Soviet Aircraft Wrecks Color Photographs

Most of these photographs were taken during the first weeks of Operation Barbarossa, which saw the Soviet Air Force sustain losses on an unimaginable scale.  On the first day the VVS lost over 2,000 aircraft, and by the end of the year that figure exceeded 21,000.

Here are a pair of Polikarpov I-153s disabled on their airfield.  While obsolete, it was a numerically important type which suffered enormous attrition during the opening hours of Barbarossa.
This is a lesser-known type, the R-10 reconnaissance aircraft.  This one appears relatively intact.
The Polikarpov I-16 was another important type, this one has attracted the attention of a group of Wehrmacht soldiers.
Another Polikarpov being souvenired. The soldier in the cockpit gives some idea of just how cramped the aircraft was.
A well-known photograph comparing the I-16 with the Messerschmitt Bf 109F. The Messerschmitt carries the markings of the Geschwader Adjutant of II./JG 54.
Another I-16 being examined by German troops.
These are the remains of an SB-2bis bomber. Many of the German Experten claimed their first aerial victories of Barbarossa over this type.
A much tougher opponent was the IL-2 Sturmovik, nicknamed the “cement bomber” by Jagdwaffe pilots due to its ability to absorb damage. This example was brough down during the Summer of 1942 in the Stalingrad area.

Trumpeter Tupolev Tu-95 Bear in 1/72 Scale

The Tu-95 is a Soviet strategic bomber design which first flew in 1952 – over seventy years ago.  It is broadly similar to the USAF’s Boeing B-52 Superfortress, the major difference being the Tu-95 is powered by four turboprops each driving two four-bladed contra-rotating props while the B-52 uses eight jet engines.  Both designs emphasized range and endurance, the B-52 is faster but not dramatically so.  The maritime patrol variant of the Bear is designated the Tu-142.

The Trumpeter kit needs a lot of work to make it presentable.  The nacelles and wings have fit problems so look forward to hours of sanding.  Many of the detailed areas are approximations and most modelers will want to enhance those and also put something more into the cockpit.  Definitely shorten the landing gear legs.  The model is huge when built up, length is 25.25 inches (64 cm).  Size is a problem so it requires bench space and care when moving it during construction.  You will knock things off your bench!

The Long Walk Audio Book Review

The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom

Authored by Slavomir Rawicz, Narrated by John Lee

Audiobook, 9 hours and 34 minutes

Published by Blackstone Audio, May 2007

Language: English


Slavomir Rawicz was a Polish cavalry officer who fought against the German invasion in 1939.  After Poland was partitioned he found himself in the Soviet zone of control near the Ukrainian border.  He spoke Russian, which was the pretext used by the Soviets to arrest him on charges of spying.  An elaborate show trial resulted in his being found guilty and he was sentenced to 25 years in a Siberian labor camp.

The journey to Siberia was made packed into cattle cars for the most part, the last several days on foot through the snow with lines of men chained behind trucks.  Several died along the way.  The camp was little better, but the men were permitted to build barracks which provided shelter.  Their main endeavor was the production of skis for the Red Army, which earned them an increased ration of bread.  The prospect of spending the next 25 years in the camp did not appeal to Rawicz.  He enlisted the help of six other prisoners, and one night they slipped through the wire in a snowstorm.

They had each saved enough rations and basic supplies to last a week, and between them they had an axe and a knife.  Their plan was simple – walk south.  Together, this is what they did for almost a year, covering roughly 4,000 miles of inhospitable terrain.  They passed through the Siberian steppe, the Gobi Desert, the foothills of the Himalayas, and eventually reached British controlled India and salvation.

This is an epic story of survival, well told and engaging.  The author shares numerous fascinating details of their journey and what they did to survive, what they ate, the people they met and their customs, and the will to persist and keep going day after day.  There is a movie adaptation called “The Way Back”, but after reading the synopsis and seeing the trailer for the film it is evident it does not follow the book except in the most general terms.  I quite enjoyed this book, and can recommend it without hesitation.

