At the time of the Soviet Union's collapse, the Soviet Air Force commanded an impressive array of over 6,000 aircraft, solidifying its position as the world's most voluminous military aviation force. The Soviet Union's armed forces' aviation division was forged through the reformation of the Red Army's aviation branch post-World War II in 1946. Besides the primary aviation body, various specialized aviation units existed, each directly accountable to specific military constituents. These included Air Defense Aviation, Naval Aviation, Strategic Missile Troops Aviation, Airborne Troops Aviation, Border Troops Aviation under the KGB, Aerospace Forces, and others.
Soviet Air Forces, the Operational History
Even the conclusion of World War II did not temper the Soviet Union's stance towards an assertive foreign policy. The Soviet Union, either directly or indirectly, lent support to nations and regimes aligning with its socialist principles, while the United States stood behind democratic principles. This polarity led to the establishment of two opposing military-political entities: the Warsaw Pact and NATO. The escalating tensions between these factions matured into the Cold War, extending until the Soviet Union's dissolution.
One of the earliest manifestations of this contention was the Korean War spanning 1950 to 1953. This arena saw the maiden face-off between Soviet-made MiG-15 Fagot and the US Air Force's F-86 Sabre. In addition to the US, Soviet aviators clashed with the Royal Air Force, French Air Force, and various other nations' aerial forces.
In the year 1950, a new conflict emerged, drawing both the USSR and the US into opposing battle lines. The Vietnam War, enduring almost two decades, observed the Soviet Union supplying around 300 aircraft to North Vietnam.
By the close of the 1950s, the Soviet Air Force transitioned into the supersonic aviation epoch of the second generation. Operational units received aircraft such as the Mikoyan MiG-21 Fishbed, Sukhoi Su-7 Fitter-A, Su-9, and Su-11 Fishpot, alongside the supersonic Tu-22 Blinder bomber.
The early 1960s witnessed the Soviet Air Force's migration towards third-generation aircraft. This generation introduced aircraft like the MiG-25 Foxbat, capable of exceeding Mach 3 speeds, and innovative models like the Mikoyan MiG-23 Flogger and Sukhoi Su-17 Fitter, with variable-sweep wings.
In the early 1980s, a new breed of aircraft graced the Soviet skies – the fourth-generation planes. These fighters, including the Mikoyan's MiG-29 Fulcrum and MiG-31 Foxhound, Sukhoi's Su-27 Flanker, Su-25 Frogfoot, and Su-24 Fencer, and the supersonic strategic bomber Tupolev Tu-160 Blackjack, boasted striking improvements in maneuverability.
The Afghan-Soviet War, which erupted in 1979 and lingered for nearly a decade, served as a testing ground for various Soviet aircraft types in the face of the Mujahideen.
During the 1970s and 1980s, the Soviet Union participated in conflicts across Africa, including the Ogaden War (1977-1978) and the Angolan Civil War (1975-2002). In the Ogaden War, Ethiopia was backed by the Soviet Union, while Somalia received support from the United States, FRG, China, Egypt, and Romania. In the Angolan Civil War, besides sending experts, the Soviet Union supplied Angola's People's Armed Forces with machinery and weaponry until its dissolution in 1991.
By the late 1980s, aspirations for fifth-generation fighters were stifled due to insufficient funding, intricate economic conditions, and the Soviet Union's dissolution in 1991. In the aftermath of the Soviet Union's demise, the constituent republics inherited the Soviet Air Force's aircraft. Many of these machines remain operational today, preserving the legacy of the Soviet airborne tradition.
What Countries Might Could also Use Soviet Aircraft Paints?
Soviet Union's aviation prowess extended its vibrant palette of aircraft camouflage to nations aligned with the socialist ideology, including Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam, and Angola. Furthermore, the Soviet armament, notably aviation, formed the cornerstone of the Warsaw Pact nations' arsenals. This coalition encompassed countries such as Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, and Albania. Additionally, Soviet aviation served as the backbone of the air forces of the former Soviet republics – russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Moldova. These nations often showcased their distinct camouflage schemes, slightly diverging in patterns and hues from the Soviet model. However, intrinsic elements such as cockpits, landing gear bays, engine compartments, and equipment often retained the original Soviet colors.
What aviation camouflages were used by the Soviet Air Force?
In the aftermath of World War II, the necessity for effective camouflage for Soviet aircraft waned. Priorities shifted towards enhancing aircraft performance metrics – top speeds, ranges, climb rates, and practical ceilings. Matte and coarse camouflage coatings undermined these characteristics, leading to the gradual departure of camouflage for high-speed aircraft by the late 1940s. Aluminum lacquer or surfaces that retained bare metal, predominantly adorned aircraft exteriors.
Realities of Soviet aviation engagement in various conflicts, including the Afghan War, compelled the revival of aircraft camouflage. Frontline fighter-bombers like the Mikoyan MiG-21 Fishbed, Sukhoi Su-17 and Su-22 Fitter, Su-25 Frogfoot, and others, received multicolored camouflage on their upper surfaces. This often comprised irregular patches of dark green, light green, brown, and sand, complemented by blue shades on their undersides. High-altitude aircraft and reconnaissance planes like the Mikoyan MiG-23 Flogger series showcased full gray hues.
The introduction of the Mikoyan MiG-29 Fulcrum and Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker marked the genesis of unique aircraft camouflage. The MiG-29 featured gray-green camouflage patches over a gray base, while the Su-27 flaunted a multicolored ensemble of blue, shades of gray, and its ventral areas in blue.
Color Code Designations for the USSR Air Force Colors
In contrast to World War II-era aviation paints like AMT and AGT, which bore color-coding through numerical tags, post-war paints solely carried paint codes, not color indications. The famed AS-1115, for instance, indicated the paint type, but the shade could vary. The actual hues were identified by descriptive names such as emerald, brown, sandy, or green. Specific color numbers weren't assigned to these shades.
Soviet aviation camouflage stands as an intriguing intersection of technology, aesthetics, and the strategic necessities of an evolving global landscape. Through shades and patterns, it showcased not only the artistry of concealment but also the intricate geopolitics of its era.