NKAP Recommendations and Examples
During 1943 there was much development in the Il-2 programme. At the start of the year the two-seat model Shturmovik  powered by the Mikulin AM-38F engine had established itself in manufacture as the current version. At this point the Il-2 was being completed with the same wooden outer wing sections as the previous single-seat models of the same construction (the earliest single-seat models featured metal outer wing panels and metal rear fuselages). However, with the additional weight of the extra crew member, the improved engine and airscrew, and other sundry details, the Il-2’s c.g. had moved forward [Ed Note: sorry, that should read aft, not forward] once more to an uncomfortable degree. As a result, efforts were put in hand to find a suitable fix, and increasing the angle of the outer wing panels’ sweep-back from 5 degrees to 15 neatly solved the problem. By the late spring and summer of the year, the ‘arrow’ was well established in series manufacture along with the straight-winged two-seat model, which itself continued in production until the fall .
By this time in the Il-2 programme, there were already examples of three-colour camouflage (upper surface) in use at the factories  building the Il-2. These patterns made use largely of the older aviation lacquers known as "AII" finishes, in addition to some of the newer lacquers, "AMT". Both types of finish included a green and black paint, and in AII there was a shade especially desirable in the Il-2 programme known as AII Brown. The nomenclature of this paint is misleading, for the colour was in fact a very reddish shade, even more so than French Chestnut Brown. During the first half of 1943, three-colour schemes comprising AII Green, AII Brown, and AII Black were common at Factory No.1, and at No.18 in Green (AII or AMT), AII Brown, and AMT-1 Light Brown (again a misleading name; it was a grey-ish brown colour), in addition to black.
However, during 1943 the government’s Air Ministry (Narkomaviaprom, or NKAP) was also hard at work on the matter of aircraft camouflage. In the first case, the NKAP had it in mind to halt production of many of the darker "old" varnish shades (such as AII Dark Green, Black, etc.). In their place, a new AMT lacquer had been developed, AMT-12 Dark Grey, and the NKAP had this colour in mind as a major new programme. Not only was it thought to be suitable to supplant the aforementioned varnishes, but also it would form one half of the newly proposed two-colour scheme for single-engined fighters (comprising AMT-11 and –12), and therefore was scheduled for very significant production.
In the second case, the NKAP was mindful of some of the outstanding camouflage work being completed at a number of the aviation factories. It was thought that by adopting many of these ideas into a body of "official" documentation that these schemes could circulate more freely, and the result might be even greater innovations in aircraft colouration. Moreover, having examples of camouflage application patterns from the government might be valuable in cases where factories did not have experienced paint and finish personnel, or in those instances where there was confusion on the part of specifically requested camouflage patterns or schemes . It seems also quite likely that the NKAP had it mind to promote their new aviation lacquer colours, as well, and to reinforce their preference for the use of the newer AMT finishes, in general (the Il-2 programme was a stubborn user of AII lacquers to the end of the War).
With these various considerations to the fore, the Air Ministry produced a number of camouflage pattern examples throughout 1943. In aggregate, these examples are known as the 1943 NKAP Templates. By no means were these Templates limited to the Il-2; in fact, there were similar NKAP recommendations for a host of aircraft, from the Il-4 to the U-2 biplane. In several cases more than one pattern was offered for each aircraft, and this was true with the Il-2, for which there were two proposed applications. What these various recommended Template patterns did have in common, however, was the use of a three-colour application (upper surfaces) for all of the machines (this did not include single-seat fighters, however, which were the subject of another NKAP Template later in the year), this comprising AMT-4 Green, AMT-1 Light Brown and AMT-12 Dark Grey.
Now, it useful here to make a specific point. These NKAP recommendations were just that—they were recommendations. These Templates were not an instruction to the factories, and in no case were any programmes obliged to follow them. This was well, and probably sheer pragmatism on the part of the Air Ministry, because in the event most factories tended to ignore these recommendations in favor of their own respective applications.
Be that as it may, the NKAP Templates for the Il-2 were as follows:
NAKP 1943, Il-2 Variant #1
NAKP 1943, Il-2 Variant #2
Both patterns appear to make use of the AMT-4/-1 combination as the primary scheme, with areas of AMT-12 added alongside. These patterns are notable for the fluid, organic shapes that so characterized Soviet camouflage during the Great Patriotic War (and thereafter); in this respect, they show a clear appreciation of the factories’ work hitherto in aircraft finish. Indeed, this kind of regard for the expertise of the manufacturing programmes is evident throughout the NKAP’s wartime documentation, and this was a clear advantage for the factories when dealing with the government (a situation, it must be added, not overly evident in most other nations’ aviation efforts).
