus not any kind of official instruction to anyone. These patterns and schemes were adopted gradually by the UVVS into their Resolution, and they are not, therefore, any form of legal instrument to be enforced either within the Army or within the State Aviation Industry. It is precisely for this reason that this historian insists that these camouflage patterns be referred to as NKAP "recommendations"-- not orders-- which is exactly what they were in fact.

The little illustrations accumulated in subsequent versions of the UVVS resolution, as mentioned, the first of these being the fighter NKAP camouflage schematic for AMT-11/-12 lacquers in the September 1943 example. The first inclusion of a three-coloured drawing was the No.1 Il-2 schematic in December 1943, and not until June 1944 were all of the nine drawings present. Furthermore, the colour citations and interpretation on the diagrams are all from the material published in Czech aviation magazine Letectvi i Kosmonautika, and many historians have wondered here if mistakes were not made? The schematics for the Il-4 and Pe-8, for example, show areas of black colour in the scheme. The use of black as an upper surface camouflage colour was specifically terminated and forbidden by Order
389/0133; it seems highly unlikely that an NKAP endorsed camouflage pattern from 1944 would incorporate this hue.

Whatever their respective historical relevance or indeed authenticity, here are all nine of the NKAP drawings.

The Docu-Dogmatist Juggernaut Rolls Into Action

With little drawings in hand which have allegedly emanated from a State organ, the Docu-Dogma Fantasists have excelled themselves with their profound-- indeed, farcical-- misinterpretation of the NKAP Camouflage Recommendations. It is surely obvious (to them) that every aircraft manufactured in the USSR from 19 July 1943 was painted exactly as one of these diagrams, certainly without exception or individual variation, and that all existing (and copious) evidence to the contrary-- to include any photograph, archaeological remains, chemical analyses, supplemental documentation or even common sense-- is clearly part of a titanic Global Conspiracy concocted by armies of minutely co-ordinated evil persons (like myself, presumably) to hide the Great Truth of VVS Colouration in this epoch! It's the sort of blinkered, half-cocked stuff that would shame a religeous zealot, and yet this buffoonery masquarades as the current "understanding" of Soviet wartime camouflage.

In the midst of this glaring stupidity, it is alas the beloved Ilyushin Il-2 which has suffered the most from catastrophic distortion and misguided incompetence. Despite several very fine volumes published on the type over the last 20 years, the rich amount of recovered paint and other archeololgical evidence collected, the apperance of quality colour photographs of field wrecks and the discovery of supporting documentary evidence, the overwhelming majority of authors who continue to speculate on the matter of Shturmovik colouration have managed to cock it up completely! How, one is entitled to wonder!? How is this possible!?

At the time of writing, for example, not one single photograph exists anywhere in the world showing a straight winged Il-2 painted in a 3-colour NKAP scheme. None. Now, perform a search on such aircraft using any internet engine. The deluge of returns is such that one might actually drown in factual error! How is it possible to misunderstand any topic to this degree? But, this is precisely the nature of dogma-- since the "real truth" is already known, any evidence which might indicate otherwise is "wrong", or a conspiratorial concoction. If one actually contemplates the timing of these NKAP 3-colour drawings and compares this to the development of the Il-2 programme, it would suddenly become quite obvious why there is no such photo. But no! This cannot be-- we have some document somewhere which has some date on it! An official document, even, and little diagrams-- it must be so! One might just as well argue the shape of our globe with a Flat Earth Society member; the results and experience would be the same.

But even in all of this seemingly improbable incompetence, one learned scholar stands head and shoulders above the rest. This individual bestrides the World of Error like a Colossus, issuing forth misunderstanding and laughable postulation at a rate which would exhaust ordinary mortals. And indeed, all the while immune to any rebuke or correction, so steadfast is the person's conviction in their utter righteousness. Since we're on the topic of the Ilyushin Il-2 anyway, just two examples will suffice to illuminate this most remarkable work:

  Here we have "White 28", a Series 67 straight metal wing Il-2 built in Moscow (Factory No 30) showing its original two-colour upper scheme of AII Green/Brown(Tobacco). Note the pattern, with very broad bands of colour roughly applied at the wing joints.

