Russian Basic Trainers, Addendum

As a category, basic training aircraft are perhaps the most widely ignored of the various machines of the 1930-50 period. This is a shame, really, as there are several exceedingly important and interestingly designs amongst this group, aircraft which absolutely deserve more attention than they have received hitherto.Indeed, with that observation in mind, this series will look to highlight a few of the more significant examples.

Many readers will be familiar with the various advanced training aircraft of the Soviet VVS during the period 1930-50. These include various UTIs for fighter instruction, -U model trainers for machines like the Il-2, developments of the Ar-2 and SB for instruction and so forth. All such aircraft, of course, were military trainers, designed for more advanced students having been assigned a more specialised role within their respective service. But what of less advanced student pilots? Or, indeed, of civilian flight instruction of the time? In which aircraft did budding aviators learn the complexities of aerial navigation and technique?

In this series we will look to examine and spotlight some of these basic training aircraft. Additionally, we will look at these machines in a somewhat backwards manner-- in reverse order of progression. That is to say, we will first examine the aircraft which would have been used by student pilots just before assignment to specialised flight instruction in the Army.

The Spitfire Mk IX UTI

We would like to take a break in this series at just this moment due to an interesting development in the UK Warbird landscape. The two-seat Spitfire IX PT462 has changed ownership, and perhaps due to its unusual aft cockpit design, there has been a fair amount of call by interested enthusiasts for the aircraft to be re-painted in a VVS livery. One must say that, of all the Spit two-seaters, this example does certainly look the most like a Soviet Spitfire UTI.

Be that as it may-- and it should be stressed that the new owner's intentions are not known-- what sort of schemes and appearances would such a selection allow? How were the various UTI Spits finished in VVS service? In this mini-article, we will take a look at exactly this question via some colour profiles.

Spitfire IX UTI, NII VVS, 1945

This aircraft was one of the first Spitfire UTI conversions and was examined shortly after the evaluation of HF IX TA810 at the NII VVS. No view is currently known of the serial number, but such an image surely exists somewhere and it is hoped that one such photo will emerge and the machine will be correctly identified.

The aircraft retains its British applied camouflage, mainly, with areas of appliqué where required to cover the various modification work and ex-RAF markings. This paint is here shown as ubiquitous AMT-4 Green, but it might have been A-24m lacquer as well (albeit, it does not appear dark enough by contrast in the image). The under-wing roundels are here shown obliterated with AMT-7 Blue, which is purely speculative (the area is not in view). The spinner features a superbly executed star on the tip.

Spitfire LF IX UTI, 1 ARB, 1945

Quite a few Spitfire UTI conversions were carried out at the 1 Aviatsionaya Remontnaya Baza (Aircraft Repain Facility) at Leningrad. This fact is quite understandable in that the majority of operational Spitfires were in service with vartious PVO regiments around the city.

This LF IX had been comprehensively re-finished during the course of its conversion to UTI configuration. It has been noted elsehwere that the speed of the UVVS' (Directorate of the Air Force) abandonment of wartime camouflage and reinstatement of pre-war peacetime painting practices was utterly remarkable. Indeed, even by the summer of 1945-- that is to say, with the Allied war vs Japan still in progress-- training aircraft like this example were already appearing in single-colour upper surface 'protective' finish, maskirovka (camouflage) of the wartime variety having been deemed superfluous (or even undesirable). By 1947 the use of gloss surface lacquers was officially specified, but this example is too early for that practice, and so the colouration has here been interpreted as A-24m Green uppers with AMT-7 Blue unders. The spinner might have been red in colour; a better image of this aircraft would be helpful.

Of note, additionally, are the national star insignia applied to this aircraft. The markings, of the late-war and post-war 'thin outline type', were applied in eight positions (as pre-war); that is to say, on the wing upper surfaces as well. The fuselage star is of the post-war regulation size and geometry of 900 x 50 x 10 mm. The star on the fin was also one of the regulation sizes of similar geometry, being 750 mm across.

Spitfire IX UTI, 26 GIAP PVO, 1945

Another Spitfire UTI in service with the PVO forces around Leningrad, summer 1945. This example has retained it's cockpit mirror, but in all other respects looks to have been the work of the 1 ARB (see above).

The photograph is not of sufficient quality to be certain of the aircraft's finish, but on balance it does not seem to be dark enough for the metal-use lacquer A-24m. As a result, the profile shows here AMT-4/-7 colouration, again in the post-war training single-colour livery.

The national insignia were of the
'thin outline type', but these are not of post-war regulation size nor geometry. The spinner looks to have been white in colour, and as with so many Leningrad based UTI Spitfires, it did not seem to carry any tactical numeral in service.

Spitfire IX UTI, 144 IAD, 1947

The caption of the photo showing this Spitfire UTI states that the aircraft belonged to the 144 IAD PVO and is dated 1947. Both the date and the assignment seem reasonable, although one might note that the 144 IAD (Division) contained within its corps the 144 IAP (Regiment); the possibility here for confusion being obvious!

Be that as it may, this example certainly looks like many such UTIs must have done by that year. The finish was clearly gloss in sheen, and here depicted as A-26g Green (uppers) and AGT-7 (lowers). The upper/lower colour demarcation over the cowling is quite 'low', being of the Soviet style and not of the original RAF style conforming to the panel shape. The national star insignia are of regulation size and geometry, being of 900 and 750 mm, respectively.

The tactical number "5" is shown above in yellow, but it must be stressed that many, many possibilities exist for post-war numeral colour, and no one can be certain in this case without further evidence. The 'stencil style' of the numeral font is highly reminicent of the post-war era.