Modeling the Soviet VVS   1917-1950

~ Monthly Profile ~

September 2006

Lisunov Li-2 or Douglas DC-3,
Possibly at Ulan-Bator Aerodrome, Mongolia
Summer 1939

One has always read about an (in)famous trio of  "Douglas" transports which operated in Mongolia prior to the outbreak of hostilities with Japan in 1939. Indeed, there is even earlier mention of such aircraft dating from 1937,  in use over Lake Buir. These machines were always said to have been painted in a "fantastic" manner, curious as they were odd. It is always a rare treat when anecdote meets fact, and in Mr. Kondratev's fine work on the Khalkin-Gol war [Tekhnika-Molodezhi Press, 2002] we see at last some photographs illustrating these odd examples.

The three "Douglas" aircraft were said to have engaged in the transportation of Soviet pilots to the area. One presumes that the camouflage present on these machines was either intended to disguise the aircraft from observation, or perhaps to make their purpose somewhat nebulous [and, indeed, if the intention was to conceal their activities, why not put them in civil liveries?]. Of course, many other interpretations are possible. It is also said that these aircraft flew into China to conduct other business which might have alarmed the Japanese Army. In any case, so far as is now know in these photos, the three aircraft were marked as follows: 1) featuring the code "MT - RO" on the fuselage; 2) featuring the code "MT - 18" on the fuselage; 3) featuring the code "2  F8" on the fin. It is the latter example which the profile looks to recreate here.

Any meaning which these codes might have had is likely now lost to history. The absence of national Soviet markings is notable, as is the lack of proper USSR Civil Registration, as well. The camouflage seems to have been a rather fanciful application of the dark green lacquer AEh-15 over what looks to have been an unpainted metal surface. The undersurfaces look to have been left as such, except around the nose where the finish possibly wraps around to a degree. The port cowling received a heavier AEh-15 coating that the surrounding fuselage, as did also the wing root fillet, and in particular the stabilizers look to be almost completely finished in this colour.

It is difficult to say if this aircraft was, in fact, a Douglas or Lisunov product. I have the idea that, on balance, it seems to me more likely to be a Lisunov Li-2. Further study of this image will be required to sort out the full details.