Modern Colour Fetish and the Collapse of Logic

It is my own view-- likely known by many-- that the internet has virtually destroyed any semblance of mature debate and argument, not to mention rational thought. Alas, the current generation of tablet-wielding know-nothings is awash with those who accept that the truth should be decided by popularity, and that such arcane practices such as the collection of evidence and interacting with the physical world is declasse. Allied to the appallingly anti-social behaviour seen on the 'web in any forum or discussion group one wishes to name, the situation must be hopeless. However, even so, enough is enough....

Fetishes permiate many forms of hobbyist (and other) activity, and nowhere more so than in the world of Scale Modelling. The preference of modellers for dull and drab colours for all of the world's air forces of the 1940s has been around for a long time, this despite the enorimty and overwhelming charater of the surviving evidence to the contrary. No amount of factual data, it seems, can dislodge this 'fetish of the dull'.

With regards to Modellers' ideas about VVS colouration of the Great Patriotic War (GPW) era, this dull fetish has been well in evidence throughout, in addition to mysterious theories concerning RAF style camouflage and all sorts of bizarre concepts. Alas, it would now seem that these classic errors have been joined by a new permutation of resounding error involving absurdly dark and indeed morosely drab colours unlike those seen in any other case of 1940s aviation whatsoever. But, more seriously than simply being erroneous (errors are the stuff of human nature, after all), this fetish is alarming precisely for the fact that it is utterly irrational. One simply cannot approach this subject with even the most minimal capacity to judge and weigh evidence, to understand comparative examination, to detect logical consistencies-- in short, to analyse-- without becoming acutely aware at once that these "ideas" are completely impossible. I find it frightening in all aspects of life when persons cannot think for themselves and simply cling dogmatically to any pronouncement issued forth by any "holy source"-- whether that be a bishop, imam or corroded pages from the Albom Nakrasok. Such non-thinking is identical in error, regardless of the subject matter, and is all the more inexplicable when the holy text in this case has already been comprehensively described and exposed for what it is on this very site. To the True Believer, of course, such factual criticism is of utterly unimportant.

The 2014 State of Health of ideas regarding VVS GPW era colouration is thus very poor. This is tragic, indeed, becuase in the decade since the publication of SAFFC there have been many and major advancements in all areas of study of the wartime VVS. These new discoveries have been impressive and are most welcome, and an updated edition of SAFFC would very much benefit from corrections suggested by this newer research. But, so far as the description of wartime colouration goes, it would seem that a return to the past in this case is necessary....

The Colours

I would firstly like to state for the record that I do not wish to be seen to be picking on paint manufacturer AKAN. I employ their chips for this colour article simply on the basis that they embody this current fetish regarding dark/drab VVS colours in the fullest manner; e.g. they are literal copies of sample chips in the Albom Nakrasok. I would like to make it quite clear that I believe AKAN paints to be outstanding in quality, coverage and finish. Despite this obvious quality, however, I do regard their assortment of many wartime VVS colours to very much incorrect, and obviously they have been the recipient of some very poor advice regarding colouration.

In the following table the (AKAN)Albom colours for several major lacquers are listed in the top row; directly below this
are the colours as specified by myself (SAFFC), these consistent to any slightly revised values as of 2013.

AMT-7 AMT-11 AMT-12 AII Green AII Blue

Here are the same colours in true greyscale.
AMT-7 AMT-11 AMT-12 AII Green AII Blue

And here are the same colours in corrected greyscale, assuming a typical colour sensitivity profile for common Russian film types (no lens filter)
AMT-7 AMT-11 AMT-12 AII Green AII Blue

Analytical Case No.1-- Greyscale Tonal Contrast

The first method used in the analysis of period colouration is often an investigation of the tonal values seen in greyscale images. The intent using this method is not to deduce the colours in view, but rather to establish a range of possibilities-- a framework, if one prefers-- for what sorts of colours could be possible given the appearance of the image under investigation. Clearly, many factors are relevant in this type of examination, including the state of the image (digitally modified, decrepit, contaminated, etc), the film type in use, the photographic techniques employed, the use of lens filters, the method of film development, and so on. A full list would be formidable, indeed.