As with virtually all published material, the drawings reproduced in this magazine are printed using the CMYK process. CMYK format is essentially standard in the printing industry, and in most respects it is a useful method. However, CMYK does have difficulty representing certain colours, especially bright greens and blues. Alas, these are the most common colours found in Soviet camouflage of the Great Patriotic War period. Therefore, it is never prudent for modelers (on any subject, as a matter of fact) to take the appearance of the various artwork in books and magazines literally—at face value. Variations in the printing process, the acidity of the paper, the limitations of the CMYK process and so on, contribute to a situation where there will not be an exact reproduction of the artist’s intended colour shade. This will certainly be true in this article, as it is elsewhere (even when the subject is not a matter of discussion, the limitations of CMYK are certain).
Therefore, modelers should look to other colour matching routines to obtain the absolutely correct value for any cited colour. The best solution in modeling is, of course, to have a line of commercially available paints of the correct mixture. For Soviet VVS modeling, alas, these have not traditionally been available, and in cases where various colours were offered, they tended to be of dubious appearance and lacking in proper reference and research material. However, it is now true that the appearance of proper colour research on this topic has made possible the manufacture of commercial hobby paints of the correct colouration. These new paints should be available in the near future (possibly by the time of this publication). A line of authentic VVS paint colours from the Great Patriotic War period is currently planned from the Testor’s Corporation.
In the meantime, one will still be required to mix their own paint colours, or to search for equivalent colours in their favorite current commercial lines. To that end, the proper appearance of these VVS colours may be obtained by several methods. In fact, it might be best to examine all of these methodologies so as to obtain a better over-all picture of the appearance of the exact colour shades (in the case where one method proves unsatisfactory and produces spurious results). The following table gives the colour equivalent for each shade first in Munsell  Colour notation, which is exceedingly accurate and should produce very exact colour matches on a properly calibrated PC monitor. Next, the colour is given in RGB notation, and again this can be accurate on well calibrated monitors. An approximation is given in Federal Standard notation, but these are usually so poor (see the accompanying notes) that the resulting shade is often not suitable for modeling. If an equivalent commercially available paint is available (at the time of writing) which makes for a good match to the actual colour, this will be listed in the final column.
|AMT-7 Blue||8.54BG/8.83/5.47||161/240/249||FS(2)5550 [a]||n/a|
|AMT-4 Green||5.25GY/4.5/8.0||106/131/27||FS(2)4151 [b]||Testors AR00112
"Russian Armor Green" [c]
|AMT-1 Light Brown||10.0YR/6.39/0.31
|AMT-12 Dark Grey||9.0G/3.25/2.3||75/79/90||FS(2)6187 [d]||n/a|
a) A poor match, too light and grey-ish; in the general region of AMT-7 only, and not suitable for modelling
b) A mediocre match for AMT-4, too dark and yellow-ish; might be improved by mixing with white and blue
c) Fairly close to AMT-4; might be improved with small amounts of light blue
d) Another mediocre match for AMT-12; alas nothing closer is available in the FS system
In the Il-2 programme, the three respective factories involved had very advanced ideas as regards proper camouflage. None of these factories seemed to show any particular interest in the NKAP Template’s pattern of application. This is hardly surprising in light of the fact that these factories did not use the same types of camouflage applications nor often even colours, and their respective pattern efforts were unique. However, Factories No. 1 and No.18 did find interesting the new NKAP recommended colour combination of AMT-4/-1/-12, and incorporated this scheme into their own respective programmes. By the end of the year (at least), both enterprises were manufacturing Il-2 aircraft in this colour combination, albeit with their own patterns of application.
In addition to being located in the same city (and not much farther apart than down the road), Factories No.1 and No.18 were considerable rivals for all manner of reasons. Before the evacuations of late 1941, Factory No.1 had been located in Moscow, and as its name implies, it was the premiere aviation facility (not a mere factory, but also with several resident Design Bureaus and a number of important testing workshops, and the like) in the entire Soviet Union. However, during 1939-41 some poor management decisions, a number of failed development programmes, and frankly some bad luck, had removed much of the lustre from the factory’s reputation, which was rapidly sinking into political intrigue. An entire learned book would be required to give mention to these various situations, but the final straw was surely the MiG-3 (I-200) fighter programme which was seen by the government to be a complete failure.
