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This is a limited and highly accurately printed edition dedicated to the

original colours of the WWII era. The chips that appear in the book,
even though they are not painted with real paint, are highly controlled,

checked and calibrated in the most precise way under the current and

most modern parameters of printing and technology, to match the

original colours.
Original idea and concept:
Fernando Vallejo
Francisco Vives
AK Interactive

Executive editor:
Maciej Góralczyk

Art direction:
Tomek Wajnkaim

Cover idea:
Maciej Góralczyk

Color profiles:
Janusz Światłoń

James Hatch

Translation from Russian:

Maciej Góralczyk
Michael Neradkov of ScaleModels.ru

The symbols of the Third Reich including

the swastika were part of the markings of
German aircraft during World War II and are
shown in this book for the sake of historically
correct representations. The authors are firm
supporters of an open and democratic society
and do not to sympathise in any way with
radical movements whatsoever.

Produced & distributed by:

© 2019 AK Interactive.
All right reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form
or by any means, electronic or mechanical, actual or future, including photocopy, recording or
www.ak-interactive.com Follow us on any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers.




119 - 2.2.1 OLIVE DRAB 41 AND ANA 613
128 - 2.2.2 MEDIUM GREEN 42
134 - 2.2.3 NEUTRAL GRAY 43
135 - 2.2.4 SAND 49
147 - 2.2.7 JET BLACK ANA 622


191 - 3.3.1 NIGHT
197 - 3.3.2 SKY
202 - 3.3.3 SKY BLUE
211 - 3.4.1 SKY GREY
217 - 3.6.2 AZURE BLUE
217 - 3.6.3 DEEP SKY
221 - 3.7.2 PRU SPECIAL PINK
223 - 3.10 GREY GREEN
227 - 3.12 CODE LETTERS


231 - 4.2 UNTIL 1940
235 - 4.3 1940
243 - 4.4 1941-1942
255 - 4.5 WINTERS OF 1941-42 AND 1942-43
258 - 4.6 1943
271 - 4.7 WINTER OF 1943-1944
272 - 4.8 1944-1945

4 / real colors of wwii aircraft
Maciej Góralczyk would like to thank the co-authors: Gerald T. Högl, Jürgen Kiroff, Nicholas
Millman and Mikhail V. Orlov, whose unparalleled research work allowed us to jointly create
this resource. The participation of Mikhail V. Orlov would not have been possible without
the help of Michael Neradkov of ScaleModels.ru, and Massimo Tessitori. The archive photo
material included in this book could only be collated with the help of fellow researchers
and collectors: Dénes Bérnad, Craig Busby, Dino Cerutti, Boris Ciglić, Alex Crawford, James
V. Crow, Dani Egger, Søren Flensted, Chris Goss, Brett Green, Robert Gretzyngier, Thomas
Hesse, Bjarne V. Jansen, Adam Jarski, Phil Listemann, Dan Manthos, Mikael Olrog, Robert
Pęczkowski, Harald Rabeder, Sergio Luis dos Santos, Brian Spurr, Paul Stipdonk, Akira
Takiguchi, Chris Thomas, John Vasco, David Weiss, and particularly my great friend Erik
Mombeeck. Valuable information was collected during some very entertaining online
discussions with Marc-André Haldimann, Tomas Prusa, Sinisa Sestanovic, David Weiss
and most of all, Franck Benoiton and Georg Morrison, whose knowledge and passion of
Luftwaffe research must be emphasized. Janusz Światłoń must be congratulated for both
the creation of quality colour profiles and patient approval of numerous editor comments
and corrections. The involvement of James Hatch was indispensable for ensuring correct
grammar and wording. Tomek Wajnkaim’s talent and experience led to the design of a clear
yet modern-looking layout, of which I’m very proud. Finally, I would like to thank my family
for their continuous support, and Fernando Vallejo for his faith in this project.

Since the death of Ken Merrick, considerable progress was made in the research of Luftwaffe
colours. While this work was created in the spirit of ‘the master’ himself, it was only possible
with the invaluable help of a high number of people and due to space limitations not
everybody can be mentioned here. Of special significance for Jürgen Kiroff and Gerald T.
Högl are our fellow researchers, Jens Mühlig and György Punka. Both gentlemen are not
only the most important contributors of new evidence and they are also a pleasure to
work with. The recreation of Luftwaffe colours and their documentation would not have
been possible without the dedication of Peter Kiroff and Günter Blickle of Farben - Kiroff
- Technik. Jürgen Kiroff has been in charge of the RAL archive for years, and it is a matter
close to his heart to express his gratitude to the RAL gemeinnützige GmbH, and especially
to Ms. Meißenburg, who is always there to help. A special thank you goes to professor Dr.
ing. habil Klára Wenzel, and her colleagues Dr. Krisztián Samu PhD and Ágnes Urbin of the
Department of Mechatronics, Optics & Mechanical Engineering Informatics, Faculty of
Mechanical Engineering of the Budapest University of Technology and Economics. Their
essential help in the field research and the documentation of historic colour samples is very
much appreciated.

Mikhail V. Orlov wants to express his gratitude to everyone who helped him in collecting
material and information about the painting of Soviet aircraft, and particularly M. Maslov,
N. Yakubovich, and employees of the information department of the Yakovlev Design
Bureau: Y. V. Zasypkin and S. D. Kuznetsov. Illustrating the chapter with numerous rare
photographs wouldn’t be possible without the help of the late V. Vakhlamov.

real colors of wwii aircraft / 5

6 / real colors of wwii aircraft
Maciej Góralczyk • Gerald T. Högl • Jürgen Kiroff

Colours In The
Second World

real colors of wwii aircraft / 7

1.1.1 Single colour finishes
The Luftwaffe (German Air Force) was officially founded on March 1, 1935,

1.1 The pre-war and became a subject of rapid growth from a total of 16 Staffeln (squad-
rons) at the time of its foundation to 48 Staffeln on August 1, 1935. During
the same period, aviation materials, including paints, thinners and protec-
and early war tive coatings, are known to have been integrated into the military pro-
curement system and given four-digit codes. When necessary, these were

supplemented by two-digit suffixes which meant that a specific colour
must be used, in accordance with the colour coding system of the Reich
Air Ministry [Reichsluftfahrtministerium – abbr. as ‘RLM’].

RLM 01 silber RLM-grau (RLM 02) RLM 63 hellgrau

The expanding German military aircraft fleet initially wore overall silver
and grey finishes. Whilst the former can be attributed to the RLM 01 sil-
ber (silver) colour standard, the greys ranged from the colour standardised
no later than 1935, as RLM-grau (RLM-grey) and, subsequently, RLM 02,
to RLM 63 hellgrau (light grey), which had been introduced with the first
known RLM colour card that was issued in early 1936. In terms of the visual
comparison of colour standards, RLM 63 differed little from RLM 02, but
the difference in pigmentation may have caused increasing difference in
the visual appearance of the finishing paint layer, especially if it had been
applied over an aluminium intermediate layer. Different formulation that
allowed for saving raw materials, was the reason for using the 63 for ex-
ternal finishes.

Silver liveries were common for training aircraft as they provided better
visibility in the air, which was an important factor considering their role and
usage. Many silver trainers were still in use in early 1940s, being gradually
A line-up of He 51 A-1s from 1./Kü.Jasta 136, replaced by more modern training aircraft types finished in grey overall,
photographed before take off from Kiel- and from around 1943, in camouflage schemes, or obsolete combat air-
Holtenau airfield in early 1936. All aircraft craft relegated to flight schools and training units.
were painted in RLM-grey overall (Erik
Mombeeck coll.)

8 / real colors of wwii aircraft

He 59 B, coded 60+E13 of 3./Kü.Fl.Gr.
106, Borkum, Germany, 1937. RLM-
grey overall finish with silver floats

This picture was apparently taken during a presentation of various aircraft

in the second half of 1935, or in 1936. Lined-up are (from the left): H.E. 9d, He
42, He 60 with rarely seen 01+Y50 or 01+X50 marking, which is believed to
indicate direct attachment to the Oberkommando der Luftwaffe (Luftwaffe
High Command), W 34 (See), He 59 and Ju 52/3m. The first two aircraft were
painted silver overall, with silver grey floats, whilst the remaining seaplanes
carried grey overall finish with silver floats (Maciej Góralczyk coll.)

Pictured at Jüterbog-Damm, as indicated by the distinctive hangar visible in

the background, these He 51s coded 21+_21 (where _ indicates position of the
individual aircraft’s letter) belonged to 4./JG 132. As this unit’s red identification
colour was only applied to the engine cowling and spinner, the photo must
have been taken between August 1935, when five-character codes had been
introduced, and July 1936, when application of unit colours was extended to
the upper fuselage decking of the aircraft. The aircraft were finished in RLM-
grey overall. Note the animal names painted in white on the engine cowlings
(Erik Mombeeck coll.)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 9

This Ar 68 F coded White 6, wore the circle markings of a 3. Staffel of a
Jagdgeschwader (Fighter wing), which were used from July 1936 to December
1937. Judging by the appearance of the markings (especially the fairly round
‘6’ digit), this aircraft most likely belonged to 3./JG 232 (renamed 3.(l)/JG These Fw 44 and Bf 108 B-1 trainers
137 on April, 20, 1937), which employed these fighters since January 1937. were photographed at Kastrup airport
Furthermore, the place appears to be Bernburg airfield, which was the home and probably belonged to FFS A/B 10.
of the unit from April 1935 until August 1939. The aircraft was finished in RLM- Both aircraft wore their factory finish,
grey overall, with the engine cowling and upper fuselage decking painted in which in the case of the Fw 44 was
the unit’s identification colour of green (Erik Mombeeck coll.) silver overall. Note the swastika fully
positioned on the fin as introduced in
1940 (Nationalmuseet, Danmark)

10 / real colors of wwii aircraft

The reason for emergency landing
of this Ar 96 B-3 WNr. 4358, DQ+YF, 1.1.2 The first camouflage
coded White 2, from 1./JFS 2, was
not a mistake of a young pilot, but system
the broken piston rod. The accident
happened on May 26, 1942, neat Reetz. 1936 saw the introduction of the first standard camouflage scheme, which was
Built in late 1941 at the Czech Avia intended for the land-based bomber (including the dive bomber class) and
factory, the aircraft received an overall reconnaissance aircraft. The aircraft’s upper surface pattern was to comprise
grey finish (probably in RLM 02, as RLM straight-edged patches of three colours: RLM 61 dunkelbraun (dark brown),
63 was by then declared obsolete), RLM 62 grün (green) and RLM 63 hellgrau (light grey); whilst the undersides
which was standard for trainers during were to be uniformly finished in RLM 65 hellblau (light blue).
this period. Things would change in
1943 due to the increasing presence of
Allied aircraft in the skies over Germany
and occupied countries (Craig Busby

RLM 61 dunkelbraun RLM 62 grün RLM 63 hellgrau RLM 65 hellblau (1938)

All these colours were introduced with the first known RLM colour card,
issued in early 1936, and they are recorded to have been first applied to
Ju 86 A-0 bombers that had been built since February 1936. This cam-
ouflage scheme would be officially valid until mid-1937 for dive bomb-
ers, and definitively abandoned from use for other aircraft in September
1938, although the situation with reconnaissance aircraft is not fully clear,
as many Do 17 Ps, whose deliveries to the units started in late 1938, are
documented to carry the four colour finish, whilst the majority of Hs 126
A-1s that had been manufactured from the spring of 1938 and delivered
to the units since June 1938, were painted in the new RLM 70/71/65 cam-
ouflage. Quite a number of frontline aircraft retained the RLM 61/62/63/65
scheme well into the Polish and French campaigns, with the most notable
examples being the Hs 123 dive-bombers and aforementioned Do 17 P
reconnaissance aircraft. Worth noting is that available photographic refer-
ence indicates that at factory level, the colour patches of this camouflage
Hs 123 A-1 WNr. 968, coded 52+A13, scheme were typically painted with hard edges. This resulted from the us-
from 3./St.G. 165, Kitzingen, Germany, age of nitrocellulose lacquer paints in this period, which were not suitable
1937. RLM 61/62/63 upper surfaces for mist spraying.
with RLM 65 undersides

real colors of wwii aircraft / 11

Ju 87 A bombers from 1./St.G. 165 are ready for take off. The caption on the rear side of the photo indicates that the aircraft coded 52+A11 was the mount of the unit
leader, Hptm. Ott (likely Ernst Ott, who was appointed Kommandeur of the newly formed II./St.G. 163 in November 1938). Both Stukas carried the same upper surface
pattern consisting of RLM 61/62/63 hard-edged patches, but different colours were applied to the same areas on each machine (Bjarne V. Jensen coll. via Søren

Pictured during the summer of 1938, this Ar 68 E, coded Yellow 4, from 9.(l)/JG 132, is a rare example of a fighter aircraft
camouflaged in the RLM 61/62/63 splinter pattern, a few of which are documented to serve with III.(l)/JG 132 in the
aforementioned period (Erik Mombeeck coll.)

The red circle markings which covered the national insignia of this Do 17 E-1, coded 53+A13,
from 3./KG 155, indicate that it took part in the 1938 summer manoeuvers. This aircraft was
painted in accordance with diagram 2a, colour arrangement A, which is reproduced in sub-
chapter 1.5 (Erik Mombeeck coll.)

12 / real colors of wwii aircraft

A complementary colour chart released as a supplement
to the RAL 840 B 2 colour set. These colours were added at
the request of the German Railways, Minister of Aviation
Reproduced here is a part of the colour listing included in and Commander-in-Chief of the German Air Force,
the 1944 edition of the ‘Taschenbuch für Lackierbetriebe’ Wehrmacht, and again German Railways, respectively.
(‘Pocketbook for Paint shops’). Note that although the upper Colour designated as 35 m (RAL 4000 in RAL 840 R) was
surface colours for the camouflage scheme introduced used for painting the high-speed diesel train cars and the
in 1936, i.e. RLM 61, 62 and 63, were still correlated with wagons of the ‘Rheingold’ luxury train. Colour 1 r (RAL 7003
the RAL system, as was the case with RLM 00, 01, 02 (here in RAL 840 R) corresponds to RLM 02 grau. Colours 45 and
recorded as hellgrau 1 r, which was its designation within 46 (RAL 7017 and 7021 in RAL 840 R) were introduced by
the RAL 840 R system), 04, 21-28 and 66, the RLM 65 along Wehrmacht as new camouflage colors in July 1937. Colour
with the camouflage colours introduced afterwards, had no 47 (RAL 3004 in RAL 840 R) was used for painting the Berlin
direct RAL equivalent S-Bahn wagons

real colors of wwii aircraft / 13

This Do 17 P, coded 4U+EH, from 1.(F)/123, was finished to diagram 2a,
colour arrangement B, of the factory camouflage specification for the
Do 17 E and F. Interestingly, specifications for the Do 17 P and M variants
available to this author, show RLM 70/71/65 scheme, but photos of other
Do 17 Ps taken before and during the early war period usually show the
RLM 61/62/63/65 finish. This particular aircraft was pictured after coming
back from a reconnaissance mission on April 21, 1940, during which it
had been attacked by French fighters (Harald Rabeder coll.)

14 / real colors of wwii aircraft

real colors of wwii aircraft / 15
1.1.3 Green camouflage
With the introduction of the Bf 109 B to Luftwaffe, and particularly, to II.(s)/
JG 132, in February 1937, a new camouflage scheme appeared on the
German military aircraft. This consisted of an upper surface splinter pat-
tern of two dark green colours, namely RLM 70 schwarzgrün (black green)
and RLM 71 dunkelgrün (dark green). The undersides retained the RLM 65
hellblau (light blue) finish known from the existing camouflage scheme.
Although the camouflage patches may appear to be hard-edged when
viewed from a distance, close-up photos reveal that these were usually
applied in accordance with the specification which can be found in the
Handbook for the Bf 109 C and D: “the execution of the camouflage paint-
ing was not to be done with hard edges between colours, but blended
into each other with a 50 mm overspray”.

RLM 70 schwarzgrün RLM 71 dunkelgrün

The new finish was chosen as a standard for the newly manufactured fighter
aircraft (Bf 109 B, C, D, E, and He 112 B, as well as the He 51 C-1) until late 1939.
The Bf 110 heavy fighters, or Zerstörers (destroyers), were factory-finished to
this scheme at least until the late spring of 1940, and many aircraft of this type
still wore it well into the Battle of Britain. During the 1937 and 1938, the RLM
70/71/65 scheme gradually became the factory finish for all land-based bomb-
ers, reconnaissance (except for high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft painted
in grey overall, and recon variants of fighter aircraft that were factory-finished
The original colour card included in the colours specified for fighters) and ground attack aircraft (except for fight-
1938 edition of L. Dv. 521/1. Colours 21 er-bombers, which were painted in colours specified for fighter aircraft), and
to 28 were the marking colours (Jens remained the standard for these classes of aircraft until the summer of 1944.
Mühlig, www.historycolors.de)

16 / real colors of wwii aircraft

Bf 109 Bs, from 6.(s)/JG 132, finished to the RLM 70/71/65 scheme. These aircraft were photographed in Budaörs, Hungary, at the opening ceremony of the local airport,
on June 20, 1937. II.(s)/JG 132 was the first Gruppe with the Luftwaffe to be equipped with the Bf 109 B aircraft in February 1937 (Hungarian National Museum)

Another Jumo-engined Bf 109

(probably a D, from 5.(l)/JG 334)
getting ready for take off. Note the
demarcation of camouflage patches
(Erik Mombeeck coll.)

Bf 110 C-1, coded 2N+CH, from 1./ZG 1, Neuhausen ob Eck, winter 1939-1940.
Standard factory pattern of RLM 70 and 71 over RLM 65 undersides

real colors of wwii aircraft / 17

He 111 H-6 production line at Ernst-Heinkel-Flugzeugwerke in Rostock-Marienehe. The aircraft with factory code DJ+LN visible in the background was most likely WNr.
4446. The camouflage pattern generally fit the diagram with the specified scheme which is reproduced in sub-chapter 1.5 (Nationalmuseet, Danmark)

A Ju 88 A or D in flight. The
RLM 70/71 pattern on the
upper surfaces quite nicely
resembles the camouflage
diagram reproduced in sub-
chapter 1.5 (Erik Mombeeck

18 / real colors of wwii aircraft

This Ju 87 B-1, coded S2+AP, was flown by Staffelkapitän of 6./St.G. 77, Hptm.
Herbert Pabst, during the summer of 1941. St.G. 77 continued using the old
B-1s well into 1942. Note the name ‘Anton der Zweite’ on the engine cowling,
which may referred to this machine being the second aircraft coded A, flown
by this pilot. The RLM 70/71 pattern adheres quite well to the camouflage
diagram reprinted in sub-chapter 1.5, with the exception of a surplus RLM 71
patch on the fuselage side, under the rear cockpit (Erik Mombeeck coll.)

A series of photos depicting aircraft of Blindflugschule 4 at Copenhagen-

Kastrup airfield. He 111 G-3, coded CE+NX, was stolen by Danish mechanic on
July 6, 1944, and flown to Helsingborg where it crashed upon landing, but the
pilot survived (Josef Rotty via Nationalmuseet, Danmark)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 19

This Ju 88 sported the
Blindflugschule 4 emblem on
the forward fuselage. Note
the shade of RLM 65, which
apparently represents the
‘1941’ standard (Josef Rotty via
Nationalmuseet, Danmark)

A rare picture of a Fw 58 in
flight. We can see a large part
of the RLM 70/71 upper surface
pattern, which is similar to the
schemes specified for other
aircraft. The aircraft belonged to
LNS (See) 6, based at Dievenow
(now Dziwnów in Poland). This
unit trained Bordfunker (radio
operators) for maritime aircraft
(Nationalmuseet, Danmark)

20 / real colors of wwii aircraft

This Si 204 D from a Blindflugschule (indicated by the two yellow fuselage
bands) was photographed in Germany after the end of war. It carried a
standard RLM 70/71/65 pattern (James V. Crow coll.)

RLM 72 grün RLM 73 grün

The L. Dv. 521/1 colour card issued in 1938 introduced yet another set of
two dark green colours, i.e. RLM 72 grün (green) and RLM 73 grün (green),
which were intended for maritime aircraft. Again, the underside colour
was to be RLM 65. The style of camouflage patterns was very similar to
those designed for the RLM 71/70/65 scheme. The RLM 72/73/65 scheme
remained the standard factory finish for seaplanes, as well as some of the
Fw 200 C-2 WNr. 0023, coded F8+EH, from 1./KG 40, Bordeaux-Merignac, end land-based maritime aircraft, the notable examples being the Fw 200, Do
of July 1941. Standard factory pattern of RLM 72 and 73 over RLM 65. The 217 E-1 and E-3, Do 217 E-2, E-4, K & M (these variants, however, were to
factory code of this aircraft was apparently BS+AV, as evidenced by visible carry a night camouflage scheme with the lower surfaces painted in RLM
traces of hastily removed letters (Photo: Chris Goss coll.) 22 schwarz instead of RLM 65).

real colors of wwii aircraft / 21

Two photos of He 59, coded NV+AV,
which belonged to Seenotstaffel 8
that had been formed in Mamaia,
Romania, in April 1941. The first
photo shows it with yellow Balkan
campaign theatre markings on the
rudder and front part of the engine
cowling, whilst the other must
have been taken some time later,
when the unit participated in the
war against USSR, as indicated by
the yellow fuselage band (Maciej
Góralczyk coll./James V. Crow coll.)

A He 115 C from 3./Kü.Fl.Gr. 506,

being loaded with a torpedo. The
camouflage pattern is clearly visible.
Note that RLM 65 was also applied
to the lower surfaces of the floats
(Maciej Góralczyk coll.)

22 / real colors of wwii aircraft

Do 217 E-4 WNr. 4272, coded
U5+KT, from 9./KG 2, wore a
camouflage scheme intended
for night operations, with the
undersides painted in RLM 22.
The upper surfaces were finished
in RLM 72 and 73 (Chris Goss

Although the BV 138s captured

on these photos after the end
of war, were in a rather poor
condition, they still give a good
idea of the colours used (Lars
Berth via Nationalmuseet,

real colors of wwii aircraft / 23

1.1.4 Legion Condor The initial finish of the first serial-produced Bf 109s that reached Spain, i.e. the
14 Bf 109 As coded 6-3 through 6-16, is still a matter of numerous discussions
curiousities between the researchers. This author tends to agree with Lynn Ritger, who
proposed a silver (with some parts left in bare metal, as can be seen on photos
On the following pages we will briefly discuss some notable exceptions of 6-7) overall colouring. David Johnston cites a S/88 document from January
from the standard finishes, which concerned the German aircraft that 1938, which mentions a silberweiss (silver-white) camouflage colour, and
served with the Legion Condor during the Spanish Civil War. It must be Lt. Josef Fözö’s description of his Bf 109 A coded 6-16’s finish being silver-grey.
emphasized that the large number of aircraft delivered to Spain retained What is certain is that some kind of coating had been applied, as some photos
the then-standard finishes for their classes within the Luftwaffe. reveal damages to the paint layer, down to bare metal. Worth noting is the
very smooth finish of ‘Antons’: the panel lines were apparently taped over
(AF Editores archive)

Whilst most of the first Bf 109 Bs

delivered to Spain (from 6-17 to
6-43) initially flew in the factory
scheme of RLM 70/71/65, with a
few aircraft, such as 6-29, 6-32,
6-35 and 6-39, being repainted in
silberweiss possibly for the purpose
of further comparison of both
finishes, Legion Condor eventually
adopted a simple scheme of RLM
63 over RLM 65 for their Bf 109s,
which became a standard for the
remainder of the Spanish Civil
War, and was also subsequently
applied to the surviving older
Messerschmitts. Reproduced here
is the only known colour photo
showing Bf 109s of the Legion
Condor, which was taken in 1939,
given the presence of a Bf 109 E
coded 6-12x (Akira Takaguchi coll.)

24 / real colors of wwii aircraft

Bf 109 Bs, coded 6-51 and 6-54, are
also known to initially fly in the green
factory finish. Furthermore, 6-51 was
one of the few Bf 109 Bs of the Legion
Condor (along with 6-38, 6-42 and
6-55, all belonging to 1.J/88, 6-44
during its service with this Staffel, and
6-50), which at some point carried
a tri-colour camouflage pattern
applied to the wings. A photo of 6-42
parked near a Do 17 E offers a good
comparison of the colours carried by
both aircraft, allowing to assess that
this pattern consisted of RLM 61, 62
and 63 patches (Erik Mombeeck coll.)

He 45s were delivered to Spain in an overall grey finish, which wasn’t really suitable for
their role. Various camouflage schemes were therefore applied, probably using lacquers
for repairs in colours 61 and 62. These ranged from quite small, rounded blotches,
through patterns of edgy patches (sometimes even showing a loose resemblance to the
lozenge camouflage), to considerably wide bands and large patches of colour, as seen
on this example (Erik Mombeeck coll.)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 25

…to more conventional bands and patches (Erik Mombeeck coll.)

26 / real colors of wwii aircraft

The camouflage schemes seen on the He 51s ranged
from a randomly sprayed mottle in different colours
(again, most likely applied using lacquers for repairs in
colours 61 and 62)…(Erik Mombeeck coll.)