However, that said, some general observations can often be made which are quite helpful in identifying various colours. The relative tonal contrast between various shades is one such observation. Because the colours appear in the same image they are thus subjected to identical conditions regarding the myriad of possible factors related to the image. Bearing in mind the various behaviours of the film with regards to specific colours
and other related processes, this kind of observation often reveals a very useful boundary for the colour possibilities in the image.

These are the relative tonal contrast values for the corrected greyscale colours AMT-7/-11/-12 shown above.

The following photos-- all of which are originals in my own collection, not variously modified digital copies, and thereby the relevant film types are known-- were all shot on similar (or identical) Russian period emulsions conforming to the corrected sensitivity profile (as above). Each presents a specimen painted in AMT-7/-11/-12 colouration. The images were not taken under similar lighting conditions, it should be noted, but the relative contrast of the image shades should still be nearly identical. Here is what we find:

The relative tonal contrast is consistent. The values seen are in agreement in with only one interpretation of the colours.

Analytical Case No.2-- Corrected Greyscale Agreement

The three photographs demonstrating AMT-7/-11/-12 colouration agree in relative contrast in the case were the film type is known to be identical (or quite similar, in any case). Bearing in mind the very many caveats concerning lighting conditions, variations in development, photographic technique, and so on, we can still compare the results to our suggested colour samples. This exercise does not prove any particular colouration, but in the case where significant disagreement between the shades is obvious, it must raise questions about the possibility of such suggested colours.

It should be manifestly obvious that the Albom colours are too dark. In particular, note the agreement between the appearance of the undersurface Blue AMT-7 colour on the aircraft and the sky in each image. The dark colours fail to match this agreement completely.

The same exercise for colouration AMT-4/-6/-7 (Black being omitted from the tonal chips):

And the same for AII Green/Blue

Analytical Case No.3-- Physical Colour Samples

Evaluation of period photography is invaluable, particularly in our attempt to identify which colours are present on a given image. However, by the very fact that these photos are Black&White (greyscale) images, they cannot therefore confirm the exact appearance of any actual colour. The only method of determining an actual colour, of course, is to locate a physical sample of the same.

This requirement should not be understood to be the catastrophic limitation which it seems to be widely mooted. Indeed, 25 years ago authentic samples of actual WW2 era VVS colours were ubiquitous. They were also comprehensively ignored. The TsDAK guest book for the years 1991-2001 is an example (one of many) of the indifference with which both the average Russian citizen, and the alleged Western aviation historian, regarded these collections, their exhibits, and any relevant colour information that such collections might have offered. These same groups, I must add, who are ridiculously offered up as evidence of authenticity of the Albom colours! However, authentic paint samples continue to emerge, as happens in any case where archaeological activity continues (this to retrieve airframes for the Warbird market). Alas, it is often the case that such evidence falls into private hands where it is not seen by experienced researchers who might benefit from an examination of the specimens, and in any case these "inconveniences" are simply ignored by the modern True Believer as they confound their beloved dogma.

On that specific point, the case of irrational fetish dogma is proven. The Albom colour AMT-4 has already been comprehensively dismissed. Copious physical evidence is available-- and was presented, in part-- to show that this is wrong. Indeed, it is wrong in exactly the manner which is described in my own article dealing with the Albom Nakrosok: dark and desaturated due to corrosion and oxidation via contact with acidic paper stock. Can anyone please explain how these believers in the remainder of these dark Albom colours cannot understand that these must also be subjected to same error and for the same reason as the demonstrably discredited AMT-4 sample? As amply demonstrated in the above analyses? What factor on earth except for irrational dogma prevents this obvious realisation? Logical thought, as I have intoned previously, has simply disappeared.

