Aircraft Colors and Camouflage, Soviet/Russian Air Force and Navy (Modern)

 

 

Introduction

As a society based around secrecy, it is no surprise how little is known about the minutiae of Cold War-era Soviet (and later Russian) aviation colors. Unlike World War II where a formal designation system was used for its palette, nothing of the sort appears to have existed or made public in the post-war period. Complicating the matter is that Soviet/Russian colors often vary considerably across photographs, even when discounting potential lighting/exposure issues and fading. What little is known (by the author) is that Soviet/Russian colors are based on a limited palette supplied by numerous manufacturers, and rather than matching one particular color (for example, from a color ship or pigment mix) were intended to fall within an acceptable range of tolerance. In other words, all colors have two samples and any shade that falls in between is good enough. With different factories ordering paints from different manufacturers, you have a collage of visibly different colors which are ultimately the same intended ones.

Unfortunately, preciously few quality color photographs exist (or rather, have been made public) for the Cold War era, many of the few we have were taken by Western air forces when intercepting a Soviet aircraft. For much of the Cold War, Soviet aircraft were left in their natural metal, with relatively austere markings. Then from the 1960s onward, Soviet aircraft tended to use relatively simple, two-tone schemes for "high-flying" aircraft like interceptors, bombers, and other strategic aircraft coupled with very complex camouflage schemes for "low-flying" aircraft like ground attackers and fighter-bombers which could have as many as five different topside colors in earthly tones. The introduction of the MiG-29 and Su-27 fighters in the 1980s added design-specific schemes which have continued to this day. There has also been considerable experimentation in the post-Soviet period, and Russian aerospace companies have been very aggressive in marketing their aircraft in the export market. This has resulted in a wide array of visually striking schemes seen on prototype and demonstrator aircraft, though few of these schemes have been adopted in service (and are mostly outside the scope of this page). Unlike other air forces which tend to repaint their existing inventories as new schemes are introduced, Soviet/Russian aircraft tend to retain the original schemes. This means long-serving aircraft like the MiG-25, Su-24, or Tu-95 are still seen today with schemes that are broadly unchanged from when they were first observed in the 1960s and 1970s.

Although as much photographic evidence as possible will be provided to back up the information, more than with any other country a disclaimer must be made that none of the information on this page is "official" and may contain errors. Additionally, none of the names given to schemes and paints are official either and in most cases I have given them generic names, aside from a small number of widely-used colors (which I have prefixed 'Russian') or design-specific colors (which I have prefixed by their aircraft code name like 'Fulcrum' or 'Flanker'). Please contact me if you have links to official documentation so that this page can be made more accurate.

A general note on model paints on Russian subjects:

Lack of an official palette has meant that Russian colors are woefully underserved by major paint manufacturers; for example, there is not a single Russian color in the entire Gunze acrylic range. Fortunately, this has begun to change, with newer ranges offering at least the basic colors and in some cases, even the more complicated tactical camo colors. By far the best source is AKAN, a Russian-based model paint manufacturer that has been praised for its accuracy with respect to Soviet/Russian colors and allegedly matches its paints with official factory swatches. However, AKAN also has a habit of producing different paints for even the most subtle color difference which adds to further confusion. Nevertheless, a full AKAN color table is included at the end of this page as it is without a doubt the most comprehensive set of post-war Soviet/Russian model paints available today and I have based some of the information on this site on their range. The relatively new but also highly-regarded Mr. Paint also has a large offering of matches. Other ranges with a respectable repertoire of Russian/Soviet colors include Hataka, Vallejo (recently added), and Xtracolor (though sadly not Xtracrylix).

 

Contents:

 

Paint guide basics:

All colors in this page include a paint chart with matches or equivalences from 19 different model paint ranges. Paints are considered matches if they are labeled with the intended color (either uniquely on together with another color). Paints are considered equivalences if they are close to the intended color but not labeled as such. The accuracy of any paint is independent of whether it is a match or an equivalence and these are described in the text (there can be poor matches and highly accurate equivalences). The following nomenclature is used in the paint tables and is based on matches or equivalences to US Insignia Red FS 11136:

Paint Match or equivalence type (label)
MP01 Labeled to match one specific color (FS 11136)
MP02* Labeled to match more than one color of same-country standards (FS 11136 / ANA 509)*
MP03** Labeled to match more than one color of different-country standards (FS 11136 / BS 538)
MP04 (!) Questionable accuracy of label match (doesn't look like FS 11136)
MP05 (?) Questionable accuracy of label match, untested (doesn't look like FS 11136 in the bottle)
(MP06) Close equivalent to FS 11136 (BS 538)
(MP07) (?) Questionable equivalent to FS 11136 (Generic Gloss Red)

* A single asterisk also denotes implicit matches for same-country standards where there is an official succession between standards. For example, H327* would match ANA 509 even if the label only references FS 11136 since ANA 509 is its official predecessor. This does not apply when there are considerable differences between successive paints (ex: Olive Drab No. 41/ANA 613/FS 34087) and this will be described in the text. By and large, however, single asterisk matches should be considered close enough to unique matches as to not be seriously questioned.

The paint charts make no distinction between gloss, semi-gloss, and matt variants of a color if the correct sheen is unavailable (ex: gloss FS 11136 will be a specific match for matt FS 31136 if the latter does not exist in the same paint range). Exceptions are made where there is a known or suspected color difference (ex: FS 24087 and 34087).

 

TACTICAL

Tactical natural metal scheme (1940s-1970s)

After World War II, the VVS began leaving both its tactical and strategic aircraft in their natural metal finish (NMF). Additionally, there was little in the way of unit identification although in some cases aircraft were given modest decorative elements, usually in red but occasionally in blue or yellow. One notable use of additional markings was during the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia, where participating aircraft were painted with two red stripes across the middle of the fuselage. Aside from these cases, the vast majority of Soviet tactical aircraft during the first half of the Cold War were decidedly plain in appearance, with the NMF interrupted only by radomes and dielectric panels which were typically painted Radome Green. Radome Green is a medium green which is also similar to the color used on post-war Soviet wheel hub caps although in practice, there is some variation and it is likely that the color actually used is an approximation. Some caps appear closer to an olive green and others like bronze green. The color is simlar to JASDF Light Green.

All early Mikoyan aircraft were left in NMF including the MiG-9, MiG-15, MiG-17, MiG-19, as well as early versions of the MiG-21 (MiG-21F/F-13/P/PF/PFM) with some later units also retaining the scheme. All purpose-built interceptors before the MiG-25 were left in NMF. Early ground attack aircraft were also in NMF including the Su-7 and Su-17M (all further versions used tactical schemes).

Paint guide:

 

  Radome Green Aluminum
   
Schemes
Basic Radome / Dielectric / Wheel caps Overall
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous (H319) (H8)
Gunze Mr. Color (C319) (C8)
Humbrol - 56
Model Master - 1781
Revell - 99
Tamiya - XF-16
Vallejo Model Air - 71.062
Vallejo Model Color - -
AKAN 73060 76004
AK Interactive AK-2302 -
AK Real Colors - RC-020
AMMO by Mig - A.MIG-194
Colourcoats - -
Hataka HTK-327 HTK-078
Lifecolor - LC-74
Mission Models - MMM-003
Mr. Paint MRP-32 MRP-3
Xtracolor X628 X142
Xtracrylix - (XA1216)

 

Photos:

The legendary MiG-15 was mostly seen in natural metal (except in Korea where it was camouflaged).
Interceptors like this Su-15 retained the natural metal finish along with black anti-glare panels in front of the cockpit (not usually seen on fighters or attack aircraft).
A good high-quality photo of a MiG-21PFM, one of the last Soviet aircraft to be introduced in natural metal.

Links:

 

Interceptors (1970s-Current)

With the introduction of the MiG-23 'Flogger', interceptor aircraft in the VVS switched to a new scheme that was based around a neutral, medium gray that has become sufficiently ubiquitous as to be referred herein as Russian Gray. It varies wildly in terms of brightness, and it has been suggested that two separate versions of the paint (a standard and a light version) have been used. At its darkest it resembles FS 36270 but in its lightest version is more like FS 36373. Another change in the scheme was that the radomes and dielectric panels were typically painted in Radome Gray, a dark gray, sometimes looking similar to FS 36118 at its darkest or FS 36152 and RLM 75 at its lightest. As was common with interceptors, black anti-glare panels were also painted in front of the cockpit though not on the MiG-23 given its role as a fighter rather than an interceptor. It was common for the VVS to maintain a large inventory of previous-generation aircraft during the Cold War, but it was not common practice to repaint them to these newer schemes. As such, older interceptors like the Su-15 and Tu-28 that remained in service into the 1980s retained their natural metal finish. Most were withdrawn after the dissolution of the USSR in 1991.