Eduard Soviet Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 in 1/72 Scale

This is the Eduard kit in Soviet markings.  This is the “Asia” scheme in use through the 1970s through early 1990s consisting of irregular patches of four or five browns and greens over sky blue undersides.  The kit needs no aftermarket and was built out of the box.

More finished pictures here:

Eduard Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 Build in 1/72 Scale Part I

The MiG-21 was one of the most prolific designs of the Cold War era and was operated by several air forces, allowing for a wide variety of camouflages and markings. Eduard has sought to capitalize on this and has released multiple boxings every year since it was released in 2018. The 2020 Platz kit also uses the Eduard sprues.
The main sprue “A” contains the larger airframe components. These are nicely rendered with fine, recessed panel lines throughout. Ailerons and flaps are molded as separate pieces. Just like the real thing, the wings are quite thin. All the trailing edges are also thin so there will be no need to file anything down to scale with this kit.
Sprue “D” has all the detail parts. There are optional JATO bottles, and parts to pose the speed brake in either the opened or closed position. My boxing included a colored PE fret as well as well as a set of Kabuki tape masks. These parts allow the modeler to choose between a PE cockpit, decals for the instruments, or plastic parts with raised details for those who would prefer to paint. The mask set includes masks for the canopy and also for the many green radar-transparent panels along the airframe.
Sprue “C” contains the underwing stores and pylons. Most of these parts will not be used, in fact I was able to load out two aircraft from a single sprue with plenty of ordinance left over.
Decals are included for five different aircraft, and complete stencils are rendered in both black and blue. All the markings for the underwing pylons and stores are also there. That’s a whole lot of stencils, and believe me, some are quite small!
I decided to use the colored PE for my builds. Eduard’s Soviet cockpit color looked pretty good to my eye, but if you’re going to use their PE parts you’re pretty much obliged to match their color anyway or it will look strange. My mix is roughly equal parts of Mr. Color 391 and 5 which provided a good match for the PE.
Here are the cockpits and ejection seats with the PE, and after some detail painting and a wash. The seats are a snug fit and can be left out until the end of the build, which I did to avoid knocking any of the PE bits off during masking.
The mask set provides exterior masks for the canopy. I wanted to pose my canopies open to reveal all that PE in the cockpit so I needed to mask the interior surfaces as well. I used the kit masks as templates and cut interior masks from Tamiya tape. Both sides of the transparencies were shot with a scale black and then the interior got a spray of the Soviet interior color mix.

Part II here:

The Taking of K-129 Audio Book Review

The Taking of K-129: How the CIA Used Howard Hughes to Steal a Russian Sub in the Most Daring Covert Operation in History

By Josh Dean, Narrated by Neil Hellegers

Audiobook, 15 hours and 47 minutes

Published by Penguin Audio

Language: English

ASIN: B0754N97BV

A fact that is not widely known outside of naval circles is that during the Cold War the Soviet Union’s submarine force had a serious accident or loss approximately every other year, on average.  Most of these incidents involved nuclear propulsion, nuclear weapons, or both.  On 08MAR68 the Golf-II class ballistic missile submarine K-129 was lost with all hands approximately 600 nautical miles north of Midway Island in the Pacific.  The K-129 was a diesel electric boat, but carried nuclear torpedoes and three SS-N-5 Serb ballistic missiles in her sail.  Despite searching for two weeks, the Soviet Navy was unable to locate her.

On the other hand, the U.S. Navy operated several undersea hydrophone arrays which were able to triangulate the position of the K-129.  The USS Halibut (SSGN-587) was dispatched to locate and photograph the wreck, which lay at a depth of 16,000 feet.  Based upon Halibut’s pictures, the CIA launched an ambitious project to attempt to recover the wreck for intelligence purposes.