  Here we have the physical remains of Il-2 p/n 306585, a metal straight wing example built at Moscow from Series 65. It still shows its original two-colour upper scheme of
AII Green/Brown(Tobacco) with very broad bands of colour roughly applied at the wing joints. A better correlation between photographic and physical evidence would be hard to find.

However, according to The Great Expert:
"...Both aircraft [photo above] are wearing a three-colour NKAP Template scheme with lacquers AMT-4/-1/12 all clearly in view."
"...The pattern is identical to that shown in Il-2 NKAP diagram Variant No. 1."
"...The paint 'AII Brown(Tobacco)' does not exist and was never used on the Il-2."

Photographic Evidence  +
Physical Evidence  =

   HSU Pavlov's "White 1".

Again, the wisdom of The Great Expert:
"This aircraft is an IL-2M3." [Ed. is that supposed to mean an 'arrow'??]
"The aircraft is wearing the NKAP three-colour scheme as seen on Variant No.2"
These astounding conclusions are promulgated boldly despite the fact that...
a) this Il-2 is still wearing its factory applied 2-colour camouflage and was manufactured before
Order 389/0133 was issued, indeed long before lacquer AMT-12 subsequently existed
b) the aircraft is obviously a wooden straight winged model, as befitting its date of manufacture
c) at least nine views are known of this machine in various photos, which altogether demonstrate the camouflage pattern very clearly

Photographic Evidence  =

Well... One might invoke such sayings here as, "You couldn't Make It Up!", and similiar. But, in fact, this person clearly is making this stuff up-- presumbly on the fly-- so ludicrous are his resulting "analyses". The majority of us, I would suggest, are lost for words...

WARNING: Rant box!...

It has been said often that plagiarism is the sincerest form of flattery. Let me suggest that whomever wrote that has not been abused in this way! The entire experience to me has been wretched and nauseating. The "work"-- and I do shudder to employ such a noble term to describe this unrestrained cack-- of this most lamentable buffoon often makes my life a hell. Indeed, so pitifully does this moron slavishly ape my own style, method and presentation format that countless viewers assume that these stupidities are my work (is this deliberate, I wonder?). How many times-- I could not count them-- have these pitiful drawings and idiotic ideas been thrust in my face incredulously? "How can you write such a thing!?" "What kind of analysis is this!?" "What have you done ignoring your own evidence!?" What, indeed...

Not long ago one of this person's Disciples in Error contacted me out of the blue. He was embarking on the creation of a book on Il-2 camouflage. How, I mused, could anyone contemplate a book on such a complex topic without ever having actually looked at a single scrap of an authentic example; without years of dedicated scholarship in the topic; without extensive travel for archival and field study? Oooh!-- but shut up! How dare I!? This is the Mod Gen, such outdated thinking is no longer part of the world! Anyway, this person began his communication by insulting me, personally, and my work, and then proceeded to demand that I help him with his book!!!! What words could anyone on this earth summon to describe such behaviour!? But this is what I get, day after day...

And the worst bit of all is simply that there is nothing in the world that I can do about it (as my solicitor keeps reminding me). Twenty years of outright lies and abuse, and no recourse to any sort of justice. If this fool resided in the UK I could have successfully done him for gratuitous Libel many years ago, and the matter would be finished. But no, alas. Indeed, quite the opposite-- this idiot snivels and grovels to the Great Luminaries of the Internet, thus gaining popularity. As such-- being popular-- we all know that he will then be seen to be "right", whilst I am therefore "wrong". No, it's true that I don't care what the Internet believes, but I see the disastrous effects of this kind of rancid incompetence on the well meaning-- Museums, journalists, modellers and hobbyists, model kit and decal companies, etc, etc.-- and it makes me sad. It's tragic to witness, but so typical of the Modern World.


So, where does this leave us? If one wanted a very course and generalised synopsis of NKAP camouflage as it actually applied to Soviet aviation during the war, then the following resume might suffice:

And the Future?