The MiG-23 was the first aircraft to introduce this new scheme, although only for some early fighter (MiG-23S/M/ML) and interceptor units (MiG-23P); all others, most notably fighter-bomber and attack units as well as later fighters, sported tactical camo schemes (see below). All interceptor versions of the MiG-25 as well as most reconnaissance/recon-bomber aircraft were painted in this scheme, although a small number of the latter were seen during the Cold War in tactical camo schemes as well. The MiG-31 has used this scheme exclusively since its introduction.

Paint Guide:

 

  Radome Gray Russian Gray
   
Schemes
Basic Radome / Dielectric Overall
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous (H306) -
Gunze Mr. Color (C306) -
Humbrol - -
Model Master - -
Revell - -
Tamiya - -
Vallejo Model Air - 71.339
Vallejo Model Color - -
AKAN 73010 73059
AK Interactive - -
AK Real Colors - -
AMMO by Mig - RC-336
Colourcoats ACSM08 ACSM06
Hataka HTK-231 -
Lifecolor - -
Mission Models - -
Mr. Paint MRP-47 MRP-189 / MRP-354
Xtracolor X627 -
Xtracrylix - -

 

Photos:

The early fighter versions of the MiG-23 (like this MiG-29M) were the first to use the interceptor scheme.
This photo of a MiG-31DZ shows a likely recent paint job with possibly the darkest version of this gray. The MiG-31 is the only aircraft to have worn this scheme exclusively.
As can be seen in this MiG-25RBF, Russian Gray varies considerably in different photos and this is probably closest to the lightest possible shade.

 

Tactical camouflage (1970s-Current)

The 1970s saw the VVS also introduce tactical camouflage schemes for ground attack aircraft as well as fighters that were involved in attack, close support or other types of low level operations. There is preciously little official information about the actual specifications of these schemes as well as the colors used, the only source being a translation of an official VVS 1974 specification by the IPMS Netherlands (see link). According to the 1974 specification, camouflaged aircraft would be painted in two- to five-tone schemes with blue undersides. These schemes would vary considerably among units and even within aircraft of the same unit. Colors could be picked from a palette of five basic topside camo colors (two greens and three browns), as well as two blues for the undersides.

The colors chosen would largely depended on the region that the aircraft was based, with temperate regions requiring darker, greener schemes compared to aircraft based in drier or desert regions (like Central Asia) whose schemes would be lighter, and browner. Additionally, there were separate summer and winter variants for each of these schemes. Despite the wide variety of schemes used, most patterns tended to be of similar style depending on the aircraft type. For example, the patterns used on MiG-25 are much more irregular and jagged, compared to the smoother curves of the MiG-23, or the wavier patterns on the Su-25 which was also notable for having very high demarcations between the topside and underside colors.

Regarding the underside colors, the basic one in use is Light Blue, presumably similar to the one used in the Korean War-era tactical scheme and close to RLM 65. Gray-blue was also used as an underside color, though less commonly, and more closely resembles RLM 76. Additionally, aircraft based in northern latitudes or in special winter schemes also used white as a topside camouflage color. These aircraft were rare (I have not encountered a color photograph), probably because most tactical units were based closer to European and Central Asian fronts.

Soviet aircraft were frequently retouched in the field. The freshly painted colors often contrasted with the faded originals giving the appearance of different paints. More confusingly, touch ups could be applied only to areas that required repainting which resulted in patchy paintwork, or they would involve repainting just one existing color which means that many aircraft sported a combination of fresh and faded colors. In many cases, however, unique touch-up colors were used that were indeed different than the official ones. The most noticeable of these is a Bright Green that somewhat resembles the traditional color used in many Russian houses (the IPMS source calls it "dacha green"). Another frequently used color is an Ochre Brown, which appears close to a reddish brown like RAL 8012. It was also widely used in some Warsaw Pact forces, notably Czechoslovakia.

Additionally, radomes and dielectric panels tended to be Radome Gray or Radome Green, the former being more common on MiG-23/25/27s while the latter was seen more commonly on Su-17/25s. Radome White was also sometimes used.

Mikoyan aircraft that used tactical camo schemes included the late versions of the MiG-21 (SMT/bis); ground attack versions of the MiG-23 (BN) including the dedicated MiG-27 as well as late fighters with attack capability (M/MLD); a small number of recon-bomber versions of the MiG-25 (RB/RBV); and early MiG-29 aircraft based east of the Urals. Sukhoi aircraft included the Su-17/22M4 (earlier versions were natural metal) and the Su-25, which is the only Russian aircraft to retain a tactical camo scheme today given the retirement of most other aircraft. Early Su-24s also used a two-tone (Light Sand/Sand) during the 1970s but quickly evolved into the bomber scheme mentioned below.

Paint guide: AKAN and Mr. Paint are the only range to carry Soviet tactical colors, although confusingly they do not seem to follow the conventions of the 1974 specification. AKAN has released six sets of tactical camo paint in their acrylic range, plus one specific to their lacquer range. AKAN typically provides two different versions of each paint, one representing the standard tactical colors (labeled '1960s-XXI') while another represents Afghanistan War era aircraft (labeled '1978-1989'). The latter are presumably intended to represent faded, worn out colors from aircraft in the combat zone. Unfortunately, neither set includes representations of the five basic colors since there's only one green included. Two colors, Protective and Light Sand have only one equivalent but all others have their basic and Afghanistan versions, the latter which are all slightly lighter. The Light Green equivalent (73055) is also notably absent from most sets, although it is included in the MiG-29 9.13 set (No. 47344). It's lightened equivalent (73099) is also the one which is most notably different from the original color, having a pronounced olive tint. Two sets also include Reddish (73025, also labeled as Red or Golden Brown) which likely represents ochre brown. , a red brown similar to RAL 8012. This does not appear to represent an official VVS color, but does look like some touch up colors seen on some aircraft as well as some Warsaw Pact schemes. No set includes the ubiquitous 'dacha green', although a basic bright green could be an effective substitute.

Although most AKAN paints with lacquer equivalents only change their first digit, there are three unique lacquer colors (63012, 63013, and 63014) which are included in a unique set (No. 46315). They appear to have mild variations from their acrylic equivalents, being slightly lighter given that they are labeled as faded. Another set (No. 47320) includes modern Su-25 colors which are described in the next section, but included here for comparison purposes. The following chart summarizes the main AKAN Soviet/Russian tactical camo sets.

    Protect. Green Light Green Brown Sand Light Sand Other Lower
46314
47314
USSR (1978-1989)              
  73099 73098 73097 73096   73023
46315 USSR (1978-1989)              
63013   63012 63014     63016
46316
47316
USSR/Russia (1960-XXI)              
73024   73026 73080   73025 73008
47320 Su-25 (after 2006)              
  73143 73142   73141 73140 73145
46344
47344
MiG-29 9.13              
73024 73055   73080 73096    
47357 Su-22 (1978-1989)              
  73099 73098 73097 73096   73023
47358 Su-22 (1978-1989)              
73024   73026 73080   73025 73023

Mr. Paint also includes the (near full) range of tactical camo colors, thankfully without the multiple subtle versions of AKAN's range but confusingly listed in their Czech rather than Soviet/Russian color range. They are also named differently from the 1974 specification but their equivalents are included in the scheme chart below. Absent is Light Sand, although MRP-162 could be a close substitute. Recently, Vallejo has also introduced numerous tactical camo sets, although following Vallejo tradition, most colors are not Soviet/Russian-specific matches. As a result, accuracy is suspect. Hataka also has various sets for Warsaw Pact aircraft including MiG-29s and Polish Su-22s but, like Vallejo, use equivalents from other ranges. Unless specifically matched, these colors are included in parenthesis below.

As a final caveat, there is an unfortunate shortage of Afghanistan War color photographs, and most of the ones that exist suffer from brightness and exposure issues. The grand majority of photos are in black and white and many modeling resources (painting instructions, color profiles) appear to be based on aircraft that only have black and white sources. As such, many of these color schemes should be taken with a pinch of salt.