Some He 51s appear to be delivered in the RLM 70/71/65 scheme (Erik Mombeeck coll.)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 27

In the case of I./JG 53, the available
photo reference shows that the
1.1.5 Evolution of the fighter
autumn 1939 experiments concerned camouflage
mainly, if not only, the aircraft of
Gruppe’s Stabskette. Pictured here is After the end of the Polish campaign, a series of camouflage experiments
one of them, whose upper surfaces have been conducted by the selected day fighter units, whose common
were sprayed with quite large patches feature was location in the Western Germany, and particularly at Wies-
of RLM 02, 71 and 70, with angled baden, Kirchberg, Mannheim and Böblingen. This resulted in creation of a
vertical edges. Note that the fuselage number of different schemes, and allowed to perform some combat tests
spine was painted in green colours during the clashes with Armée de l’air over the French-German border.
only. A quite similar pattern was also Some of these camouflage finishes would remain common for the partic-
tested by II./JG 53, but both Gruppen ular units for the next couple of months, whilst the others quickly disap-
abandoned this rather complicated peared, or evolved into different schemes.
finish in favor of different schemes
which would be introduced in early
1940. Posing on the photo is Hptm.
Erich Mix, a veteran of WW1 and
Mayor of Wiesbaden, which may
indicate that the photo was taken
before September 26, 1939, when
I./JG 53 left Wiesbaden-Erbenheim for
Kirchberg / Hunsrück (Erik Mombeeck

III./JG 53 also tested an upper surface

pattern of RLM 70, 71 and 02,
although in their case, the patches
of the particular colours covered
considerably larger areas, making
the entire scheme easier to apply. The
Bf 109 E whose tail is visible in the
foreground, most likely belonged to
Lt. Jakob Stoll of 9./JG 53, who scored
his 1st victory on November 6, 1939,
and added another one to his tally
on the next day. Other aircraft of the
Gruppe are partially visible in the
background, showing the distinctive
large patches of RLM 02 applied
over engine cowling and the area
extending from behind the cockpit
to the frame no. 6 or 7. It appears
that III./JG 53 repainted the biggest
number of aircraft amongst all units
involved in camouflage testing,
or at least, their ‘Emils’ were most
extensively photographed
(Chris Goss coll.)

28 / real colors of wwii aircraft

The painters from I./JG 54 took a completely different approach, over-spraying their Bf 109 Es in RLM 02, in various ways. The results ranged from quite dense, but not
uniform application of the grey colour over the factory green pattern, as visible on example of Bf 109 E-3 WNr. 1227, coded Yellow 1, flown by Staffelkapitän of 3./JG 54,
Oblt. Hans Schmoller-Haldy (note the carefully masked-off maintenance markings)… (Erik Mombeeck coll.)

…through dense grey over-spray applied in such a way that the unpainted green surfaces formed
meandering streaks, which were subsequently strengthened by random application of a green colour,
as can be seen on examples of Bf 109 Es coded White 8 from 1. Staffel and Gruppenkomanndeur’s
‘chevron triangle’ (worth noting is that low-vis character of the marking of the latter machine; white
outline markings were also used by 2./JG 54 from the autumn of 1939 until at least late 1940, or
possibly until the unit’s reequipment with the Bf 109 F-2 in May 1941) … (Erik Mombeeck coll.)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 29

…to large, quite uniform application of RLM 02 over the fuselage sides, some portions of the fuselage spine, and large areas
of the wing upper surfaces, with the remaining surfaces painted in RLM 71. Note the wavy scalloped demarcation between
the colours. The camouflage finishes implemented by I./JG 54 during the autumn of 1939 would remain well into the Battle of
Britain, and their demise was mainly connected with the deliveries of replacement aircraft finished to the new factory scheme
that had been introduced in late spring of 1940, although photo reference reveals that I./JG 54 painters chose to further town
down their sides, as can be seen on p.43 (Erik Mombeeck coll. / Craig Busby coll.)

30 / real colors of wwii aircraft

A different scheme was tested by II./JG 52, or more specifically, their 5. Staffel.
This consisted of substantially large rounded patches of RLM 02, 70 and 71,
applied over the upper surfaces of the fuselage and wings. The demarcation
between this camouflage and RLM 65 undersides was extremely low (Chris
Goss coll. / Erik Mombeeck coll.)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 31

It appears that the exact pattern was different on each of the 5./JG 52 aircraft
camouflaged this way. This scheme was rather short-lived, and apparently
disappeared soon after December 1939, in favour of the new standard single-
engine fighter finish (Erik Mombeeck coll.)

The new standard camouflage scheme for the single-engine fighter air- the nose; the number of colour patches on the fuselage spine, behind the
craft was introduced in the December 1939-January 1940 period, both at cockpit; the level of colour demarcation on the fuselage sides, and finally,
the unit and factory level. It consisted of RLM 71 and 02 upper surfaces, and the layout of the wing pattern. This so-called 40-er Anstrich (40’s painting)
RLM 65 lower surfaces, with the latter colour covering most of the fuselage would be the standard finish of the majority of Bf 109s during the first half
sides, including the entire rudder and tailfin. A few basic patterns can be of 1940, and some units would still use a lot of Bf 109 Es painted this way
determined when studying the photo reference. These differed from each well into 1941, the 3./JG 26, III./JG 26 and III./JG 54 being notable examples.
other in the arrangement of colours on the wings and upper portion of

32 / real colors of wwii aircraft

Bf 109 D, coded White N+5, flown by Lt. Joachim Böhner of 10.(N)/ZG 26, Hage, Germany, early January 1940. An earlier-built aircraft freshly
repainted into the new scheme of RLM 71 and 02 over RLM 65. Note the fuselage spine surface divided into four colour patches

A typical example of a Bf 109 E repainted into 40-er Anstrich.

Note the high demarcation of the colours on the fuselage.
This machine belonged to 6./JG 77, and carried a single
black victory bar on the rudder. II./JG 77 managed to shot
down a number of RAF bombers during sorties flown over
German Bight in late 1939 (Erik Mombeeck coll.)

This Bf 109 E-1, coded Yellow 8, from

3./JG 51, was most likely built in 1940,
as evidenced by the revised camouflage
pattern applied to the wing upper surfaces
(Paul Stipdonk coll.)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 33

Photographed in Norway in June 1940, this Bf 109 E-1 belonged to
II.(J)/Tr.Gr. 186. It was earlier flown by the CO of the 6. Staffel, Oblt.
Kurt Ubben. Note the fairly low demarcation between the fuselage Although JG 26 generally employed aircraft in standard finish well into the Battle of
colours, non-standard finish of the port wing, the gun troughs Britain, an interesting exception was the personal mount of the unit’s commander,
painted with light grey heat-resistant paint, and traces of over- Maj. Hans-Hugo Witt. The RLM 71 and 02 patches from the fuselage spine were
painted witch emblem under the cockpit (Erik Mombeeck coll.) extended downwards; on the nose, they covered the entire engine cowling.
Furthemore, a band in RLM 02 was sprayed over the fuselage side, above the wing
root. This, or identically painted aircraft, was used by Geschwaderadjutant Oblt.
Hasselmann, coded A. Note that although the outer surfaces of the canopy frames
appear to be painted in RLM 66, the interior framing and the cockpit itself are
finished in RLM 02 (Erik Mombeeck coll.)

34 / real colors of wwii aircraft

After a short-lived use of the 40-er Anstrich (possibly only on the newly delivered aircraft), during the winter of 1939-1940 the
I./JG 53’s painters designed a new camouflage pattern, which became a standard finish for the unit’s Bf 109 Es until autumn
of 1940. In the most basic form of this scheme, the fuselage spine was uniformly painted in RLM 70, most of the fuselage side
surfaces got a uniform RLM 02 finish, with the RLM 65 underside colour extending upwards on the rear fuselage, with more or
less wavy demarcation lines between the colours. In many cases, additional patches or streaks of a dark colour, either RLM 70 or
RLM 71, were sprayed over the RLM 02 areas to break up the monotone finish. The wing upper surfaces were painted in an RLM
02/70 pattern (Chris Goss coll. / Paul Stipdonk coll.)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 35

After the previous experimental pattern was withdrawn, the ‘Emils’ of III./JG 53 wore either a similar basic scheme to the one
seen on the I. Gruppe’s aircraft, or a variation of it with the fuselage sides almost completely covered with RLM 02, often with
only a small hint of RLM 65 at the rear fuselage. The main difference between the appearance of aircraft from both Gruppen
was that the III/JG 53 painters applied small blotches or streaks of green colour over the fuselage sides. The III. Gruppe’s scheme
survived at least until late autumn of 1940 (Chris Goss coll./Erik Mombeeck coll.)

36 / real colors of wwii aircraft

Interesting variations of the 40-er Anstrich were applied to the Bf 109 Es of II./JG 51 during the winter of 1939-1940. White 8,
a Bf 109 E-1 from 4./JG 51, was apparently repainted from the green scheme by over-spraying the sides in RLM 65, whilst the
fuselage spine and wing upper surfaces apparently were first over-painted in RLM 02. This was followed by application of RLM
70 (or 71) patches over these areas. This also applied to the side surfaces of the upper part of the tail fin and rudder, where the
swastika was re-applied in the new position – before 1940, it was superimposed over the fin and rudder (Paul Stipdonk coll.)

Another ‘Emil’ from 4./JG 51, White 9, appears to have the upper surface camouflage applied in reverse way. In this case, the
RLM 70 was applied in the first instance, and followed by quite modest over-spray in RLM 02, which appears to be darker than
on the previous photo due to being applied over a black green background (Paul Stipdonk coll.)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 37

Bf 109 E-3 WNr. 1160, coded White 2, was flown by Fw. Johann Illner of
4./JG 51 until July 1940, although the appearance of the aircraft would
change in early spring of 1940, when the fuselage sides of II./JG 51 aircraft
were toned down. These two photos allow us to see the rather unusual
finish of the upper surfaces, with patches and streaks of RLM 02 applied
over the green background. This was quite commonly seen on the Bf 109
Es from II./JG 51 during this period (Paul Stipdonk coll.)

38 / real colors of wwii aircraft

This photo of a Yellow 8 from 6./JG 51 shows how the finish
of II./JG 51’s aircraft was toned down before the attack on
the West. A dense pattern of dark streaks in RLM 71 or 70
was sprayed over the fuselage sides and probably also the
wings (Paul Stipdonk coll.)

During the French Campaign,

more units discovered the need
for better concealment of their
aircraft. One of the most famous
finishes was adopted by the
Stab, I. and III./JG 2: The fuselage
sides of their Bf 109 Es were
toned down with RLM 70 paint
applied with brushes, used in a
tapping motion (Erik Mombeeck

real colors of wwii aircraft / 39

A very peculiar cross-hatch pattern
was applied to a number of III./JG 52
aircraft around June 1940. This finish
would remain in use at least until
autumn of 1940 (Erik Mombeeck coll.)

40 / real colors of wwii aircraft

real colors of wwii aircraft / 41
The need for toning down the fuselage sides of the Bf 109 must have been
Although its quality isn’t perfect, recognized by RLM before the French Campaign, and the revision appears
this photo of I.(J)/LG 2 aircraft taken to be applied at the production level around May 1940. The RLM 71/02/65
in June 1940 is significant, as the scheme with mottled fuselage sides would remain in use at least until late
Gruppenkommandeur’s machine spring of 1941, although the replacement finish consisting of the new co-
visible in the background may have lours RLM 74, 75 and 76, will be officially announced in the next edition of
been one of the first Bf 109 Es with L.Dv. 521/1, issued on November 8, 1941. The factory camouflage of the Bf
factory-applied mottling. Hptm. 110 was also changed around May-June 1940. The newly manufactured
Trübenbach lost his previous aicraft aircraft were to be painted in a similar way as the Bf 109s, in a high demar-
on May 31, 1940. Even though the cation RLM 71/02/65 scheme, with mottled fuselage sides. The camouflage
latter wasn’t heavily damaged during pattern was also simplified, as it previously happened with the Bf 109.
the belly-landing, it took some time to
recover it from the place of accident
(Erik Mombeeck coll.)

Bf 109 E-4 WNr. 5323, coded Yellow 5, from 9./JG 27, is

a nice example of the revised RLM 71/02/65 finish. The
traces of the removed factory code PG+BQ are still visible
(Erik Mombeeck coll.)

42 / real colors of wwii aircraft

As mentioned earlier, the fuselage sides of the new Bf 109 Es from I./JG 54 were often further toned down with a green colour, as seen on the example of Yellow 3 from
3./JG 54, which was photographed in the Netherlands during the spring of 1941 (Craig Busby coll.)

Bf 109 F-2 WNr. 12764, black double chevron, flown by Hptm. Rolf Pingel,
Kommandeur of I./JG 26, July 1941, England. This aircraft was built in early
1941, and according to the British report, was painted in “dark olive green on
the upper surface with pale blue underneath”. The camouflage scheme was
obviously RLM 71/02/65 (Photo: via Erik Mombeeck)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 43

Built in June 1940, Bf 110 C-5 WNr. 2177, coded 5F+CM, from 4.(F)14, was force-
landed near Goodwood Home Farm, Chichester, Sussex, on July 21, 1940. This
aircraft belonged to the first Bf 110s finished in the revised camouflage scheme
(Chris Goss coll.)

44 / real colors of wwii aircraft

real colors of wwii aircraft / 45
1.2 New needs, 1.2.1 New fighter colours
Although the new colours have already been used for a few months, they
new colours were officially introduced with the issue of the 1941 edition of L.Dv. 521/1
on November 8, 1941. This document brought a partial revision of the pre-
vious colour assignment for the fighter and heavy fighter (Zerstörer) air-
craft, which, according to paragraph ‘Anwendung der Lacke und Lackket-
ten’ (Application of Lacquers and Lacquer Sequence), were to be painted
in colours 74, 75, 76 and 65. It is unknown why the colour 65 was referred
in this regard, as it is not further mentioned in this role in any other related
documents. What’s more, even the introduction to the aforementioned
document which lists the main changes, mentions only the colours 74, 75
and 76 as intended for fighters and heavy fighters. It is therefore possible
that this single reference to colour 65 was a mistake. The RLM 74/75/76
combination became the standard colour set used for camouflaging Luft-
waffe fighter and heavy fighter aircraft until summer of 1944.

RLM 74 RLM 75 RLM 76 v.1 RLM 76 v.2 RLM 02 RLM 65

(conforming to (based on many original (conforming to (conforming to
L.Dv. 521/1 of 1941) aircraft parts) L.Dv. 521/1 of 1941) L.Dv. 521/1 of 1941)

Interestingly, the samples of colours 02 and 65 included in colour card at-

tached to L.Dv. 521/1 of 1941, differ from the previously issued variants. The
1941 version of RLM 02 is slightly greener and darker, whilst RLM 65 is more
The original colour card included in the
greenish and pale. This change in shade most likely took place before the issue
1941 edition of L.Dv. 521/1. Curiously,
of the 1941 version of L.Dv. 521/1, and may have been associated with the
the card is entitled ‘1938 edition’, even
increasing role of both these colours in aircraft (especially fighters) camouflage
though it was actually issued in 1941
since early 1940, and the introduction of a camouflage version of RLM 02.
(Jens Mühlig, www.historycolors.de)

46 / real colors of wwii aircraft

A Bf 109 G-6 aileron painted in RLM 76 v.2 (Jürgen Kiroff )

Bf 109 F-2 WNr. 9553 was manufactured in June 1941 and apparently painted in the new RLM 74, 75 and 76 colours, with some addition of 02 for the mottling on the
fuselage sides Note the shiny black finish of the wing root area. The aircraft was coded Yellow 9 and flown by Lt. Siegfried Schnell, Staffelkapitän of 9./JG 2 and one the
leading aces of his Geschwader at the end of 1941 (Erik Mombeeck coll.)

Me 210 A-1 WNr. 2100110139, coded S9+BL, from 3./ZG 1, Lechfeld, January
1942. Standard factory finish of RLM 74 and 75 on the upper surfaces and RLM
76 on the lower surfaces, with the fuselage sides mottled in RLM 74, 75 and 02

real colors of wwii aircraft / 47

This Fw 190 A-2 WNr. 257 was built by Focke-Wulf Bremen plant during the
winter of 1941-1942. Note the clean RLM 74/75/76 factory finish with no signs
of mottling on the fuselage sides. The aircraft was initially used by II./JG 26.
It first served with the 6. Staffel as Brown 12, and later became the mount of
Gruppenkommandeur, Hptm. Joachim Münchenberg (Erik Mombeeck coll.)
The Fw 190 A-3s built by Ago at Oschersleben in 1942, such as WNr. 2181,
coded Black 13, from 8./JG 2, had not only the fuselage sides toned down with
a mottled application of the upper surface camouflage colours (RLM 74 and
75), but carried simplified fuselage crosses consisting of white outlines only,
which have been applied over a large patch of RLM 74 (Erik Mombeeck coll.)

48 / real colors of wwii aircraft

The Fw 190 As built by Fieseler plant at Kassel (especially the later variants) can be
distinguished by heavy mottling on the fuselage sides, which consisted of numerous
small patches of RLM 74 and 75 upper surface colours that have been applied over an
RLM 76 basecoat. WNr. 681385, coded White 16, was belly-landed by Ofhr. Franz Schaar
from 5.(Sturm)/JG 4 on September 27, 1944 (Erik Mombeeck coll.)

The Bf 109 G-6s built by different manufacturers can

be quite easily recognized by the specific interpretation
of the camouflage patterns in each plant. On these
two photos, which shows Gustavs from the 2. (black
codes) and 3. Staffel (yellow codes) pictured at Sciacca
in Italy in June 1943, we can the aircraft built by
Messerschmitt Regensburg and Erla Leipzig. The former
can be distinguished by the large RLM 74 area running
from the ‘Beulen’ to behind the canopy, which also
goes down under the canopy, and fuselage side mottle
application in form of quite large patches/bands,
often applied diagonally (see Black 4, 7 and Yellow
7). On the other hand, Erla-built machines are easily
recognized by the fuselage sides toned down with quite
large spots of RLM 02, 74 and 75 (see Black 1, Yellow
6 and 9). The photo of Black 1 also reveals how the
Erla painters incorrectly interpreted the drawing from
the OS-liste, which showed a zig-zag demarcation of
colours on the wing with the purpose of defining it as
irregular and soft-edged. At the Erla plant, it was taken
literally, which resulted in the wing and horizontal tail
upper surfaces finished to a saw-tooth pattern (Erik
Mombeeck coll.)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 49

The WNF plant camouflage style can be seen on the example of Bf 109 G-6
WNr. 140265, coded Yellow 6, which served with I./JG 101. In this case, the
fuselage sides were covered with a dense soft mottle (Erik Mombeeck coll.)

This unmarked Bf 109 G-6 was captured at Reims in September 1944. In this
case, the camouflage spots appear to be applied in RLM 74, 75, and possibly
71 or 70 (James V. Crow coll.)

50 / real colors of wwii aircraft

The first Me 262s were finished to the RLM
74/75/76 scheme. However, this aircraft, WNr.
110956, coded White 17, which was relegated
to training duties at III./EJG 2, as emphasized
by the letter S (for Schulmaschine – training
aircraft) applied to the fuselage and tail fin, was
built in 1945, some time after its manufacturer
have released aircraft finished to the regular
RLM 81/82/76 scheme. It is therefore surprising
that this machine was painted in the earlier
colours (James V. Crow coll.)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 51

1.2.2 Night fighters
This diagram included in L.Dv. 521/1 and bombers
of 1941, identified the surfaces which
should be painted with the permanent At the beginning of war, the night fighter duties were fullfilled by just a few
black lacquer 7124.22 Staffeln which were equipped with obsolete single-engine fighter aircraft,
i.e. Ar 68 F and Bf 109 C/D. These machines were generally used in the
then standard camouflage schemes, as this allowed to also use them in
the day fighter role if necessary. The first night fighting units that operat-
ed twin-engine aircraft, were formed in June 1940, when the danger of
RAF night bombing raids on the Reich became imminent. The first true
Nachtjagd units adopted an overall black finish in RLM 22 schwarz, which
would remain in wide use until 1942, when it was replaced with the new
fighter colours 74, 75 and 76, the later being sometimes substituted by
RLM 02, as indicated by the camouflage diagram for the Do 217 N-1 (see
sub-chapter 1.5). In early 1944, the factory-applied camouflage finish for
the night fighter aircraft was simplified to RLM 75 over RLM 76, with the
monotony of the single-coloured upper surfaces often broken by the ap-
plication of streaks or mottles in RLM 76. 1944 saw also the re-introduction
of RLM 22 schwarz, which was usually applied to the lower surfaces of the
starboard wing in order to create a kind of identification marking for the
Flak crews. However, a number of He 219s was factory-finished with black
lower surfaces, vertical stabilizers and fuselage sides (up to the wing chord
or slightly higher). During the last months of war, many night fighters re-
ceived ground-concealment camouflage patterns usually consisting of
densely applied streaks and squiggles in dark colours.

The Luftwaffe bomber units assigned to night operations, were ordered to

apply a temporary black camouflage over the lower surfaces, and fuselage
and tailplane sides of their aircraft on July 16, 1940. This included blacking
out the markings. The 1941 edition of L.Dv. 521/1 introduced a permanent
black camouflage, which was to be applied to those areas, where the paint
layer was most prone to damage due to weathering, using lacquer 7124.22.
The remaining surfaces were still to be painted with the removable lacquer
7120.22. This permanent night camouflage was replaced by another per-
manent camouflage that was to be applied with lacquer 7126.22, which
was described in the “Sammelmitteilung Nr. 2” (Collected Instructions no.2)
issued on August 15, 1944.

The L.Dv. 521/1 of 1941 also introduced a new colour for markings ap-
plied over night camouflage, i.e. RLM 77. A removable lacquer 7120.77 was
specified for this purpose. No documentary evidence for existence of other
lacquers in this colour is known to these authors. A colour sample of RLM
77 was not included in the colour card issued with the L.Dv. 521/1 of 1941,
neither a recipe for a lacquer in this colour was found amongst those dis-
covered by Jens Mühlig, which is discussed in sub-chapter 1.3.

Ar 68 Fs from 10.(N)/JG 2 carried the

then standard camouflage scheme of
RLM 70/71/65 (Erik Mombeeck coll.)

52 / real colors of wwii aircraft

The 11. and 12.(N)/JG 2 took part in the invasion of Norway in April-June
1940. As seen on example of two Bf 109 D-1s of the 11. Staffel, the aircraft of
the unit were painted in the so-called 40-er Anstrich (Erik Mombeeck coll.)

He 111 P, coded J, probably

belonging to KG 55, autumn 1940.
The aircraft was painted in the
temporary black camouflage that
had been applied over the worn
standard bomber scheme (Photo:
Erik Mombeeck coll.)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 53

I./LG 1 operated in the MTO during the second half of 1941. Pictured here is a
Ju 88 A, coded L1+HK, from 2. Staffel, in night camouflage. Note the blacked
national insignia and fuselage band (Erik Mombeeck coll.)
Bf 110 C-4, coded L1+DH, from 1./NJG 3, North Africa, 1941. An early night
fighter in overall RLM 22 black finish, with a replacement tail unit and white
theatre band applied only over the fuselage spine

Another black Bf 110 operated by

1./NJG 3 in the Mediterranean area.
L1+BH was a Bf 110 E
(James V. Crow coll.)

54 / real colors of wwii aircraft

An early Bf 110 G-4 camouflaged in
RLM 74/75/76 scheme. This aircraft,
coded D5+LT, was used by 9./NJG 3 in
1943 (Craig Busby coll.)

This Do 217 N prototype was finished

in accordance with the camouflage
pattern specified for the type (see sub-
chapter 1.5). The colours were RLM 74,
75 and 76 (Chris Goss coll.)

In late July 1943, 2./JG 2 was assigned to night fighting

duties. The aircraft of the Staffel, such as Fw 190 A-6 WNr.
550208, coded Black 2, were painted in RLM 76 overall. This
machine was lost on September 6, 1943, when Obfw. Josef
Bigge hit a car during landing (Erik Mombeeck coll.)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 55

The final night fighter scheme consisted of uniform application of RLM 75 over the upper surfaces, with the lower surfaces and
sides painted in RLM 76. Bf 110 G-4 WNr. 180373, built between March and April 1944, still has some mottling sprayed over the
vertical stabilizer and rudder, but in the case of WNr. 160790, produced one year later, these surfaces had a pristine RLM 76 finish
(James V. Crow coll. / NARA)

56 / real colors of wwii aircraft

The late standard camouflage of this Bf 110 G-4 WNr. 110509, built in
December 1944, was modified by spraying quite large irregular blotches of
RLM 76. The G9+VS code points to 8./NJG 1 (James V. Crow coll.)

Bf 110 G-4 WNr. 160616, coded G9+AT, from 9./NJG 1, belonged to a batch
manufactured between December 1944 and January 1945. In this case, dense
over-spray in RLM 75 and 76 was applied to the upper and side surfaces
(James V. Crow coll.)

He 219 A-2 WNr. 290004, coded G9+DH, from 1./NJG 1, Paderborn, Germany,
spring 1944. Standard late war RLM 75/76 finish, with the upper surfaces
sprayed with streaks of RLM 76

real colors of wwii aircraft / 57

A Ju 88 G-6 tail with black paint applied to the leading
and trailing edges in order to disguise the contours, so it
would resemble a bomber or C/R variant tail
(James V. Crow coll.)