It is worth mention here, whilst on the topic of Government inspired colouration, that yet another massive pillar of Armchair Docu-Dogma Fantasist imbecility is on the verge of crumbling to dust. The dreadful and less-than-helpful colour chips of the 1948 MKhP Colour Book have been widely debated, and I have rendered my own verdict here. However, it is now the case that peripheral documention regarding this publication have begun to emerge from the copious holdings of the RGVA. These related documents explain why the booklet was ordered, for starters, and some other details regarding what was included and not in this work. In breif, they would appear (until the specific order is found this can only be speculation, of course) to suggest that the newly formed MKhP was instructed by the recently formed MAP (replacing the NKAP) to reformulate the existing aviation lacquers (and others, perhaps) in 1947. One might guess this was done for reasons of economy [9], standardisation or other such concerns, but if true this certainly answers a host of questions. None of the colour chips-- even despite their corroded and oxidised condition-- match the original paints of the same name at all, and some of them are entirely different lacquers (AEh-8 for example). But, if these were reformulated, well then that observation is perfectly understandable.

In any event, the search is now under way for these 1947 orders, and when located one may be certain that they will be published on this site. Until then, stick with the known and proven wartime colour samples as copiously documented from archaeological evidence, and do not trouble over these horrid unconvincing chips. Best keep error at bay; unless, of course, one is a devotee of Fantasist MKhP dogma, in which case the World, yes, is indeed Flat....

  1. The details of Factory No 36 in Moscow are a muddle. We know that this factory complex comprised at least three different sites, and one of these is likely to have subsumed from the organisation and started production in its own right, likely with its own identity. Senior historian Ivan Rodinov was unable to trace this enterprise, however, which must mean that its records are convoluted to say the very least. It is even possible that Factory No 34 in Moscow was also a part of No 36 in an administrative capacity; we simply do not know.
  2. Surely there must have been some kind of instruction or other bureaucratic instrument to authorise and require this work. Has it not survived, we wonder? Were the authors unable to locate it in the RGVA? Or, is it possible that this episode has been confused-- and merged together-- with a similar event the following year?
  3. It is quite possible that this date (year) is a mistake. Precisely one year later, during June-July 1942, the Gor'ki factory was asked to paint some 20 LaGG-3s with a three-colour experimental scheme again (possibly), this time it is specified with "tan, green and brown". This scheme was developed by the Main Directrate of Orders and Technical Supply of the Air Force (GUSiTS) and taken on board by the NKAP, who authorised the tests. These camouflage examples (to include some Pe-2s similarly finished) were demonstrated to front line units near Moscow where they were said to be positively received. Additionally, these investigations suggested an over-all light grey scheme for fighters very much along the lines of the pre-war Sky Camouflage liveries.
  4. Some of the evacuated material from Moscow may also have been sent to the Svobodnii Trud factory in Yaroslavl' during March 1942. This facility was based around the former staff and cadre of NILK (Leningrad), and eventually was re-designated GIPI-4 and returned to Moscow in 1944. Manufacture of aviation lacquers began at this plant during April or May 1942.
  5. Yak-9 01-18 was used as to test the grey-grey camouflage scheme. The extraordinary possibility exists that this machine still survives. The Yak-9 exhibit which resided in the Yak OKB Museum, and is now of the Vadim Zadrozhnii Collection, is indeed-- despite some re-manufactured and borrowed parts-- clearly a Series 1 Yak-9. It had always been (at least in the OKB Museum) painted in two unknown grey colours. Could this aircraft in fact be 01-18!? Was it preserved in the OKB Museum as a result of its participation in such tests? It would be delightful if a member of the Zadrozhnii staff was able to locate the manufacturer's plate in the machine and clarify the matter.
  6. The report's conclusion stated that the two-colour grey-grey was superior to the existing green-black camouflage, but it does not mention the three-colour scheme at all! Many of the detailed explanations in the report were very dubious, and cannot be replicated by independent testing. The entire matter smacks heavily of political intrigue.
  7. This procedure replicated exactly the situation within the British RAF during 1942-43, when formulations for a temporary Mixed Grey were issued and schemed by various units to be used in the field until quantities of Ocean Grey were available.
  8. The confusing case of the AII lacquer 'brown' colour(s) in use during the war will be taken up in a subsequent article.
  9. Recall that shortages of chromium were sometimes acute during the war. On at least two occasions (1943, 1944) the NKAP ordered aviation factories to terminate the use of primers ALG-1 and ALG-5 due to such fears, albeit many factories refused to do so.