 

  Light Blue Gray-Blue Protective Green Light Green Light Green (Faded ?) Bright Green
           
Schemes
VVS Lower (1) Lower (2) Upper Camo Upper Camo Upper Camo (Upper Camo)
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous - - - - - (H26) (?)
Gunze Mr. Color - - - - - (C66) (?)
Humbrol - - - - - -
Model Master - - - - - -
Revell - - - - - -
Tamiya - - - - - -
Vallejo Model Air 71.332 (71.046) 71.347 71.341 (71.081) -
Vallejo Model Color - - - - - -
AKAN 73008 / 73016 73023 73024 / 63013 73055 73099 -
AK Interactive - - - - - -
AK Real Colors - - - - - -
AMMO by Mig - - - - - -
Colourcoats - - - - - -
Hataka (HTK-150) - (HTK-016) (HTK-091) - -
Lifecolor - - - - - -
Mission Models - - - - - -
Mr. Paint - MRP-168 MRP-164 MRP-165 - -
Xtracolor - - - - - -
Xtracrylix - - - - - -

 

  Brown Sand Light Sand Ochre Brown Yellow Sand
         
Schemes
VVS Upper Camo Upper Camo Upper Camo (Upper Camo) (Upper Camo)
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous - - - - -
Gunze Mr. Color - - - - -
Humbrol - - - - -
Model Master - - - - -
Revell - - - - -
Tamiya - - - - -
Vallejo Model Air (71.282) (71.246) (71.244) (71.032) (71.143)
Vallejo Model Color - - - - -
AKAN 73026 / 73098 / 63012 73080 / 73097 / 63014 73096 73025 73141
AK Interactive - - - - -
AK Real Colors - - - - -
AMMO by Mig - - - - -
Colourcoats - - - - -
Hataka (HTK-087) (HTK-188) (HTK-306) - -
Lifecolor - - - - -
Mission Models - - - - -
Mr. Paint MRP-166 - - MRP-167 -
Xtracolor - - - - -
Xtracrylix - - - - -

 

Photos:

A very well-known Cold War-era picture of a MiG-23MLD, showing a well warn aircraft with some touch up work.
Only a small number of recon MiG-25s were ever painted in tactical schemes but they sported the most complex camo pattern, as seen here.
A good quality picture of a MiG-27 showing obvious touch up work in the nose but otherwise with a fresh looking paint job.
Another quality shot of a Su-17M4. Fitters sported some of the widest variety of tactical colors and were often seen very worn out (though not this one).
This MiG-23 on a visit to Reims in 1974 shows use of a non-official yellow sand color which was also seen frequently on Su-22s and on more recent Su-25s.
This MiG-27 shows use of the very bright "dacha green" touch up color. Large segments of the aircraft were often repainted in this color.
Quality Afghanistan War color pictures are rare but this one shows an Su-17 unit at Bagram air base.
Another Afghanistan photo showing an Su-25 unit. The Su-25 was notable for having the underside color extend halfway up the fuselage. The photo has been retouched by myself due to excessive saturation.

Links

 

Late Frogfoot schemes (2006-Current)

The end of the Cold War saw the new Russian Air Force inherit large quantities of obsolete Soviet aircraft like the MiG-23 and Su-17, without the funds for keeping them in service. As a result, the 1990s saw a massive retirement of aircraft, many of which had been those which carried tactical camouflage. The VVS therefore ended with just one major type for each specific tactical role, with the relatively new Su-25 being chosen as the main close support aircraft. It is not clear if the Cold War-era five-tone standards remained in place in the 21st century, in light of what appears to be the widespread use of a yellow sand that was seen sporadically in Soviet times. Another new color was a green-gray, which was somewhat in between the older green and protective colors and may simply be a different factory variant rather than an intended new color altogether. Other colors are similar to the standard tactical camo colors listed above.

Recent Su-25s are seen sporting the traditional light blue and gray-blue undersides as well as white undersides, which is otherwise unique among Russian tactical camo aircraft. Like many Flankers, new variants have been seen in an eggplant scheme, with Dark Eggplant Gray over light blue or white. This has seen mostly in the Su-25SM variant.

The paint chart below only includes the new or unique colors to the modern Su-25.

Paint guide: AKAN has a paint set for recent Su-25s (No. 47320) with four camo colors. Of these, the light sand and brown are nearly identical to earlier schemes, the novelties being the green gray (73143) and yellow sand (73140) as well as the underside gray blue (73141), which is a slightly cooler version of the older one.

 

  White Gray-Blue Light Blue Yellow Sand Green-Gray Dark Eggplant Gray
           
Schemes
Basic Lower (1) Lower (2) Lower (3) Upper Camo Upper Camo  
Eggplant Lower (1)   Lower (2)     Upper
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous (H21) - - - - -
Gunze Mr. Color (C69) - - - - -
Humbrol - - - - - -
Model Master - - - - - -
Revell - - - - - -
Tamiya - - - - - -
Vallejo Model Air - - 71.332 (71.143) - (71.049)
Vallejo Model Color (70.820) - - - - -
AKAN 73146 73145 73008 / 73016 73025 73143 73166
AK Interactive - - - - - -
AK Real Colors (RC-013) - - - - RC-242
AMMO by Mig - - - - - -
Colourcoats - - - - - -
Hataka (HTK-101) - (HTK-150) - (HTK-151) HTK-230
Lifecolor - - - - - -
Mission Models - - - - - -
Mr. Paint - - - - MRP-165 MRP-205
Xtracolor - - - - - -
Xtracrylix - - - - - -

 

Photos:

This Su-25 shows the white undersides as well as the yellow sand color. The green may or may not be the new green-gray as well.
The Su-25SM is the newest addition to the eggplant air force, with either bright blue or white undersides.

 

Fulcrum scheme (1984-Current)

The introduction of the MiG-29 'Fulcrum' in 1984 marked the beginning of the use of aircraft-specific schemes on Russian/Soviet aircraft. The MiG-29 featured a very attractive two-tone scheme involving an overall coat of Fulcrum Gray with a topside camouflage of Fulcrum Gray-Green. Fulcrum Gray appears at first glance to be similar to the standard Russian Gray used in earlier fighters but is actually slightly darker and with similar if not greater changes in brightness. Likewise, Fulcrum Gray-Green has considerable variation though less so than the gray, and a small number of early aircraft appear to have sported a different, more traditional green. Given that the Fulcrum was very secretive during its first years in Soviet service (it was not seen by Western audiences until the late 1980s, notably at the Farnborough Air Show in 1988), its topside camo was frequently believed to be a darker gray or even a gray-blue.

MiG-29s used Radome Gray for its radome and dielectric panels with hardly any exceptions. The basic Fulcrum scheme was used on both early MiG-29 (9.12) as well as MiG-29S (9.13) versions, although the more modern MiG-29SMT uses a new splinter scheme described below.

Paint guide:

 

  Fulcrum Gray Fulcrum Gray-Green
   
Schemes
Basic Overall Upper Camo
Alternative Overall Upper Camo
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous - -
Gunze Mr. Color - -
Humbrol - -
Model Master 2133 2134
Revell - -
Tamiya - -
Vallejo Model Air (71.277) 71.340
Vallejo Model Color - -
AKAN 73092 73093
AK Interactive - -
AK Real Colors RC-337 RC-338
AMMO by Mig - -
Colourcoats ACSM04 ACSM05
Hataka - -
Lifecolor - -
Mission Models - -
Mr. Paint MRP-91 MRP-92
Xtracolor X612 X611
Xtracrylix - -

 

Photos:

An early photo of a display MiG-29, taken over Alaska in 1989.
Some newer aircraft still retain the classic Fulcrum scheme, such as this MiG-29UBT (foreground) and MiG-29SMT (background).
A nice close up of Fulcrum gray-green during a refueling stop at Elmesdorf AFB in 1989. The was considerably greater variation in the shade of the gray than the gray-green.

 

Flanker scheme (1985-Current)

Shortly after the Fulcrum was introduced came the Su-27 'Flanker', and with it one of the most attractive camouflage schemes of any fighter. Meant as a long-range air superiority fighter and interceptor, the Flanker featured a three-tone pattern that remains in use to this day and has also served as a template for almost all other Flanker schemes. The base color consists of Flanker Light Blue, a pastel-like pale blue. The topside is disrupted with Flanker Light Gray and Flanker Medium Blue. The former is a light blue-gray that has a slight purplish tone, and blends very subtly with the base color. The latter is a bright blue, somewhat close the USAF's Air Superiority Blue (FS 35450) when faded, although it was noticeably darker when fresh. The camo pattern tended to have a layered look, with Flanker Blue typically painted over larger areas of Flanker Blue-Gray, although in some cases it was applied directly over the Flanker Pale Blue. The overall effect of these three colors is stunning to say the least, giving the Su-27 an elegant, serene appearance that belies its awesome capabilities. The basic scheme is seen in the Su-27 fighter, Su-27P interceptor, and Su-27UB two-seater.