Ju 88 G-1 WNr. 712344, coded D9+PH, from

1./NJG 7, and a Bf 109 G-14, coded White 11,
photographed after the liberation of Denmark.
The RLM 75 areas were over-sprayed in RLM
76 at different intensity (Nationalmuseet,

58 / real colors of wwii aircraft

In the closing months of war, the
night fighter aircraft were often
camouflaged with dense patterns of
dark meandering streaks, as seen on
example of this Bf 110 G-4 abandoned
at Neubiberg, and Ju 88 G-6 WNr.
621082, coded 9W+EL, from 3./NJG 101
(James V. Crow coll.)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 59

1.2.3 Tropical colours
When the first Luftwaffe units were deployed in North Africa between late
January and March 1941, no suitable colours were available for camouflag-
ing them. The first known reference to the newly designed tropical colours
may be found in an RLM instruction sent to the Luftwaffe depot at Erding,
in Southern Germany, on April 18, 1941. The document mentioned three
new colours: RLM 78 blau (blue), RLM 79 sandgelb (sand yellow), and RLM
80 grün (green), and that lacquers in the first two colours will soon be de-
livered. RLM 78 (1942) RLM 79 (1942)

After the retreat from North Africa, the tropical colours were still used to
some extent for painting aircraft operating over Italy and other Mediterra-
nean countries until the end of war. It must also be noted that a number
of fighter aircraft finished in desert colours were also sent to the Eastern
Front, being operated in unchanged form by I.(J)/LG 2 (Bf 109 Es from the
summer until at least the end of 1941), and, upon modification, by I. and
III./JG 3 (Bf 109 F-4, spring - summer of 1942), II./JG 5 (Bf 109 F-4 and G-2,
RLM 78 (1941) RLM 79 (1941) RLM 80 late spring of 1942 - spring of 1943), and possibly also II./JG 77 (Bf 109 F-4,
spring 1942).
The colour chips for the new colours were issued in loose form only, and
only RLM 78 and 79 were subsequently added as attachments to the 1941
edition of L.Dv. 521/1, which leads to two significant conclusions. First, this
means that final decision about revision of the initial RLM 78 and 79 was
made after the issue of L.Dv. 521/1 in November 1941. The RLM 78 shade
was changed to a brighter blue, whilst RLM 79 was modified in the oppo-
site way. RLM 80 remained unchanged, but its samples were not attached
to L.Dv. 521/1 most likely because this colour was used only at depot and The first ‘Emils’ in tropical colours
unit level, so the factories didn’t not need its samples. operated over North Africa by I./JG 27,
were repainted at Sicily. This explains
the rich use of RLM 80, as seen on
example of this Bf 109 E-7 trop, coded
Black 8, flown by Fw. Franz Elles
of 2./JG 27 (PK-photo)

60 / real colors of wwii aircraft

Bf 109 F-4 trop WNr. 10137 was
flown by the top German ace in
North Africa, Oblt. Hans-Joachim
Marseille from 3./JG 27. This aircraft
was delivered to the Luftwaffe in
February 1942, and appears to
carry the earlier variants of RLM 78
and 79 (Erik Mombeeck coll.)

This Fi 156 C-3 trop still wore its

factory code PP+QL during the
service in North Africa. It was most
likely finished in the ‘1941’ variants
of the tropical colours
(Erik Mombeeck coll.)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 61

The upper surface pattern of this Fw 190 A-4, coded White 14, of 4./JG 2, which was photographed at Bizerta in December 1942, does not conform to any typical Fw
190 scheme. The patterns applied to the wings and horizontal tail more or less mirror each other. It is possible that this aircraft was one of the few Fw 190 A that served
in North Africa in tropical camouflage. Note how the brighter colour (RLM 79?) was sprayed in form of small blotches over the darker areas (Erik Mombeeck coll.)

Bf 109 G-2 trop, coded Black 2, from 2./JG 77, Tunisia, early 1943.
RLM 80 meandering lines applied over a mid-demarcation RLM
78/79 scheme (Photo: Erik Mombeeck coll.)

62 / real colors of wwii aircraft

Another G-2 trop from JG 77 photographed in Tunisia
in early 1943. In this case, the green pattern, which use
was suitable for the local conditions, was composed of
numerous patches of RLM 80 (Erik Mombeeck coll.)

Hs 129 B-2, coded White Chevron Blue O, from 4.(Pz.)/Sch.G 2, Castel

Benito, Libya, February 1943. All Hs 129s delivered to North Africa
received different RLM 79 patterns that had been applied over the RLM
70/71/65 factory scheme. This ranged from more solid applications like
shown on this example, which at first sight may make an impression of
aircraft painted overall sand and subsequently camouflaged in green, to
numerous meandering lines, the so-called ‘Arabesken’

real colors of wwii aircraft / 63

A wrecked Fw 58, coded CB+XI, was found by Allied trops at
Castel Benito in Libya. Its green factory finish was modified by
the addition of ‘Arabesken’ in RLM 79 (NARA)

Aircraft in desert colours served also on different fronts. In May 1942, III./JG 3 picked up 32 new Bf 109 F-4s from Wiesbaden-Erbenheim. All these aircraft were
factory-finished in the tropical scheme, which was modified by application of large segments of green and grey colours, presumably RLM 70 and 75, to better fit
the conditions in the southern sector of the Eastern Front, where the unit was subsequently deployed (Erik Mombeeck coll.)

A similar finish was also applied to the Bf 109 F-4s, which in April and May 1942 were received by II./JG 5, which fought in the northern sector, operating from airfields
in Finland (Erik Mombeeck coll.)

64 / real colors of wwii aircraft

Ju 87 R-2 WNr. 6004, coded KC+YV,
from IV. (Stuka)/LG 1 later I./St.G. 5,
1.2.4 Winter camouflage
Finland, late 1941. Crudely applied This kind of camouflage first appeared on the Luftwaffe aircraft used on
winter camouflage with the fuselage the Eastern Front during the winter of 1941-1942. Known documents is-
spine left in factory-applied colours for sued in 1943 and 1944 mention the use of a permanent white lacquer
some reason 7126.21, which could be applied by a spray gun, a brush, or even a broom.

Two Ju 87 Ds covered with dense pattern of white squiggles. The

aircraft seen in the foreground was operated by 3./St.G. 2, as indicated
by the unit emblem (Erik Mombeeck coll.)

An improvised winter scheme applied to He 111 WNr. 4500, coded A1+HN, from 5./KG 53. The damaged machine was belly-landed by Lt. Erich Horn on January
21, 1942, near Yukhnov (Thomas Hesse coll.)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 65

During the spring of 1942, a number of III./JG 54 aircraft
(apparently mostly the newly delivered Bf 109 F-4s) carried a rather
unusual form of winter camouflage: the rear fuselage spines of the
Messerschmitts were painted in white. Some of these aircraft also
had white wing upper surfaces (Erik Mombeeck coll.)

A white squiggle pattern applied to the upper and side surfaces was the
typical finish for III./JG 5’s aircraft during the winter of 1942/1943
(Erik Mombeeck coll.)

Whilst the Fw 190 A-4s of I./JG 54

had their upper surfaces uniformly
painted in white during in late 1942,
in early 1943 many aircraft received a
segmented pattern especially suitable
for operations over wooded or forested
areas with traces of snow
(Erik Mombeeck coll.)

66 / real colors of wwii aircraft

White 3, flown by Uffz. Karl-Heinz Cordes of 1./JG 54, is another example of the late winter/early spring camouflage used by this
unit in 1943. As seen on the second photo, taken during the summer, the white areas would simply be over-painted with darker
colours (although note that the white background of the swastika was retained!) (Erik Mombeeck coll.)

This Fw 190 from a ground-attack unit carried a highly uncommon white splinter pattern that has been applied over the standard
RLM 74/75/76 camouflage scheme (Erik Mombeeck coll.)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 67

In preparation of his last major book on Luftwaffe camouflage and mark-
ings, Kenneth Merrick realised that additional progress in the research on
this subject could only be made with a deep knowledge of paints and their
technology. He therefore approached Jürgen Kiroff and asked him to join

1.3 The Late War the research effort. After Kenneth’s death, research continued and one of
the most important advances was the discovery of the original recipes for
Luftwaffe camouflage colors, for one of the most important paint suppliers
Colours in Germany in World War II, by fellow researcher Jens Mühlig.

The collection contains 35 recipes for different ‘Flieglacke’ (aircraft lac-

quers), thinners, primers, pigmented top coats etc. as well as the necessary
ingredients with associated suppliers. The list of recipes covers the time
period from around 1943, up to at least December 1944. In a lengthy devel-
opment process by Farben-Kiroff-Technik, it was possible to re-create the
majority of the original colours with original pigments.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the recipes is that within the com-
paratively short period of time from 1943 to the end of 1944, one and the
same top coat of an RLM color is included in different shades with different
pigmentation, and indeed, with different colours. For instance, there are
three different versions of RLM 81 in chronological order, with no indica-
tion that one of the recipes superseded another one. There is also no in-
dication that a certain variant of one colour had to be used with a certain
variant of another colour.

The recipes included the requirement to completely meet a certain co-

lour (‘völlige Übereinstimmung des Farbtons’): The working instructions for
each of the pigmented paints refer to, in all cases, the headline testing and
release of the ‘RLM-Farbkarte Farbton xx’ (RLM-colourcard shade xx).
The early Bf 109 K-4 manufactured
by Mtt. Regensburg in the 330xxx It can therefore be ruled out that whilst ‘any’ colour could be used, the
batch during the autumn of 1944 (as colour had to match the official colourcard of the Reich Ministry of Aviation
with this White 2 of 9./JG 77 which (RLM). By the same token, it is becoming clear that many cases where in
had been pictured at Neuruppin the past where different shades of late war colours were attributed to the
in November 1944), are generally chaotic situation in 1945, were indeed deliberately produced versions of
thought to have had the upper one and the same colour, according to an RLM-standard.
surfaces painted in the old colours
of RLM 75 and RLM 74. The contrast A good example of further evidence for the intentional change of colours
between the colours of the side of the without changing their name is, for instance, the development of RLM 76.
engine cowling and the remaining
part of the fuselage, may point to the
use of standard RLM 76 for the former,
and the green-blue variation for the
latter (Erik Mombeeck coll.)

68 / real colors of wwii aircraft

Amongst various aircraft captured at This colour was used between 1941 and 1945. The authors found several
Wunstorf in April 1945, there were two samples in the original 1941 shade, on late war aircraft wrecks. Within the
Bf 109 K-4s. The one in the middle was same timeframe, at least one other version of RLM 76 also existed.
WNr. 330255 of Stab III./JG 27, which
was finished in a rather common way This important finding is in line with another primary source: The offi-
for 330xxx batch K-4s. The fuselage of cial shades of some of the RLM camouflage colours also changed be-
WNr. 332700 visible on the right, shows tween 1938 and 1941. This can be proven by a spectral analysis of the
the later K-4 scheme with lowered original colour cards as included in the 1938 and 1941 versions of the
demarcation between the colours. At L.Dv. 521/1 Behandlungs- und Anwendungsvorschrift für Flugzeugla-
the time of the 332xxx batch assembly, cke (Luftwaffe Service Regulation 521/1 - Treatment and application
the upper surface colouring may instructions for aircraft lacquer). For example, RLM 65 changed from
have been changed to the RLM 81/82 a light bluish colour to a slightly darker and ‘dirtier’, almost greenish
scheme, although the front part of blue-grey.
the engine cowling looks lighter than
the rest of the fuselage spine, and After a pre-announcement in August 1943, the so called “Sammelmittei-
this feature can be observed on some lung” (Collected Instructions) of July 1, 1944, stipulated the replacement of
other photos. Would this mean it the colours RLM 70 and 71 by the new colours RLM 81 and 82, respectively
was delivered pre-painted in RLM 75? (the darker colour was replaced by a darker colour, the lighter colour was
(James V. Crow coll.) replaced by a lighter colour). Residual quantities of available aircraft lac-
quers had to be used up. Therefore, it was permitted to combine RLM 70
with 82 and RLM 71 with 81.

It will be noted that the replacement of the then standard day fighter
upper-surface camouflage colours of 74 and 75 is not mentioned in the
“Sammelmitteilung”. The missing link to fighter camouflage colours was
kindly provided in document form by fellow researcher György Punka: On
The Hungarian version of the Messerschmitt document regarding the change July 29, 1944, a communication from Messerschmitt Augsburg to M.W.G.
of the fighter colours from RLM 74 and 75 to 81 and 82. The date in the upper Györ stipulated the replacement of 74 and 75 by “Farbton 81 (olivenbraun)”
right corner, is the date of the original document by Messerschmitt Augsburg, - olive brown and “Farbton 82 (hellgrün)” - light green for fighters. The orig-
the July 29, 1944. The translation was communicated by M.W.G. in Györ on inal document refers to latest requirements of the ‘General der Jagdflieger’
September 2, 1944 – see lower left corner (Dénes Bernád coll.) (General of Fighters), regretfully without giving further details of how these
requirements were communicated.

The aforementioned document makes it clear that these colours were

to be used for “Jägertarnung für alle Verwendungszwecke” (fighter cam-
ouflage for all uses). Apart from that, they were also to be used for “Zer-
störer, Schlachtflugzeuge, Kampfflugzeuge (Tageinsatz), Tagaufklärer und
Höhenaufklärer” (destroyers, attack aircraft, bombers (day use), day recon-
naissance aircraft and high altitude reconnaissance aircraft).

A document from Blohm & Voss, dated September 13, 1944, relates to the
use of 81 and 82 for the upper surfaces and 76 for the under surfaces on
the BV 155 fighter.1 The detailed analysis of Messerschmitt Me 262 pro-
duction run already shows the start of a change from RLM 74/75, to green
camouflage colors in August 1944, and from autumn onward the majority
of the new jet fighters left the plant in the 81/82 camouflage.2

On August 15, 1944, only a few weeks after the “Sammelmitteilung”, there
followed “Sammelmitteilung Nr. 2”. Among other changes, it proclaimed
that in future the following colours would no longer be applied: 65, 70, 71
und 74. In the very next sentence it is made clear that the colour 70 would
remain mandatory for airscrews. In other words: The classical camouflage
scheme of 70, 71 and 65 was cancelled, as was the use of RLM 74, the dark-
er colour of the previous day fighter scheme. The maritime camouflage
colours of 72 and 73 were not touched, but the underside colour would
apparently be RLM 76 in future.

real colors of wwii aircraft / 69

The reconnaissance Bf 109 G-10/R2 built by WNF, such as WNr. 770269, coded 5F+12, from 2./NAGr. 14, which was extensively photographed after its surrender at
Fürth-Atzenhof on May 8, 1945, were painted in the transition scheme with RLM 75 and 81 v.2 applied to the upper surfaces. The notable exception is the tail fin,
delivered by a subcontractor, which appears to be over-sprayed in RLM 81, with some dark green patches, presumably added using a template. The patchy and dirty
appearance of Fw 190 A-8 coded Red 5 from 2./JG 6 (probably WNr. 961118, which would point to December 1944-January 1944 production of Norddeutsche Dornier
Werke at Wismar) makes it difficult to determine the exact scheme, but the upper surface colour combination may have been the same, or the older RLM 74/75. Note
the different shades of RLM 76 on the fuselage and rudder (James V. Crow coll./Lt. Col. Athlee G. Manthos via Dan Manthos)

This machine flew behind the American lines during

May 1945. White 3 is presumed to belong to 1./JG 52. It
was most likely a WNF-built Bf 109 G-10/U4, and carried
the typical RLM 75/greenish RLM 81/76 finish for this
manufacturer (James V. Crow coll.)

70 / real colors of wwii aircraft

The Erla assembly plant continued Strict as the rules regarding the introduction of RLM 81 and 82 might seem,
using the RLM 74/75/76 finish for there was also an exception: For the Ju 188 D-2 the colors RLM 70 and
a longer period than other Bf 109 71 were apparently used up to the end of its production run, which was
manufacturers, as may be seen on planned for January 1945. The reason for this officially approved exception
example of this Bf 109 G-10 WNr. was the remaining stock of 70 and 71.3
150816, coded Black 4, which most
likely belonged to JGr. 300. The Erla To summarise: RLM 81 and 82 were officially introduced in the second half
G-10s painted in these colours were of 1944 and came into use in about September 1944. The development
finished to a mid-demarcation scheme of these new colours was obviously well-prepared and apparently already
(James V. Crow coll.) finished in 1943: there was a pre-announcement in August 1943 and at
least one recipe each of RLM 81 and 82 dated back to 1943.4

RLM 81 v.1 RLM 81 v.2 RLM 81 v.3

As already mentioned, there are three different recipes for RLM 81. They are
marked as “7121.81”, “7121.81 A 2” and “7121 A.3.81”. 7121 is the aircraft lacquer
for a single coating based on a phenol-alkyd resin, originally developed by the
paint manufacturer Warnecke & Böhm. The last-mentioned recipe “7121 A.3.81”
is number 100 in the total list, which ends with number 101, and is apparently
from late 1944. The letter “A” in the names of the recipes, in all likelihood, stands
for “Ausführung” - a frequently used German abbreviation for version or release.
Bf 109 G-10 WNr. 15153x, coded Black
The three recipes of RLM 81 lead to different colours. This is not only shown
22, from 5./JG 52, appears to be a
by the recreation of the colours but becomes clearer in an analysis of the
hybrid of the early and late schemes
recipes: Whereas some pigments show up in every version of the colours
applied to the G-10 at the Erla plant.
(e.g. Zinc chromate), only the first and the last versions contain a red pig-
The engine cowling and tail unit seem
ment and show different forms of khaki. Version 2 is a green colour. Apart
to carry a low-demarcation finish in
from that, the quantities of the pigments in each version changed, and it
one or two dark shades (possibly RLM
is evident that three different versions of RLM 81 were indeed intended.
81 v.2 and RLM 82, or just the first
one), whilst the remaining part of the
fuselage had been painted in the mid-
demarcation RLM 74/75/76 scheme,
and subsequently toned down with
extensive over-spraying in a dark
colour, possibly RLM 81 v.2, in order
to match the cowling and tail finish
(James V. Crow coll.)
RLM 82

real colors of wwii aircraft / 71

72 / real colors of wwii aircraft
A wrecked Bf 109 G-6 from 4./JG
104 (an advanced training unit),
pictured at Herzogenaurach after
the end of hostilities. The upper
surface camouflage colours are
RLM 82 and one of the brown
RLM 81 shades, indicating a
refurbished aircraft that must
have been painted in a repair
centre (James V. Crow coll.)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 73

The official camouflage scheme illustration for the Ar 234 C that had been
approved on June 19, 1944, still specified the use of RLM 70, 71 and 65 colours.
However, the serial production of the Ar 234 C started after the introduction
of the new bomber scheme of RLM 81/82/76 and a colour photo confirms its
use. The first serial-built Ar 234 Bs also reached the units after the camouflage
change, and it is thought that the most of them carried the new colours. The
pattern can be partially seen on this Ar 234 B-2 WNr. 140151, coded T9+KH, The finish of Me 262 A-1a WNr. 110836,
from Kommando Sperling, which was pictured at Rheine airfield during the coded Black L, from 2./KG 51, adheres
autumn of 1944 (Chris Goss coll.) well to the camouflage scheme
specified for the type (see sub-chapter
1.5), the only difference being the
presence of RLM 76 on the lower
surfaces, which on February 23, 1945,
were requested to be left in natural
metal except for parts made of steel
and wood. However, it is very possible
that this machine was completed
before the new directive reached the
assembly plant. The upper surfaces
were painted in RLM 81 and 82
(James V. Crow coll.)

74 / real colors of wwii aircraft

Me 262 A-1a WNr. 501232, coded Yellow 5, from 9./KG(J) 6, carried a similar
finish to the one prescribed for this aircraft, although the upper surface colours
extend downwards, lower than was specified. Furthermore, the undersides
were still painted in RLM 76, even though the aircraft was assembled more
than one month after the approval of the directive requesting to leave the
lower surfaces in natural metal finish (James V. Crow coll.)

Also RLM 82 is represented with three different recipes as well. Again, the 81 and 82 is connected to the work on the camouflage colors for buildings
first version dates back to 1943, with the last version being the last recipe and ground installations.
in the whole compendium. Contrary to these different versions of RLM 81,
the first and the third versions of RLM 82 are very similar to each other, In April 1941, the RLM released the “Vorläufige Anwendungs- und Verarbe-
and indeed by optical comparison, there is little to choose between them. itungsvorschrift für RLM-Tarnfarben (Gebäude- und Bodentarnung)” - Pro-
With regards to the second version of RLM 82, research is still ongoing as it visional Direction for the Use and Processing of RLM Camouflage Paints
contains a greenish pigment that cannot yet be identified. (Camouflage of Buildings and Ground Installations). This instruction book-
let contained a colour card with eight camouflage colours.
With any currently known combination of RLM 81 and 82 on an aircraft, 82
will be the lighter of the two colours, although the difference between 81 Two of these colours - Dunkelgrün (dark green) and Dunkelbraun (dark
and 82 sometimes is not that marked. It is obvious that several versions of brown) - are rather dark and are similar, but not identical, to the two khaki
these late war colours existed within a very short timeframe. As the Ger- versions of RLM 81. The similarity in light reflection and hue might be a
man manufacturing system in the aircraft industry worked extensively with coincidence, although a remarkable one. It is possible that a third colour -
components manufactured at different locations, it cannot be ruled out Olivgrün (olive green), is connected to the missing shade of RLM 82.7 The
that there’s a possibility of different versions of a particular paint with one issue of these instructions in 1941 fits nicely into a timeline for the devel-
and the same number appearing on one aircraft. opment of new camouflage colours for aircraft, leading to a first official
announcement in 1943, and their actual introduction in late 1944.
It should be noted that all official documents refer to the use of RLM 81 and
82 together with RLM 76. There is no indication regarding the use of any
other combination of colours, nor is there any evidence from documents
that another colour was used for the lower surfaces of Luftwaffe aircraft.5
The exception is the previously mentioned use of existing paint stock: The
darker colours RLM 70 and 74 could be combined with the lighter colour
RLM 82, and vice versa RLM 71 and 75 could be used with RLM 81.

A soft overspray, especially of RLM 82 over 76, created what Ron Belling RLM 76 Late War Variation
described as a “soft yellow effect around the green”.6 This is certainly some-
thing a modeller should care about in the analysis of photos and the mod- In the context of the late war colors 81 and 82, the painting of the under-
elling process. On some photographs this effect is quite evident. sides of a number of aircraft, deserves to be mentioned. A green-blue vari-
ation of (presumably) RLM 76, was found on a number of museum aircraft
In the past it was thought that RLM 81, 82 and 83 were introduced without and were documented by Ken Merrick.8 The colour remains enigmatic up
much preparation and were simply reissues of the pre-war colours RLM 61 to this day and has been widely discussed.9 Up to now, no recipe has been
and 62. Based on current research, a simple reissue can be ruled out. How discovered for this colour which is included in the Real Color range under
much the older colours influenced the creation of 81 and 82 is open to the designation “RLM 76 Late War Variation”.
speculation. It is much more likely though that the development of RLM

real colors of wwii aircraft / 75

The He 219 A-2 which is undergoing
restoration at NASM, had originally black
undersides covered with a wave pattern of
a green-blue colour. The latter shows some
similarity to the RAF/MAP Sky. The original
finish had been applied before the wings
were attached, and was retained when the
aircraft was repainted into RLM 75/76 finish
(Brett Green coll.)

These two photos of Bf 109 G-6 WNr.

163824, preserved at AWM, were taken in
different lighting conditions, which results
in the remarkable difference of the RLM
76 appearance on the lower cowling. This
illustrates very well the difficulties in the
interpretation of colours even on modern
colour photographs. This aircraft was
manufactured in May 1944 and left the
factory in the then standard RLM 74/75/76
camouflage, but in December 1944 it was
repainted during an overhaul. Interestingly,
most of the fuselage sides were painted in
the green-blue colour, whilst the fuselage
spine appears to be camouflaged in two
different RLM 81 shades, which were also
used to spray the few mottles on the sides
(Brett Green coll.)

