A safe choice for the bottomI started the actual painting on the belly of the plane, as I hadn't been able to decide what the pattern should be. My fingers kept itching so I did something at least. I did my work on the belly, racks/pylons and the unattached drop tanks with light grey (VMA 71121 USAF Light Grey). Somehow a light underside sounded like a safe option, no matter what the rest would end up like.
The landing gear bays and the landing gears themselves I left intentionally untouched and most likely, for a bit of manual painting. Of course I could spend a good while applying a "sick paranoia"-level of masking and paint these few parts white with a couple of quick puffs from the airbrush, but I think it'd be quite a silly way to utilize my limited time resources.
The actual camo patternAfter a horrible amount of headscratching and pondering I found out that if I wanted to avoid a boring greyscale setup, the only actual, factual apple-pie flavoured options were the salad-y European I or the much less restrictive Aggressor team pattern. Of course they all were camo-painted all around, unlike what I had done.
Not that redoing some painting would be a bother, but as always, the point is what I want to do. The mess of greens didn't look nice, something more desert-like sounded much more interesting. After a bit of googling and whatnot a "red team" or the opposing force part of a wargame had used some of these desert patterns.
64th Aggressor SquadronWonderfully these folks use the Soviet/Russian patterns and those, those did include what I was looking for. The most important thing in my dislike for greyscale is that it's not fun or interesting. So, a couple of browns and some green added in for good measure - that's much more exciting in my opinion. Oh, and the planes of the our eastern neighbour had lighter coloured undersides (I didn't start mixing up a Kolkhoz Blue anyway) so this'd work just fine.
First step first: I toned down a sand paint (VMC 70819 Iraquian Sand) and sprayed a few form-breaking bands around the plane. These were done pretty widely and without too much worrying, as the other two colours would be controlling the area more. I just wanted to avoid a "paint by numbers" approach with bothersome gaps in the pattern.
Then I accidentally did something stupid and had to take four weeks off. Sigh.
Whenever I get to paint again, I'll be using brown (VMA 71125 USAF Brown) and green (VMA 71124 USAF Green), a setup I felt being pretty close to what this thing is supposed to look like.
 There had been a mixup with my spare part order, and I didn't get what I needed. We pondered about all this and we assumed, that the R-004 Fine Tip that they did have, could fit in the airbrush and might only affect the spray pattern somewhat. I decided to take the risk and I invested in one of those. Later that evening I tried it out and it wasn't too good. First the air didn't move one bit, but by loosening the spray regulator (the piece in the tip with a ] -shape) air started moving by the press of the trigger. I knew I'd have to repaint everything but I wanted to see how the colours worked out. The result was looking fine, if you forgot the splotchyness.
The same evening I emailed my royal supplier and ordered the specific part I needed (R-003 Ultra Fine Tip). Now we'll just have to wait and see when they get those in stock. If I'm very lucky, it happens before I leave for my vacation but most likely it takes another four weeks (for some reason they don't deliver stuff every day :) ), but I've got my vacation and I can tinker on other things meanwhile.