No object of comparable size had ever been brought up from so great a depth.  Many new technologies would need to be developed, including a system to position the recovery ship above the wreck without the slightest deviation in position.  In addition, the entire effort would have to be conducted in the greatest secrecy, if the Soviets learned of it the whole thing would be called off.  A specialized, single-use ship would have to be designed and built.  The ship would lower a recovery cradle and pull the K-129 back up into an interior hold where the crew would investigate the wreck and her weapons.

The effort was dubbed Project Azorian, the ship was the Hughes Glomar Explorer.  The project was a CIA effort from the beginning, Howard Hughes was never actively involved.  What Hughes did provide was a plausible cover story – publicly the Glomar Explorer was a deep ocean mining ship, intended to snatch manganese nodules from the ocean floor.  In the summer of 1974 the forward portion of K-129 was recovered.  The cover story held until February of 1975 when the Los Angeles Times ran a story which effectively precluded any further efforts to exploit the wreck site.

This is a fascinating book, the first half of which explains the engineering and operational challenges of building a ship to pull off the recovery.  The fact that the effort had to be done in secret just adds another layer of complexity.  There are several almost comical anecdotes of the project coming close to being revealed due to petty government bureaucracies demanding specific licenses or taxes before giving their permission to proceed.  There is a necessary digression into the U-2 and SR-71 programs which explains why the CIA and not the Navy were given overall control of the project.  Overall, this is a fascinating account of a slide-rule cloak and dagger story, recommended.

Bell P-39 Airacobra Color Photographs Part III

One of the thirteen YP-39 Airacobras in flight, probably in the Fall of 1940. The YP-39s were initially unarmed and lacked the various scoops which would appear on later variants, which resulted in a very clean look. (NASM, Rudy Arnold collection)
Another view of a highly-polished YP-39 which would make for an attractive model if you could pull off the mirror-like finish. This photo also provides a good view of the Curtiss Electric propeller. An unusual detail is the lack of yellow warning tips on the propeller blades, but this appears to be the case with many Airacobra photos. (NASM, Hans Groenhoff collection)
With war looming U.S. aircraft production swelled in 1941. This is the apron outside Bell’s factory at Buffalo, New York, where final assembly of a large number of Airacobras is being completed in the open.
Many Airacobras never left the States, but served as advanced trainers as squadrons worked up for deployment. This P-39 displays large “buzz numbers” on the nose which made the aircraft easy to identify if the pilot was performing unauthorized maneuvers.
This is a P-39 from the 354th Fighter Group while the unit was working up at Portland, Oregon during the Summer of 1943.
The Royal Air Force received approximately 200 Airacobras from and order of 676 before they cancelled the order. Only 601 Squadron flew the P-39 operationally with the RAF, and only on a single combat mission over the continent. Here RAF armorers make a great show of loading ammo bins for the camera.
A beautiful photograph of a P-39K during the Summer of 1942 showing the centerline drop tank installation to good advantage.
Access to the aircraft was through a “car door” on each side of the cockpit which could be jettisoned in case of emergency. This photograph provides several useful details for modelers of the aircraft and pilot’s flight gear. (NASM, Rudy Arnold collection)
This is the unrestored interior of the P-39 in the collection of the National Air and Space Museum. This is a spectacular example of original colors and markings, as well as the wear patterns the aircraft would display while in service. (NASM)
In 2004 P-39Q serial number 44-2911 was found in Lake Mart-Yavr, above the Arctic Circle in Siberia. The Airacobra had suffered an engine failure and crashed into the lake on 19NOV44. The remains of pilot Lt. Ivan Baranovsky were still inside. The aircraft is currently on display at the Niagara Museum of Flight, near where it was built.

Part I here:

Zinky Boys Book Review

Zinky Boys Book Review

Zinky Boys: Soviet Voices from the Afghanistan War

By Svetlana Alexievich

Softcover, 197 pages

Published by Norton, 1997

Language: English

ISBN-13: ‎ 978-0-393-33686-3

Dimensions: ‎ 6.0 x 0.6 x 9.0 inches

This is the second book from author Svetlana Alexievich which I have read, the first being the Unwomanly Face of War.  Like her other work, this book is comprised of several individual narratives.  This book is noteworthy because is exposed the experiences of individual Soviet soldiers sent to Afghanistan at a time when the official Party line was to minimize the scope of the Russian presence there.  Alexievich was awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature for her works.