The same case may be made for all of the other period VVS colours. Anyone who might care to look-- and herein is the rub, for this requires doing actual work, actual travel, and genuine investigation-- can and will find plenty of evidence for extant authentic paint specimens. Let us examine a few paint types which are thought to be controversial-- e.g. that they cannot possibly exist becuase they do not appear in the holy 1948 Albom Nakrosok-- and the point will be well made. Do bear in mind that these various digital images will not have an identical appearance on any one screen for the various reasons explained copiously before.

AII Green (with the caveat that this colour is not yet proven to be of the AII family, but features identical chemistry)

MiG-3 p/n 4741
MiG-3 p/n 2171
Pe-2 p/n 141/16

AII Blue

MiG-3 p/n 2171
Il-2 NS-37 p/n 303560
Pe-2 p/n 141/16

AII Green/Brown Colouration

Wartime image showing new AII Green/Brown/Blue colouration from Factory No.30. Note the pattern and application details.
Il-2 p/n 306585, built at factory No.30.
DB-3 at Monino ca. 1988. There was no evidence anywhere on the airframe that it had been repainted since entering the colletion in 1948.

AII Green/Brown Colouration, more

Il-2 NS-37 p/n 303560 at the time of recovery (apologies for the poor image)
When the Russian restoration team received the airframe they found it to be wearing a three-colour camouflage with "red-brick, grey-green and sky-blue" colouration. This agrees with the original Norwegian recovery team who described the colours as "green and bright blue with patches of brown". The restoration team attempted to replicate the finish as such.

Thus, we have physical evidence for the green paint with identical chemical properties to AII Aluminium, White, Red and Blue having been in VVS use from 1938 (I-16 Type 10 p/n 1021773) until 1944 (Il-2 p/n 306585), and yet how many of these contemporary "experts" continue to insist that it "did not exist"? We have proof of the use of the three colour scheme 'Green'/'Brown'/AII Blue (does this not suggest that these paints are also of the AII family, especially when they share chemistry?) on a number of surviving Il-2 airframes, and yet this scheme
"did not exist". We have unchallengeable evidence that that the Albom chips are completely wrong, and yet many continue to believe in them like a religious text. Can anyone please explain what on earth has happened to all of the persons' ability to think?

Analytical Case No.4-- Modern Colour Reproduction

It will no doubt come as a tremendous shock to the vast swathes of luminaries who believe in Albom colouration to discover that a fair number of authentic wartime VVS colours have already been scientifically replicated. Samples of original paint were carefully cleaned and prepared and then submitted for analysis to Akzo Nobel-- only the world's leading authority on aviation finishes-- who scanned these specimens using a spectrometer in their own laboratory. The resulting colours were reproduced on a sample card and given a unique identifier code. I have scanned a number of these cards which are shown below. No further elaboration of their appearance is required (except to remind that any perceived colour on a digital device can only be approximate).

AII Blue
AII (suspected) Green
AII (suspected) Brown



Analytical Case No.5-- Additional Methods

There are numerous other analytical methods which might be used to confirm, dismiss or suggest the appearance of various period colours. We have photographs, for example, where VVS colours appear alongside those of other countries whose appearance is better agreed (in the case of RAF colours, we would claim that these are known beyond doubt). Carefully examination of such images may reveal a 'scope', or framework, for any unknown colour in the same image by means of relative appearance.

Here are two photographs showing captured VVS aircraft at Rechlin. In the foreground we have a Yak-1b in what is surely AMT-4/-6/-7 colouration. Behind this is an early Yak-7B, which would be a possible canididate for AII Green/Black colours. The appearance in both images between the Yaks is dissimilar; in both the discrepanacy is consistent with the tonal differences between AMT and AII lacquers as proposed above. The appearance of the P-39's colouration in the background provides further framework for the visible colours.

