Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Vehicle Schemes of the Third World War, Part 2 (The Soviet Union, Poland, and Czechoslovakia)

The Soviet Union and Poland

The Soviets had a multitude of camo patterns and paints during the war, but the most common base pattern was a color that compared very closely to FS (Federal Standard) 34077, a dark green known as Zashchitnuy Zelno that the Soviets had been painting their equipment in since 1956. Thousands of Soviet vehicles saw action wearing this color, and it was still the most common paint scheme in Soviet service, especially in Category III and Mobilization Only divisions, but this scheme was not limited to those units by any means.
Soviet T-72B from unidentified division from 38th Army in Zashchitnuy Zelno scheme, Manchuria, 1996

Soviet T-64 from postwar modeling magazine, taken from a photo from an actual example in Poland, ca. 1999 (Taken from Cybermodeler)

Zashchitnuy Zelno Scheme

The Soviets had had field regulations regarding disruptive camouflage since the 1960s, but the colors were those used often for other purposes, such as primer coats for equipment or interior colors, and the application and patterns was left on a haphazard basis to the Field Engineer Brigades and was often not applied except in time of war, if it was applied at all.

Osprey plate of BMP-1K attached to unknown MR Division in the Ukraine, 1998. Note the Brown No2 and a non-regulation lighter brown (from civilian stocks?) overspray over the base scheme

From the same Osprey of a BMP-1 somewhere in Poland, September 1997, unit unknown, this time there has been a mix of faded Yellow No1 and Brown No2 over sprayed over the base green

Soviet T-80 from 79th Guards Tank Division, in a prewar photo ca. 1994, with an overspray of Silver Grey No1 and Black No2 over the standard paint scheme

Soviet Field Camouflage Schemes

This practice changed in the 1980s, as the Soviets developed a three color (sometimes, only one color was applied) scheme, called “MERDCski” in the West by observers due to its similarities to the US MERDC scheme.

Soviet T-80 platoon from 25th TD moving up to the front, July 1997, Poland. This photo is a good example of the simplified “MERDCski” scheme.

Soviet T-80 Color Plate taken from postwar modeling magazine, ca. 2019, Example is from a T-80 from 12th Guards Tank Division, Poland, ca. March 1997 with a more complicated version of the “MERDCski” scheme. (taken from Cybermodeler).

MERDCski Paint Chart

Poland used similar schemes to the Soviets, apart from the “MERDCski” scheme, which the Poles never adopted. The main way one differentiated between Soviet and Polish vehicles was the unique “diamond” national insignia.
Polish T-55 with prominent insignia on either side of the gun mantlet.

The Czechs had been an early adopter of disruptive pattern schemes for tanks, having done so before WW-II. The current schemes were based off a water-based tempura paint that did not stand up to particularly hard wear, but was easy to reapply, even during the worst of the Twilight years. Standards and even paint shades were left up to the individual unit commanders, and often, as things broke down, the paint schemes got even more complex, and in some cases, gaudier. The Czech tricolor insignia was always present as well, and many vehicles, no matter how shoddy their paint scheme, would have the tricolor loving applied and touched up whenever possible. The colors that were supposed to be used were similar to the Soviet pre-“MERDCski” paints, and the base scheme was the same Zashchitnuy Zelno the Soviets happened to use.

Color Plate of Czech T-55 taken from Czech State News TV broadcast of January 5th, 1998. Vehicle is heavily oversprayed with Yellow No1 and Brown No2

Czech T-55 from Museum of the US Army, Ft. Belvoir, 2022. Vehicle was captured in this scheme of Yellow No1 and Sand No2 over the base scheme by elements of 1st Armored Division, November 1999


  1. Excellent guide, I wish I had it earlier. I did an entire 1/285 scale Soviet Tank Regiment for Modern Spearhead in the 79th guards scheme and it turned out far too blue. The current Russian Scheme (like the one for the 12th TD above) is fairly easy to pull off and looks good on the table.

  2. Great post. Someuseful info there.




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