Flankers tended to use all three main radome/dielectric colors, with Radome White and Radome Green being the more common ones. However, the Flanker introduced a new Radome Light Gray color as well, which was less common in early aircraft compared to later advanced versions like the Su-30/35 (see below). It was also not uncommon to see them with different colored dielectric panels compared to the radomes. Also unique to the Flanker is the use of red for the interior of landing gear covers and air brakes (see the interiors section).

A few Flanker units are known to use schemes considerably different from the standard ones, notably the ones based in Belbek airbase in the Crimea following the Russian annexation.

Paint guide:

 

  Radome Light Gray Flanker Light Blue Flanker Light Gray Flanker Medium Blue
       
Schemes
Early Radome / Dielectric Overall Upper Camo Upper Camo
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous - - - -
Gunze Mr. Color - - - -
Humbrol - - - -
Model Master - 2130 2131 (!) 2132 (!)
Revell - - - -
Tamiya - - - -
Vallejo Model Air - 71.334 71.335 71.337
Vallejo Model Color - - - -
AKAN 73105 73035 73036 73046
AK Interactive - - - -
AK Real Colors - - - -
AMMO by Mig - - - -
Colourcoats - ACSM01 ACSM03 ACSM02
Hataka - HTK-328 (HTK-038) (HTK-095)
Lifecolor - - - -
Mission Models - - - -
Mr. Paint - MRP-197 MRP-198 MRP-196
Xtracolor - X602 (!) X603 (!) X601 (!)
Xtracrylix - - - -

 

Photos:

Shown here on display at CFB Abbotsford, Canada in 1991 is Blue 388, the same aircraft seen at the Paris Air Show in 1989. Being a display aircraft, it was typically shown freshly painted.
These were among the last Flankers to to leave Eastern Europe, from the airbase at Stargrad, Poland in 1992. The different patterns and radome/dielectric colors are evident.
What a worn and patched up early Flanker (a Su-27P) looks like. Some areas like the rear canopy have clearly been repainted. The radome is either light gray, or very dirty!

Links

 

Mod Flanker schemes (2004-Current)

The Su-27SM is a major modernization of existing Flanker airframes in order to make them competitive in the 21st century. They can be told apart by the starboard position of the IRST module in front of the cockpit (in the basic Flanker it is centered). The Su-27SM features subtly different representations of the three basic Flanker colors, with the main obvious difference being that the Light Gray seems to contrast more with the Light Blue. The darker Medium Blue, like its previous incarnation, seems to vary in brightness in different photographs. Overall, the scheme seems to have a very slight greenish tint compared to the earlier and later ones. Most Su-27SMs have been seen with white radomes and dielectric panels, although a few have been painted with green panels as well.

For a brief period in the late 2000s, a number of Su-27SMs were seen with a stunning bright blue two-tone scheme, arguably the most eye-catching scheme ever seen on a Flanker. The two colors appear to be somewhat similar to the darker two colors used on the current Su-33 scheme, while the base color also shares similarities with that of the Russian Knights demo team. Most Su-27SM have since reverted to the basic three-tone pattern, and are also using the newer colors seen on the Su-30/35 (see below).

Paint guide:

 

  Flanker Light Blue (2) Flanker Light Gray (2) Flanker Medium Blue (2) Bright Blue Bright Dark Blue
         
Schemes
Basic Overall Upper Camo Upper Camo    
Alternative       Overall Upper Camo
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous - - - - -
Gunze Mr. Color - - - - -
Humbrol - - - - -
Model Master - - - - -
Revell - - - - -
Tamiya - - - - -
Vallejo Model Air - - - (71.317) 71.333
Vallejo Model Color - - - (70.844) (70.963)
AKAN 73160 73162 73161 (73164) (73165)
AK Interactive - - - - -
AK Real Colors - - - - -
AMMO by Mig - - - (A.MIG-224) (A.MIG-229)
Colourcoats - - - - -
Hataka - - - (HTK-284) (HTK-283)
Lifecolor - - - - -
Mission Models - - - - -
Mr. Paint - - - (MRP-199) (MRP-200)
Xtracolor - - - - -
Xtracrylix - - - - -

 

Photos:

At first glance, the colors of the Su-27SM are not much different from that of the basic Flanker, but a giveaway is the greater contrast between the light blue and light gray.
Sadly, the stunning two-tone bright blue scheme was short-lived, but makes even the already catchy Flanker scheme look decidedly dull in comparison.
A close-up of a Su-27SM, showing all three colors as well as the unique Sukhoi cockpit color.

 

Advanced Flanker schemes (2010s-Current)

The multi-role Su-30SM and Su-35S are the most advanced variants of the Flanker currently in service with the VVS, offering true multi-role capability. Although both sport the traditional Flanker scheme, this has also been slightly modified to what is now the standard scheme on all Flankers, including Su-27SMs. Like the earlier Su-27SM scheme, there is much greater contrast between the Light Blue and the Light Gray compared to the early Flanker scheme. Furthermore, the two blues are noticeably cooler than their predecessors. They are also closer to their US Aggressor equivalents, particularly the Light Blue which is very similar to FS 35450 (Air Superiority Blue) while the Medium Blue resembles FS 35190. Aside from Flankers, this scheme is also found on the new Yak-130 trainer and can therefore be considered the "standard" blue three-tone of VVS aircraft at the end of the decade.

The Su-30 and Su-35 also introduced a simple but attractive new scheme that is often referred to as the "Eggplant" scheme, consisting of a new Dark Eggplant Gray which is a dark gray with a purple-ish tint. Undersides retain the base Light Blue color with a noticeable exception: naval Su-30s have undersides that sport a the full three-tone camouflage pattern, an oddity that is not seen in any other Eggplant scheme aircraft. This is not seen on VVS Su-30s, whose undersides are of a single color.

Another unique characteristic of Su-30/35 aircraft is the preference for Radome Light Gray radomes and dielectric panels. Although all Flankers have been seen with gray radomes, this has typically been the least common color, whereas it has now become the dominant one in both the three-tone and eggplant schemes. A large number of aircraft, however, do retain white radomes with green being virtually non-existent.

Paint Guide: Note that AKAN has recently introduced a new set with a different colors for naval Su-30SMs from 2019 as well as Su-35s built in the KnAAZ plant from 2019 with the new colors being (from lightest to darkest), 73190, 73192, 73191.

 

  Flanker Light Blue (3) Flanker Light Gray (3) Flanker Medium Blue (3) Dark Eggplant Gray
       
Schemes
Basic Overall Upper Camo Upper Camo  
Eggplant Lower     Upper
Eggplant (Naval) Lower Camo Lower Camo Lower Camo Upper
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous - - - -
Gunze Mr. Color - - - C393
Humbrol - - - -
Model Master - - - -
Revell - - - -
Tamiya - - - -
Vallejo Model Air - - - (71.049)
Vallejo Model Color - - - -
AKAN 73168 73169 73167 73166
AK Interactive - - - -
AK Real Colors - - - RC-242
AMMO by Mig - - - -
Colourcoats - - - -
Hataka - - - HTK-230
Lifecolor - - - -
Mission Models - - - -
Mr. Paint MRP-297 MRP-296 MRP-298 MRP-205
Xtracolor - - - -
Xtracrylix - - - -

 

Photos:

The latest evolution of the Flanker scheme is seen in the most modern variants in VVS service like this Su-30SM.
This stunning photo of two Su-35s shows them in their basic and eggplant schemes. Note how the underside colors are the same and how both sport light gray radomes.
Uniquely, naval Su-30SMs using the eggplant scheme have the normal topside pattern on the underside. Although subtle, it's not too difficult to see the demarcation lines in this photo.

 

Fullback schemes (2010-Current)

The Su-34 'Fullback' is undoubtedly the most dramatic alteration of the basic Flanker airframe, producing one of the largest tactical aircraft currently in service anywhere in the world. The Su-34 departs from the traditional Flanker scheme by using turquoise tones that give it a somewhat more tropical maritime appearance. Also in a departure from Flanker tradition, no grays are used. The base color is Light Blue, which is similarly in brightness to other Flanker base colors but with a hint of green. It is strongly reminiscent of the World War II-era AMT-7. This is disrupted by a topside pattern of Medium Green-Blue and Dark Green-Blue, which are exactly as their name suggest, and do not appear to have equivalents with other Western palettes. Finally, like its Su-30/35 counterparts, the Su-34 has been seen sporting the Eggplant scheme of Dark Eggplant Gray over Light Blue.