76 / real colors of wwii aircraft

The saving of lacquer and solvents was definitely an issue as we can see
Me 262 A-1a WNr. 111685, still wore from the aforementioned Sammelmitteilung 2, which contained a ban on
its former unit code 9K+FH when it the use organic solvents for cleaning, and re-iterated the need to identify a
was captured by the Allies near the commissioner for saving lacquer (Sparbeauftragter für Lacke) in the plants.
highway in the Hofoldinger Forest, This was originally stipulated in September 1943. As the Sammelmitteilung
south of München. Despite this, it had Nr. 2 says: die “erfolgten Mitteilungen … sind vernichtet” (the announce-
actually belonged to JV 44 since April ments of these people were destroyed). This laconic statement gives a
24, 1945. The initial appearance of clear indication about the status the war had reached in August 1944.
the base fuselage finish of this aircraft
may be revealed by studying photos of Originally, all internal surfaces of Luftwaffe aircraft were painted. This prac-
her sister aircraft, WNr. 111690, which tice had already changed by May 1942: Internal parts of certain materials
was flown to Fassberg on May 8, 1945. which were not exposed to the airstream were left unpainted from there-
This reveals that both machines had on in.10 On the outside of aircraft, the changes and savings were not im-
their fuselages finished with a very low mediately apparent.
demarcation scheme of lightly applied
RLM 81 and 82 layers, where 81 worked This changed around August 1944 with the production of a batch of 50
as the basic colour, whilst 82 was Fw 190 in the Sorau plant. The under surfaces of these machines remained
quite randomly and thinly sprayed unpainted with the exception of wooden and fabric surfaces. The focus
over it. In this case, the aircraft was was clearly to economise resources as savings in labour and materials had
then additionally camouflaged with to be reported.11
numerous patches that appear to be
applied in the green-blue colour. The The approach taken for these 50 aircraft must have been a success because
aircraft was fitted with a replacement the practice of leaving wing under-surfaces unpainted started to then be-
nose cone which remained in the basic come more common. As far as the Fw 190 is concerned, the methodology
RLM 02 finish (applied as this part was implemented included the painting of the leading edges of the wings and
made of steel) with grey putty applied the landing gear covers in 76, or an upper surface camouflage colour with
to smooth the joints (NARA) many variations.12 This change was apparently done to protect parked air-
craft from the eyes of the pilots of enemy ground attack aircraft. The result
was that there existed many variations, ranging from the painting of all
under side surfaces in RLM 76, to different parts left unpainted.13

The well-known illustration of the Me 262 camouflage scheme dates from

February 23, 1945, and carries a note, “Nur Stahl und Holzteile auf Flugze-
ugunterseite Farbton 76 = lichtblau” - only steel and wooden parts on the
underside of the aircraft (are to be painted) color 76 = light blue. In other
words, all light alloy aircraft parts on the underside were left without paint.
The drawing also shows a dotted line leading from the trailing edge of
the wing, along the lower fuselage. The fuselage was to be left unpainted

real colors of wwii aircraft / 77

A very low demarcation RLM 81/82 camouflage scheme with distinctive
circular patches which may also have been sprayed in the green-blue colour,
was carried by Bf 109 G-6 coded Black 29, from 2./Erg. KG(J), captured at Pilsen.
This finish was probably applied after an overhaul in a repair center
(James V. Crow coll.)

78 / real colors of wwii aircraft

This Erla-built Bf 109 G-6 WNr. 410061, without any unit markings, was
captured at Wunstorf. It apparently came from the same repair shop as Black
29, considering the very similar camouflage and national insignia in the form
of white outlines only (James V. Crow coll.)
Similar patches of a bright colour applied to the forward fuselage can also be
found on some Fieseler-built Fw 190 D-9s from the 600xxx range. In their case, RLM
75 was applied in order to disrupt the plain RLM 71 (or 81 v.2)/76 Junkers factory
finish of the engine cowling. The upper surfaces of this aircraft, coded Black 11,
were most likely painted in the old RLM 74/75/76 colours, which are documented
in a movie featuring Fw 190 D-9 WNr. 600150 (Erik Mombeeck coll.)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 79

Fw 190 D-9 WNr. 500570, coded Blue 12, from 8./JG 6, Fürth-Atzenhof, May 1945. This Fw 190 D-9 is an example of the final scheme applied to the type, with the
fuselage mainly finished in RLM 81 and green-blue, and the upper engine cowling pre-painted in green, upper wing surfaces in RLM 76 and 81, and unpainted wing
undersides except for the front one third finished in RLM 81, and the ailerons pre-painted in RLM 76. The rudder was also pre-painted in RLM 76 and then toned down
with RLM 81 mottling (Photo: James V. Crow coll.)

This wreck of a Fw 190 D-9 from the 601xxx batch was photographed at
Fieseler’s Kassel-Waldau factory area by advancing Allied troops. Another
rendition of the simplified underside finish is shown, with only the middle part
of the wing undersides left in natural metal (which also applies to the lower
surface of the horizontal stabilizer). The adjacent surfaces were painted in RLM
76 (James V. Crow coll.)

80 / real colors of wwii aircraft

The wing undersides of this Fw
190 A-8, captured at AGO factory
at Oschersleben in April 1945,
were also partially unpainted.
The area below the leading edge
was over-sprayed in RLM 81.
The Focke-Wulfs found in the
factory were painted in the RLM
81(brown)/82/76 scheme with
quite distinctive large mottle
patches on the fuselage sides
(Library of Congress)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 81

82 / real colors of wwii aircraft
The rather unusual position in which this Fw 190
F-8 was placed at the Neubiberg scrapyard after
the war, allows to see yet another variation of the
Fw 190 underside finish (Raymond Klabechek via
Thomas A. Rammer)

US troops pictured at Neubiberg, in front of a

‘sandwich’ formed from Me 262 A-2a WNr. 111728
(?) and Bf 109 G-10/U4 WNr. 612769. The wing
undersides of the Gustav are left partially unpainted,
whilst the Schwalbe didn’t receive camouflage at all
(Raymond Klabechek via Thomas A. Rammer)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 83

Although WNr. 110506 was a standard
Me 262 A-1a and not the recon variant,
it wore a similar camouflage scheme
to the one known from the several
Me 262 A-1a/U3s assembled at Eger below this line. To which degree this instruction was actually followed is
(Cheb), which consisted of RLM 82 and difficult to say as the affected areas are often very difficult to see on photo-
81 v.2 streaks and mottles applied over graphs. The reference to steel is important, as the forward fuselage of the
a bright RLM 76 base Me 262, up to and including the gun bay for the four MK 108 guns, was
(James V. Crow coll.) made of steel for part of the series production.

Kenneth Merrick mentioned an earlier version of the Me 262 camouflage

scheme dated September 26, 1944.14 Although this document cannot be
found up to now, the details given by Ken suggest that he at least had a
chance to study it. The main difference of the later version was apparently
that the undersides were left unpainted from February 1945 onwards.

Another aircraft where it is known that the under-surfaces of the wings

were left unpainted, is the Do 335 A.15 It should be noted that whenever
under-surfaces were not covered by paint, this concerned only light metal,
as all steel and wood surfaces, as well as fabric surfaces, were to be painted.
This was necessary for corrosion protection, and to keep surfaces smooth
and fabric taut.

An aircraft where the under-surfaces were painted up to the end of WWII,

was the He 162. This was for the simple reason that the wings were of
wooden construction and had to be protected. A communication from
Herbig Haarhaus AG of January 29, 1945, mentions the following lacquers
for the “Flächen” (a short version of the word “Tragflächen” - wings) of the
He 162 program: 7115.76, 7115.81 and 7115.82.16 Lacquer 7115 belonged
to the fireproof Flieglackkette 33, which was already included in the L.Dv.
521/1 of 1941. 7115 was based on Vinoflex, a polyvinyl chloride.17

84 / real colors of wwii aircraft

He 162 A-1 WNr. 310078 (or 310018), coded White 5, from 1./JG 1, Leck, Germany, May 1945. The specified camouflage scheme for the He 162 was RLM 81/82/76. The
distinctive sheen of the undersurfaces of the wings painted with semi-gloss polyvinyl chloride based lacquer 7115.76 can be noticed on the photo
(Photo: Erik Mombeeck coll.)

This He 162 A-2 WNr. 120230, coded White 23, from Stab/JG 1, was also pictured at Leck in May
1945. Note the differences in the execution of the camouflage demarcation on this Heinkel-Rostock-
-built aircraft, in comparison with the White 5, which had been assembled at the Junkers factory in
Bernburg (NARA)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 85

Another Me 262 without
camouflage. Worth noting is
the wide use of putty for sealing
the joints, and that some parts,
such as the nose, canopy framing
and adjacent panels, rudder and
upper part of the tail fin, wooden
landing gear covers, some engine
panels, ailerons and wing leading
edge, were already painted either
in RLM 02 or 76 (NARA)

Me 262 assembly line. The features

described in the previous caption
can be seen on another example.
The camouflage would be applied
in so thin layers that the putty
pattern still showed through it

86 / real colors of wwii aircraft

The lower surfaces of the pre-
production Do 335 A-0 WNr.
240105, were camouflaged.
A colour photo confirms the
aircraft’s upper surface colours as
RLM 81 (brown) and 82, with the
undersides most likely finished in

Do 335 A-10 WNr. 240112, that

had been captured by the Allies
at Oberpfaffenhofen in April
1945, had not only partially
unpainted undersides, but
this also applied to the engine
cowling (James V. Crow coll.)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 87

This sounds very technical for a modeller, but 7115 paints could only be
produced with comparatively small additions of matting agents (talcum
powder), the resulting paint was at least semi-gloss. That the wings of the
He 162 were indeed semi-gloss is readily apparent on a number of photos
of the He 162, especially on the underside of the wings.

The only part of the under-surface of the wing of the He 162 that was not
painted RLM 76 were the ailerons: they were covered in all-over RLM 82 to
make them completely interchangeable.18 The light metal surfaces of the
fuselage and the tailplane surfaces of the He 162 were painted in the stan-
dard paint 7121 (matt). Wheel bay interiors were painted RLM 66.19

The monthly report of E-Stelle Travermünde of November 1943. The lowest

paragraph deals with the development and testing of a camouflage for use in
the Mediterranean theatre of operations. The development was finished with a
report on November 10, 1943, and the introduction of “Farbton 83 dunkelblau”
(shade 83 dark blue) is recommended (Michaell Ullmann via TOCH)

Previously, the color RLM 83 was often associated with dark green. Ap-
parently it was the German researcher Michael Ullmann who found doc-
uments identifying RLM 83 as a dark blue colour.20 One document made
public by Mr. Ullmann is a monthly report of the E-Stelle Travermünde, dat-
ed November 26, 1943. The report refers to the development and testing
of a camouflage for use in the Mediterranean.

The test work was completed on November 10, 1943, with a final report,
and the introduction of RLM 83, for use together with RLM 72 for overwater
operations respectively, together with RLM 70 for land based aircraft, was

The next known reference to RLM 83 came with Sammelmitteilung Nr. 2

of August 15, 1944. In the Sammelmitteilung Nr. 2, reference is only made
to the use of RLM 83 without giving any details or a name of the colour.
Therefore, a document regarding the actual introduction of RLM 83 is still

The illustration shows the original recipe for RLM 83 and the recreation after
more than 70 years with the original pigmentation. The first three positions
are the pigments with Heliogenblau (Phthalocyanine) being by far the
strongest and dominant of the three. Although the other pigments are zinc
yellow and zinc oxide, their influence on the final colour is rather small - their
colouring power is low but they provide excellent corrosion protection for light
alloys and steel. The overall result is a plain blue. The remainder of the recipe
consist of lacquer and a solvent (xylol): ‘Farbmahlung’ 7121 consists of an
alkyd resin, solvents and talkum as matting agent. ‘Flieglack’ 7122 is simply an
alkyd resin with xylol as solvent (Jürgen Kiroff coll.)

In the collection of 35 recipes mentioned above, there is one version of 83

and it is among a group of the colours 70, 71, 81, 82, 72 and 73, which in
all likelihood dates back to 1943. Contrary to RLM 81 and 82, there are no
other versions of this colour. The re-creation of RLM 83 with the original
recipe, shows a dark blue colour. This confirms the information contained
in Mr. Ullmann’s document and nicely fits the 1943 period of development.

RLM 83

From the above evidence, it is clear that RLM 83 was a dark blue colour and
that it was at least experimented with. Up to this point, no information has
come to light to show its widespread use. A field test of RLM 83 around the
year 1943 is highly likely though as this was common practice.21 Neither

88 / real colors of wwii aircraft

Ju 88 A-4 trop WNr. 550396, coded B3+MH, from 1./KG 54, Dübendorf,
Switzerland, October 1943. This aircraft was mistakenly landed at Dübendorf
on October 21, 1943. A Swiss report described its camouflage as ‘Oberseite
Wasser- und Wüstentarnung, Unterseite Schwarz’ (Upper surface water- and
desert camouflage, under surface black). What was not mentioned, but can
be noticed on the available photos, is that the wavy lines of the upper surface
camouflage were applied in both sand and black. The base colour remains
an enigma, but given that the sand colour was identified as RLM 7922 (which
means that the regulation 78 would also be known to the Swiss) and that the
former shows up as a considerably dark tone in the photos, it is possible that
this is an example of a test use of the RLM 83 (Photos: Warbird.ch)

1) cf. Ullmann, M.: Oberflächenschutzverfahren und Anstrichstoffe der deutschen

Luftfahrtindustrie und Luftwaffe 1935 - 1945, p. 169; Merrick, K./Kiroff, J.: Luftwaffe
Camouflage and Markings 1933-1945, Volume One, p. 113
2) see Brown, D. E./Janda, A./Poruba, T./Vladař, J.: Luftwaffe over Czech Territory -
1945 III., Messerschmitt Me 262s of KG & KG(J) units, p. 63
3) cf. Ullmann, M.: Op. cit., p. 164
4) The individual recipes do not carry a date. The contents of the recipe collection
clearly shows numbered recipes in a chronological order. As certain aircraft
lacquers, primers etc. were introduced at given times, it is clear that the first recipes
for RLM 81, 82 and 83 date from the second half of 1943.
5) The list of known RLM colors ends with the number 83. The RLM number 99 was
used for primers etc. where the actual color did not have to conform to a defined
6) Belling, R.: A portrait of Military Aviation in South Africa, p. 122
7) The same applies to the so called LS Farbtonkarte für Tarnfarben (Gebäude- und
Bodentarnung), issued in 1944.
8) cf. Merrick, K./Kiroff, J.: Luftwaffe Camouflage and Markings 1933-1945, Volume
One, p. 118 et seq.
9) Interested readers are especially referred to the analysis in: Deboeck, M./Larger,
E./Poruba, T.: Focke-Wulf Fw 190D camouflage & markings, p. 32
the colours 81 and 82 nor RLM 83 were stop-gap colours. The creation of
10) cf. Ullmann, M.: Op. cit., p. 148
RLM 83 was based on a requirement - apparently from the Mediterranean
theatre - and there was the usual development work before the colour was 11) cf. Ullmann, M.: Op. cit., p. 154 et seq., Merrick, K./Kiroff, J.: Op. cit., p. 102 et seq.
finally introduced.
12) cf. Deboeck, M./Larger, E./Poruba, T.: Op. cit., p. 38 et seq. and p. 467 et seq.
The identification of RLM 83 as a dark blue colour makes it clear that co- 13) ibid.
lours thought to have been green, and most often dark green colours,
were misidentified as RLM 83. Based on the current research results with 14) see Merrick, K./Kiroff, J.: Op. cit., p. 78
no evidence whatsoever of any other shade than blue, a green version of
15) ibid., p. 104
RLM 83 can be ruled out. In light of these new findings, many camouflage
schemes drawn over the last few years need to be revisited. A late-war 16) see Ullmann, M.: Op. cit., p. 168
green colour - with the exception of the overwater colours 72 and 73 - was
one of the versions of 81 or 82 or the older 70 and 71 colours. 17) British Intelligence Objectives Sub-Committee Final Report No. 365, p. 28 et seq.
18) see the original document in: Ehrengardt, C-J.: Heinkel He 162 Volksjäger, in:
aero Journal Hors-Serie N° 27, p. 77
19) see the “Oberflächenschutzliste” for the He 162 series in: Merrick, K./Kiroff, J.: Op.
cit., p. 222
20) cf. Ullmann, M. at: http://www.clubhyper.com/reference/rlm83darkbluemu_1.
htm and http://forum.12oclockhigh.net/showthread.php?t=33931
21) cf. Merrick, K./Kiroff, J.: Op. cit., p. 95
22) Ries, K.: Deutsche Luftwaffe über der Schweiz 1939-1945, p.49

real colors of wwii aircraft / 89

1.4 Interior
RLM 66 conforming to L.Dv. 521/1 of 1941

Another period documents which mention colour 66, are the painting
specifications for the Do 17 E and F that had been issued in April and
June 1937, respectively. Both documents prescribe the use of colour 66
for painting the crew compartment up to frame no.7, whilst the remaining
inner surfaces of the fuselage, engine cowlings and landing gear bays were
to be painted in silver. The 1938 edition of L. Dv. 521/1 stipulated the use
of colour 66 only for the instrument panels. From that time, other internal
surfaces, including cockpits, were to receive RLM 02 finish. The 1941 edi-
tion of L. Dv. 521/1 confirmed the use of RLM 02 as a basic interior colour,
although RLM 66 was specified for painting all areas visible through cock-
pit and canopy glazing. However, it appears that like some other changes
officially approved in the 1941 edition of L.Dv. 521/1, the latter was also a
A study of available painting specifications of the aircraft used at the time confirmation of status quo, as both the photos from the era and analysis of
when the Luftwaffe was offically founded and soon after, reveales that the preserved aircraft parts and retrieved wreckages gives a strong indication
main colours used for the aircraft interior painting during this period were that colour 66 was widely used for painting aircraft cockpit areas at least in
silver and grey, standardized as RLM 01 silber (silver) and RLM 02 RLM-grau the mid-1940. An unidentified RLM report cited by Kenneth Merrick, men-
(RLM-grey) in early 1936. The instrument panels were mainly prescribed tioned the use of an ivory colour for painting the cockpit areas of aircraft
to be painted in grey too (and this could mean the use of short-lived RLM employed in the Mediterranean theatre of operations.
41 grau), although it must be noted that the specification for the Fw 56 A
that had been issued on May 27, 1936, mentioned black as the instrument In the course of war, shortages of raw materials forced the RLM and avia-
panel colour, whilst the specification for the Fw 44 J issued on October 10, tion industry to simplify the interior finishes. Communication Nr. 7/42 is-
1936, stated that a ‘Mattemaille schwarz-grau’ (matte enamel black-grey) sued on May 18, 1942, requested simplification of the surface protection of
should be used for painting the instrument board. This may already refer certain parts of aircraft such as the Fw 190, He 177 and Ar 96. This included
to RLM 66 schwarzgrau (black grey) colour, which was introduced with the i.e. reduction of the cockpit colouring from one to two layers of colour 66,
first known RLM colour card that had been issued in early 1936. Colour 66 and leaving some parts made from aluminium and duraluminium unpaint-
was the last RLM colour to be correlated with the RAL system, although ed. Sammelmitteilung Nr. 2 (Collected Instructions No.2) issued on August
its RAL equivalent will be changed from RAL 7019 to RAL 7021 in 1941, as 15, 1944, mentioned that most of the interior surfaces are no longer paint-
indicated within the 1941 edition of the L. Dv. 521/1. ed, and specified to replace colour 02 with colour 66 as the interior colour.

Although the landing gear legs of Bf 109 Es were usually painted in the specified RLM 02 colour, some anomalies can be found as early as in 1939 (Eric Mombeeck coll.)

90 / real colors of wwii aircraft

RAL reference card for colour 7019 / RLM 66, dated April 1940
(RAL archive via Jürgen Kiroff )

Part of the painting specification for

the Do 17 E. Cockpit area up to frame
no.7 was to be painted in colour 66,
whilst the remaining inner surfaces
of the fuselage, engine cowlings and
landing gear bays were to be painted
in silver (Udo Hafner archive)

An early Bf 109 E cockpit. It appears that RLM 02 was also used for the
instrument panel, except from the black instrument bezels (Paul Stipdonk coll.)

Unrestored cockpit interior of the He 219 A-2 preserved at NASM. The

instrument panel and side consoles are painted in RLM 66, but the seat mount
is finished in RLM 02, with an unpainted sheet of metal on the rear (note the A snapshot from a 16mm movie documenting the appearance of Bf 110 D-0/B
stamps indicating the type of material used). The floor area under the seat is WNr. 3341, which was built around July 1940. The cockpit colour appears to be
also unpainted (Brett Green) RLM 66 (John Vasco coll.)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 91

On this and the following pages, the reader will find various exam-
ples of the official colouring specifications and camouflage patterns
specified for different aircraft types, which had been reproduced
1.5 Official from the handbooks of the relevant aircraft. Initially, these speci-
fications were very comprehensive (for example, the specification

for Arado Ar 76 partially reproduced below, has a total of 7 pages;
for Arado Ar 68 E and F – a total of 16 pages, with each 8 pages de-
voted to the particular production batches; for Focke-Wulf Fw 44 J

specifications – 9 pages; etc.) mainly due to the mixed construction of the aircraft,
which required using different types of paint and varnish materials,
and their application schedules for finishing the parts made from

and camouflage different materials. The simplification of aircraft structures allowed

for the reduction of the complexity of the painting specifications.
Around the 1938-1939 period, this information disappeared from
patterns the aircraft handbooks, now being issued as Oberflächenschutzlis-
ten (surface protection lists). Since then, the handbooks only in-
cluded the diagrams of the official camouflage patterns, although
even this basic information appears in the handbooks issued only
by certain manufacturers, such as Dornier, Heinkel and Siebel. Note
that we do not go as deep as to translate the specifications in their
entirety, but the most important information is discussed within
the captions. Most of the reproduced documents were graciously
provided by Mr. Udo Hafner from Luftarchiv Hafner.

The painting specification for the Arado Ar 76 was issued in October 1935. •• two layers of topcoat in RLM Grau (Grey) colour were to be sprayed on and
The reproduced excerpt shows that the specified base colour of the external left to dry for 3 hours;
surfaces was the RLM Grau (Grey). We also learn about the coating system for •• the surface was to be polished with fine sandpaper;
plywood surfaces. From the inside, two layers of protective lacquer were to be •• two layers of topcoat in RLM Grau (Grey) colour were to be sprayed on and
applied and left to dry for 6 hours each. From the outside: left to dry for 3 hours
•• one layer of varnish was to be rubbed into the surface and left •• one layer of topcoat in RLM Grau (Grey) colour was to be sprayed on and
to dry for 3 hours; left to dry for 6 hours;
•• one layer of grey liquid filler was to be sprayed on and left to dry for 4 hours; •• one layer of finishing coat in RLM Grau (Grey) colour was to be sprayed on
•• the surface was to be polished with fine sandpaper; and left to dry.

92 / real colors of wwii aircraft

real colors of wwii aircraft / 93
94 / real colors of wwii aircraft
The reproduced excerpt of the painting specification for the Arado Ar 68 E •• one layer of aircraft dope, applied with a brush and left to dry for 3 hours;
and F was issued on November 11, 1935, and applied to three production •• one layer of adhesive coat, applied with a brush and left to dry for 1 hour;
batches: WNr. 937-945, 1301-1308 and 1571-1640. The handbook included •• one layer of aircraft dope, applied with a brush and left to dry for 3 hours;
two different specifications for different groups of production batches, but •• one intermediate layer of aluminium lacquer, applied with a spray gun
the reason for this is unclear, as this can’t be explained by application to and left to dry for 3 hours;
different variants (both E and F variants can be found amongst these batches) •• polishing the surface with fine sandpaper;
or aircraft built at particular plants. Again, the base colour of the external •• one layer of nitrocellulose lacquer in RLM Grau (Grey) colour, applied with
surfaces is specified as RLM Grau (Grey). Worth noting is the coating system for a spray gun and left to dry for 5 hours;
the cotton fabric covering of the tail surfaces, which consisted of: •• softening the paint layer with solvent;
•• one layer of impregnation primer in red colour, applied with a brush and •• one layer of nitrocellulose lacquer in RLM Grau (Grey) colour, applied with
left to dry for 3 hours; a spray gun and left to dry for 3 hours.

The Handbook for the

Focke-Wulf Fw 44 J was
issued on October 10,
1936. This excerpt from
the painting specification
included in this document,
indicates that the base
colour of the external
surfaces was silver, which
was a common finish
for Luftwaffe trainers
in that period. Similar
specifications can be
found in the Handbook
for Focke-Wulf Fw 56 that
had been issued on May
27, 1936, and the 1937
edition of the Handbook
for Heinkel He 42 E.

real colors of wwii aircraft / 95

From the Handbook for the Heinkel He 51 C and D that had been issued in 1936, we learn that the base colours of the He 51 C were specified as Farbton 63 [i.e. RLM
63 Grey) for the fabric surfaces and grau (grey) for the external surfaces of the metal components. Note that the designation of the paint specified for the latter
[Nitrodecklack Nr.7007, i.e. Nitrocellulose lacquer No. 7007] is not related to the colour designation system used for the RAL 840 R range, because this system was
introduced between 1939-1940. Worth noting is also the silver finish of most of the inner surfaces, specified by the schedule.

96 / real colors of wwii aircraft

The painting specification included in the Handbook for the Heinkel He 59 C,
dated from 1936, reveals that Nitrodecklack grau 7007 could also be applied
over the fabric surfaces, if an intermediate layer of aluminium lacquer had
been previously sprayed on. Note that the last step for finishing the fabric
surfaces was to polish them with a polishing paste.

real colors of wwii aircraft / 97

98 / real colors of wwii aircraft
The Handbook for the Heinkel He 60 E was issued on May 5, 1937. The coating systems defined in the painting specification did not differ substantially from those
intended for the He 59 C, but some of the specified painting products were different. In this case, the base colour was clearly identified as RLM-Grau (Grey).

real colors of wwii aircraft / 99

Two camouflage diagrams included in the Handbook for the Dornier Do 17 F, which was issued on June 25, 1937. The pattern was essentially the same, and the
difference between both variants were the transposed colours for the particular patches. Worth noting is that the painting specification stated that the upper surfaces
were first to be sprayed with one layer of DKH-protective lacquer no. 63 grau (grey), and then the camouflage patches in colours no. 61 braun (brown) and 62 grün
(green) were to be applied, using brushes. This camouflage scheme was also valid for the Do 17 E, and mirror images were also in use.