When Factory No.1 was reconstituted in Kuibishev (minus the vast majority of its directorship), it was very much seen to be something of an "annex" to Factory No.18. Indeed, no further significant design work was carried out at Factory No.1 for the remainder of the War, and it was left to manufacture the products of the Ilyushin OKB, located in the neighboring Factory No.18. Surely, this condition was a body-blow to the prestige and the ego of the Factory No.1 staff. With no other route open to them, perhaps, they responded with a healthy rivalry against the Bureau’s resident factory, and this was nowhere more evident than as regards the camouflage and finish of their Il-2 aircraft.
Factory No. 1
An overriding theme is evident in almost all of the three-colour camouflage applications executed by Factory No.1 during the Great Patriotic War. This presiding idea was simply that the third colour making up such a scheme was regarded as strictly applique; in other words, as an addition to the (essentially, therefore) two-colour finish. Moreover, it was considered, thus, expedient that the third colour was not in concert with the presiding two-colour scheme, but rather applied in an irregular fashion in contradiction to the prevailing lines of the base camouflage. Or, to put it another way, the third colour looked like it had been applied without the two-colour scheme in mind, possibly by another worker altogether.
Of course, there is no evidence that an additional employee completed these finishes; this is simply the appearance that was desired by the factory staff. It is also intriguing that the records of the factory mention these applications, and their methodology, specifically. The impression one gets, in fact, reading through these records is that the Factory No.1 staff were bragging. I am certain that this was true. In addition, they routinely compared their camouflage work to that of Factory No.18, and in so doing never failed to mention the "superior" properties of their own pattern applications.
When Factory No.1 began to utilize the new AMT colour combination as suggested by the NKAP, this type of application theme continued. The Factory No.1 patterns were certainly more of a three-colour application as such than the pattern as suggested by the NKAP, in that the use of the two additional colours over the green base were essentially even in quantity. Even so, the specific application of the colours was incongruous, as was so typical with the camouflage at Factory No.1.
Factory No.1 Three-Colour Scheme, AMT-4/AMT-1/AMT-12 (AMT-7 undersurfaces)
Looking to the illustrations, it is clear that the areas of AMT-1 and AMT-12 do not seem to have been applied with any real consideration for the other colour, and indeed in several cases they overlap. The usual method on this particular permutation of three-colour camouflage was that the AMT-12 colour was sprayed on last, as is evident. No coherent "scheme" is presented by the patterns; there is no evident "flow" to the lines. This effect, with obscure blobs of colour, is precisely what the Factory No.1 staff had in mind with the majority of their three-colour camouflage applications. Another Factory No.1 trademark is also apparent in this scheme, in that their aircraft usually sported a black painted spinner (likely AMT-6), regardless of the prevailing colouration.
The colour demarcation lines on the upper surface scheme were typically semi-soft. Cases are certainly known of very soft demarcations, but hard-edged examples are not known, and would be unlikely by this time. The upper/lower colour demarcation was also semi-soft, and typically quite "low" along the rear fuselage (a feature I call the "ramp") area. However, raised "ramp" features were not uncommon (as we shall see), and some irregularly applied examples can also be found in the photographic record.
As the resident factory of the Ilyushin OKB, Factory No.18 was in the forefront of much development in the Il-2 programme. In regards to camouflage practices this is also true, and some three-colour finishes (on the DB-3 bomber) were seen from this factory even in the pre-War period, before the evacuation (from Voronezh) and relocation to Kuibishev. On early examples of the all-metal single-seat Il-2, Factory No.18 experimented with exceedingly complex and intricate two-colour (upper surface) camouflage schemes, these in the AII lacquers Green and Black. Some of these patterns are very well photographed, and are legion; nearly all of these examples were remarkable.
Certainly, by 1943 such intricate applications were a thing of the past. However, despite the more generalized and rationalized form of the colour applications, there was always a certain flair about the camouflage from Factory No.18, no doubt a legacy of these earlier practices. The schemes from this enterprise were usually quite fluid, and most often they were well integrated; i.e. the form of the colours seemed to fit together. That this methodology was in direct contrast to Factory No.1 should come as no surprise, and that these patterns are much better represented in the photographic record might not, as well.
Factory No.18 Three-Colour Scheme, AMT-4/AMT-1/AMT-12 (AMT-7 undersurfaces)
These illustrations show the classic, fluid shapes so typical of Factory No.18’s work. The pattern is entirely logical in form, and nicely organic in execution. As well, the use of the two additional colours over the base of AMT-4 Green is again equal; evidence that the factories regarded three-colour applications as indeed three-colour jobs, not glorified two-colour schemes.
The colour demarcation lines on the upper surface scheme were typically semi-soft. In fact, many of the details and "ramp" features seen on Il-2s from Factory No.18 were similar to those from Factory No.1, possibly with the tendency for "lower" rear upper/lower colour demarcations.