Paint Guide:

 

  Fullback Light Blue Fullback Green-Blue Fullback Dark Green-Blue Dark Eggplant Gray
       
Scheme
Basic Overall Upper Camo Upper Camo  
Eggplant Lower     Upper
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous - - - -
Gunze Mr. Color - - - C393
Humbrol - - - -
Model Master - - - -
Revell - - - -
Tamiya - - - -
Vallejo Model Air - - - -
Vallejo Model Color - - - -
AKAN 73037 73038 73039 73166
AK Interactive - - -  
AK Real Colors - - - RC-242
AMMO by Mig - - -  
Colourcoats - - - -
Hataka HTK-229 HTK-228 HTK-227 HTK-230
Lifecolor - - - -
Mission Models - - - -
Mr. Paint MRP-202 MRP-203 MRP-204 MRP-205
Xtracolor - - - -
Xtracrylix - - - -

 

Photos:

The greenish hues of the Fullback's basic three-tone scheme is clearly evident in this picture.
Like the Su-30/35, the Fullback has also been seen sporting the simple but menacing Eggplant scheme.

 

Splinter camouflage (2000s-Current)

Spinter camouflage began to be popularized on demonstrator and prototype aircraft in the 21st century although it was only until the introduction of the MiG-29SMT (9.19) that such schemes were used on front-line aircraft. Although the splinter pattern does not appear to vary much across these new Fulcrums, two distinct schemes have been observed. The first is three-tone gray-green scheme which uses a base light gray, with topside camouflage consisting of a normal gray-green and a dark gray-green. These colors approximate the tone of the standard Fulcrum gray-green. Some photographs of pre-production aircraft show a somewhat deeper green, but those aircraft in service tend to have a more subdued color, which from some angles looks close to gray.

A second scheme consists of the same base light gray, with normal gray and dark gray topside camouflage. Some slight hints of blue are seen in some photos, while in others they are closer to a neutral gray. This appears to be the less common of the two schemes found on MiG-29SMTs. For both schemes, there are also differences in contrast between the three colors in many photos, in particular the light gray is almost close to a white in some. Some pictures also suggest that the lightest topside color is slightly different than the underside color. This is certainly possible, although it would be a departure from typical Russian practice in which there is a noticeable contrast between them unless they are the same. Some Flankers also show mild variations and this is probably more attributable to separate paint jobs for the topside and undersides than officially different colors for each.

Similar splinter schemes were most notably sported in the T-50 stealth fighter prototype, with some photos showing its colors closer to gray, and others with either green or blue shades. These were also seen in some early Su-30 and Su-35 variants. Aside from the MiG-29SMT, it is not likely that any other Russian fighter used the splinter scheme in service.

Paint guide: Mr. Paint and AKAN are the only two manufacturers to offer splinter scheme paints, in Mr. Paint's case these are specifically matched to the MiG-29SMT and include both gray and gray-green schemes. Both look somewhat dark, but this could still be due to the fact that these paints are also prone to fading. AKAN's offerings are somewhat complicated, with numerous sets for MiG-29SMTs as well T-50s and Su-30MKK (before they were produced for China). Their two MiG-29SMT sets (No. 47345 and 37346) vary only in their their darker color, but otherwise are identical. Unfortunately, this is a rare case of AKAN totally botching their matches neither the light gray (73101, labeled as white) nor the medium gray (73151) look the part and in fact both have beige-like tones (I have used them), though the dark gray (73061) was accurate. AKAN also seems to believe that the underside color is different, hence the inclusion of another slightly darker light gray (73051). The darker gray-green in its respective set is actually the standard Fulcrum gray-green.

As for non MiG-29s, AKAN's Su-30MKK set (No. 47313) includes an additional normal gray (73105) which is more accurate than the beige-like 73151, but also includes 73101 and 73061. Finally, there is a T-50 PAK FA set (No. 47324), which includes three unique T-50-specific colors for the three-tone, these being labeled as gray-blues (73157, 73158, and 73159 from lightest to darkest). I found that all three are surprisingly more accurate for the MiG-29SMT gray-green scheme and would definitely recommend this set ahead of the other one.

The following table summarizes AKAN's paints from these four sets:

    Light Medium Dark Lower Radome
47313 Su-30MKK/30-2          
73101 73056 73061 73156 73105
47324 T-50 PAK FA          
73157 73158 73159 - 73146
47345 MiG-29 9.19          
73101 73151 73093 73051 73010
47346 MiG-29 9.19          
73101 73151 73061 73051 73010

For a close approximation of the gray scheme in FS colors, these could be FS 36495, FS 36231, and FS 36118 from lighter to darker. The gray-green scheme does not have direct equivalents but can perhaps be easily derived from German Field Gray (RAL 7009) or, as AKAN did, using standard Fulcrum green-gray as an equivalent to the darker shade.

 

  Splinter Light Gray Splinter Gray Splinter Dark Gray Splinter Gray-Green Splinter Dark Gray-Green
         
Schemes
Gray Overall Upper Camo Upper Camo    
Green Overall     Upper Camo Upper Camo
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous - - - - -
Gunze Mr. Color - - - - -
Humbrol - - - - -
Model Master - - - - -
Revell - - - - -
Tamiya - - - - -
Vallejo Model Air - - - - -
Vallejo Model Color - - - - -
AKAN 73101 (!) 73157 73056 73061 73151 (!)
(73158)
73093
(73159)
AK Interactive - - - - -
AK Real Colors - - - - -
AMMO by Mig - - - - -
Colourcoats - - - - -
Hataka - - - - -
Lifecolor - - - - -
Mission Models - - - - -
Mr. Paint MRP-284 MRP-287 MRP-288 MRP-285 MRP-286
Xtracolor - - - - -
Xtracrylix - - - - -

 

Photos:

This is the most widely used three-tone green-gray of the MiG-29SMT. As with most Russian colors, they seemingly vary between aircraft.
This aircraft on display shows an unmistakable three-tone gray scheme.
Splinter schemes were common at the time, most famously seen on the T-50 stealth fighter prototype. Some had a blueish tone.
This early Su-35BM also briefly wore the three-tone splinter before moving towards a more conventional Flanker scheme once it formally entered service.

 

STRATEGIC

Strategic natural metal scheme (1940s-1970s)

For the first three decades of the Cold War, the vast majority of Soviet bombers were also left in natural metal finish (NMF), much like their tactical counterparts. Markings were even more sparse, with hardly any identifying features for each individual units. Dielectric panels were typically painted Radome White, and in some aircraft like the Tu-22 there were many panels on the fuselage as well as on the engines that were painted white. Additionally, some areas of Tu-95s have been painted Radome Green. A notable characteristic of NMF bombers was that many panels showed different shades of aluminum, such as the wing edges that were typically darker. This definitely helped break up the overall monotony of this scheme.

Following the introduction of the Su-24 in the mid-1970s, Soviet bombers switched to a different gray scheme described below. A number of Tu-95/142s have been seen recently with their NMF fuselage painted a gray.

Paint guide: All colors are described in previous sections.

 

  Radome White Aluminum
   
Schemes
Basic Lower Overall
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous (H21) (H8)
Gunze Mr. Color (C69) (C8)
Humbrol - 56
Model Master - 1781
Revell - 99
Tamiya - XF-16
Vallejo Model Air - 71.062
Vallejo Model Color (70.820) -
AKAN 73146 76004
AK Interactive - -
AK Real Colors (RC-013) RC-020
AMMO by Mig - A.MIG-194
Colourcoats - -
Hataka (HTK-101) HTK-078
Lifecolor - LC-74
Mission Models - MMM-003
Mr. Paint - MRP-3
Xtracolor - X142
Xtracrylix - (XA1216)

 

Photos:

The Tu-22 had very pronounced white panels on the fuselage as well as on the rear-mounted engines.
This Tu-95 evidences the very different shades of aluminum on the fuselage. Note the very faded green on the leading edge of the fin.
A number of Tu-95 and Tu-142 airframes have been painted gray in recent years, though many still sport the natural metal finish.

 

Aeroflot scheme (1950s-Current)

Strategic aircraft like tankers and transports featured a scheme that was reminiscent of their USAF Military Airlift Command counterparts and also based around the scheme used by Aeroflot, the Soviet state-owned airline and which was also responsible for the VVS's transport assets. The scheme consisted of white upper surfaces and Russian Gray undersides and wing and stabilizer upper surfaces. The demarcation line was prominent in the middle of the fuselage sides. Aeroflot aircraft - that is, transports - would feature an Aeroflot Dark Blue stripe just above the demarcation line although this was not present on non-transport strategic aircraft such as tankers and AWACS. Some aircraft showed this blue as being closer to a sky blue, possibly due to fading.

