The NKAP Templates Explained

Part 2

Bomber Aviation
    In addition to the fighter and Assualt aviation templates, the NKAP also designed two different templates for use with Attack Bombers, such as the Pe-2 (and later the Tu-2). These templates were not to apply to Medium or Long-Range bombers, and seperate templates were issued for machines like the Il-4 and Pe-8 (discussed in a later section). As well, the last minute 1944 recommendation for the use of a two-color grey/grey scheme as on Fighter Aviation also included this class of aircraft, but again, as before on other non-fighter programmes, no such camouflage was ever known to have been used.
    The Attack Bomber template was issued in two variants, and these appear not to have been distributed at the same time. It seems that Variant #2 was issued a bit later than #1, and perhaps was the result of some re-thinking on the part of Narkomaviaprom. Variant #1 was intended for the use of AMT lacquers -4/-12/-1, and looked rather odd and complicated.

    One can imagine that the Factories' reaction to this scheme was less than scintillating. In the first case, painting the spinners different colors and keeping track of them for each side would have been irritating, as would the complexity of the pattern as it wrapped over the fuselage. Also, the use of the AMT-12 color seems to have been an afterthought, as if the NKAP designer forgot to use it and drew some on at the last moment. In all of the Pe-2 photos that I have seen over the years, none of them strike me as having been painted in this way. I suspect strongly that this template was seldom used, if at all.
    The second Variant of this template again was developed with the use of AMT lacquers -4/-12/-1 in mind, but later on it seems that the provision was included to use other paints, notably Ax-m metal lacquers.

    This pattern was much more in line with the other NKAP template work, and represented a much better scheme from the point of view of the Factories. This application is certainly known on numerous Pe-2s, and seems to have been in use right through 1945. It is also interesting to note that this same pattern might have been executed with AII lacquers (probably Green, Light Brown, and Brown), as well. A number of NKAP Var.#2 schemes of this type wear colors that are very incongruous with the appearance of AMT, but in line with AII; noting that the Pe-2 programme utilized large quantities of AII lacquer right through to the Post War period, it seems very plausible that this was in fact done. As well, several permutations of this arrangement are known in AII colors on the Pe-2, and one has to think here that this template again was the source of inspiration for these.
    The appearance of the Pe-2 in Ax-m metal lacquers is most interesting, as well. These colors are all quite dark, and the resulting contrast within the scheme is very low indeed.

    This effect is all the more pronounced in black-and-white photography [you can replicate this to a degree by viewing this image in Greyscale], where the colors are often completely indistinguishable. I have the suspicion that this is in fact the reason why we see so many late War Pe-2s drawn in various artwork in single color green schemes. I would contend, rather, that most of these are very probably Ax-m lacquer camouflage applications.

    The Variant #2 template was thought to have been used on the Tu-2 programme, as well, and certainly there are many examples of this aircraft that seem to be wearing versions of this scheme. Alas, the full story of the development and implementation of coloration on the Tu-2 programme remains largely unknown.

    The venerable kurkurznik ('corn-stalk cutter') was not exempt from the design intentions of the NKAP during the Great Patriotic War. During 1943 an NKAP template was issued for this extraordinarily useful machine, and was intended for use on the military versions of the aircraft, only. The template lists the AMT colors -4/-12/-1 again, and but really offers little else in elaboration.

    The number of photographs of U-2s (Po-2s) in various collections dating from the GPW are certainly in the thousands. And the permutations of odd, strange, curious, brilliant, absurd, indifferent, and remarkable camouflage applications shown therein are beyond any count. But in all of that, one simply does not run across any U-2 that I can recall which features this pattern. Indeed, one rarely encounters a U-2 that is possibly covered in AMT lacquers of any kind.
    With so many known examples, why do we not see this one? I suspect that the answer is very logical, in fact. AII aviation aerolacquers were developed during the 1930's specifically to cover fabric surfaces. Indeed, this is precisely why the NKAP recommended the use of AII Aluminum as a primer for fabric surfaces later on. Noting that the U-2 is entirely fabric covered, it seems altogether possible that AMT lacquers were never used by the Factories making the workman-like biplane because these would have given inferior results to AII. It is certainly true that there are no described AMT camouflage applications from the Factories for the U-2; perhaps this is the explanation why.
    As well, there was certainly no need for additional camouflage patterns on this programme. The number of Factory applied schemes on the U-2 is astounding, and one cannot see where any of these Factories would have needed to increase their already burgeoning repertoires of applications. With AII possibly in exclusive use, and no need for additional scheme ideas, it seems very possible that the manufacturers of the U-2 simply ignored the NKAP templates altogether (as, by the way, they were certainly entitled to do).