Next we have a photo showing a Spitfire Mk IX in VVS service. The rear fuselage has been repainted with large areas of AMT-11. The Albom colours would demand that AMT-11 is darker than than RAF Ocean Grey. Such an idea is illogical, it is in contradiction to copious physical evidence, and it does not agree with this direct comparison on the same specimen.
On the contrary, the proposed values above for AMT-11 work well.

And here is an I-16 finished in AII lacquers next to two similarly painted (RLM 65/70/71) German aircraft, an Fi 156 and Hs 126.

I am no expert in German photography, but even so we can clearly see that the Russian green colour (AII Green) is considerably lighter than the German greens, and similarly the Russian blue (AII Blue) is lighter than RLM 65. Such an observation would be strictly impossible if we accept the Albom claims for any of these paints, but it is in perfect agreement with all of the evidence described in this article.

In cases where two different aviation lacquers are present within a single photograph, it can sometimes be useful to compare such features not only of tonal value but also surface sheen. This kind of comparison is impossible, generally speaking, between different images due to the bewildering number of variables which might be relevant to the appearance of perceived reflectivity of any surface in any photograph. However, within a single photo where the subjects are seen together, such an observation is viable and useful.

The difference between the TB-3's finish and that of the I-16 SPB is marked, not only in tone but in sheen. The two machines are clearly not finished with the same paints, and so they are not-- the TB-3 is in lacquer 3B zashitniy over what is presumed to be AE-4 Blue, while the I-16 is wearing AEh-15 Green with an AEh-11 cowling over AII Blue. Note the strict agreement in all cases with the known surface gloss properties of the three paints: 3B = matte; AEh = gloss; AII = satin.
This MiG-3 may be compared directly with the machines in the background. The Ju 52 is wearing the Luftwaffe's RLM 65/70/71 colours, for example, and the relative darkness of these makes a comparison to AEh-15 on the MiG. Again, the gloss surface of AEh lacquer is well seen, and contrasting with the satin finish of the AII Blue lower surfaces. The heavy scuffing on the wing root areas with its resultant loss of sheen is interesting. Compare these features to the relative appearance of the I-16 in the image above. Pursuant to another debate on colouration, the SB's finish of what is likely to be AEh-8 Grey may be compared directly to that of the unpainted ammunition box in the MiG.

Analytical Case No.6-- Where Have Things Gone Wrong?

I do not wish to bang on about problems with the current generation and the degradation of educational standards, but these factors (amongst others) are certainly relevant in this particular problem. Modern persons are convinced that the entire world must exist on the Internet; that "research" is performed by googling various topics; that facts are irrelevant because truth in the modern world has been replaced by popularity. Thus, no such person bothers to actually go to the field and collect physical specimens of paint, as this is by far too difficult and costly, and besides it is not necessary because they can just conduct an "advanced google search" from the comfort of their chair. Obviously, to this kind of person, any knowledge they might require can of course be found via such googling because the Internet contains all information and truths in the universe. And, lastly, should any "inconvenient" evidence (which they do not fancy) emerge at some point this can be dismissed at once by organising a large group of similar persons to express their dislike for the information: no Likes-- or whatever these idiocies are called-- equals irrelevance in their eyes.

It is a matter, equally, of staggering irony that such persons, in their acute ignorance, accept as genuine all images-- without critical analysis-- in a world where any 8-year-old can convincingly modify a digital picture with Photoshop (or such like). The appearance of any colour item (photograph, sample, whatever) is immediately taken literally, without the slightest understanding of digital colour, paints, photography, chemistry, the basic laws of physics, or any other relevant body of scientific knowledge which might inform as to how this appearance might not be as it seems. That none of these disciples of the Albom colouration could take a single glance at the pages in the Albom Nakrasok and not at once become alarmed as to their condition-- and the obvious affect this would have on their resulting appearance-- simply beggars belief. And yet, that is the reality. Separation from the physical world by immersion in the digital has resulted in a state where most persons no longer understand the former, nor the reality of how things in the actual world function.