Other characteristics of this scheme are the (dark) natural metal finish of the leading edges of the wings. Radomes and radiotransparent areas, when they are present, were also seen in slightly different shades of gray which was likely the result of different fading patterns relative to the fuselage. Ilyushin aircraft also typically sported black anti-glare panels in front of the cockpit. The eggplant scheme composed of an overall Dark Eggplant Gray has also now found itself in a number of strategic aircraft, notably A-50s. These retain the older gray for radomes.

Paint guide:

 

  White Russian Gray Aeroflot Dark Blue Dark Eggplant Gray
       
Schemes
Transport Upper Lower / Wings Stripe  
Other Upper Lower / Wings    
Eggplant (A-50)   Radome   Overall
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous (H21) - - -
Gunze Mr. Color (C69) - - C393
Humbrol - - - -
Model Master - - - -
Revell - - - -
Tamiya - - - -
Vallejo Model Air - 71.339 - -
Vallejo Model Color (70.820) - - -
AKAN 73146 73059 73148 73166
AK Interactive - - -  
AK Real Colors (RC-013) - - RC-242
AMMO by Mig - - -  
Colourcoats - ACSM05 - -
Hataka (HTK-101) - - HTK-230
Lifecolor - - - -
Mission Models - - - -
Mr. Paint - MRP-189 - MRP-205
Xtracolor - - - -
Xtracrylix - - - -

 

Photos:

The An-22 was one of the most important Cold War Soviet transports, this one has seen better days. The Aeroflot stripe looks decidedly lighter as well.
Non-transports like this A-50 lacked the blue mid-fuselage stripe. Ilyushin aircraft typically had black anti-glare panels. Note the dark NMF leading edges.
This is one of the longest running Russian aircraft schemes, still being proudly flown by this Flanker-escorted An-124.
This A-50 is now sporting an eggplant scheme in line with many other recent Russian aircraft.

 

Bombers (1974-Current)

The shift away from natural metal schemes also applied to tactical and strategic bombers from the 1970s onward. This began following the introduction of the Su-24 'Fencer' in the 1970s. Although early Su-24s were also seen in a three-tone tactical camo scheme, they also sported a more plain two-tone scheme based on the same Russian Gray used on contemporary interceptors. This appears darker and in some cases with a noticeable blueish tint (on Sukhoi aircraft), which is possibly related to the fact that these paints were sourced by different companies than Mikoyan. There is also the optical effect of contrasting with white rather than the darker gray of radomes on interceptors. The Bomber scheme also introduced an off-white color (Radome White) for the radomes and dielectric panels, and also had other sections of the airframe in white including parts of the nose, the underside, and sometimes the leading edges of wings and stabilizers. Due to the radomes being made of different materials than the airframe, it was not uncommon for them to darken slightly over time.

Paint guide:

 

  White Russian Gray
   
Schemes
Basic Radome / Dielectric / Lower Upper
Tu-160 Overall  
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous (H21) -
Gunze Mr. Color (C69) -
Humbrol - -
Model Master - -
Revell - -
Tamiya - -
Vallejo Model Air - 71.339
Vallejo Model Color (70.820) -
AKAN 73146 73059
AK Interactive - -
AK Real Colors (RC-013) -
AMMO by Mig - -
Colourcoats - ACSM05
Hataka (HTK-101) -
Lifecolor - -
Mission Models - -
Mr. Paint - MRP-189
Xtracolor - -
Xtracrylix - -

 

Photos:

The modern bomber scheme was introduced in the Su-24. Radomes frequently faded differently than white on the airframes. The grey used on Su-24 also tended to be darker, and sometimes with a noticeable blueish tint.
The impressive Tu-22M shows the elegant white undersides.
This Tu-22M paired up with a MiG-31 in flight show the slight variations in interceptor gray.
The swan-like grace of the Tu-160, the most powerful nuclear bomber in Russian service in its all-white glory.

 

NAVAL

Patrol schemes (1950s-Current)

Soviet maritime patrol aircraft sported a sober, single tone scheme of Russian Blue-Gray. This color was also seen on seaplanes as well as some naval helicopters. Russian Blue-Gray is a light sea blue that a tricky color on the eyes, which is probably exacerbated not only by the different paint mixes but also because naval aircraft are prone to fading much more than their land-based counterparts. Unsurprisingly, Russian Blue-Gray has many manifestations in many of which it appears to lose much of its blue tone, becoming very close to the standard Russian Gray seen on interceptors and bombers. It is also possible that some patrol aircraft were painted in Russian Gray, as evidenced by some recent photos showing strong contrasts between blue-gray radomes and more gray fuselages. It also appears a small number of aircraft sported the older seaplane scheme of overall AMT-7 Grayish Blue. Some aircraft have retained this color even into the post-Cold War period although it appears to be only a minority of aircraft.

The best known patrol aircraft carrying this scheme is the Il-38 as well as the venerable Be-12 seaplane eventually as well. However, these colors were also used on intelligence-gathering aircraft like the Il-20 and any aircraft used for similar strategic roles that would have probably entailed flights over water. A notable exception was the Tu-142 which retained similar schemes to that of its bomber counterpart, the Tu-95. A small number of the new Il-38N aircraft have recently been seen with a Dark Eggplant Gray scheme, in line with many other VVS aircraft.

Although the basic fuselage color dominated, leading edges were typically painted either white or left in natural metal. Spinners were also left in natural metal or gray. Radomes were either gray or left in blue-gray, and there was often very visible contrast with the fuselage.

Paint guide:

 

  Grayish Blue Russian Blue-Gray Dark Eggplant Gray
     
Schemes
Early Overall    
Basic   Overall  
Eggplant (Il-38N)     Overall
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous - - -
Gunze Mr. Color - - C393
Humbrol - - -
Model Master - - -
Revell - - -
Tamiya - (XF-25) -
Vallejo Model Air 71.318 71.338 -
Vallejo Model Color - (70.973) -
AKAN 73002 - 73166
AK Interactive AK-2244 -  
AK Real Colors RC-316 - RC-242
AMMO by Mig A.MIG-251 -  
Colourcoats - ACSM05 (?) -
Hataka HTK-072 - HTK-230
Lifecolor - - -
Mission Models - - -
Mr. Paint MRP-18 (MRP-49) MRP-205
Xtracolor - - -
Xtracrylix - - -

 

Photos:

Some patrol aircraft carried the older grayish blue all-around seaplane scheme, like this Cold War-era Il-38.
This close-up of an Il-38 in 1986 shows the all-around blue-gray look which, after some use, may be hard to tell from the standard gray.
This heavily worn out Il-20 shows how the standard blue-gray faded toward gray. Note the actual gray radome and spinners. The white patches on top are actually snow.
The most recent addition to the maritime patrol arsenal is the Il-38N some of which are sporting an overall eggplant scheme.

 

Forger schemes (1976-1991)

The Yak-38 'Forger' was the Soviet Union's first fixed-wing naval aircraft, and only the second V/STOL aircraft to enter service, after the Harrier. Forgers were almost exclusively seen in a simple two-tone. The underside was painted in a green that strongly resembles Radome Green and is probably either identical or a close match. In some pictures, it also appears like a tactical green such as FS 34102. Curiously, the underside color did not extend to the nose, but only began from around the forward V/STOL exhaust and gradually sloped upward. There are two known topside color, the most common of which is Forger Dark Blue-Gray. This was a very dark blue, not vastly dissimilar to the US Navy's Glossy Sea Blue, particularly its lighter post-war variant although with slight hints of green. However, there is also a lighter Forger Blue-Green color that is seen prominently in touch-ups as well as the full topside color on static aircraft. It is believed this was the color used on Black Fleet aircraft, with Northern and Pacific Fleet aircraft using the darker one.

Later in their service life Yak-38s replaced their greens and blues for a dark gray underside and light gray topside. It is unclear whether carrier-based aircraft ever used this scheme, as existing photographs show only static aircraft. These are likely to be the same colors used on the Yak-141, the Forger's intended successor but which was never put into production. Some Yak-141s sported an all-around light gray while a number of others had a two-tone camouflage pattern.

Forgers typically had white or natural metal undercarriages as well as white wheel wells, fin tips, and pylons. The edges of the engine intakes were also left in natural metal.