100 / real colors of wwii aircraft

Issued on July 9, 1938,
the Handbook for the
Messerchmitt Bf 109 C and
D may have been one of
the last that included the
full painting specification.
In this case, all camouflage
paints (in colours no.
70, 71 and 65) were to
be applied with a spray
gun. The execution of the
camouflage painting was
not to be done with hard
edges between colours, but
blended into each other
with a 50 mm overspray.

The Handbook for the Henschel Hs 123 A and B issued on September 19, 1938, still included the pattern diagrams for the RLM 61/62/63/65 camouflage. Above we can
see a diagram of the ‘B’ pattern, and a diagram of the lines of separation between the upper surface and underside colours.

real colors of wwii aircraft / 101

Diagram of the RLM 70/71/65 camouflage scheme for the early Ju 87 B, as promulgated in 1939.

Diagram of the ‘A’ pattern of the RLM 70/71/65 camouflage scheme for the Ju 52/3m, as issued in October 1939.

102 / real colors of wwii aircraft

Issued on November 18, 1939, the Handbook for the Henschel Hs 126 A-1
and B-1 included both the ‘A’ and ‘B’ pattern diagrams for the RLM 70/71/65
camouflage scheme. Note that both the RLM 70 and 71 are simply referred to
as grün (green) in the colour listing.

real colors of wwii aircraft / 103

The RLM 70/71/65 camouflage scheme was essentially the same for the Dornier Do 17 M, P and Z variants, as well as for the Do 215 B-1. Reproduced here is the
diagram included in the Handbook for the Dornier Do 17 P, issued on November 24, 1939. Note that Dornier used different names for the colours, i.e. dunkelgrün (dark
green) for the RLM 70 and hellgrün (light green) for the RLM 71.

Dated February 21, 1940, this diagram shows the ‘B’ pattern of the RLM 70/71/65 camouflage scheme for the Ju 88. Note the finish of the engine nacelles, which were
to be uniformly painted in RLM 71 on the upper surfaces and RLM 65 on the undersides. In this case, the RLM 70 and 71 are called schwarzgrün (black green) and
dunkelgrün (dark green), respectively.

104 / real colors of wwii aircraft

The camouflage pattern for the Dornier Do 217 E-1 and E-3 is a mirror image of the pattern for Do 17 M, P and Z shown on the previous page. The specified colours are
referred to as RLM 65 hellblau (light blue), RLM 72 mittelgrün (middle green) and RLM 73 dunkelgrün (dark green). This diagram was included in the Handbook for the
Dornier Do 217 E-1 and E-3 that had been issued on August 30, 1941.

Diagram of the camouflage scheme for the Dornier Do 24 T-1 and T-2 as published in the Handbook issued on June 18, 1942. In this case, the RLM 72 and 73 colours
are both reffered to as grün (green).

real colors of wwii aircraft / 105

In accordance with this diagram included in the Handbook for the Dornier Do 217 N-1, which had been issued on February 23, 1943, this night fighter was to be
camouflaged with patches of RLM 74 and 75 applied over 02 or 76 background. The propeller spinners were to be painted in RLM 70. It is interesting to note that the
previous night fighting variant of this aircraft, i.e. the Do 217 J, was to be uniformly painted in RLM 22 schwarz (black), as mentioned in the Handbook issued August
11, 1942.

The painting scheme for the Dornier Do 217 K-1 was very similar to the one intended for the Do 217 E-1 and E-3, but in this case the undersides and side surfaces were
to be painted RLM 22 schwarz (black). The upper surface camouflage pattern retained the RLM 72/73 colouring. The national insignia were to be applied in form of
white (RLM 21) outlines only. This diagram was included in the Handbook issued on July 1, 1943. The same scheme was also intended for the Do 217 M-1.

106 / real colors of wwii aircraft

These diagrams were published in the Handbook for the Blohm und Voss BV 222 C, which had been issued in April 1943. They do not include information about the
exact colours, but these would obviously be the then-standard seaplane colours, i.e. RLM 72, 73 and 65.

real colors of wwii aircraft / 107

Camouflage diagrams for the Heinkel He 111 H-6, reproduced from the Handbook issued on June 2, 1943. This pattern was also valid for the H-11,
H-14, H-16 and H-20 variants. Worth noting is that the pattern for the vertical surfaces of the tailplane was simplified in comparison with the
diagrams intended for the He 111 P.

108 / real colors of wwii aircraft

This coloured diagram shows the camouflage pattern for the sides of the Heinkel He 177 A-3. In accordance with the enclosed description, the sides of the fuselage,
engine nacelles and vertical tail were to be painted in RLM 65, and then mottled with RLM 02, 70 and 71 in order to tone down the finish. The upper surfaces were
to be painted in a splinter camouflage consisting of RLM 70 and 71 patches. This diagram was reproduced from the Handbook issued on September 14, 1943. The
camouflage scheme served also for He 177 A-5, whilst on the A-0 and A-1 variants the RLM 70/71 splinter extended downwards onto the fuselage sides.

The diagram included in the September 1943 edition of the Heinkel He 219 A-0 Handbook (issued on January 20, 1944), shows a camouflage scheme that appears to
comprise RLM 75 patches applied over 76 background on the upper surfaces of the aircraft. However, the photo evidence indicates that the latter were actually painted
with a uniform layer of RLM 75, and sprayed over with a meandering pattern of RLM 76.

real colors of wwii aircraft / 109

Camouflage diagram included in the Handbook for the Siebel Si 204 D-1, February 1944 edition. The camouflage scheme still consisted of RLM 70, 71 and 65 colours,
which were specified by both their reference numbers and correct official names.

Developed in November 1944, this diagram showed the revised camouflage scheme intended for the Focke-Wulf Ta 152. The aircraft was to be painted with
a combination of RLM 81 and 82 on the upper surfaces, with RLM 76 additionally used for the vertical surfaces of the fuselage. The undersides were not to be
camouflaged at all. Only the colour reference numbers were mentioned. The initial drawing, which had been issued on March 21, 1944, specified the upper surface
colours as RLM 74 and 75, with RLM 76 for the undersides.

110 / real colors of wwii aircraft

This diagram was included in Handbook for the Dornier Do 335 A-1, issued on December 22, 1944. In this case, the colour names were also specified, both RLM 81
and 82 being called dunkelgrün (dark green). Worth noting is the recommended use of RLM 65 as the under surface colour, considering that this colour had already
been withdrawn and replaced by RLM 76 in Sammelmitteilung 2 of August 15, 1944. It is unknown whether Dornier was allowed to use the remaining stocks of paint.
Furthermore, photos of many Do 335s reveal that camouflage paint was not applied to their undersides.

Dated February 23, 1945, this diagram is the last known document that regulated the Messerschmitt Me 262 camouflage scheme. The upper surface colours were
described as 81 braunviolett (brown violet) and 82 hellgrün (light green). Only the steel and wooden parts of the aircraft undersides were to be painted in RLM 76
lichtblau (light blue).

real colors of wwii aircraft / 111

1.6 Scale colour only be seen by a part of the human eye, an area called the fovea
centralis which is very sensitive to colours.2

effect Scientifically speaking, when measuring colours, the wider field of

where we see colours is called the 10 degree observer. The inner,
most colour sensitive part is called the 2 degree observer. The il-
lustration of a Fw 190 at a distance of 22m shows that we see the
actual colours of the aircraft with the ‘2 degree observer’ of our eye
(represented by a red circle).3 This is also how we see the 1:72 scale
model at a distance of 30cm. Even for a model larger than 1:72
scale, most of the time it is not possible to overlap the complete
10 deg observer (represented by a green circle) with the aircraft, let
alone with only one colour of your modelling subject. This mainly
accounts for the change in hue.
The Luftwaffe colours offered by AK Interactive, in the “Real Colors”-range,
offer two specialities: A deeper analysis of scale colours reveals other aspects as well:
Overall a colour seen from this distance has not only changed its
•• they are based on the spectral measurement of real co- hue, but it will also appear lighter. To make matters even more com-
lour samples, based on the year-long research of Farben plex, the way a colour changes when seen from a distance depends
- Kiroff - Technik. on the actual spectrum of the colour. A red will change differently
•• they offer correct scale colours right out of the paint jar, compared to a green and a light colour will change differently com-
made possible by the scientific research of Gerald Högl, pared to a dark colour. In other words: The pigmentation of a colour
friend and colourimetric specialist of the historian and has an influence on how the colour will look from a distance.
special paint producer, Jürgen Kiroff. These combined effects, the changed hue, the brightening up and
the metamerism, are integrated into the scale colour effect. For the
production of the Real Colors Luftwaffe range, all paints are pre-
Without going too deep into the technicalities, lacquer as used for pared to represent the actual colour at standard diffused daylight
painting aircraft, consists of a binder material, pigments and other conditions.4
substances, dependant on the kind of lacquer used. In a colour sys-
tem as used in Germany before and during World War II, the colour Extensive research and testing by the author, in the field of scale co-
of a paint was almost independent of the binder material used, be it a lours, led to the development of a scientific model for the calculation
nitrocellulose based paint or an alkyd lacquer. Therefore, for a mod- of the appropriate scale colour. The input for the model is the data
eller, the most important parts for the actual colour are the pigments of the 40 measurement points from 360 to 750nm, as used in the
used in the paint. spectral analysis of the original colour. The output is the appropriate

The spectral measurements used for the original analysis and the
manufacturing of the Luftwaffe range of colours consist of 40 mea-
surement points in the range from 360 to 750 nm, and therefore
cover the whole spectrum as is usually seen by the human eye.

A green colour, for instance, could consist of a green pigment or

a mixture of yellow and blue. Whilst the colour might be the same,
the spectra of both colours will be different. Under clearly defined
conditions (especially the kind of light), the two colours will look the
same. As soon as the conditions change, the appearance of the two
colours will change: they will look different. Everyone who has made
an effort to match two garments in a shop (artificial light) knows this
effect, as on the outside of the shop (in daylight), the same garments
will look different. In colour science this is called metamerism.

The original pigments used in Luftwaffe colours cannot be used in

modelling paints as they contain chemicals whose use in consumer
products has already been prohibited for many years. In contrast to
modelling applications, any museum wanting to achieve an authentic
restoration is advised to use original paints, as otherwise the overall
effect of the historic aircraft cannot be achieved.

Scale colours have been discussed for many years1 but up until now,
how they looked was left to the intuition of the modeller. The simple
reason is that a modeller would need an aircraft in original colours in
front of him, at a distance that conforms to the scale of the model, in
order to mix the scale colour correctly.

A 1:72 scale model seen from a distance of, let us say 30cm, con-
forms to an actual aircraft seen from a distance of 22m, as is shown
on the accompanying illustration. Everybody is invited to take a piece
of cardboard with the original paint of a large object and then to
compare the original colour in his hand with the object at a distance
of 22m. The overall appearance of the colour will have changed: The
hue is different and it looks lighter, for instance a green will be seen
as a different and lighter green.

The reasons for this change of colour appearing to the human eye,
are quite complex. An important part is explained in the accompany-
ing illustration. Close to a large object, the human eye will see a large
field of the color with all the inner parts of the eye which are sensitive
to colour. Walking away from the object, the same field of colour will

112 / real colors of wwii aircraft

scale colour.5 The spectrum of the original colour plays the key role colours. As a general rule, RLM 70 will always look a bit darker than
and the actual pigmentation of your RLM-colour is directly reflected 71, and 72 will look a bit darker than 73, whilst 74 is darker than 75,
by the colour in the paint jar. The guesswork during long and dark and all versions of the late war RLM 81 are darker than 82. The Real
winter evenings is replaced by a paint ready for use. Color Luftwaffe range carefully portrays these effects. Should you
feel it is necessary to change the appearance of these ready mixed
The described effects leading to the scale colours do not change paints, the subtle relationship between the individual colours should
very much from scale to scale. This might be surprising at first but be a part of your considerations.
even for scales normally associated with ships (e.g. 1:350) the scale
colour does not change any further as you portray the ship at a Extensive development work has gone into this paint range. For you,
distance of around 100m or a little more. Effects like fading and the as a modeller, it means that you will never be as close to the real
colours becoming a greyish blue towards the horizon, set in at dis- thing. Happy modelling!
tances greater than 100 or 200m. A look into a landscape with ob-
jects of a similar colour at increasing distances will show you that the
fading of colours really sets in at a much greater distance than what
conforms to the distance of your modelling subject.

That said, modellers working in 1:32 scale might want to experiment

with adding tiny amounts of black to tone the colours down slightly.
For 1:48 scale adding an even smaller amount of black is an option
which depends very much on the taste of the modeller. 1)  see for instance: Huntley, I.: A Question of Scale Colour, in: Scale Aircraft
Modelling, Vol . 12, p. 416 et seq.; Merrick, K./Hitchcock, T.: The Official
It should be noted that the oft-used method of adding white to Monogram Painting Guide to German Aircraft 1935 - 1945, pp. 6/7
achieve a scale colour effect leads to a wrong impression of the co- 2)  The author is indebted to the valuable and fascinating input of John
lour. Adding white means that a colour gets lighter but at the same Seymour, especially regarding how we see colours from a distance, how we
time it will loose part of its chroma, i.e. it will become less intense and measure colours and the role of the fovea centralis of the human eye.
paler. Some modellers use mathematical formulas with increasing
quantities of white added, for smaller scales. The overall effect might 3)  The illustration also shows an outer circle with a 50 degrees field of view.
well be a pale looking model that looks different when compared to This is somewhat arbitrary as the actual field of view is much bigger. The
the original aircraft. Remember that you are portraying an object at a intention of this circle here is to enhance the overall impression. The 50 degrees
moderate distance away and not on the horizon. of view roughly conforms to a conventional 50mm lens of a camera.
4)  so called D65
Many Luftwaffe colours were rather dark and indeed quite often at
least as dark or darker than contemporary US or British camouflage 5)  Lab-value in the CIELab color space

1:72 scale distance from model 30 cm

distance from original 22 m

10 deg oBserver
50 deg field
of view

2 deg oBserver

real colors of wwii aircraft / 113


U.S. Aircraft
Colours in the
Second World

114 / real colors of wwii aircraft

real colors of wwii aircraft / 115
2.1 Introduction
The United States Army Air Corps (USAAC, which became the United States It was not until July 1942 that a single camouflage colour standard seeking
Army Air Forces in June 1941, expanding to greater autonomy. This change to reconcile USAAF, USN and British (RAF and FAA) camouflage colours was
in title had no significant effect on the management of colour standards agreed by the Sub-Committee, but the colours were not formally promul-
with a continuum from previous USAAC orders.) and United States Navy gated until the issue of Army-Navy Aircraft (ANA) Camouflage Color Stan-
(USN) were separate services of the US armed forces, and operated aircraft dards in Bulletin 157 on September 28, 1943, listing 19 colours, ANA 601
in colour schemes unique to each service. The two services had attempted to ANA 619 with samples available for manufacturers of aircraft and paints.
to introduce a shared colour standard in 1930 which, after various prob-
lems in the preparation of samples, resulted in a limited set of Army-Navy This treatise presents the colours in use by each service seperately, with
(A-N) colours proposed in June 1938. However, there were ongoing issues reference to official orders and requirements, introducing the ANA co-
with the matching of Army and Navy equivalent ‘bright’ (non-camouflage) lours as relevant. It is to be emphasised that the colour standards were
colours and in practice both services continued with standards for their the benchmark for the colour required by the specifying authorities, and
own colours and nomenclature. aircraft and paint manufacturers were expected to provide and apply paint
or dope which matched, within reasonable tolerance, to those standards,
With the outbreak of war, US aircraft manufacturers began constructing sometimes in terms of formulae but always in terms of the colour appear-
and supplying aircraft for France and Great Britain, at first under commer- ance to be achieved. Applied paints and colour standards were therefore
cial contracts and later, for the latter, as part of Lend-Lease. With the attack not always identical, and in the case of applied paints other factors such
on Pearl Harbor and the USA entry into the conflict, the manufacture of as the application processes, surface treatment and wear, environmental
aircraft common to both US and British requirements drove the need to degradation or age-related colour shifts must be considered. All too often
standardise for efficiency. In September 1940, the Joint Aircraft Commit- extant examples of applied paints are presumed to represent the colour
tee (JAC) had been formed to oversee and co-ordinate manufacturing and standard accurately and to present a consistent appearance of the paint
supply requirements between the British Aircraft Commission (BAC) and colour rather than just a matched and aged variant.
US services. In February 1942, a Technical Sub-Committee on Camouflage
was formed within the JAC, meeting for the first time on February 17, 1942,
to consider standardisation within a fairly limited scope.

A BT-9 Yale, coded 292, from the 46th

School Squadron, wore the colourful
primary and basic trainer aircraft finish
of A-N True Blue and Orange Yellow to
Spec. 98-24113-A, dated September 9,
1938 (NARA)

116 / real colors of wwii aircraft

P-38D from the 1st Pursuit Group,
pictured in 1941 in the standard
camouflage scheme of the period 2.2 USAAC/USAAF
In August 1940, the Air Corps Board recommended the use of the follow-
ing colours for aircraft camouflage: Dark Olive Drab 31, Neutral Gray 32,
Black 33 and Sea Green 28, all temporary camouflage finishes. By Septem-
ber 1940, the Materials Laboratory (MatLab) at Wright Field had developed
matt lacquer paints in these colours, and in the same month Air Corps
Bulletin No.41 was issued with colour cards for eight colours, including
four non-camouflage colour standards (Insignia Red 45, Insignia White 46,
Insignia Blue 47 and Identification Yellow 48) and four camouflage colour
standards (including Black 44), which would remain in use until late 1943.
The finishing materials for the new camouflage colours were specified to
be of two types: camouflage pigmented nitrate lacquer to Spec. 14105,
and camouflage pigmented nitrate dope to Spec. 14106. The following
pigments were specified for the camouflage colours:

Dark Olive Drab 41 - optional

Medium Green 42 - optional
P-36A, from the 51st Pursuit Group, Neutral Gray 43 - titanium dioxide,
Oakland, 1941. Dark Olive Drab 41 yellow iron oxide,
over Neutral Gray 43 lamp black

real colors of wwii aircraft / 117

118 / real colors of wwii aircraft
These new colours became standard for all US Army combat aircraft just
prior to America’s entry into the Second World War, and provided the stan-
dard to which manufacturers were expected to match their paints. They
continued unchanged until their replacement by Army-Navy Aeronautical
Bulletin No.157, dated September 28, 1943, and titled ‘Colors; List of Stan-
dard Aircraft Camouflage’ - which incorporated the ANA colours.

Note that the pigments for Olive Drab and Medium Green were not speci-
fied. That permited manufacturers to use their own procured pigments to
create paint that matched the standard, and therefore the colours could,
and did, vary with exposure and weathering over time - see below.

Chalk-resistant titanium dioxide, a white pigment, is the rutile form. It is

significant that this was not specified for Neutral Gray 43 (q.v.) which meant
that manufacturers were free to use the cheaper anatase form which was
prone to chalking. That suggests that perhaps the Air Force were not too
concerned at the prospect of the Neutral Gray becoming lighter in service.
It might even be the reason that the colour was standardised so dark to
begin with.

2.2.1 Olive Drab 41 and ANA 613

Although introduced as a standard upper surface camouflage colour
during the Second World War, Olive Drab had a long pedigree for US Army
aircraft. A-N Olive Drab (gloss) was originally issued as a ‘wet colour’ stan-
dard to paint manufacturers in September 1930, developed directly from
the 1923 Spec. 3-1 colour Olive Drab 22. The pigments specified for the
paint were Chrome Yellow, Lamp Black, Ultramarine Blue - trace and Zinc
White - trace. There were various problems with this system, and several
subsequent reiterations of the colour presented in different formats, culmi-
nating in ‘dry’ porcelain plates issued in September 1938 with a simplified
Snapshots from the B-25C bomber specification of Chromium Oxide (Green) and Iron-Zinc Brown. In compar-
painting process at Inglewood factory, ison to later Olive Drabs, OD 22 is a much richer, deeper olive green hue.
1942. The painter holds a wooden Slight variations in the appearance of the various plates issued were noted
template used for application of by paint manufacturers.
national insignia (Alfred T. Palmer
via Library of Congress)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 119

New B-25s awaiting the final Olive Drab 31 was a temporary water colour camouflage paint included
inspection and flight tests. The in Specification 14057 originally issued in April 1931. This set of temporary
aircraft in the foreground has a soft camouflage colours continued through Spec. 14057-A issued in August
and straight demarcation between 1932, Spec. 14057-B issued in March 1938, and Spec. 14057-C issued in
the camouflage colours, whilst the December 1939, and was not cancelled until 1954.
remaining machines feature a wavy
demarcation in accordance with AAF
HQ demands. (Alfred T. Palmer via
Library of Congress)

Dark Olive Drab 41 (OD 41) was a permanent camouflage paint intro-
duced in AAF Bulletin 41 issued in September 1940 following a series of
tests. It was promulgated as the standard upper surface camouflage colour
for US Army aeroplanes from 1941 to late 1943. As mentioned, the pigment
specification was optional, leaving manufacturers free to formulate their
own paints to match the standard. The closest FS 595 equivalent to OD 41
is FS 33070, which is very close indeed at 1.64 where <2.0 = a close match
(Difference quantifications have been calculated using the DE2000 formu-
la. This formula is the most recently recommended by the Commission
International de l’Éclairage. The lower the number the closer the match - a
difference calculation of 2.0 or less usually indicates a close match, but the
figure is drawn from cumulative values, so the direction of any shift must
be quantified by description and/or observation. Whilst it is the experience
of the author that wartime paint batch differences of up to 5 were not
unusual, for precise matching and visualisation purposes any calculation
above 3 can be considered of limited value.).

In March 1942, the JAC agreed that OD 41 could be substituted for MAP
Dark Green (RAF) on aircraft manufactured for export to Britain. In July
1942, it was agreed that this colour would be standardised as Olive Drab
ANA 613, and substituted for MAP Dark Green and MAP Dark Slate Grey
(FAA). The new ANA standards were not officially issued until September
1943, by which time an Army intervention had slightly altered the appear-
ance of this colour.

B-17F-95-BO, s/n 42-30301, was delivered in May 1943. It was the first B-17 ANA 613 Olive Drab
of the 94th Bombardment Group to survive 50 combat missions. Note the In January 1943, Major A.I. Totten Jr. of the Army Resources and Produc-
patchy appearance of the olive drab paintwork that resulted from repairs and tion Division proposed to consolidate the two shades of Olive Drab in
overpainting the nickname initially carried by this aircraft, i.e. ‘Missy G’ (NARA)

120 / real colors of wwii aircraft

use at the time, the USAAF OD 41 and the Army Ground Forces (AGF)
Olive Drab, into a new colour Army/Navy (AN) 319, which was the same
colour as the AGF Olive Drab. In February 1943, Major Totten’s proposal
was passed to the JAC Technical Sub-Committee on Camouflage by
the Director of Military Requirements, and approved by them in March
1943, prior to the promulgation of the ANA colours. Therefore the stan-
dards Olive Drab 319 in US Army Specification 3-1 Revised April 1943
and 613 of ANA Bulletin 157 of September 1943 were supposed to be
equivalents, and have been reported as identical. However, the 1943
Bulletin 157 ANA 613 Olive Drab and OD 41 are slightly different in ap-
pearance. The Munsell values reveal that although both are of the same
hue, ANA 613 is slightly more towards YR (Yellow Red, e.g. slightly more
“brownish”) than OD 41, which is slightly closer to GY (Green Yellow, e.g.
slightly more “greenish”), but the Value (lightness/darkness) and Chro-
ma (colour saturation) are similar - ANA 613 being just slightly lighter
In March 1943, a P-51 was used to test
and less saturated than OD 41. The closest FS equivalent to ANA 613
a special ‘dazzle’ camouflage scheme
is FS 34086 at 2.15, with just enough shift to create a slightly mislead-
at Eglin Field. This aircraft was painted
ing impression. However, there is a closer RAL value of 7013 Braungrau
in Insignia White 46 and Insignia
(Brown grey) at 0.61. The subsequent 1959 standard for ANA 613 is clos-
Blue 47, with the fuselage spine and
er to FS 33070 at 1.98. It is safe to say that, taking into account issues of
horizontal tail’s upper surfaces left
differing pigmentation and weathering, the difference between OD 41
in Dark Olive Drab 41. The results
and ANA 613 for modelling purposes is largely academic.
of comparative trials with a P-51 in
standard camouflage were negative
An assertion often made is that ANA 613 never actually replaced OD 41.
This is untrue and fails to appreciate the difference between colour stan-
dards and actual paint supplies. There are at least two officially document-
ed references to the practical (not theoretical or ‘intended’) application of
paint colours to these standards to USAAF aircraft late in the war. One of
the reasons for the delay in introducing ANA 613 related to the reflectance
requirements. The original OD 41 had a reflectivity of 7.8%, but tests by Ma-
terial Command Engineering Division at Eglin Field in June 1943 revealed
that the new paint colour had a reflectivity of 9.4%, which exceeded the B-24D-20-CO, s/n 41-24183, served
recommended 8%. Various measures were then undertaken to reduce the with the 374th Bombardment
reflectivity of ANA 613 before it was accepted for use. ANA 613 was even- Squadron / 308th Bombardment
tually reduced to 7%, which was about the same reflectivity as MAP/RAF Group in the CBI in the autumn of
Dark Green. 1943. The paintwork had faded quite
significantly (NARA)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 121

P-39 Airacobra in sea-search camouflage of Dark Olive Drab 41
over Insignia White 46 in Panama Canal Zone (NARA)

A modified B-24D and its crew from the 19th Antisubmarine Squadron
/ 479th Antisubmarine Group, pictured at St. Eval, UK, in the summer of
1943. The aircraft carried a mid-demarcation sea-search camouflage
scheme of Dark Olive Drab 41 over Insignia White 46 (NARA)

122 / real colors of wwii aircraft

B-25C-NA, s/n 41-12848, 5th
Antisubmarine Squadron, 1943.
Sea-search camouflage scheme of In June 1943, a sea-search camouflage scheme of OD 41 (or 32) over Insig-
Dark Olive Drab 41 over Insignia nia White 46 (or 25) was authorised.
White 46
TO 07-1-1 of April 1944 announced the discontinuation of camouflage
on US Army aircraft, but has sometimes been confused because it listed
authorised camouflage finishes for liaison aircraft, helicopters and gliders,
using paint to either OD 41 or ANA 613 standards. There is little doubt that
stocks of paint to OD 41 standard would have been available through to
the end of the war. In Bulletin 157e issued in 1964, Olive Drab ANA 613
was superseded by a new colour FS 34087 incorporated into FS 595a and
of appreciably more brownish appearance. The matching of FS 34087 to
ANA 613 has caused considerable confusion about the true appearance
of the latter colour.

