Soviet Air Force (VVS RKKA), also known as the Military Air Forces of the Workers' and Peasants' Red Army. This aviation branch was established in 1924 through the restructuring of the Workers' and Peasants' Red Air Fleet following the conclusion of the Russian Civil War.
Operational Involvement of VVS RKKA
In the 1930s, the USSR pursued an active military strategy. Not only did it engage in conflicts, but it also provided military aid in terms of technology and even deployed military contingents to participating countries. Starting in 1925, the USSR offered substantial support in terms of equipment and weaponry to Chinese revolutionaries while also conducting military training. Soviet pilots dispatched to China as instructors, took part in combat operations. However, the Sino-Soviet conflict over the Chinese Eastern Railway (CER) erupted in 1929. Although Soviet aviation officially refrained from involvement, Soviet pilots were ready to engage with China.
The year 1936 marked the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, a battleground for two ideologies. Countries sympathetic to communism actively supported the republican government, while Germany and Italy sided with the nationalists who had risen in revolt. Soviet pilots fighting alongside the Republicans encountered the skilled pilots of the Luftwaffe and the Italian Regia Aeronautica in the Spanish skies. The war concluded in April 1939 with a nationalist victory.
The Spanish Civil War was just one arena where the Soviet Union engaged in military actions during this period. In 1938, a confrontation with Japan occurred at Lake Khasan, followed by the Battles of Khalkhin Gol, also known as the Nomonhan Incident, in May 1939, on the Manchukuo-Mongolian border. Soviet aviators confronted Japanese aces from the Imperial Japanese Army Air Forces. The conflict concluded on September 16th with a victory for the Soviet Union, after which it initiated an invasion of Poland in September-October 1939. The Soviet Air Force actively supported the ground forces with light bombers like the Polikarpov R-5/R-Z, long-range reconnaissance aircraft like the Tupolev SB, and fighter cover from Polikarpov I-15 and I-16 to counter the Polish Air Force.
Inspired by the success of the Polish campaign, the Soviet leadership initiated the Winter War with Finland on November 30, 1939. Here, the VVS RKKA pilots faced off against Finnish aviators. The war ended in a ceasefire on March 13, 1940.
Just over a year later, on June 22, 1941, Germany invaded the USSR, propelling the latter into the Second World War. Soviet aviators found themselves pitted against the aces of the Luftwaffe. Italy also dispatched an expeditionary corps with aviation support. Italian pilots engaged over Ukraine and later in the Battle of Stalingrad, spanning from July 1942 to February 1943. By May 1943, Italian aviation had returned home for good.
Over the skies of Ukraine, Soviet pilots also encountered Romanian Royal Air Force pilots, whose expeditionary corps supported Wehrmacht forces. During the Second World War, Soviet VVS pilots engaged in aerial combat with pilots from nearly all of Germany's allied countries. This included pilots from the Hungarian Air Force or the Magyar Légierő.
What Shades Comprise the VVS RKKA Color Collection?
The VVS RKKA color palette encompasses paints used for camouflaging Soviet aircraft from the late 1920s through the late 1940s. This range is perfect for constructing models of Soviet combat planes involved in the Nomonhan Incident, the Spanish Civil War, the Winter War, the battles of the Second World War (also known as the Great Patriotic War), and the post-war era until the late 1940s. It's noteworthy that these Soviet hues are equally suitable for coloring Soviet aviation supplied to nations sympathetic to communism. This includes aircraft like the I-15, I-16, and even the TB-3 provided to the Chinese Nationalists, the I-15 and I-16 for Spanish Republicans, and the I-16 sent to Mongolia, among others.
What Camouflage Was Used for VVS RKKA Aircraft?
Beginning in 1920, the upper surfaces of Soviet aircraft were typically painted in a khaki (or protective) color, while the lower surfaces were adorned with a sky-blue tint. By the 1930s, aircraft received gray or silver finishes. In 1939, after the conflicts with Japan during the Nomonhan Incident revealed the ineffectiveness of silver paint for grounded aircraft, Soviet planes obtained camouflage comprising irregular lines and dots over the silver base. Sometimes, due to the lack of aviation paints in stock, Soviet Army AFV protective paints such as 3B or 4BO were also used to paint Soviet aircraft during field repairs and repaints.
In June 1941, a new camouflage was introduced featuring black and protective color patches on the upper surfaces, with the lower surfaces being painted blue. Following the Soviet Union's initiative in its war against Germany, by 1943, VVS RKKA fighters sported a gray camouflage for better aerial concealment, while bombers boasted a three-color camouflage, consisting of coffee-brown, protective, and dark gray shades. By 1945, VVS RKKA bombers had transitioned to a gray camouflage as well.
What Paints Were Used for VVS RKKA Aviation?
During the 1920s and early 1930s, non-designated paints were used for aircraft coloring. However, toward the late 1930s, a second-generation aero lacquer, or Series A II, was introduced for painting wooden or fabric-covered aircraft surfaces, while enamel series AE and A were utilized for planes with metallic hulls. In 1941, new AMT and AGT standard paints were introduced for wooden and fabric coverings, while metallic parts continued to be coated with A series enamels.
It's also important to note that aircraft supplied through the Lend-Lease program retained the original colors of the British and US Air Forces. The insignia and markings were simply layered with Soviet aviation paints.