Paint guide:

 

  Forger Green Forger Blue-Green Forger Dark Blue-Gray Forger Light Gray Forger Dark Gray
         
Schemes
Basic Lower Upper (1) Upper (2)    
Gray       Overall Upper camo
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous - - - - -
Gunze Mr. Color - - - - -
Humbrol - - - - -
Model Master - - - - -
Revell - - - - -
Tamiya - - (XF-17) - -
Vallejo Model Air - - - - -
Vallejo Model Color - - - - -
AKAN 73007 73004 73154 73155 73061 (?)
AK Interactive - - - - -
AK Real Colors - - - - -
AMMO by Mig - - - - -
Colourcoats - - - - -
Hataka - - - - -
Lifecolor - - - - -
Mission Models - - - - -
Mr. Paint - - - - -
Xtracolor - - - - -
Xtracrylix - - - - -

 

Photos:

A Cold War-era photo of Forgers on the deck of a Kiev-class carrier. Touched up areas of blue-green can clearly be seen, as well as one of the foreground aircraft (on the right) appearing to be painted blue-green overall.
A Yak-38 at the end of its service life, showing the two-tone gray scheme. It is unclear whether any ship-borne aircraft ever used this.

Links:

 

Early Sea Flanker scheme (1995-2006)

Russia's sole conventional aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetzov, became combat capable in 1995, and eventually adopted a mix of aircraft and helicopters including the Su-33 'Flanker-D' (colloquially known as the Sea Flanker). From the onset, it was seen with noticeably brighter, all-blue colors to land-based Flankers as well as a more complex disruptive pattern. This scheme was not identical to that of the Su-25UTG (a carrier-based trainer) or the Su-39 of which only a handful were built although these too used three-tone bright blue schemes that in some ways were very similar. This early naval scheme later evolved sometime in the 21st century (one source suggests 2006) into the current scheme which is described below, which has much greater contrast between the three colors and an even more complex disruptive pattern.

All Su-33s use Radome White exclusively for radomes and dielectric panels, in contrast to other Flankers which tend to mix. This is likely because of the small numbers of Su-33s that were built (barely 35).

Paint guide:

 

  Sea Flanker Light Blue Sea Flanker Blue (1) Sea Flanker Dark Blue (1)
     
Schemes
Early Overall Upper Camo Upper Camo
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous - - -
Gunze Mr. Color - - -
Humbrol - - -
Model Master - - -
Revell - - -
Tamiya - - -
Vallejo Model Air - - -
Vallejo Model Color - - -
AKAN 73065 (!) 73066 (!) 73064 (!)
AK Interactive - - -
AK Real Colors - - -
AMMO by Mig - - -
Colourcoats - - -
Hataka - - -
Lifecolor - - -
Mission Models - - -
Mr. Paint - - -
Xtracolor - - -
Xtracrylix - - -

 

Photos:

This is an older picture showing the Su-33's original scheme. Brighter than land-based Flankers and with much less contrast among the colors.
A Su-33 conveniently next to a Su-39 at the MAKS air show in 2003, showing the early Su-33 colors which are clearly different from those of the Su-39.

 

Current Sea Flanker scheme (2006-Current)

The early naval scheme later evolved sometime in the 21st century into the current scheme which is now the darkest and most contrasting of the Flankers. The base color is Light Blue-Gray, which has the peculiar characteristic of looking decidedly gray in certain photographs, possibly because of the stronger contrast with the other brighter and darker colors when freshly painted. However, many photographs suggest it is closer to a pale blue. It would not be inconceivable for some Sea Flankers to have retained their older base color for the undersides, which may explain the difference. Also, one of the peculiarities of the Sea Flanker's topside camo pattern is that all three colors appear to be distributed relatively evenly, which means it could be incorrect to consider Light Blue-Gray as a true base. It follows that a different underside color on some aircraft is possible, not unlike some Flanker demonstrator four-tone schemes.

The other colors are, thankfully, less controversial. These consist of a rather bright Medium Blue, which has been compared somewhat to the blue used on UN peacekeepers, as well as a Dark Blue which is the darkest color used on any Flanker. However, it seems to fade somewhat as the demarcation with the other colors appears less pronounced in many photographs.

All Su-33s use Radome White exclusively for radomes and dielectric panels, in contrast to other Flankers which tend to mix. This is likely because of the small numbers of Su-33s that were built (barely 35).

Paint guide:

 

  Sea Flanker Light Blue Sea Flanker Light Blue-Gray Sea Flanker Blue (2) Sea Flanker Dark Blue (2)
       
Schemes
Late   Overall Upper Camo Upper Camo
Late (Alt) Lower Upper Camo Upper Camo Upper Camo
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous - - - -
Gunze Mr. Color - - - -
Humbrol - - - -
Model Master - - - -
Revell - - - -
Tamiya - - - -
Vallejo Model Air - - - -
Vallejo Model Color - - - -
AKAN 73065 (!) 73163 73164 73165
AK Interactive - - - -
AK Real Colors - - - -
AMMO by Mig - (A.MIG-209) (A.MIG-224) (A.MIG-229)
Colourcoats - - - -
Hataka - HTK-285 HTK-284 HTK-283
Lifecolor - - - -
Mission Models - - - -
Mr. Paint - MRP-201 MRP-199 MRP-200
Xtracolor - - - -
Xtracrylix - - - -

 

Photos:

An Su-33 paired with its trainer, the Su-25UTG, on the deck of the Kuznetzov, showing their more modern colors.
It's easy to see from this picture why Light Blue-Gray is frequently taken to be a gray. In fact, this is an optical illusion as a result of the contrast with such a sharp blue (use a color picker on an image editor if you're not convinced).
On the other hand, pictures like this suggest that the underside is more like the light blue of the earlier scheme. There is some visible difference with the topside Light Blue-Gray just behind the radome.

Links:

 

OTHER

Cockpits

The words Soviet cockpit will immediately conjure images of the unique turquoise that was ubiquitous during the Cold War. However, this was far from the only Soviet/Russian cockpit color. In fact, there have been at least five distinctive colors plus a gray used on ejection seats:

Paint Guide: Mr. Paint is the only range to offer all five Soviet/Russian cockpit color and thankfully, both in its basic lacquer range as well as their water-based range which is probably more useful for cockpits which typically require some degree of brush touch up work.

 

  Interior Light Blue Cockpit Turquoise Sukhoi Cockpit Blue-Gray Fulcrum Cockpit Light Gray Fulcrum Cockpit Light Blue
         
Schemes
Early Cold War Cockpit        
Mid/Late Cold War   Cockpit      
Sukhoi (from Su-17)     Cockpit    
MiG-29 (1)       Cockpit  
MiG-29 (2)         Cockpit
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous - - - - -
Gunze Mr. Color - C391 - - -
Humbrol - - - - -
Model Master - 2135 (2132) - -
Revell - - - - -
Tamiya - - - - -
Vallejo Model Air (71.342) 71.331 - - (71.344)
Vallejo Model Color - (70.808) (70.904) (70.989) -
AKAN - 73006 73069 - -
AK Interactive - AK-2301 - AK-2304 -
AK Real Colors - RC-206 - - -
AMMO by Mig - A.MIG-223 - - -
Colourcoats - ACSM07 - - -
Hataka - HTK-047 - - -
Lifecolor - - - - -
Mission Models - MMP-100 MMP-096 - -
Mr. Paint MRP-277 MRP-001 MRP-195 MRP-291 MRP-290
Xtracolor - X629 - - -
Xtracrylix - - - - -

 

Photos:

This MiG-15 shows the early Cold War light blue that preceded the use of turquoise.
Certainly inspired by the USAAF's B-29, early Soviet bombers like this Tu-95 had cockpits with a mix of greens that were suspiciously similar to ANA 611 and Dull Dark Green.
This MiG-31 shows the classic turquoise color that is one of the best known cockpit colors of any air force and certainly gives Soviet aircraft a distinctive style.
This Su-27 shows the classic Sukhoi cockpit color. Some photos show slightly different color panels as well as control stick.
This is the basic light gray MiG-29 cockpit color. Some photos show a definitive hint of blue as well, blurring the distinction with the other Fulcrum color.
The light blue variant of the MiG-29 cockpit. Both old and new aircraft have been seen with this color.