A fact to be borne in mind when contemplating the closest ‘modern’ FS

595b comparisons to the wartime ODs is that although superficially similar
in appearance, the pigment compositions are different. It is also relevant
to re-emphasise that no pigment formula was specified for OD 41 or ANA
Pictured in the spring of 1944, this 613. This resulted in paints, which although matched to the appearance of
P-47D coded HV-U from the 61st the standard, could and did age and weather very differently once applied
Fighter Squadron / 56th Fighter Group, to aeroplanes. They could also vary by batch as manufacturers sought al-
shows signs of several retouches ternative pigments to facilitate production in the face of shortages. Army
applied to the factory finish of Dark FM 5-20H - Camouflage Materials and Manufacturing Techniques of July
Olive Drab 41 over Neutral Grey 43. 1944 advised in Section 1. Paragraph 5, PAINTS. (e): “In spite of color stan-
This particular aircraft was a D-11-RE, dardization, there is considerable variation in hue between lots and between
s/n 42-75272, and was flown by an ace the products of different manufacturers.”
pilot, 1st Lt. Donovan F. Smith
(James V. Crow coll.)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 123

Although camouflage painting
had been discontinued in April
1944, the aircraft manufacturers
were still using stocks of pre-
camouflaged sub-assemblies
delivered by the sub-contractors,
as paint removal was considered
as waste of time and effort. Chin
turrets painted in Neutral Gray
43 can therefore be spotted on
many B-17s in natural metal
finish (NARA)

124 / real colors of wwii aircraft

Pre-camouflaged wing
panels and control surfaces
were also installed, as
shown on example of these
B-17Gs from the 532nd
Bombardment Squadron /
381st Bombardment Group,
photographed in the summer
of 1944 (NARA)

P-51B-15-NA, s/n 42-106950, coded WR-P, flown by Lt. Robert E.

Hulderman of the 354th Fighter Squadron / 355th Fighter Group. Note
the different shades of olive drab used for overpainting the invasion
stripes and painting the remaining areas. The under surfaces and
fuselage sides remained in natural metal finish (NARA)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 125

This C-47 is an interesting
hybrid, having camouflaged
rear fuselage and tailplane, as
well as port engine nacelle and
outer part of the wing. Note the
Medium Green 42 blotching on
the latter (NARA)

P-51D-5-NA, s/n 44-13357, coded B7-R from the 374th Fighter Squadron
/ 361st Fighter Group, was the mount of Lt. Vernon R. Richards, who is
seen at the controls. The aircraft was in natural metal / silver lacquer
finish, with olive drab anti-glare panel, invasion stripes on the lower
surface of the fuselage and wings, yellow spinner and nose band, and
dark blue wing tips, vertical tail tip and trim tab. Interestingly, blue was
the identification colour of the 375th FS (NARA)

126 / real colors of wwii aircraft

In 1944, the US Army tested 28 samples of OD from different manufac-
F-6D-10-NA, s/n 44-14841, flown turers and plotted them against the standard in terms of acceptability or
by Capt. William A. Shomo, CO of rejection. All were measured as Munsell Y – Yellow, but they varied in a
the 82nd Tactical Reconnaissance range from 4.5 Y 3.99/1.76 to 7.5 Y 3.73/1.76 against the specified standard
Squadron / 71st Tactical of 7.0 Y 3.70/1.73.
Reconnaissance Group, Hill Field,
Mindoro, January 12, 1945. Natural All pigments have inherently unique characteristics and both interact and
metal / silver lacquer finish with olive evolve in coatings in various ways. This means that an initial ‘match’ to stan-
drab anti-glare panel. dard of applied paint can behave differently once exposure, oxidisation
and various environmental impacts occur. It seems pedantic to emphasise
this, but statements like “painted with ANA 613” are misleading. ANA 613
was a colour standard for a paint, not a paint per se, so determining its
appearance from applied paints, from colour photographs, or even from
extant artifacts is unsafe. Understanding how the various pigments work
Ground crew maintaining P-47N-1-RE, together, even using a simple water colour set, helps immeasurably in de-
s/n 44-87957, coded 05 (hardly visible, termining their typical appearance.
but present on the top of the tail fin),
from the 19th Fighter Squadron /
318th Fighter Group, at Ie Shima, in
the late spring of 1945. Natural metal
finish with olive drab anti-glare panel
and ANA 501 Light Blue squadron
markings (James V. Crow coll.)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 127

Six P-47B-REs from the 56th Figher
Group, led by the unit’s CO Lt. Col. 2.2.2 Medium Green 42
Hubert Zemke, whose aircraft carries
Something of a puzzle is why US Medium Green 42 - and later ANA 612
three squadron leader bands (red,
- did not feature more prominently as a substitute or equivalent colour
yellow and dark blue) on the rear
for MAP/RAF Dark Green. In fact, the RAF colour was closer to OD 41. Me-
fuselage and front engine cowl, and
dium Green 42 as a colour standard arrived with the Bulletin 41 color card
Medium Green 42 blotching on the
issued in September 1940. Although it was not specifically mentioned as
vertical tail. The remaining fighters
a camouflage colour in the August 1940 report that followed a series of
seem to carry standard DOD 41/NG 43
camouflage tests, a precedent for using a dark green paint in addition to
finish (NARA)
olive drab was set by its conclusions: “That the best basic color top paint to
be used for camouflage under all conditions is solid dark olive drab; the best
sky camouflage for all sky backgrounds is solid neutral gray; That a dark green
paint offers best concealment in the summertime when viewed against a pre-
dominantly green terrain background.”

A more specific reference to it was made in T.O. 07-1-1 ‘Camouflaging

of Airplanes’ issued in April 1941: “f. Use of special color of camouflage
The basic color of camouflage for the top surfaces of all camouflaged air-
planes will be dark olive drab, Shade No.41, A.C. Bulletin No.41. However
to meet requirements where airplanes are operated over a terrain which is
predominantly green, the use of one coat of medium green, Shade No.42,
A.C. Bulletin No.41 is authorised to supplement the top-surface camouflage
The ambiguity is obvious and the possibility that any aircraft were cam-
ouflaged in a supplementary or solid Medium Green top-surface finish as
a result of this order is refuted in some quarters - without any apparent
evidence for that efutation.

Sea Green 28 Temporary Camouflage

(Paint, Water Dry, Spec. 14057)
A major revision of this order was issued in June 1942, referring to Medium
Green thus: “For aircraft operating over a terrain predominantly green, the use
of one coat of Medium Green Shade No.42, Bulletin 41, in permanent Camou-
flage Materials is authorized.” This order also allowed for local commanders
to use the temporary camouflage paint Sea Green Shade No.28 (a very
similar colour to Medium Green) “when operating over terrain predominantly

128 / real colors of wwii aircraft

B-17F-10-BO, s/n 41-24485, coded This was quickly amended just over a month later, in July 1942, to intro-
DF-A, from the 324th Bombardment duce the more familiar Medium Green blotching: “Medium Green, Shade
Squadron / 91st Bombardment Group, No. 42 in splotches or patches along the leading edges, tips and trailing edges
United States, summer 1943. Dark of the wing, vertical and horizontal stabilizers and rudders. Application should
Olive Drab 41 over Neutral Gray 43, be made so that the continuity in appearance of the wing, stabilizer and rud-
with Medium Green 42 blotching der outlines is broken. The size of the splotches or stripes should extend inward
(Photo: NARA) from the edges at various distances eanging from 0% to 20% of the width of the
wing, stabilizer or rudder member.”   
A further revision T.O. 07-1-1B issued in August 1942, affirmed the applica-
tion of Medium Green blotching and ordered the deletion of the ‘U.S.Army’
titles on the under surfaces of the wings of camouflaged aircraft.

Medium Green 42
As to the colour itself, Robert D. Archer traces its evolution from the Bulletin 41
card to colour 318 in US Army Spec. 3-1 of April 1943, thence to ANA 612 in
Bulletin 157 of September 1943, through the first iteration of FS 595 in January
1950 as colour 3406, and finally as FS 34079 in March 1956. There is a slight
hiccup within this chronology, as the Color Card Supplement to Army Spec.
3-1 of April 1943 lists 317 without equivalents but called ‘Forest Green’, and 318
as equivalent to ANA Medium Green and called ‘Dark Green’. In 1956, the Army
Field Manual 5-22 listed 317 as No.11 Forest Green, also called ‘Shadow Green’
and ‘Medium Green’, but in the Army Corps of Engineers T-1213 that colour was
listed as an equivalent to No.12 Forest Green, as were FS 34079, 3406, 317 and
ANA 631, the latter being the mysterious ‘Shadow Green’ for which a chip does
not seem readily available!

real colors of wwii aircraft / 129

A pair of B-17Fs from the 322nd Bombardment Squadron / 91st
Bombardment Group: s/n 41-24453 coded LG-O, and 41-24497 coded
LG-P. As Boeing did not apply Medium Green 42 blotching at the factory
level, it was applied at the depot/unit level, which is the reason of
prominent difference between the camouflage application on these
two sister ships. Note how the MG 42 patches stand out when applied
over the fabric doped surfaces (NARA)

Another example of field-applied Medium Green 42 blotching on this

B-17F-10-BO, s/n 41-24484, coded LL-C, from the 401st Bombardment
Squadron / 91st Bombardment Group; Bassingbourn, UK, October 1943

130 / real colors of wwii aircraft

B-24D-1-CO, s/n 41-23711, from the 328th Bombardment Squadron / 93rd Bombardment Group, in worn and faded Dark Olive Drab 41/Neutral Grey 43 finish, with
Medium Green 42 blotching visible on the vertical tail. Note that the yellow outer wing of the national insignia was overpainted with fresh Insignia Blue 47. This aircraft
was lost on October 1, 1943 (NARA)

In 1969, Ross Whistler cross-referenced ANA 612, using June 1943 ANA FS 34092 is a colour that has been cited to represent Dupont 71-013, which
colour cards, to FS 34092 rather than 34079, noting that 612 was “greyer was applied as a substitute colour for MAP Dark Green on export aircraft
than 34092”. In 1972, Jerry H. Smith referred to ANA 612 as “slightly glossier and also for Dark Green 30, another of the temporary camouflage finishes
than (FS) 34092 and has more yellow in it. The AN color seems more a natural to Spec. 14057, sometimes cited as the origin of the dark green on AVG
green, and harmonises with ANA 613 (Olive Drab) better than 34092 does.” In Tomahawks - but that colour was a black green, very much darker and
1988, David H. Klaus’ IPMS Color Cross-Reference Guide listed both Medi- greyer than 34092.
um Green 42 and ANA 612 as 34092 without comment for the former, but
repeating Smith’s comment for the latter as well as adding that it had su-
perseded Medium Green and BuAer Light Green.

Checking and measuring the standards, this author could not reach those
same conclusions. Suffice it to say that there are no particularly close
equivalents to Medium Green 42 or ANA 612 in FS 595b. The closest value
to both colours is actually 34094, but not that close at 2.86 and 2.96 respec-
tively. The other comparison calculations are as follows: Dark Green 30 Temporary Camouflage
(Paint, Water Dry, Spec. 14057)
Medium Green 42 vs 34092 = 5.42 FS 34079 is a colour also frequently cross-referenced as a match to MAP/
RAF Dark Green from which it differs at 4.31, so the potential confusions in
(34092 is a more blueish-green) the visualisation of these colours can be appreciated. The likely variance in
Medium Green 42 vs 34079 = 5.81 Medium Green as an applied paint and the potential shift of up to about
(34079 is more olive green) 5.0 in wartime paints suggest that it would not be unacceptable to use
ANA 612 vs 34092 = 3.93 those FS values as a basis for a range of colour on a model, adjusting it for
the particular OD that is chosen. The variance is borne out in colour photos
(34092 is slightly lighter and a more in which Medium Green can appear both lighter and darker than the OD.
blueish-green) The darkness of Medium Green 42 has been exaggerated by occasional
ANA 612 vs 34079 = 4.11 comparison to RAAF Foliage Green, the origin of which has even been at-
(34079 is slightly lighter and more olive) tributed to it. But the clue is in the name...

real colors of wwii aircraft / 131

P-40N-1-CU Warhawk, s/n 42-104589, from the 51st Fighter Group,
in flight over Burma, late 1943. The Medium Green 42 blotching was
applied to the vertical tail and possibly also the center/rear fuselage
spine (NARA)

C-47A-90-DL, s/n 43-15972, being prepared to be loaded with cargo at

Patterson Field, Ohio. The Medium Green 42 blotching was applied to
the leading and trailing edges of the wings and tailplane (NARA)

132 / real colors of wwii aircraft

The T.O. from July 1942 did not specify that Medium Green
42 blotching should be applied over the upper surfaces only,
which sometimes resulted in such anomalies as featured on
this C-47 pictured on Sicily in 1943 (NARA)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 133

2.2.3 Neutral Gray 43 The idea of blueish NG 43 probably stems from a prevalent tendency for ‘greys’
to be perceived as blueish as well as its appearance in many wartime colour
Neutral Gray 43 (NG 43) derived from Neutral Gray 32, a temporary camouflage photos, and many of the NG 43 hobby paints seem to evidence this trait.
colour. The first reality check with NG 43 is to refute the idea that it was a “pure” Even though the popular idea that NG 43 was a pure mix of black and white
neutral grey consisting only of black and white pigments. As already mentioned, is repeated, there is an apparent acceptance of the more blueish grey hobby
the pigments specified for NG 43 included yellow iron oxide, which is a yellow paints being representative, and citing FS 36173 as a close match. Some of
ochre rather than pure yellow, and has the effect of ‘warming’ the colour. Whistler these matches are perhaps being made under artificial tungsten light, which
commented on NG 32/43 as follows: “Some sources have incorrectly presented a dis- draws 36173 closer to a warmer, neutral grey. Certainly the swatch included in
tinctly bluish paint or color chip as representing Neutral Gray. This may stem from the J.F. Dial’s 1964 ‘United States Camouflage WW II’ (Scale Reproductions) is signifi-
fact that Neutral Gray was later superseded by Sea Gray, which does have a dinstinctly cantly more blueish in chroma than the paint chip and printed chip in both
bluish cast”. the Archer books. Again, it is emphasised that the discussion here concerns
the paint colour standard and does not necessarily mean that all applied paints
matched that standard perfectly, and/or did not exhibit colour shift as a result
of manufacturing processes or environmental and age related stresses.

Another clue to the characteristics of this colour is the fact that for the first
time in Spec. 14057-C of December 27, 1939, Munsell colour notations had
been cited for the colours, and Neutral Gray 32 was notated as Munsell N5 (in
the 1929 system). Neutral Gray 32, an earlier temporary camouflage paint, was
Neutral Grey 43 ANA 603 Sea Grey identical to the subsequent NG 43. The 1929 Munsell N5 is entirely consistent
The FS values most often cited for NG 43 are FS 36270 (supposedly in error) and with the Archer chips.
36173 (supposedly correct), but both contain rutile titanium dioxide (white),
phthalocyanine blue (red shade) and carbon black (blue shade). In addition, A study which explores the subject of applied paint in forensic detail, is
FS 36270 contains benzimidazolone yellow, whilst FS 36173 contains red iron ‘The Whole Nine Yards’ by John King, documenting the restoration and
oxide (blue shade). Contrary to some assertions, NG 43 did not evolve into service life of surviving RAAF P-40N A29-448 (42-104730). It contains an
any other standard colour after its appearance in Bulletin 41 of September 16, informative chapter devoted to the subject of paint colours, providing a
1940. It was superseded by the darker ANA paint colour Sea Gray 603 (a Mun- valuable insight to Curtiss factory applications. This follows convention in
sell B - Blue close to FS 26132 at 2.26) introduced with Bulletin 157 of Septem- matching the undersurface NG 43 paint to FS 36173 based on extant sam-
ber 28, 1943, and that colour standard in turn evolved to become FS 36118 (a ples from A29-448 and other P-40s, but the following comment is made:
Munsell PB - Purple Blue).   “There is little evidence in the literature of wide colour shifts in the Neutral Grey
lower surface paint, other than normal oxidisation of the surface layers, which
The closest FS value to NG 43 is FS 36134, which is very close indeed at 0.49. is easily removed with a mild abrasive.”
FS 36134 Gray was introduced in 1999, and does not appear in earlier issues
of the Federal Standard. Also, at the time of writing, no details of its pigments Geoff Thomas, in an article for Airfix magazine in February 1983 (‘True Co-
are available. The closest FS value to ANA 603 is 26132 at 2.26, with FS 36118 lours’), matched NG 43 to Munsell 5 PB 4/1 - the closest FA value to which
close by at 2.29, but distinctly more blueish. Both Smith and Whistler declared is 36118 at 2.06. But even so, 36118 is visually more blueish than the Munsell
ANA 603 as near identical to FS 36118, with Smith qualifying it as having a faint value as shown. In the same author’s ‘Eyes for the Phoenix’, NG 43 is matched
purplish cast (which seems inverted as to the actual colour measurement of to FS 36173, Methuen 22D-E2 and Munsell 6 PB 4.1/2.5. This variance possibly
603 vs 36118), and Whistler commenting that 603 is greyer than 36118 (which represents matching to extant paint samples rather than to a paint standard
conforms to this author’s findings). swatch. All these colours seem more typical for Sea Gray ANA 603 than NG 43.

B-17F-90-BO, s/n 42-30793, was built

in July 1943 and served with 562nd
Bombardment Squadron / 388th
Bombardment Group. Note the
appearance of Neutral Gray 43 on the
photo (NARA)

134 / real colors of wwii aircraft

B-25Cs of the 82nd Bombardment
Squadron / 12th Bombardment Group 2.2.4 Sand 49
in almost pristine Sand 49 / Neutral Sand 49 was added to Bulletin 41 in October 1942 and presumably derived
Gray 43 camouflage, pictured in flight from Sand 26, but it was not originally identical in appearance.
in December 1942 (Library of Congress)

Sand 26 Temporary Camouflage Sand 49

(Paint, Water Dry, Spec. 14057) (Bulletin 41-A October 1942)

Sand 26 was a 1931 paint colour standard for a water-based temporary paint
to Spec. 14057 (‘Water-Dry’) that Gen. Arnold ordered to be applied to the up-
per surfaces of aircraft operating over the desert on May 6, 1942, and which
was then added to TO 07-1-1 Camouflaging of Aircraft issued on June 1, 1942.
On May 27, 1942, Sand 26 had been required to be made available as a perma-
nent enamel to Spec. 14109 to be painted over the existing Olive Drab for the
98th BG ‘project’ for the Ploesti raid (the under surfaces remained Neutral Gray).
Sand 26 is very much ‘pinker’ than Sand 49 - almost a salmon pink or flesh
colour. It is similar to but slightly darker than FS 21433.

ANA 616 Sand

USAAF Sand 49 of Bulletin 41-A of October 1942 evolved to Sand ANA 616
in Bulletin 157 of 1943, then to Sand 3505 in the first FS 595 of 1950, and
eventually to FS 30279 in FS 595 from 1956 and onwards. The wartime paint
colour was darker and ‘pinker’ than the current 30279, but all those paint

real colors of wwii aircraft / 135

A P-40K from the 64th Fighter
Squadron / 57th Fighter Group in
a rather worn Sand / Neutral Gray
finish, being loaded with British
bombs. Tunisia, early 1943 (NARA)

Another two photos of P-40Ks from the 64th Fighter Squadron /

57th Fighter Group, reveal how the maintenance markings were
masked off during the application of Sand 49 layer. The photos
were taken after the famous ‘Palm Sunday Massacre’ on April 18,
1943 (Nick Parrino via Library of Congress)

136 / real colors of wwii aircraft

real colors of wwii aircraft / 137
P-40F-1-CU, s/n 41-14245, coded 87, from the 66th
Fighter Squadron / 57th Fighter Group, Tunisia, March
1943. Sand 49 over Neutral Gray 43

B-25C-1-NA, s/n 41-13207,

from the 445th Bombardment
Squadron / 321st Bombardment
Group, arrived in North Africa in
February 1943, and logged over
80 combat missions between
March 1943 and January 1944.
The aircraft was camouflaged in
Sand 49 over Neutral Gray 43 with
a wavy demarcation between the
colours, which is hardly visible on
this photo (NARA)

colours were a continuum of the same colour standard and not separate but that both were slightly darker and pinker than 30279. The implica-
colours. None of them are similar to the much yellower RAF Middle Stone, tion that Sand 26 and 49 were identical was perhaps due to his exam-
the US equivalent of which was 304 in the Supplement to US army Spec. ining a later Sand 26 swatch in the Bulletin 48 Color Card for Temporary
3-1 of 1943 and ANA 615 in Bulletin 157, and all were designated simply as Camouflage Finishes, first issued in May 1942, but valid to August 1954.
‘Sand’. The Spec. 3-1 equivalent of Sand 49 and ANA 616 was Desert Sand It is probable that Sand 26 and 49 colours were homogenised after the
313, which was almost exactly similar but just a little brighter and ‘pinker’. enamel paint version was developed.

Note that FS 30279 is now officially designated ‘Desert sand/ANA 616’. Just to complicate the matter, in addition to Desert Sand 313, Spec. 3-1 also
The colour name was changed from ‘Sand’ to ‘Desert sand’ in Bulletin had Earth Yellow 305 and Sand 306 which were both featured in the so-
157e of October 1964. In evaluating ANA 616 Smith described FS 30279 called Corps of Engineers camouflage for aircraft in NW Africa. Earth Yellow
as “lighter in shade and considerably less “peachy” in hue compared to the 305 is a little lighter than FS 30257, and Sand 306 is a beige colour closely
616 of June 1943”. He opined that 30279 seemed like the same colour as similar to FS 33448. The RAF Middle Stone equivalent 304 in Spec. 3-1 and
ANA 616 with white added to it. Bearing in mind the propensity of war- ANA 615 evolved to FS 30266, which is now officially designated ‘Yellow
time paint to chalk, this difference is not really an issue for modellers. sand/Tan/ANA 615’, but is darker than 304.
Whistler described FS 30279 as a good match to Sand 26 and Sand 49,

138 / real colors of wwii aircraft

A rare example of a P-38F or G which
appears to be at least partially
camouflaged in a sand colour. The
photo is dated May 31, 1943 (NARA)

B-24D-53-CO, s/n 42-40364, flew in

the 343rd Bombardment Squadron /
98th Bombardment Group from April
1943. Named ‘Snow White and the
Seven Dwarfs’, is one of the best known
victims of the Ploesti Raid on August
1, 1943. It was painted in Sand 49 over
Neutral Gray 43 (NARA)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 139

Another bomber from the 98th
Bombardment Group. B-24D-85-CO, Again, to emphasise that it is the paint colour standard being presented
s/n 42-40654, belonged to the 345th here. The applied paints could and did vary even before colour photogra-
Bombardment Squadron and was phy adds a further margin for error! Undoubtedly the combination of the
crashed on landing on July 29, 1943. very harsh UV light and the extreme temperatures of North Africa rapidly
The soft demarcation between Sand degraded the paint surface, so it is unnecessary to attempt absolute preci-
49 and Neutral Gray 43 is clearly visible sion in replicating the paint colours on a model. The paint was on a journey
(NARA) from the moment it was applied.