In both cases—with the Factory No.1 pattern and the other from No.18—it should be noted that these camouflage schemes were not some sort of standard. Indeed, they were each only a representative of the kind of work being carried out at each factory during the given time frame. There were no masks, or similar devices, and no specific instructions from either factory as to the finish of any aircraft. The schemes developed by them were certainly a matter of practice, not regulation, and certainly were the result of consensus following considerable discussion and experiment. In fact, in the fullest sense, the final appearance of any manufactured aircraft’s camouflage finish was at the discretion of the worker painting it. That this behavior was tolerated (or, even encouraged) is remarkable enough; that it casts indisputable doubt upon the sad caricature of the average Soviet worker as portrayed in the West is equally so. As well, it demonstrates why no two aircraft were ever an exact copy of each other; being applied by hand, the scheme would invariably differ, even if the general "idea" of the pattern was the same.
With such very attractive colour combinations, it was inevitable that modlers would want to build Il-2 aircraft in these finishes. Speaking on behalf of Matt Bittner and myself, we do indeed receive many requests of this type on our website relating to VVS Camoulage of the 1930’s and 40’s . In this vein, two of the Master Class modelers here in the South-West of England, Peter Vill and Bob Partridge, each wanted to build an Il-2 ‘arrow’ with this colour scheme. Delighted at the prospect of two such impressive models, I set about the task of identifying some examples at once.
The first difficulty in this project was supplying some paints for use on the models, themselves. This was a challenge, as there were no commercially available paints that were suitable, and so various batches of paint were mixed by ourselves. This fact will explain the slight difference in appearance between the two models. As well, there were two versions of the aerolacquer AMT-1 Light Brown: a light and a dark variety. There was, as usual, no discrimination in their designation, and to date I have uncovered no evidence as to why there were two different shades of this paint (and no other). This condition might possibly be related to their location of manufacture, or some similar reason, but the cause is for now mysterious. One thing that can be speculated, however, is that the lighter shade of the colour appears to have been the more common, and appears more frequently in the photographic record. With that in mind, we attempted to mix the lighter shade of this colour, with various success.
The next problem was one of locating decals. Fortunately, we had access to an ALPS MD-1000 cassett ribbon printer, and a full range of ink cartridges. The MD-1000 prints via a colour tape, and is therefore suitable for use in printing on clear decal film. Furthermore, there is a white colour cartridge avialable, which is utterly invaluable, in addition to such exotic colours as metallic silver and so forth. With this outstanding tool on hand, decals were prepared from artwork generated by myself, and printed.
A guideline was also required for finishing and painting the models, and so colour 3-views were prepared for each aircraft. These drawings were not of any particularly high standard; rather, they were intended to show the execution of the pattern, markings, and so on. Finer details, such as the amount and location of weathering, the types of ordinace to use, and so forth, were discussed amongst us, and these were a matter of logical estimation and observation.
Click here for previously posted photographs of these models in the Il-2 Gallery
For Bob’s Il-2, a machine was selected from the 967 ShAP as it appeared in the Manchurian Campaign of August, 1945. This ‘arrow’, "White 65", was piloted by then Kapitan A. Vinshikovski, with gunner Starshiy Serzhant Romistrov . Vinshikovski and Romistrov served very admirably in the European War with the 622 ShAP, possibly even in the very same aircraft .
"White 65" was finished in a rather typical Factory No.1 three-colour AMT-4/-1/-12 scheme of the early 1944 period. As always, the camouflage was not an exact replica of any pattern, and exhibited the usual individual variations in application. In this case, the use of the AMT-1 colour seems to have been slightly more conservative than usual, while the AMT-12 areas seem a bit expanded. The applique method of Factory No.1 is quite evident, however, and the general arrangement of the forms is as one might expect. "White 65" is trimmed quite attractively in white, including the wingtips and stabilizer tips, as well as the fin/rudder. The spinner was black, in the Factory No.1 tradition, and the aiming gradient lines were evident over the cowling ahead of the cockpit.
As I’m sure is quite evident in these photographs, Bob’s completed model is outstanding. The scheme itself looks rather better in 3-D than it does on paper (in 2-D artwork), which is a phenomenon I find to be frequently true.
Peter often elects to model aircraft with slogans. I, too, share a preference for such schemes, and searching through the photographic record a very attractive example with a prominent slogan was located. "White 58" was photographed with the 949 ShAP along the Baltic Front later in 1944; alas, to date the pilot of this aircraft remains unidentified .