Links

 

Interiors (1950s-Current)

Soviet/Russian aircraft did not appear to have a consistent set of interior colors when it came to wheel wells, landing gear, and covers. Early Cold War aircraft like the MiG-15/17/19 used Interior Light Blue, the same used on cockpits, and this color was still seen on some later aircraft as well. In contrast, the MiG-21 and MiG-23 was seen with numerous different colors, ranging from a light gray, a hemp-like beige, and a green reminiscent of US Green Zinc Chromate. Around this time, however, interior colors were standardized into a Interior Gray-Blue, which appears to be close enough to the color used on maritime patrol aircraft and helicopters (Russian Gray-Blue) that it is probably the same one. This has been seen in all modern aircraft, and in many cases may be hard to tell apart from gray fuselages particularly at a distance.

The Flanker family additionally introduced a new Flanker Interior Red color, although exclusively on the interior sides of movable parts like the wheel well covers and air brake; it was not used on fuselage parts themselves which were left in gray-blue. There is no consistent pattern of use for red, with some aircraft leaving these parts in gray-blue or in their original primer.

Landing gear were typically painted in the same color as the interior color, although there were some exceptions in which they were left in metal (notably the MiG-23). Wheels were universally painted a green similar to Radome Green (with some variation) with one odd exception: the rear wheels of the Tu-95 were painted tan.

The basic Russian primer is known as Lemon-Gray, a zinc chromate primer that is virtually identical to that used by the US in World War II. In some photos it appears slightly yellower. Lemon-Gray is seen on small, unpainted sections of the interiors, though in some cases (such as some Flankers) they may cover larger areas. There is also a recent tendency to display prototype or demonstrator aircraft in an all around Lemon-Gray, which makes them stand out considerably.

Paint guide:

 

  Interior Light Blue Interior Gray-Blue Flanker Interior Red Lemon-Gray
       
Schemes
Basic (Early) Interior      
Basic (1960s-)   Interior   Interior
Su-27/30/33/35   Interior Covers Interior
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous - - - -
Gunze Mr. Color - C392 (!) - -
Humbrol - - - -
Model Master - - - -
Revell - - - -
Tamiya - (XF-25) - (XF-4)
Vallejo Model Air - (71.338) - -
Vallejo Model Color (70.943) (70.973) - -
AKAN - - 73058 73015
AK Interactive - - - AK-2303
AK Real Colors - - - -
AMMO by Mig - - - -
Colourcoats - ACSM05 (?) - -
Hataka - - - -
Lifecolor - - - -
Mission Models - - - -
Mr. Paint MRP-277 MRP-49 MRP-42 MRP-90
Xtracolor - - - -
Xtracrylix - - - -

 

Photos:

Older Cold War aircraft like this MiG-15 sported light blue interiors, including the landing gear, that were identical to their cockpits.
This MiG-21bis has the hemp-like color that was occasionally used on Fishbeds, though many other colors were used too. Some paint chipping reveals the lemon-gray primer.
This landing gear cover on a MiG-29 shows the ubiquitous interior gray-blue, which is often hard to recognize from the fuselage, particularly at a distance.
This Su-33 shows the interior red in the forward landing gear cover. Air brake interiors were also usually (though not always) in red.
This pre-production Su-30MKK (eventually adopted by China's PLAAF) retains its lemon-gray primer.

 

Color Tables

AKAN range

  Aircraft
  73004 Blue Green Yak-36/38
  73005 Emerald MiG-21/23/25/27/31, first MiG-29, Mi-8/24
  73006 Emerald (Faded) MiG-21/23/25/27/31, first MiG-29, Mi-8/24
  73007 Green Yak-36/38
  73008 Blue MiG-21/23/25R/25RB/27, Su-15/17/25/27
  73010 Clear Gray (Faded) MiG-29
  63012* Red Brown (Faded) MiG-21/23/25R/25RB/27, Su-15/17/25/27
  63013* Green (Faded) MiG-21/23/25R/25RB/27, Su-15/17/25/27
  63014* Sand (Faded) MiG-21/23/25R/25RB/27, Su-15/17/25/27
  73015 Lemon Gray AK-40
  73016 Blue (Faded) MiG-21/23/25R/25RB/27, Su-15/17/25/27
  73023 Gray Blue Su-17/22M4/25, MiG-21SMT/21BIS/23M/23MLD/23BN/25R
  73024 Dark Green Su-17/25, MiG 21/23/27, early MiG 29
  73025 Reddish Su-17/25, MiG 21/23/27, early MiG 29
  73026 Dark Brown Su-17/25, MiG-21/23/27
  73029 Dark Gray (Faded) T-10K1
  73030 Gray Blue T-10K1
  73031 Blue (Faded) T-10K1
  73032 Blue (Faded) Su-30MK
  73033 Blue (Faded Su-30MK
  73034 Pale Blue Su-30MK
  73035 Light Blue Su-27/27UB/27PU
  73036 Light Gray Su-27/27UB/27PU
  73037 Bright Blue (Faded) Su-32/34
  73038 Bright Blue (Faded) Su-32/34
  73039 Turquoise (Faded) Su-32/34
  73046 Blue (Faded) Su-27/27UB/27PU
  73051 Light Gray (Faded) Su-27PU/30PK/35-1
  73052 Pale Sand (Faded) Su-27PU/30PK/35-1
  73053 Pale Brown (Faded) Su-27PU/30PK/35-1
  73054 Pale Green (Faded) Su-27PU/30PK/35-1
  73055 Green MiG-23/27, Su-17/22/25
  73056 Gray Su-30MKK/35-2
  73058 Red (Faded) Su-27/37
  73059 Gray MiG-25/31, An-8/12/24/26, MiG-21/23
  73060 Green (Faded) All
  73061 Dark Gray (Faded) Su-30MKK/35-2
  73064 Bright Blue (Faded) Su-25UTG/33/39
  73065 Blue (Faded) Su-25UTG/33/39
  73066 Gray Blue (Faded) Su-25UTG/33/39
  73068 Gray Su-24
  73069 Gray Blue Su-27/30/32/33/34/35/37/39
  73096 Beige Su-17/22M4/25, MiG-21SMT/21BIS/23M/23MLD/23BN/25R
  73080 Sand Su-17/25 MiG-21/23/27, early MiG 29
  73092 Light-Grey MiG-29
  73093 Gray-Green MiG-29
  73096 Beige Su-17/22M4/25, MiG-21SMT/21BIS/23M/23MLD/23BN/25R
  73097 Sand Su-17/22M4/25, MiG-21SMT/21BIS/23M/23MLD/23BN/25R
  73098 Brown Su-17/22M4/25, MiG-21SMT/21BIS/23M/23MLD/23BN/25R
  73099 Green Su-17/22M4/25, MiG-21SMT/21BIS/23M/23MLD/23BN/25R
  73101 White Su-30MKK/35-2
  73105 Gray Su-30MKK/30PK/35-1/35-2/MiG-35
  73140 Yellow Sand Su-25
  73141 Beige Su-25
  73142 Dark Brown Su-25
  73143 Green Gray Su-25
  73144 Light Blue Su-25/25UTG
  73145 Gray Blue Su-25/25UTG
  73146 White Su-24/27/30/32
  73147 Blue Su-27 Russian Knights
  73148 Blue Su-27 Russian Knights
  73149 White Su-27 Russian Knights
  73150 Red Su-27 Russian Knights
  73151 Gray Su-37
  73152 Yellow Olive Su-37
  73153 Brown Su-37
  73154 Gray Blue (Faded) Yak-36/38
  73155 Gray (Factory) Su-30MKK/35-2
  73156 Light Gray (Factory) Su-30MKK/35-2
  73157 Gray Blue (Factory) T-50 PAK FA
  73158 Gray Blue (Factory T-50 PAK FA
  73159 Gray Blue Dark (Factory) T-50 PAK FA
  73160 Light Blue (Factory) Su-27SM
  73161 Pale Blue (Factory) Su-27SM
  73162 Light Gray (Factory) Su-27SM
  73163 Pale Blue (Factory) Su-33
  73164 Light Blue (Factory) Su-33
  73165 Dark Blue Gray (Factory) Su-33
  73166 Dark Gray Su-34
  73167 Gray (Factory) Su-27SM
  73168 Gray (Factory) Su-27SM
  73169 Gray (Factory) Su-27SM
  73170 Blue (Factory) Su-25, 32/34
  73171 Gray (Factory) Yak-130
  73172 Dark Gray (Factory) Yak-130
  73180 Gray Blue T-50-9
  73181 Pale Blue T-50-9
  73190 Light Blue Su-30SM (2019)
  73191 Blue Su-30SM (2019)
  73192 Gray Su-30SM (2019)
  73193 Light Blue MiG-35
  73194 Blue MiG-35

* Only available in lacquer range

 

Last modified: 11 January 2020