The NKAP Templates Explained

    Bureaucracies love acronyms. Nowhere is that more evident that in the annals of Soviet government during the 1930s and '40s. The People’s Commissariat for the Aviation Industry (Narodniy Kommisariat Aviatsionoy Promishlinosti) was also known by its functional acronym Narkomaviaprom, as well as by its initials NKAP.
    Many readers on our site encounter references to this Ministry in regards to various camouflage schemes and other matters of coloration with which they may not be entirely familiar. As a result, we will attempt in this article to sort out this government body's contribution to, and guidance of, the camouflage of VVS aircraft during the wartime period.

    The NKAP was responsible during the Great Patriotic War for making recommendations and policies on the painting of military aircraft. Likewise, when new aero lacquers were introduced, it was at the behest of this Ministry, and under their guidance. Thus it came to be that during the War a number of suggested camouflage schemes were mooted by the NKAP.
    These suggested schemes, in fact, were just that-- they were recommendations. They were not requirements in any sense of the word, neither was their use enforced by the Government at any time. The specific patterns suggested by the NKAP were in the form of a three-view 'template' showing the desired application; they have come, then, to be known as the "NKAP Templates".

Fighter Aviation
    An NKAP Template was issued in 1943 for VVS fighter aircraft. This Template accompanied the introduction into manufacture of several new aero lacquer colors, these all of the "AMT" variety of aviation finishes. The new color scheme suggested for fighter aviation consisted of a two-color disruptive application of AMT-12 Dark Grey over AMT-11 Grey-Blue. The Template was intended to apply to all VVS fighters, regardless of type.


    Certainly after the beginning of 1944, the use of the new grey colors as stipulated by the NKAP become almost universal at factories manufacturing VVS fighters. However, there are no photographs that show any VVS fighter wearing such an angular pattern application. Indeed, this scheme is anathema to Soviet camouflage in general, which tended to be organic and rounded in execution; such angularity would be completely out of character. As such, this pattern was never painted by any of the factories to match this Template.
    However, the basic planform of the scheme was put into use; indeed, widespread use. These are usually referred to as 'NKAP schemes', and they are composed of many of the basic features on this Template. Grib's famous Yak-9D "22" is a classic example of an actual VVS scheme based on the NKAP fighter Template, and in the realities of production these applications tended to look like this example.

    The classic 'hourglass' feature on the starboard nose is evident, as is a softer and simplified permutation of the upper surface pattern. Hard-edged color demarcations were almost never seen in the 1944-45 period (a la the Template), and neither were straight edges.
    Two further classic variations are show below.

    In the Yak-3 programme (above), the 'tongue' feature of dark color on the starboard fin was quite typical, as were off-set 'hourglass' features. The La-7 (lower) often demonstrated a considerably revised upper surface pattern, but more typical side views.
    In all, it should be stressed that there was no real "standard" for these patterns. Simply, many factories responded by incorporating some of the NKAP's ideas into the schemes they applied to their fighter products, and by no means whatever were these the only camouflage patterns of the 1944-45 period in AMT-12/-11 colors.

The Shturmovik
    No fewer than three Templates were issued for Il-2 camouflage by the NKAP during the GPW. Two of these appeared in 1943, and the last in late 1944. The 1944 Template was for a two-color AMT-12/-11 camouflage very similar to the Fighter scheme, and this was completely ignored by the various Il-2 factories. However, the 1943 Templates were both 3-color camouflage schemes using the finishes AMT-4, AMT-12, and AMT-1.

    The scale of the employment of these camouflage schemes, and using these colors, is a matter not yet resolved satisfactorily. To date, very few photographs exist of Il-2s painted in this way; I recently calculated that these examples account for 1.5% of the total number of known photos. There are examples of these NKAP Template schemes on both straight-winged--and more typically--on swept-wing (arrow) two-seat Il-2s, but none as yet on single-seat machines, as one would certainly suspect (given the timing). However, it should be noted also that this scheme can be difficult to detect on the poorer Soviet film types (basically, journalist type films), and so the total number of representative examples might possibly be higher that the proportion we know today. On the other hand, many Il-2 schemes are known, and it is logical (as well) that these NKAP jobs might have represented rather an exception than the rule.

Next installment, the Pe-2, Tu-2 and IL-4...