This aircraft was finished in a rather typical Factory No.18 camouflage three-colour AMT-4/-1/-12 application, also from the early 1944 period. The colour patterns themselves are pretty much prototypical, but the upper/lower colour demarcation "ramp" is a bit higher than was usual. The undersurfaces were finished in AMT-7 Blue, as expected (and also as on "White 65").
Dramatically, "White 58" wore a large slogan on the port side fuselage stating, Brigada Maksima Gor’kogo ("of the Maxim Gorky Brigade") [Ed Note I apologize again; in addition to producing a poor decal, I also somehow managed to mis-spell it! I have rendered 'Gol'kogo', rather than 'Gor'kogo'.] . The inscription appears to have been trimmed very thinly in red. This marking was the most challenging of all of the decal work we attempted, and alas the resulting text is a bit fuzzy when looking at it very closely. Several "kill" marking stars were displayed on the port side, as well, and the tactical number was quite small and positioned on the fin. The white painted inlet "cheek" fairings with a star were typical in the 949 ShAP, but the gorgeous spinner was an individual embellishment. The yellow flash on the fin/rudder was painted on prior to decal application, and the national markings were also quite attractive "Kremlin" type stars.
The poor quality of the text decal is entirely my own fault, and I hope that this does not detract from an otherwise superior model. Getting results with an ALPS printer, alas, is a matter of considerable practice.
Examples of Il-2s wearing a camouflage pattern resembling the NKAP Templates are extremely rare in the photographic record. While the colour combination of these recommendations was widely accepted, most factories had no interest in the pattern suggestions, themselves. However, there are a very few exceptions.
Possibly the best known of these Template camouflage examples is an Il-2 ‘arrow’ of the 281 ShAP. This machine, "White 61", was photographed at some point during the fall of 1944, possibly in Estonia. It is thought that the three pictures of this aircraft were taken about the time (probably after) of the unit’s award of the Order of Suvorov, in October of that year . Alas, the caption information accompanying the photos in the collection (TsAMO) does not list the pilot of this particular aircraft.
From the available evidence, it appears that "White 61" is an absolutely text-book example of the NKAP’s Il-2 three-colour Template, Variant #2. There are the usual variations in the pattern application, of course, but really it must be said that these are quite small, and one is tempted to assume that the employee in question tried very hard indeed to replicate the NKAP scheme exactly. An Order of Suvorov emblem is displayed on the fin, this set at an angle relative to the machine’s posture on the ground (the so-called "ground-angle application"). Two "kill" marking stars are evident on the port side, as well as two yellow diagonal stripes on the fin/rudder. The simple tactical number "61" is painted in white, aft of the national marking.
Somewhat curiously, these odd NKAP Template camouflage Il-2s are thought to have been manufactured at Factory No.30, in Moscow. This theory is odd in that, firstly, Factory No.30 never seemed to show any interest in three-colour Il-2 camouflage; and second, neither did they show any particular interest in the use of AMT aviation lacquers. This latter behavior is quite logical, as a matter of fact—Factory No.30 is also a location where aviation varnishes were manufactured before and during the War, especially the ‘older’ AII type paints. That this factory would enthusiastically employ their own products is perfectly understandable.
Why, then, on earth would this factory suddenly produce near-replica examples of outdated government recommended camouflage during the latter parts of 1944 and ‘45? Well, the answer to that conundrum is still unknown. However, an extensive series of articles on the Il-2 for the Red Army’s premiere magazine in early September of 1944 (all shot at Factory No.30), and some changes to the Directorship of the factory at that time, might point to several inviting explanations. In any case, these aircraft almost certainly did not come from Factories No.1 nor No.18, and so only one other possibility remains.
Displayed side by side, these two wonderful Il-2 models make for a stunning presentation. Indeed, one suspects that many modelers will be surprised by their appearance, having become used to the rather dated (and stereotypical) concepts of VVS colouration from 1941-45 which have circulated for so long hitherto. As well, the markings for "White 61" should not be overly difficult to manufacture (the Order of Suvorov might be taken from another decal sheet), and this profile will offer to modelers interested in a first attempt at this type of VVS three-colour scheme a definitely realistic prospect for such a model.
These delightful AMT-4/-1/-12 camouflage schemes were entirely typical on Il-2 ‘arrows’ of the 1944-45 period. This combination was never the most common scheme, it is true , but they are indeed representative of a large number of similar aircraft of the Assault Aviation Regiments of the VVS during the Great Patriotic War.
For more information on the upcoming book
"Soviet Air Force Fighters and Colours of the Great Patriotic War, 1941-1945"
Chevron Publishing Ltd. (formerly Classic Pubs. Ltd.)
Scheduled Release: Summer 2003