The title Zinky Boys is derived from the practice of sending casualties home in sealed Zinc coffins.  Many of the anecdotes are those of wives or mothers whose men were returned to them this way.  Other stories are of soldiers who were wounded, some who lost legs due to mines or IEDs.  All the interviews are sad in some way, and there are portions which are gruesome.

There are a few themes which struck me as odd products of Soviet society in the 1980s.  One is the shortage of consumer goods which we take for granted in the West, items such as tape recorders, cassette players, blue jeans, and make-up are mentioned in several accounts.  Many of the soldiers bartered for these in Afghanistan to take back home when their tours were over.  Rampant corruption often separated these treasured items from soldiers either through confiscation or as a means of bribing officials for transportation home.  The practice of abuse from the soldiers near the end of their tours towards the new arrivals was widely practiced and goes far beyond anything we would describe as hazing in the West.  Also, the lack of material support was appalling, especially in the area of medical supplies, some of which had been in storage since the Great Patriotic War.

In many ways this book is a commentary of Soviet society at the time.  Unfortunately, there are also parallels to the previous American experience in Vietnam and the war in Afghanistan after.  Those looking for a military history of the Soviet war in Afghanistan should look elsewhere, this book is a narrative collection of individual stories which exposed a secret the Soviet leadership would have preferred to have kept hidden.  This is an important work, but a tragic story.

Rising Tide Book Review

Rising Tide: The Untold Story of The Russian Submarines That Fought the Cold War

By Gary E. Weir and Walter J. Boyne

Hardcover in dustjacket, 354 pages, photographs, appendices, notes, bibliography, and index

Published by Basic Books, October 2003

Language: English

ISBN-10: ‎0-465-09112-1

ISBN-13: ‎978-0-465-09112-6

Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.3 x 9.3 inches

The submarine service of any nation is generally cloaked in secrecy, and with good reason.  The primary advantage of a submarine is stealth – leave port, pull the plug, and disappear.  The submarine is then free to operate anywhere her speed and endurance can take her, and perform any task desired.  But if a submarine is detected it is suddenly vulnerable.

Rising Tide pulls back the curtain on Soviet submarine operations during the Cold War.  The authors base the book on interviews with several former Soviet submarine Captains.  While not widely known outside of naval circles, the Soviet boats were notoriously unreliable and several of the anecdotes in the book deal with fires and accidents, a number of which resulted in loss of life and / or sinking of the submarine.  There was a callousness towards the lives of the crews not seen in Western navies, and Soviet submarines employed technologies and design practices which would have not even been considered in other navies.  Adding to the problems were substandard maintenance and training practices.  These are illustrated by the deployment of several Foxtrot-class attack submarines during the Cuban Missile Crisis, none of which were completely operational after crossing the Atlantic.  A second example is the loss of the Oscar II class submarine Kursk, which was attributed to an explosion of a practice torpedo.  Subsequent investigation revealed the torpedo had not been properly maintained and that the crew had not actually fired a torpedo in years.

The book concludes with an analysis of Gorshkov’s History of the Soviet Navy and a brief comparison of American and Soviet submarines.  Gorshkov’s writings are at times insightful, and at other times almost laughable.  Overall, I found this book offered an interesting (though by necessity, incomplete) perspective on how the “other side” did things.  Recommended.

Encore Yakovlev Yak-9 in 1/72 Scale

The box says Encore, but Scalemates indicates this kit was first issued by Dakoplast in 1997, then Encore, then Eastern Express, and finally Modelist.  As Marc mentioned in comments to the build thread the sprues match the ICM kit. I enclosed the wheelwells, replaced the wheels, and substituted a vacuform canopy for the awful kit piece.  The model represents a generic Yak-9T of the 3rd FAC operating in the Kursk area, summer 1943.


Construction posts here: