Welcome to Cold War Gamer, a blog I am using to record my Cold War wargaming projects. These range from fictitious Cold War hot projects to historical conflicts that took place around the globe throughout the Cold War era, all modelled and gamed in 20mm. The blog includes links to various resources useful to the Cold War Gamer.

My current projects include: Central Front; British & Soviet. South African Border War; Angolans and South Africans. Soviet Afghan War; Soviets and Afghans

Friday, 2 May 2014

Modelling - Cold War Soviet vehicle markings and Decals




Sourcing decals for your army is one of the inevitable activities when you start collecting vehicles for a wargames forces. It's generally driven by the need for a variety of unique numbers on vehicles within a unit and a consistency of formation identification markings for the force both of which can be difficult to achieve using the decal sheets supplied with kits. Equally you will probably find yourself purchasing a number of resin and white metal models to fill the gaps in the orbat not covered by kit manufactures and these models tend to be supplied without decals.



Markings on Soviet vehicles tend to be limited and there is a dearth of documentation and imagery on the subject. Equally the policy for their use seems to have been inconsistently applied, not surprising given the size of the organisation.  I have yet to find a reference book, the best resource I have found to date is this Russian language site that formed the basis for this work.  It quotes the source as - Soviet Army Land Forces regulations (part 2 - battalion, company). A rough translation of this has also been posted on the Guild Wargames Forum and I have largely paraphrased the translation so that it is easier to digest, essentially the main elements of the Soviet marking system are:

Vehicle number, 3 or 4 figure number generally in white on turret or hull side and rear, the precise schema was largely determined by the regimental commander and could be meaningful or meaningless.  It is described in the regulations broadly as follows:


According to the reference, the vehicle number consists of three numerals, although I must admit I have seen a fair few pictures and decal sets with 4. The formation commander allocates sub units under his command a set of numbers (e.g. 200-299, or 800-999) for a period of time. 


The repetition of the same numbers on different types of vehicles was allowed. For example, the tank of the battalion commander and the his staff car can have the same number. The numbers issued to tanks in the tank companies of the Motor Rifle Regiment could also be the same as the numbers of the BMP's or BTR's in the Motor Rifle companies.



Numbers were generally painted on vehicles, space permitting, as follows:
  • On tanks - Turret sides and rear 
  • BMP's - Centrally on sides of hull and onthe upper part of the right rear door 
  • Self-Propelled Artillery mountings (I assume like 2S5, 2S7) - in the middle of both sides and rear of the crew compartment armor plates 
  • On self-propelled artillery cannons - on both sides of the turret and on the rear hatch 
  • BTR-60PB / BTR-70 on both sides of the hull towards the front lower than the level of the sights and boarding hand rails; in the areas free of the equipment-mounting clamps 
  • On other vehicles - in the centrally or towards the front of the hull sides

The Formation Symbol (see below) tended to be placed forward of the number.  Numbers were generally 20-40 cm high width being 1/6 (2/3 is stated but makes no sense, later in the translation 1/6 pops up out of context this would make more sense) of their height. The Formation Symbol would be equal to or smaller than the numbers the minimum size was stated as being 2/3 the size of the number. On Summer camouflage schemes these markings are white and for winter or Desert schemes black.  I have seen White on winter camouflaged vehicles :)



Various methods were used to assign numbers to vehicles a selection are outlined below:

  • 1-st numeral - the number of the battalion, 2-nd numeral - the number of the company, 3-rd numeral - the number of the vehicle in the company; Example: 239 - the 9-th vehicle of the 3-rd company of the 2-nd battalion. 
  • 1-st numeral - the number of the company in the regiment, 2-nd and 3-rd numerals - the number of the vehicle in the battalion; Example: 623 - the 6-th company (hence the 2-nd battalion), 23-rd vehicle in the battalion 
  • 1-st numeral - the number of the battalion, 2-nd and 3-rd numerals - the number of the vehicle in the regiment; Example 382 - the 3-rd batallion, 82-nd vehicle in the regiment 
  • There were several other methods including factory construction number,everything was dependent on the whim of the regiment's deputy commander for the armament management. 
The identifying markings were supposed to be applied for the duration of the exercise/operation after which they were supposed to be removed. In reality, this rule was not followed consistently, and these markings would usually remain on the vehicles for several years.



With the expansion of the helicopter force from 1970 the Identifying markings were applied on the turret tops of command vehicles in order to be clearly seen from above and behind. This was more common in central europe than elsewhere.



Honorifics or Arm of service symbols, typically seen on Guards, VDV and Naval Infantry units these markings tend to be more parade orientated than warfare but crews had a habit of leaving them on after the parade was long over.  Variously they appear on Hull, Turret sides and search light covers depending on vehicle type. 


Formation identification markings were applied at Regimental level, were set by the superior commander and changed periodically.  They were located on turret sides and hull sides usually in front of the number, I have also seen imagery where they are marked on top the intent was that all vehicles in the unit should be marked, in actual fact a degree of variation occurred dependent on vehicle type and unit. They consisted of geometric shapes  usually a circle, square or rectangle. Inside the shape additional lines, numbers, letters, dots were added and the marking could be partially over painted to increase the variety of symbols available. 




Air Identification Markings.  Which took the form of broad white lines on the vehicles upper surfaces. These could be longitudinal or Transverse or form a Cross.

Operational experience in Afganistan lead some units to remove all markings, though from images of both that theatre and the European theatre this practice was not consistently applied across all units.

A Growing Range of decal manufacturers have useful products that cover off elements or all of these components at sizes that work on 20mm 1/72 scale vehicles. One of the key points being that decals designed for scales from 15mm - 20mm are useful so 1/144 through to 1/72 primarily because the marking size relates to the vehicle size rather than the scale.

Decal Availability. The Products I have discovered to date are as follows:
  • TL Modelblau - 1/87, TL Modelblau has an extensive range of decals, of which two sets cover the Soviet Cold War Period the first focuses on Airborn and Naval Infantry markers, the other on GSFG.  TL Modelblaus products are quite expensive, and of the two I think the Airborne Naval infantry set is the more useful.  The bulk of the decals on the GSFG set having fairly limited use.






  • Mig Productions - 1/72 Mig productions have recently released two post war Soviet and Russian decal sets for this scale. I have yet to purchase a set so my observations are based on the images displayed rather than actual use of the product.  Effectivly the first of these will suite vehicles requiring smaller markings the second vehicles requiring larger markings.  Plenty of numbers and a reasonable range of formation markings.  The First of the sheets looks the better value.







  • Scotia - 6mm, The Scotia sheet number is RU 106, looking at their web site these would appear to be currently unavailable. Deacals are designed to be large WW2 Rusian vehicle numbers in white for 1/285 but they work equally well as smaller modern numbers on post war Soviet vehicles such as the sides of BMPs and on the T-72 stowage boxes.





  • QRF - 15mm, White Stenciled Numbers, This is an immensely useful set of decals, for Cold War Soviets, the numbers are single figures from 1-10 in a variety of sizes all of which are useable on 20mm vehicles. Except for the smallest of numbers this sheet has a set of numbers you could put on most vehicles. The flexibility afforded by the individual figure format is offset by the level of pain in putting them on. They are useful and relatively cheap and can be found on the QRF web site, occasionally this sheet goes OOP so worth having a few in stock.


  • Models Collect - 1/72  I have these but have yet to attempt to use them in anger.  You would need a good few sheets to consistently mark a regiment even at a 1:3 or 1:5 vehicle scale.  In addition things like the regimental markings and honorific look a little large for 1/72 against the imagery I have found to date although a variety of sizes for each decal on the sheet is provided and they seem consistent with the rules outlined above.  I have yet to make my mind up on the value of these, more of use to modellers  than war gamers I suspect, great range of formation symbols but limited numbers per sheet.  The Larger sheet has a good collection of numbers.




  • Pendinghause.  This decal set is primarily marketed at WW2 but like a number of WW2 sets for both 1/72, 1/87  and 1/100 has use out of period and across the scales although red stars and the more cyrillic scripts are less prevalent on modern equipments. 



If you know of any other references for Soviet markings or decal sets let me know and I'll update the post.


References:

2 comments:

  1. Hi matey, would you have any idea of the size of the larger numbers on the Mig second sheet (if you own it I guess)? I'm trying to find suitable numbers for 28mm modern Russians....

    cheers
    Brent

    ReplyDelete