Also be aware of field-size metameric failure which occurs because the rel-
ative proportions of the three cone types in the retina vary from the center
of the visual field to the periphery, so that colours that match when viewed
as very small, centrally fixated areas, may appear different when presented
as large colour areas, usually seeming lighter or brighter (although as al-
ways illumination will be a factor). The author has experienced this several
times when holding a colour swatch up against a larger surface several
feet away and thinking “No, too dark”, then finding that when the swatch is
placed directly against the surface, it proves to be identical. This is the real
reason that small models will sometimes appear too dark when correctly
matched to full size paint colour.

140 / real colors of wwii aircraft

2.2.5 HQ NW African Air Forces
Shown here are original copies of the actual instructions from Headquarters
of the Northwest African Air Forces for the aircraft camouflage devised by
the Engineer Section of that HQ and issued on May 8, 1943. These are often
referred to as being from a “US Army Corps of Engineers” colour specifica-
tion with the assertion that they were never actually implemented. Howev-
er, the paint colours referred to are those contained with the Supplement
to US Army Specification No.3-1 as revised in April 1943, which pre-dated
the formal issue of ANA Bulletin 157 in September 1943. The Supplement
lists equivalents, which include other US Army specification colours, US En-
gineers colours, ANA, TAC ES-689, and alternative colour names. So rather
than being specific to the US Engineers, the colours were universal to the
US Army, and the instruction is clearly an air forces document. 

real colors of wwii aircraft / 141

142 / real colors of wwii aircraft
No.313 Desert Sand, No.306 Sand, No.305 Earth Yellow
(Supplement to US Army Spec. 3-1, April 1943)
The colour swatches as shown in the document should not be taken as ac-
curate representations of the actual 3-1 colours and ditto the printed chips
in Archer. The schematics in the original have been variously reproduced,
not always accurately. There is evidence that some of these supplemen-
tary colours were in use in the South West Pacific Area, and it is probable
that they also saw use in North West Africa, especially during the era of
the supposed “mud” disruptive patterns over factory Olive Drab as seen in
photographs of certain aircraft types such as the A-20 and P-38.

OD 41 with Spec. 3-1 No.303 Field Drab disruptive pattern

scheme imitating RAF TLS, and applied to e.g. export P-40
aircraft requisitioned by USAAF - P-40E with Spec. 3-1 No.323
Sky Gray (RAF Sky equivalent) under surfaces; P-40 F, K & L with
NG 43 under surfaces
Spec. 3-1 No.303 Field Drab, Spec. 3-1 No.304 Middle Stone, It is easy to get hung up on the more extravagant Special scheme require-
ANA 615 Middle Stone ments in this instruction and to overlook the General provision. For exam-
Very pale blue under surfaces are visible in some colour photographs of some ple, the general scheme for the pattern shown for the P-40 (see above) as
P-40 types taken before this instruction was issued. They seem too light for Azure A + B  is Field Drab and factory Dark Olive Drab - with the under surfaces
and especially too light and too early for the US ANA variant of Azure. Those im- re-painted in the mixed light blue. Whereas the special scheme for Light
ages have sometimes been interpreted as showing a light grey, but are too light Sand or Dessert (sic) areas is either plain Sand, or Sand and Field Drab over
for Neutral Grey. The upper surface camouflage on those aircraft appears like the light blue. Bear in mind that factory applied Dark Olive Drab 41 is closer to
Spec. 3-1 colours Field Drab No.303 and Middlestone No.304 (those colours unsur- FS 33070, and not the same as Spec. 3-1 No.319 Olive Drab, which is closer
prisingly being the equivalents for ANA Dark Earth and Middlestone), but the latter to FS 34088.    
might also be Sand No.306. Field Drab is a colour that has also been referenced in
the painting of some P-40Es in Australia, to create a quasi-TLS disruptive pattern It seems likely that the requirement for these schemes, which were intend-
applied to aircraft factory finished in Dark Olive Drab over Neutral Grey (this results ed to be discretionary to command, diminished as the threat of air attack
in a rather low contrast upper surface scheme). on Allied airfields receded, and that the pace of operations and move-
ments made the ground camouflage considerations impractical beyond
the basics.

When considering the above schematics (which show the colour stan-
dards), bear in mind the variance of applied paints, and the bleaching/fad-
This F-5A, coded 71, from the 90th ing effect from desert exposure and service. Also consider the probability
Photographic Reconnaissance Wing, of Sand No.306 applied to OD 41 and Field Drab No.303 applied to OD 41,
was apparently finished in the original both over Neutral Grey.
Haze paint (NARA)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 143

Known from a number of photos,
F-5C-1-LO, s/n 42-67128, was
assigned to the 22nd Photographic
Reconnaissance Squadron / 7th
Photographic Reconnaissance Group.
It had a Synthetic Haze finish (NARA)

comparison with the other shades (refer to Appendix 1 Para C2 for details).
The heavier the sprayed coat of Haze Paint was, the whiter and lighter the
finish appeared, with the lightest 45% finish on the horizontal under sur-
faces, the darkest 8% on the horizontal top surfaces and the median 14%
finish on the fuselage sides. The Haze Paint was to be applied over two
The unit assignment of this F-5E, coats of standard black lacquer. Note that the aircraft’s identity markings
named ‘Potent Tater’, is unknown. This and insignia were supposed to be applied after the black finish, but before
aircraft appears to be painted with the Haze Paint was applied. In other words, the Haze paint was to be ap-
Synthetic Haze paint (James V. Crow plied over the markings.
80 of the 99 F-4 Photo-Recce Lockheed Lightnings, all 20 F-4As, about 30
of 40 F-5A-1s and -3s, and the only F-5A-2 produced between March and
October 1942, were painted using the Haze system. There exists evidence
for a Haze painted RNZAF Kittyhawk (above - note also reference to “duck
2.2.6 Haze Camouflage egg blue” rather than “sky grey”!).
It is best to let the original documents shown here do most of the ex-
plaining about this unique system of camouflage for high flying and The Haze camouflage system, considered too complex and toxic in ap-
photo-reconnaissance aircraft. The primary ingredient of Haze Paint plication and of dubious effectiveness, was terminated by Lockheed in
was zinc oxide (Pigment White 4), which is a semi-translucent white October 1942 and a two-part Synthetic Haze paint, light blue in character,
pigment and not blue. As stated in the primary source documents was developed instead. A deep sky blue hue, which Lockheed designated
reproduced on the following page, “Haze Paint is a colloidal dispersion ‘Sky Base Blue’, was experimentally applied to an F-5A, and then the un-
of zinc oxide in oil which is manufactured by Samuel Cabot, Inc., 141 Milk der surfaces and sides were lightly sprayed with a tinted white designated
Street, Boston Massachusetts.” and “Unlike ordinary paints, the blue color is ‘Flight Blue’. The Sherwin-Williams company standardised these paints as
generated without the use of coloured pigments by a mechanism similar to Synthetic Haze for use on all Lockheed F-5As and F-5Bs, but it is not known
that by which the atmosphere itself acquires its color.” how many were actually painted in these colours. Some of the F-5As oper-
ating in the UK in the standard OD 41 over NG 43 were repainted in service,
There were four shades of Haze Paint to be applied, determined by the but there is evidence that RAF paints PRU Blue and Azure Blue were used.
heaviness of spraying and for three of those shades sample chips were pro- The F-5s from the 10th Photo-Reconnaissance Group were reported to be
vided to guide the painters, with a diffuse reflectivity of 8%, 14% and 45% painted ‘sky blue‘ in February 1945. ‘Sky Base Blue‘ has been compared to
respectively. For comparison, RAF Dark Mediterranean Blue had diffuse FS 15123 but a little darker, whilst ‘Flight Blue‘ has been compared to FS
reflectivity of 8%, RAF PRU Blue 14% and RAF Sky 43%. The fourth shade 35190, but the author has been unable to verify that, or to present mea-
intended for the vertical (fin and) rudder surfaces was to be arrived at by sured sample chips.

144 / real colors of wwii aircraft

real colors of wwii aircraft / 145
The early night fighters such
as these P-70A-2 Nighthawks,
were camouflaged in flat black
overall. Nonspecular Black 44 was
probably used (NARA)

P-61A-10-NO, s/n 42-5569,

named ‘Tabitha’, from the
425th Night Fighter Squadron,
is an excellent example of
overall ANA 622 Jet Black finish

146 / real colors of wwii aircraft

P-61A-10-NO, s/n 42-5583, named
‘Dangerous Dan’, was another aircraft
from the 425th Night Fighter Squadron
that had been painted in ANA 622 Jet
Black overall (NARA)

2.2.7 Jet Black ANA 622 use of but one (1) coat of enamel and that no primer coat is necessary.”
(Subpara.b related to the use of enamel over lacquer and vice versa.)
The National Defence Committee issued a report dated October 12, 1943,
with the results of trials in which gloss and matt black under surfaces for use Northrop were later criticised for failing to adhere to subsequent specs
in night operations had been compared, using model experiments and full which superseded this, and made it clear that even with enamel finishes
scale tests with searchlights. The report concluded that whereas the matt primer coats were required, but the question of where the blame lay was
surface was continuously visible, the gloss surface was completely invisible never resolved, because the issue of the communication and receipt of
for 75% of the time. The effective range of radar-controlled searchlights changes and revisions came up. This came about because the USAAF were
was reduced by at least 50%. The high gloss enamel paint used in the trials investigating and enforcing manufacturer compliance to specifications
was based on carbon black pigment with a high degree of dispersion, with as a result of quality issues reported by service recipients. A suggestion
the diffuse reflectivity reduced to less than 0.1%. This paint became the that Northrop deliberately omitted the primer coat to save money seems
basis for ANA 622 Jet Black, later designated simply as ‘Jet’. tenuous given the existence of, and their compliance to, the earlier Tech-
nical Order instructing that a primer coat was unnecessary with enamel
finishes. The author was unable to locate any reference to two coats of
primer as has been suggested - but only to Spec. 24114-A of September
1942 requiring one coat of primer and either two coats of lacquer or one
of enamel. This was reiterated generally in Technical Order 07-1-1 of June
15, 1943: “It will be noted that the use of both types of materials for metal (lac-
quer and enamel) require use of primer, zinc chromate.” As the Technical Order
revisions did not change the T.O. number but only the date, Northrop’s
ANA 622 Jet Black inappropriate compliance may be understood.
The closest FS 595 colour to ANA 622 is FS 17038 at 1.70, and indeed FS
17038 subsequently superseded ANA 622 with Bulletin 166d of March 11, The unsatisfactory finish of the P-61 as reported from theatre was dis-
1959, being designated equivalent to OSHA Black, ANA 515 (Gloss Black) cussed at the Material Laboratory (MatLab Wright Field) in March 1945,
and ANA 622. The pigments used for 17038 are Rutile Titanium Dioxide, and related to the new Jet (ANA 622) finish (gloss black) being applied
Benzimidazolone Yellow, Carbazole Violet and Carbon Black (Blue Shade). to the type. Tests concluded that it was partly due to the absence of
primer, but also partly due to the type of enamel being used. As a result
The tatty looking black finish seen on some Northrop P-61 night fight- of these tests, the MatLab advised the Procurement Section to provide
ers has its roots in the Spec. 24114-A (E-1b) authorisation of two paint Northrop with the latest list of approved specs and to request them to
types for coating metal surfaces - lacquer to Spec. 14105 and enamel to apply a coat of zinc chromate primer before applying two coats of 622
Spec. 14109. Northrop adhered perfectly to Technical Order 07-1-1 of lacquer. They also advised that the materials being used by Northrop
April 8, 1941, which stated quite clearly at Para 1e that: “Either of these be checked for conformance to specification requirements. The 622 fin-
types may be used, subject to provisions of sub para.b. It will be noted that ish was new and there seem to have been no issues with the previously
the use of enamel, camouflage, Spec.14109 on metal surfaces requires the applied OD on the P-61.

real colors of wwii aircraft / 147

2.2.8 Non-standard
Finishes Gallery

148 / real colors of wwii aircraft

The P-40N Warhawks used by the 15th Fighter Group in late 1943,
were finished in a specific scheme, which the 46th Fighter Squadron’s
engineering officer, 1st Lt Benjamin C. Warren, responsible for painting
the similarly finished P-39s on Canton Island, described thus: “We gave
them a coral sand sort of coating on the top and painted the underside
sky blue. Looking up you could barely see them against the sky.” It is
possible that US Army colours had been used, as mentioned in the
instructions from Headquarters of the Northwest African Air Forces cited
in sub-chapter 2.2.5 (NARA)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 149

In late spring 1944, the 78th
Fighter Group started to
camouflage their P-47Ds
(received in natural metal finish).
British Dark Green was used for
painting the upper surfaces,
whilst the undersides of many
aircraft of this unit are believed
to be painted in British Sky colour
(James V. Crow coll. / NARA)

150 / real colors of wwii aircraft

The 357th Fighter Group also painted the non-camouflaged P-51Ds received by this unit from the spring of 1944. Various reference sources, including the ex-ground
crewmen, state that paints from RAF stocks had been used, but all colour photos of 357th FG’s P-51Ds known to this author, show US Olive Drab on the upper surfaces
rather than RAF Dark Green. Note the data plate stencil, which had been carefully re-applied. ‘Passion Wagon’ was a P-51D-5-NA, s/n 44-13691 (Lt. Col. Athlee G.
Manthos via Dan Manthos)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 151

These photos show that at least some of the 361st Fighter
Group’s Mustangs had the upper portions of the fuselage
invasion stripes overpainted in a blue colour, which appears
somewhat similar to the blue-grey colour of RAF vehicles. The
reasons for this unusual choice remain unknown (NARA)

152 / real colors of wwii aircraft

The assembly ships were aircraft painted in non-standard patterns,
usually using various identification colours, and stripped off armament
and unnecessary equipment in order to allow them to spent many hours
in the air, helping the bombers to find their position within the formation.
Shown above is B-24H-10-DT, s/n 41-28697, the assembly ship of the
458th Bombardment Group in the second half of 1944 and early 1945,
which front fuselage half and wing upper surfaces were painted in white
and covered with red and blue polka dots, whilst yellow and red spots
were applied over the rear half of the fuselage that had remained in Dark
Olive Drab 41 over Neutral Gray 43 finish. Red and white stripes were
applied to the outer sides of the vertical tail and repeated in similar shape
on the fuselage. Note also the shark mouth on the nose. The photo below
shows B-24-D-20-CO, s/n 41-24109, which in the spring of 1944 was
stripped off paint and subsequently covered with a red zig-zag pattern,
becoming the assembly ship of the 466th Bombardment Group (NARA /
Library of Congress)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 153

Pictured at St. Trond in Belgium in the autumn of 1944, P-47D-27-RE, s/n 42-27234, coded Y8-E, was the mount of Maj. Clay Tice, Jr., the CO of the 507th Fighter
Squadron. Note the flat black anti-glare panel, which was additionally trimmed in red (Bill Lee via James V. Crow coll.)

154 / real colors of wwii aircraft

Flat black anti-glare became common in the 36th Fighter Squadron of the 8th Fighter Group in the spring/summer of 1945, as seen on this P-38L-5-LO, s/n 44-26176,
coded A and named ‘Vagrant Virgin’, which at the end of the war was assigned to Lt. Peter Macgowan. At that time, the markings of the ‘Flying Fiends’ squadron
consisted of black and white stripes painted on the vertical tails, wings and spinners, which, along with the distinctive extension of the fuselage anti-glare panel that
ran down to the antenna mast on the bottom of the nose, were mostly finished with gloss paint. The individual code letters were black, outlined in white. Worth noting
is that all these decorative elements did not appear on the unit’s aircraft at once, but were gradually added over a period of time (Dino Cerutti)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 155

Without doubt, the most colourful Thunderbolts in the ETO flew with the
56th Fighter Group. Initially, the ‘Bubbletop’ P-47Ds that had been delivered
in natural metal finish, were painted in a distruptive pattern in grey and The late production ‘Razorbacks’ of the
green colours, which are believed to be British Ocean Grey and Dark Green, 56th Fighter Group were often painted
as seen on example of P-47D-25-RE, s/n 42-26641, coded LM-S, flown by Col. in Olive Drab or British Dark Green on
David C. Schilling from July 1944 until early January 1945. The wing and tail the upper surfaces, and grey (possibly
undersides were left in bare metal, whilst the fuselage appears to be painted in British Medium Sea Grey) on the
wraparound fashion (James V. Crow coll.) undersides, although the lower wing
surfaces of P-47D-22-RE, s/n 42-26293,
coded UN-L and named ‘Belle of
Belmont’, seem to retain natural metal
finish (James V. Crow coll.)

156 / real colors of wwii aircraft

P-47M-1-RE, s/n 44-21125, coded LM-S, was the
last mount of Col. Schilling, who led the Group
from mid-August 1944 until late January 1945.
His aircraft wore the grey/green camouflage that
became typical for the 62nd Fighter Squadron
during this period, with the other squadrons of the
56th FG switching to different schemes. Interestingly,
the grey appears to be lighter than the earlier seen
shade, leaning towards Medium Sea Grey rather
than Ocean Grey. The leading edges of the tailplane,
as well as the undersides of the aircraft, were left in
natural metal finish (James V. Crow coll.)

P-47D-28-RA, s/n 42-28810, coded UN-A, from

the 63rd Fighter Squadron, carried a camouflage
pattern in two shades of blue. The undersides and
With the introduction of the P-47M in January 1945, the 61st Fighter Squadron
hood framing were bare metal. This aircraft was lost
went for a black upper surface scheme, as carried by this P-47M-1-RE, s/n 44-
in a mid air collision on February 1, 1945 (James V.
21147, coded HV-T and named ‘Blue Eyes’. British ‘Night’ is believed to be used
Crow coll.)
for this purpose. The undersurfaces remained unpainted (James V. Crow coll.)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 157

2.3 United States
Navy Camouflage
On December 30, 1940, following a series of proposals and trials of tenta-
tive camouflage schemes, the United States Navy (USN) Bureau of Aero-
nautics (BuAer) replaced the colourful interwar scheme for its ship-based
aircraft with an overall Non-Specular (NS - non-glossy) Light Gray. Patrol
planes were to have their surfaces as seen from above painted in NS Blue
Gray (q.v.).

M-485 NS Light Gray

These camouflage paints, designated M-485, were lacquer with a phthalate
resin binder for plasticity of the paint film and the Light Gray was made from
Titanium Oxide (white), Burnt Sienna and Lampblack. According to Del Palm-
Three F4F-3 Wildcats from VMF-111 ieri in ‘USN Camouflage of WW2’, the Burnt Sienna (a brown iron oxide varying
with special markings for the Army in hue from yellow brown to dull red dependent on source and manufacture)
manoeuvers in Louisiana in November was introduced to balance the slightly blueish undertone of the white pig-
1941. All aircraft had NS Light Gray ment, in order to ensure a true neutral gray appearance. However, despite be-
finish with white lettering (US Navy) ing a ‘gray‘ NS Light Gray measures as a Munsell GY - Green Yellow of very low

158 / real colors of wwii aircraft

This J2F Duck of the Fleet Air
Photographic Squadron Atlantic 2
featured a quite rare combination
of NS Light Gray overall finish and
national insignia in the form that
was officially valid from May 6,
1942, until June 28, 1943 (NARA)

colour saturation. It is best described as a slightly ‘warm’ gray with a very faint In ‘The Official Monogram US Navy and Marine Corps Aircraft Colour Guide,
yellowish undertone rather than a pure neutral gray. The closest FS 595 colour Vol.2 1940-1949’, John M. Elliott provides three separate paint chips for the
by comparison is FS 36440 at 1.36, this FS colour superseding a later USN co- Blue Gray as follows:
lour Light Gull Gray (ANA 620) in March 1959.

On February 26, 1941, BuAer instructed that non ship based amphibian aircraft 1. An extant sample found on a Grumman FM-2 airframe
were to be painted as per patrol planes with Blue Gray upper surfaces. On during restoration by NASM, which he compared to Munsell
October 13, 1941, the Blue Gray upper surfaces were promulgated for all ship 10 B 5/4 and FS 35189. Those two colours show a difference of
based aircraft and from February 6, 1942, for all land based USN aircraft. The 6.91. The actual #1 chip as measured by the author is very close
undersurfaces of any folding parts of wings were also to be painted Blue Gray. to Munsell 5 B 4/2 at 1.33, which coincidentally is the same as
the 1929 Munsell colour cited by Palmieri!
Identifying the true hue of the Blue Gray is complex. It has been asserted 2. A colour he suggests as interim intended for the later three-
that the Blue Gray colour was ‘ad hoc’ and not governed by a standard. tone scheme, but not used, which Munsell identified as 5.5 PB
Palmieri described it as being made from Iron (Prussian) Blue, Titanium Ox- 2.6/3.3.
ide, Antimony Oxide (Lead white; the reason for two white pigments is un- 3. A colour chip he found in a classified camouflage publication
known. From the appearance of aircraft in colour photographs the paint of the period, which he believes is the actual colour intended,
surface chalked significantly, therefore the Titanium Oxide was probably of if not actually used, which was visually determined at the
the anatase kind.) and Lampblack, and compared it to Methuen 23 (E-F) 5, National Bureau of Standards as Munsell 9 B 3.5/1.5
Munsell 5 B 4/2 (1929) and FS 35189 (as a good match). The author found
a significant difference of 6.91 between the cited Munsell and FS colours.

M-485 Blue Gray Elliot #1, M-485 Blue Gray Elliot #2,
M-485 Blue Gray Elliot #3

real colors of wwii aircraft / 159

F4U-1, coded 8, from VMF-213,
Gualdcanal, June 1943. The aircraft
still carried the original Blue Gray over
Light Gray scheme, with folding parts
of the wings entirely painted in Blue

Ground crew by F4U-1, coded 8,

from VMF-213 (NARA)

160 / real colors of wwii aircraft

SNJ-3 and SBC-4 used as trainers
by the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing
in spring 1942. Both aircraft
carried NS Blue Gray over NS
Light Gray scheme. Note the
‘national stripes’ on the rudders,
which would be removed after
May 6, 1942 (NARA)

A PBY-5A Catalina patrol bomber

from VP-31, pictured after May
1942 as indicated by the national
insignia without the red circle in
the center. Camouflage is NS Blue
Gray over NS Light Grey (NARA)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 161

162 / real colors of wwii aircraft
This series of photos shows OS2U-3
Kingfishers from VS-1D1, based at
Squantum Mass in May 1942. All
aircraft were painted in NS Blue Gray
over NS Light Grey (NARA)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 163

The only markings of this PBM-3
Mariner are the national insignia,
which may indicate that it was
captured on photo during its
delivery flight. It was finished in
NS Blue Gray over NS Light Grey

During Operation Torch, the November 1942 invasion of North Africa, the
fuselage and underwing national insignia of the participating Navy aircraft
received yellow borders, as seen on the example of SBD-3s and F4F-4s parked
on the deck of USS Santee (ACV-29). All aircraft are painted in NS Blue Gray
over NS Light Grey (Lt. Horace Bristol via NARA)

164 / real colors of wwii aircraft

An early F6F-3 Hellcat from VF-5
photographed prior to take
off from the USS
Yorktown (CV-10). Although
the picture was
taken in May 1943, the aircraft
still carried the
two tone camouflage scheme
(Lt. Charles E.
Kerlee via NARA)

Palmieri stated that the Blue Gray paint(ed) chip given by Jay Frank Dial in
‘United States Camouflage WWII’ is ‘very inaccurate, being about the right
value but much too purplish’. Bill C. Kilgrai in ‘Color Schemes and Markings
US Navy Aircraft 1911-1950’ gives basic colour descriptions, but no com-
parisons to colour standards and no colour chips.

Using Palmieri’s Methuen reference for triangulation, it appears that FS

35189 is a little too light, bright and grey. The closest match is actually
35177 at 3.37, but that is a stronger, clearer blue - a little too blue. The FS
595 pigments are as follows:

•• 35189 - titanium dioxide, phthalo blue (green shade),

natural raw umber, quinacridone magenta y.
•• 35177 - titanium dioxide, benzimidazolone yellow,
phthalo blue (green shade), quinacridone red.

The Palmieri Methuen values are in the approximate range of the Elliott #1
and #3 chips. FS 35189, although of the correct hue, is considerably lighter
than Elliot #1 (4.2 B 5.3/2.1 vs 4.5 B 4.1/2.1). These colours are consistent
with the best colour slides of the period and the known pigments used.

On January 14, 1942, BuAer issued instructions that for the purposes of
night camouflage aircraft were to be painted with removable NS black

real colors of wwii aircraft / 165

A TBF/TBM-1 Avenger from a training unit. The presence of short-lived red
surround to the national insignia indicates that the photo was most likely
taken in the summer of 1943. Worth noting is that the inner surfaces of the
wingfold joint were painted in upper surface camouflage colour. Also note the
different degree of paint layer fading on the wing and fuselage (NARA)

The Blue Gray over Light Gray scheme continued in use until January 1943,
when a major camouflage revision saw the introduction of a complex to
F6F-3, coded 17, from VF-9, USS Essex apply three-colour, counter-shading and counter-shadowing scheme con-
(CV-9), October 1943. Three-colour sisting of Semi-Gloss (SG) and NS Sea Blue, NS Intermediate Blue and NS
scheme of SG and NS Sea Blue, NS Insignia White. The diagrams shown here reveal how the paints were sup-
Intermediate Blue and NS Insignia posed to be applied, but in practice may not have been rigidly adhered to
White (Photo: NARA) as several photos show aircraft with fairly hard edged demarcations. The
scheme was referred to as ‘The Basic Camouflage Design’.