The discovery of various period colour photographs of these aircraft has not aided this debate. It has been noted by other historians than myself that period colour film is usually inferior as an analytical tool to describe authentic colouration than quality B/W images. I agree comprehensively with this assertion. There are simply too many factors to consider when investigating period colour films to be able to understand their behaviour. Likewise, there are very few examples of such film still in use (period B/W film is still common amongst enthusiasts), and very few bona fide experts available to help interpret the images. Attempts have been famously made to cherry-pick selected colour images as "proof" of some idea or another, but it must be said that these claims are ridiculous.

German period colour photographs demonstate a wide range of apparent colouration, none in agreement with each other. To my knowledge, no useful analysis can be made of such images.

Analytical Case No.7-- Wider Subject Familiarity

It is a matter of the greatest perplexity to myself that any person who is familiar with the camouflage practices of the VVS-- during Soviet or modern Russian times-- would be inclined to believe in dark and drab colouration. Based upon what line of logical thought?

It was-- and so far as I am aware, remains still-- the stated intention of the VVS to employ camouflage colours as found in nature. These are not based upon old Army Khaki ideas, as in many other Air Forces, nor upon 'case test' compromise colours as used by the RAF during WW2. It is undeniably true that VVS camouflage was simplified in the immediate post-GPW period (1946-50), particularly with respect to the extraordinary applications which characterised many wartime schemes. It was also the case that, subsequently, the VVS adopted the same world-wide obsession with so-called natural metal finishes (NMF) during the 1950s and 60s. However, when camouflage again returned to fashion in the 1970s, what did we see in VVS service?

With the return of the use of camouflage in the VVS, the old ideas seemed to be resurrected at once. In fact, some camouflage patterns were seen during the 'NMF era', and these echoed the same ideas and methods of both GPW and 1970s concepts; so perhaps it is more accurate to state that these practices in fact never really died out. Some examples will illustrate the point.

Here are two earlier Sukhoi Su-25 aircraft, suitably dubbed the 'new Shturmovik'. Is there anyone who would care not to suggest that some form of inspiration might be in evidence with respect to the camouflage colouration regarding an earlier VVS ground attack aircraft of great fame, possibly of similar type moniker?

Would any of these MiGs look especially out of place next to a 1943 NAKP Template diagram?

Could someone please point out to me the "obvious historical use of dark, drab and dull camouflage colours" by the VVS? I just don't see it...


A fundamentally correct interpretation and reporting of the authentic colouration of the wartime VVS has already been presented in SAFFC. It is true that my own ideas about the exact appearance of some colours has been slightly modified since 2003, both on the basis of newly emerging evidence, but also upon and the scientific work of Akzo Nobel. This re-evaluation is correct and proper in the wake of continuing research and study. However, allow me to point out that these changes have been subtle, attempting to capture the very fine points of the exact appearance of these colours.

The work in SAFFC was accurate because it was based on several decades of dedicated field work and research, resulting in the accumulation of many, many physical samples of period paint finish. It is ludicrous beyond words to submit-- as been done by more than would-be detractor of my work-- that the published information in SAFFC was
"a guess", and that subsequnetly the precise appearance of the vast amount of colour information which has appeared since 2003 has agreed with this work as the result of a "lucky accident"! Pathetic, insulting and derogatory such comments have typified the debate regarding VVS colouration for the last 20 years, I presume for the reason that the actual colours so unearthed were not what was hoped for by these Drab & Dull Cult members.

I can only conclude this article with my utter indifference to such objections, and continued pursuit of proper evidence and factual data, no matter how apparently disappointing it may be....


1. The colour sensitivity profile for films like K16/39, and such, is usually agreed as R-5/Y+10/B+20. That is to say, a slight insensitivity (5%) to red colour wavelengths; slight over-sensitivity (10%) to yellow colour colour wavelengths; moderate over-sensitivity (20%) to blue colour wavelengths.
2. Such problems with historical photography are widely discussed by academics and historians. There are innumerable links on the topic across the web, but such discussions on the matter may be found in various forums like as this one: