Soviet Air Force Fighter Colours 1941 - 1945
by Erik Pilawskii
Published by Classic Publications
A book review by Steve Jantscher
This is one of those books that most WWII enthusiasts and model builders will eventually buy, and should do so sooner rather than later. At first, when I came across this book at a recent model contest (at Mary and John Roll's table), I asked myself if this one was for me. It only took a few minutes of paging through the 220 page hard cover format of this book to prompt me to slap my money down.
We model builders are lucky today. We have some of the best kits ever available on some of the more popular World War Two subjects. Every major model manufacture has their line-up of the most popular aircraft, Mustangs, Spitfires, and of course we can't forget the flood of seemingly anything that ever flew (and many that never got off the drawing board) that carried a swastika. We also have an ever growing abundance of first class reference materials covering most of the Axis and western Allies' aircraft and equipment.
This book is one of the few that have recently expanded into the area of the "forgotten Allied power", the Soviet Union. Of course that was partly the fault of the country in question. Layers of paranoia and a stifling atmosphere of double-think made any serious research into matters of national importance very difficult to do. The author of this book actually started this project in the twilight years of the Soviet Union, and expanded and finished his magnum opus in the new Russian Federation. More models are now starting to be released by major western model makers of Soviet aircraft. It is for these two reasons that make this a timely addition to a modeler's library.
Soviet Air Force Fighter Colours 1941-1945 continues the fine production standards the book company Classic Publications is known for. If you have any other Classic Publications books, you won't be surprised or disappointed with this one! Seeming heir to the Monogram type of high quality writing and production values, this is a detailed attempt to present an exhaustive examination of the development of Soviet fighter camouflage patterns and techniques of application.
For those of us who know (or think they know) all about US Army olive drabs, can recite RLM colors in their sleep, and even have a favorite paint mix of Japanese Navy cowl blue-black, the ins and outs of the Soviet Air Force color (sorry, colour) will come as something completely different. Mr. Pilawskii starts the book with an overview of those colors that were common on Soviet fighters. This rather short chapter lays the foundation of understanding what colors the author is talking about throughout the rest of the book. While the very numerous color pattern drawings throughout the rest of the book help, it is this first chapter that the model builder will constantly be turning back to. The author cross references the Soviet era colors to the Federal Standard, Pantone, Methuen Colour Book and the Munsell system. For those of us who have access to one or more of these sources of color references, this information is dynamite. For those who don't, it would have been nice to include (or offer for sale elsewhere) real color chips.
Following the color chapter, there is a very short "Introduction to Soviet Aircraft of the Great Patriotic War". This is a four page overview of items that might apply to more than one of the following chapters, which are aircraft specific. In the rest of the main body of the book are to be found detailed accounts of the different aircraft types flown by the Red Air Force. Aircraft included in detail (each with their own chapter) are the LaGG-3, Lavochkin La 5 & La 7 series, Mikoyan and Gurevich I-200 MiG-1 & MiG-3, Polikarpov's I-15 series, the I-16, Yakovlev's Yak-1, Yak-7 & UTI-26, Yak-9 and Yak-3. Each chapter is about 20 pages long, and holds a serious body of text along with numerous color profiles and camouflage color drawings which exhibit the camo patterns used on each aircraft at differing times during the war. These chapters are the real meat of the book, and it is here that the modeler in all of us just sigh, and drink in the hitherto unknown information. Laid out in a systematic and exhaustive method are the evolving changes to aircraft protective camouflage. Each chapter also includes a small history of the deployment and use of the subject aircraft.
As an example of what each chapter contains, for instance, the MiG I-200, MiG-1 and MiG-3 chapter is 14 pages long and includes four detailed full color side profiles of representative aircraft, detailed three-view line drawings of a short and long nosed versions in what appears to be 1/72nd scale, 15 small two color profile and plane view drawings that show typical camo patterns and seven nice sized black and while photographs of combat MiGs. This is one of the smaller chapters, but is typical of the varied amount of textual and graphic data presented to the reader.
There are five appendixes, a significant bibliography and a nice (though rather short) index.
In conclusion, I must say that as the years go on, and the major modeling companies run out of main-line subjects to model, they are, and will turn more and more to the significant aircraft of the Soviet Union. When they do, you'll wish you had picked this book up, and stashed it away. About the only "problem" I have with the book in general (aside from not having included a paint chip card set) is the overly patriotic tone of the pro-Soviet text. I guess most westerners aren't used to the term Great Patriotic War in their everyday reading of WW II history. (I'm familiar with the use in the former Soviet Union, but not in serious western histories of the war.) With the exception of that jingoism, this is over all a well presented addition to any modeler's shelf. One can only hope that there is a subsequent book covering the Soviet bombers in such treatment.
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