All horizontal airfoil surfaces seen from above were to be painted SG Sea
Blue, whilst all horizontal airfoil surfaces seen from below were to be paint-
ed NS Insignia White. The wing leading edges were to be counter shaded
by gradually blending these two colours using NS Sea Blue, which was to
extend to approximately 5% of the upper wing chord.

SG Sea Blue (ANA 606) NS Sea Blue (ANA 607)

166 / real colors of wwii aircraft

A night fighting PBY-5A from VP-52 pictured in flight in 1944.
The first ‘Black Cats’ were reportedly covered with a locally
improvised ‘gloop’ mix of soap and lamp black, but then they
were painted in what is consistently described as matte or flat
black and does not seem to be a temporary finish. In 1944, the
paint used was probably made to ANA 604 NS Black standard

F6F-3 Hellcats of VF-5 being loaded The slightly lighter appearance of the SG Sea Blue chip compared to the NS
onto the deck of the USS Yorktown Sea Blue chip, appears counter-intuitive if not contrary to the original camou-
(CV-10) in April 1943. The aircraft are flage rationale, but the Munsell measurements for the colours verify the slight
painted in “The Basic Camouflage difference. Elliott gives FS 25042 and FS 35042 as the closest FS 595 colours
Design”. Interestingly, the SG Sea Blue for the two Sea Blues respectively, but Elliott’s SG chip is slightly closer to FS
has a quite light appearance on this 35045 than 25042. Palmieri gives the same two FS matches as Elliott, but notes
photo (NARA) a disagreement with Whistler. Elliott compared several sets of preserved chips
and concluded that the ANA and FS colours were intended to be identical,
showing only minor differences. In 1969, Whistler observed that ANA 606 ap-
peared more blue than FS 25042, which was darker and glossier. The 607 chip
was also more blue than 35042, which was darker and more grey. In 1972,
Smith observed that the FS colours 2/35042 appeared darker than the 1943
ANA chips, which appeared more blue.

It may be worth noting at this point that FS 25042 superseded ANA 606
SG Sea Blue in March 1959, but at that time no FS replacement was cit-
ed for ANA 607 NS Sea Blue, the ANA chip being cited as the still current
standard. ANA 607 was not superseded by FS 35042 until October 1964.
The probable reason for a slightly more blueish appearance of the wartime
ANA standard is that Ultramarine (blue) pigment was used instead of Iron
(Prussian blue), whereas the FS colours use Phthalocyanine Blue (Green
Shade) pigment.

real colors of wwii aircraft / 167

On the fuselage, the two colours were to be counter shadowed by blend-
ing using one of two methods:
(A) By blending the two colours over the interventing area so that the near
vertical surfaces appeared approximately similar to NS Intermediate Blue.
(B) By applying NS Intermediate Blue to the fuselage sides, blending it with
the SG Sea Blue and NS Insignia White top and bottom.
Official diagrams for ‘The Basic
Camouflage Design’

168 / real colors of wwii aircraft

This F-6F-3 Hellcat (BuNo 26186 or
26188) from a training unit, had
an unusual finish of the vertical
tail: the SG Sea Blue extended to
the tail fin, whilst the rudder was
white. The national insignia points
to the summer of 1943 period

A Kingfisher in three colour

camouflage scheme pictured at
USS Iowa (BB-61) in the spring of
1943 (NARA)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 169

The vertical surfaces of the fin and rudder were to be painted NS Inter- whilst the ANA colour is more of a pure blue. Palmieri gives Munsell 5 PB
mediate Blue, as were the under surfaces of the folding parts of wings, 4.5/2 for the colour, whilst Elliott also gives a PB value. The author mea-
with blending at the central wing panels to avoid a definite demarcation. A sured the colour as B - Blue, consistent with the Elliott paint chip if not his
Chance Vought F4U-1 drawing specifies a four inch blending width. Floats Munsell values. In Methuen, Palmieri gave 21 (D-E) 4, which is consistent
on camouflaged floatplanes and flying boats were to be NS Sea Blue above with the Elliott chip.
and NS White underneath, divided at the chine line. Float struts were to be
NS Intermediate Blue, with the upper ends of large struts counter-shad- The under surface Insignia White (ANA 601) is shown and described in the
owed. System (A) was recommended as preferable for small fighters, whilst Insignia colours section.
system (B) was considered more practicable for large flying boats.
On 30 January, 1943, BuAer issued instructions as to how new paint colours
could be mixed to approximate the new standards using existing paints:

•• NS Sea Blue: 6 x Blue Gray + 4 x Insignia Blue* + 2 x Black;

or 4 x Dark Blue + 5 x Insignia Blue + 2 x Black + 1 x In-
signia White;
•• SG Sea Blue: 3 x NS Sea Blue (as above) + 1 x Clear Dope
or Lacquer;
NS Intermediate Blue (ANA 608) •• NS Intermediate Blue: 12 x Blue Gray + 24 x Insignia White +
Note the similarity of NS Intermediate Blue to the M-485 Blue Gray, which 2 x Dark Blue + 1 x Insignia Blue + 1 x Insignia Red.
is identical in hue but darker. The closest FS colour is 35164, but at 3.84 it is
darker and too grey. Whistler, Smith, Palmieri and Elliott give the same FS The combination of Dark Blue and Insignia Blue is puzzling as no USN Dark
colour, but Whistler and Smith both note that 35164 is darker and greyer, Blue colour standard is listed.

Al Wright of VB-5 pictured in the cockpit of his SBD-5 Dauntless in October 1943.
The photo gives a nice close up on the SG Sea Blue and Intermediate Blue surfaces
(Lt. Charles E. Kerlee via NARA)

170 / real colors of wwii aircraft

An F4U-1A Corsair in three-tone scheme.
Note the different hues of blue used for
painting the inner part and border of the
fuselage national insignia (NARA)

Another F4U-1A with unusually painted national insignia, pictured at

Bougainville in December 1943. The paint layer is very worn, making the
particular upper surface camouflage colours indinstinguishable (NARA)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 171

The extreme conditions in which the ship board aircraft had been used, had a big
The tri-colour scheme continued in use for USN fighters until March 1944,
impact on the condition of the paint layer. This OS2U-3 in three colour scheme is a
when a new, simpler scheme of overall Glossy (G) Sea Blue was specified.
true treat for all weathering fans! (NARA)
At the same time, all camouflage colours were specified to be glossy rather
than SG or NS, but this does not appear to have taken effect as SG and
NS colours continued to be specified in schemes for other aircraft types.
Palmieri suggests that where it was done, the NS Intermediate Blue was
perhaps gloss varnished or waxed, whilst NS Sea Blue could still be used
for anti-glare panel on the forward upper fuselage. Glossy Sea Blue is de-
scribed below whilst Glossy Insignia White existed as ANA 511.
A close view on the Gloss Sea Blue paint layer on the F6F-5 flown by the leading US
Navy ace, Commander David McCampbell, October 1944 (NARA)

Glossy Sea Blue (ANA 623)

Both Whistler and Smith give FS 15042 as FS595 equivalent to Glossy Sea
Blue, but Whistler notes that ANA 623 was darker, and that 15042 appeared
bluer and grayer. Smith only examined a 1954 metal plate sample for ANA
623, noting that it was the same shade, but seemed a ‘cleaner’ blue than
the FS colour, with ‘less black or green or red in it’ (sic). Palmieri and Elliott
also give FS 15042 as the closest match, although Elliott’s painted chip is
closer to FS 35045 at 1.72, 15042 being at 7.59, and both darker and more
saturated than the Munsell values he quotes. The slight difference in ap-
pearance is again probably due to changed pigments used in preparing
the FS595 colours. Illustrations and hobby paints seem to have the same
inconsistency in depicting Glossy Sea Blue, some being very much lighter
and more blue, whilst others depicting the FS colour. Glossy Sea Blue was
cited to the ANA Standard 623 until October 1964 when it was finally su-
perseded by FS 15042.
In June 1944, the overall Glossy Sea Blue scheme was extended to all car-
rier-borne aircraft (not just fighters). Patrol and patrol bombing aircraft, to-
gether with observation planes, were to remain in the tri-colour scheme.
On patrol and bombing aircraft, the SG Sea Blue was to extend from the
leading edge to 5% of the under surface wing chord.

172 / real colors of wwii aircraft

An F4U-1D painted in Gloss Sea
Blue overall, being reloaded with
ammo on the carrier deck, spring
1945 (NARA)

F6F-5 Hellcat no.3 parked on

the port catapult of the USS
Randolph (CV-15), March 1945.
The tail markings indicate the
aircraft’s assignment to this
ship. The finish is Gloss Sea Blue
overall (NARA)

Another F6F-5 in Gloss Sea Blue,

photographed on a carrier deck near
Okinawa in April 1945 (NARA)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 173

F-4U4s from VF-82 and VBF-82 pictured
at USS Randolph (CV-15) in June 1946

174 / real colors of wwii aircraft

PBJ-1J, BuNo 64973, coded 0, from
VMB-612, Iwo Jima, summer 1945.
Gloss Sea Blue overall

real colors of wwii aircraft / 175

At the same time, a new scheme was promulgated for anti-submarine war- Interesting photo of two PBM-3S
fare aircraft operating in areas where there was no risk of enemy air oppo- Mariners, which quite accurately
sition. The scheme was devised to be applied in two ways, dependent on reproduces the shade of ANA 621 Dark
the prevailing weather conditions: Dull Gray (NARA)
I. For prevailing clear conditions or where clouds were scattered with mod-
erate surface haze, upper surfaces were to be Dark Dull Gray ANA 621 with
side surfaces Light Gull Gray ANA 620 except for the side surfaces of hulls,
fuselages and nacelles beneath the wings and tailplanes, as well as cowl-
ing interiors, reduction gear housings, propeller domes and propellers up
to the outer edge of the cowlings which were to be NS White ANA 601
(shown below in Insignia section).
II. For prevailing overcast conditions or where operations were conducted
at night or the twilight conditions of morning and evening, NS White in
Scheme I was to be replaced by NS White ANA 601.
This scheme had reportedly already been communicated to units in the
Atlantic by Commander Aircraft Atlantic (COMAIR-LANT) on July 19, 1943.

ANA 621 Dark Dull Gray ANA 620 Light Gull Gray
Dark Dull Gray was a neutral gray, which Whistler compared to FS 36231 as
a good match. Smith had no chip to compare, but Palmieri agreed it was
matched by 36231. Elliott concurred. The author measured the ANA 621 as
slightly darker than 36231, and a more neutral gray of Munsell N 5.5.0 as sug-
gested by Palmieri. The FS colour contains blue and yellow pigments as well as
white and black. ANA 621 was superseded by FS 36231 in March 1959.

PB4Y-1 in standard ASW Scheme II of

ANA 621 Dark Dull Gray over ANA 601
NS White heading to the coast over the
ANA 602 Light Gray FS 36440 English Countryside (NARA)
Whistler compared Light Gull Gray to FS 36440 but commented that it was
slightly darker. On the contrary, Smith found that ANA 620 was lighter than
FS 36440, suggesting that ANA 602 Light Gray (shown above) was darker, and
that 36440 was a colour designed to be between 620 and 602. In 1942, the
Technical Sub-Committee on camouflage JAC had intended for ANA 602 to
replace M-485 Light Gray, but in January 1944 ‘Navy Light Gray‘ ANA 602 was
to be eliminated. Of course, the USN had introduced the NS tri-colour scheme
in January 1943, before the actual ANA 602 standard had been issued. But
ANA 602 Light Gray continued to be used as a substitute standard for Brit-
ish Medium Sea Grey (for example on the P-51 Mustang). Palmieri deemed
M-485 Light Gray, ANA 602 and ANA 620 as practically identical, with only mi-
nor differences explained as chip production variations and with FS 36440 as a
good match. The author found that both ANA 602 and ANA 620 have a slightly
more ‘brownish’ undertone than 36440 (Munsell Y - Yellow vs GY - Green Yellow
but both very low saturation), which was brighter, and just a little darker than
M-485 Light Gray. That might be the result of ageing paint chips. ANA 620 was
superseded by FS 36440 in March 1959. A formation of SBD-5s from VS-37
searching for enemy submarines near
The last wartime change to USN colour schemes came in December 1944, when the Virgin Islands in 1944. The aircraft
patrol and patrol bombing land based aircraft were ordered to have wings and were camouflaged in a specific rendition
tailplanes painted overall SG Sea Blue (q.v.), whilst the fuselage including fin and of the ASW Scheme II, with ANA 621 Dark
rudder was to be painted NS Sea Blue (q.v.). Patrol and patrol bombing seaplanes Dull Gray areas extending down the
and amphibians were to retain the tri-colour NS scheme (q.v.). wingroot (NARA)

176 / real colors of wwii aircraft

real colors of wwii aircraft / 177
On this photo of an SBD Dauntless inside
the hangar of an escort carrier we can
see all four identification colours: Insignia
Red 45, Insignia White 46, Insignia Blue
Insignia Colours
47 and Identification Yellow 48 (NARA)

Insignia colours were common to both services and existed as ANA stan-
dards in both the exactly similar camouflage ‘600’ series colours and the
‘500’ series gloss colours, with minor differences from their specific service
predecessors. Charting all these minor differences is beyond the scope of
the current article, so the colours shown are mainly restricted to the USAAF
and later ANA camouflage standards.

Identification colours were also used for

painting nose art, as in the case of this
P-47D from 404th Fighter Squadron /
371st Fighter Group (James V. Crow coll.)

Insignia Red 45, ANA 618 Dull Red,

ANA 619 Insignia Red (Bright Red)
Both reds have a slightly ‘cherry’ hue. Insignia Red 45 is close to FS 31136
at 1.02, whilst ANA 619 is slightly brighter and closer to FS 31350 at 1.53.
Insignia Red 45 was superseded by ANA 618 Dull Red intended to match
the RAF Dull Red, whilst ANA 619 was re-designated Bright Red in March
1944. Dull Red was superseded by FS 30109, and Bright Red by 31136 in
March 1959. The gloss ‘500’ series ANA 509 Insignia Red was similar in hue
to 619, and also used for USAAF squadron/flight identification trim such
as spinners, wingtips and fin tips. ANA 509 was superseded by FS 11136
in October 1964.

Insignia White 46 ANA 601 Insignia White

Insignia White 46 is close to FS 27722 at 1.77, whilst ANA 601 and the gloss
511 are closer to FS 17875 at 2.33, but not quite as ‘bright’ or white. ANA
601 was superseded by FS 37875 in March 1959. In June 1943, BuAer au-
thorised replacement of Insignia White in the upper surface markings of
aircraft finished SG Sea Blue with a gray mixed from one part Insignia White
to one part Light Gray (presumed to be the M-485 colour).

178 / real colors of wwii aircraft

Ground personnel apply the
1st Combat Bomb Wing’s red
identification colours to the tail
of B-17G-35-VE, s/n 42-97880,
coded DF-F and named ‘Little
Miss Mischief’ of the 324th
Bombardment Squadron / 91st
Bombardment Group (NARA)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 179

180 / real colors of wwii aircraft
This Mustang from the 368th Fighter
Squadron / 359th Fighter Group is
most likely coded CV-X. The nose colour
assigned to this Group was ANA 503
Light Green, whilst the rudder and
spinner ring painted in ANA 505 Light
Yellow were 368th FS designators
(James V. Crow coll.)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 181

Insignia Blue 47 ANA 605 Insignia Blue ANA 503 Light Green
Insignia Blue 47 and ANA 605 are close to FS 35045 at 2.09 and 2.46 re-
spectively. Both Whistler and Smith compared ANA 605 to FS 35044, as did
Palmieri and Elliott. Smith commented that 35044 is more purplish than
605 with which the author agrees, and found a difference of 7.45 com-
paring it to 35044. Nevertheless, ANA 605 was superseded by FS 35044
in March 1959. Note that both blues are dark and rather dull, not like the
brighter blues sometimes depicted in profiles and decals.
ANA 505 Light Yellow
Although non-camouflage colours are beyond the scope of this article, three
gloss ‘500’ series colours are included here, because they were sometimes
used as standards for the squadron/flight identification trim on USAAF aircraft
spinners, wingtips, fin tips, etc., both on camouflaged and natural metal fin-
ish types. ANA 501 Light Blue superseded True Blue and is similar to FS 15102
(which superseded it in March 1959), but is a little brighter blue. ANA 503 Light
Green superseded Willow Green and is exactly similar to FS 14187 (which also
Identification Yellow 48 ANA 614 Orange Yellow superseded it in March 1959). ANA 505 Light Yellow superseded Lemon Yellow
Identification Yellow 48 is close to FS 13415 at 2.65, whilst ANA 614 Orange and is approximately similar to FS 13655 (which also superseded it in March
Yellow is closer to FS 23540 at 1.89. The Yellows were used as overall or 1959). However, 505 is noticeably lighter, brighter and less ‘orange‘ than 13655.
top surface colour on non-camouflaged training aircraft, and to paint serial
numbers on the fin/rudder of camouflaged USAAF aircraft, as well as pro-
peller tip warning markings. ANA 614 was superceded by the lighter and
brighter FS 33538 in March 1959.

The inner sides of the cowling of this F6F

ANA 501 Light Blue Hellcat were coated with Zinc Chromate
Primer (NARA)

182 / real colors of wwii aircraft

2.5 US Aircraft
Interior Colours
Specification 98-24 113-A of September 28, 1938, had detailed the colours
required for the interior (enclosed) surfaces of Army Air Corps airplanes. The
wording of the specification was slightly ambiguous in that it allowed op-
tional colours for tactical airplane cockpits for pilots and observers which
were open or for which sliding enclosures were provided, whilst closed
cockpits, the top and sides of which formed part of the fuselage structure,
were to be Bronze Green 9 (Flat Bronze Green) on the floor and sides to
the tops of windows, with aluminium above. A note required this colour to
match colour chip No.9 from Color Card Supplement Specification 3-1, and
the lacquer or enamel was to have a matte appearance of minimal gloss.

Bronze Green 9
Dana Bell in ‘Air Force Colors, Vol.1’ gave FS 14050 as the closest FS 595
equivalent to Bronze Green, but noted the latter as a little darker and
glossy. This author appraised Bronze Green as a more saturated green than
14050 and closer to 14056, but not as dark.

This specification also introduced for the first time a so-called Yellow Green
finish for luggage, cargo and bomber’s compartment. The Yellow Green
was not to an established colour standard, but the Specification included a
formula with which to prepare it:

The rear fuselage interiors of the B-17 bombers Zinc Chromate Primer Specification No.14080 - 1 gallon
were mostly left unpainted. Only some bulkheads Black Enamel Specification No.3-98 - 1/10 gallon
and longerons were primed in Zinc Chromate or Aluminium Powder Type B, Specification No. TT-A-476 - 4 ounces
Yellow Green (NARA) Toluene Specification No. 50-11-38 - 1 gallon

Assembly process of a C-87,

a transport derivative of the
B-24 Liberator. The bulkhead
was painted in Yellow Green
(Howard R. Hollem via Library
of Congress)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 183

Zinc Chromates are yellow pigments and exist in five separate forms
sub-divided into seven known chemical compositions. Zinc yellow was
first synthesised in 1800, but no use was then found for it, and it does
not appear in chemical dictionaries before 1850. The earliest clear and
defining reference to its use as a pigment is ‚On the Materials Used in
Painting with a Few Remarks on Varnishing and Cleaning’ by Charles
Martel (George Rowney & Co.. Ltd., London 1860). Zinc chromate hy-
droxide was patented in 1941, but various zinc chromate preparations
had been used commercially in industry at least two decades earlier.
Their invention is often attributed to their introduction as an anti-cor-
rosive primer for metal parts developed by the Ford Motor Company
in the 1920s, but this fails to distinguish between the medium and its
adapted use, usually with other materials.

In colour terms, the zinc chromates are Pigment Yellow 36 Colour Index
(CI) 77955 and Pigment Yellow 36:1 CI 77956 and CI 77957. Pigment
Yellow 36 is a bright, greenish yellow, whilst Pigment Yellow 36:1, also
known as Basic Zinc Yellow, is a dull reddish yellow. CI 77957 is an or-
ange-yellow pigment. It has been erroneously stated many times that
the use of Zinc Chromate for aircraft was unique to the USA, but the
Luftwaffe paint colour RLM 02 Grau also contained basic zinc yellow
pigment and that already existed under several other names, even in
industrial usage, such as zincgelb, jaune de zin, giallo di zinco, amaril-
lo de zinc, aenki, etc.. Zinc Chromate preparations were also applied
to the Spitfire prototype. Several authoritative chemical studies report
that zinc yellow has a tendency to darken with exposure to light due to
This aircraft most likely already had the formation of chromium oxide. This causes the pigment to develop
Interior Green cockpit, with the earliest a grey-green colour. Colour mixtures containing zinc yellow suffer the
built examples having their cockpits same effect.
finished in Bronze Green 9 (Grumman
via AJ Press coll.) Zinc chromate primer in USAAC/USAAF use was defined in the Dictio-
nary of Maintenance Terms, Section H Paint and Dope, published by
HQ ATSC in November 1944 as TO No.30-1-2-H: “Primer, Zinc Chromate
- A semi-transparent, greenish-yellow liquid of zinc chromate base, thinned
Lt. Rui Moreira Lima Of The 1st Brazilian with toluol, very generally used as a primer on aircraft metal surfaces. Be-
Fighter Squadron sitting at the controls cause it dries quickly, coats of lacquer, enamel, etc., can be applied on top of
of a P-47D somewhere in Italy, in 1945. it within a few minutes, though it is best to allow the primer to set for a few
Thunderbolt cockpits were painted in Dull hours.” Toluol or Toluene was an industrial grade solvent widely used in
Dark Green (NARA) lacquers, paints and synthetic enamels.

The use of the term zinc chromate base is significant. The basic pig-
ment became synonymous with the coating preparation in which it
was a principal component, and was used as a generic term for such
coatings. The term Zinc Chromate Green (which became Interior Green
in the USN) refers to the coating produced by tinting Zinc Chromate
with (usually) black pigment (there are various explanations for this,
from improving UV protection to making crew accommodation areas
more ergonomic). The term Yellow Zinc Chromate (YZC), a tautology as
Zinc Chromate is yellow, then developed as a convenient description
to distinguish the original primer from the green tinted form. Such col-
loquial designations are not unique to the US military and abound in
various industries where specific designations of convenience rather
than accuracy have developed over time, and are in commonly under-
stood usage within those fields.

It has also been erroneously stated that the aluminium powder had
no effect on the colour appearance. The type of aluminium powder
flakes were non-leafing, as used in primers and build coats, where they
are dispersed within the body of the paint film and do not migrate to
the surface (Leafing aluminium flakes float to the surface of the paint
film to form a layer with overlapping flakes orientated parallel to the
surface to form a bright film with high lustre. Non-leafing flakes create
a resistant barrier to corrosion throughout the strata of the paint film).
However, they still affected reflectivity.

Curtiss documentation for the export Hawk 75 described the interior of

the fuselage as being “finished with one coat of aluminized zinc chromate
primer (green color) in accordance with U.S. Army Air Corps practice.” This
was exactly similar to the Yellow Green of Spec. 98-24113A, although
Curtiss’ own swatch of the colour appears more yellowish than a test
chip prepared to the Air Corps formula. The variance was probably in-
troduced by the type of Zinc Chromate pigment used.  Other interior
surfaces are described as being finished with one coat of aluminium
enamel. All Alclad parts were anodised and finished with one coat of
shop coating (Lionoil, primer or equivalent) before assembly. Lion-
oil was a proprietary finish - a bright blue translucent protective coat-
ing similar to the Japanese ‘aotake’.

184 / real colors of wwii aircraft

Curtiss continued to apply the yellow green finish in P-40B/C and E cock-
pits, but by the time of P-40N production were using a different formula,
described as Cockpit Green in the Preliminary Handbook of Erection and
Maintenance Instructions for the P-40N, as follows:

100 Gallons cited for the Zinc

Chromate Primer appears to be a
typographical error, possibly for 10

The points to note here are the variable amount of black in the mix and continued in the wording. On December 12, 1942, the BuAer Chief advised
the addition of white (especially for those who assert that Interior Green the manager of the Naval Aircraft Factory as to the proper shade of Zinc
was a mix of only Zinc Chromate Primer and Black). The curiously con- Chromate to be used stating that it had been agreed by the Army Air Force
fusing layout of this section could have resulted in both Lampblack and to adopt the Navy cockpit green as the standard colour for tinted Zinc
Carbon Black being added to the mix, as well as the variable proportions Chromate primer, and that it had also been agreed to change the name of
which would affect the final colour appearance. Some hobby paint interior this colour to Interior Green.
greens are quite garish and “leap out” on models, perhaps the result of for-
mulating colour based on flash photographic images of cockpits, but it is Some colour photographs of USN aircraft taken during 1942 reveal a slight-
an illuminating exercise to mix the colour using the specified constituent ly yellowish grey-green cockpit colour, which does not appear as dark or
pigments. The variance in black might have been specified to compensate as green as Dull Dark Green, and is closer in appearance to the later ANA
for a yellow-green variance in the Zinc Chromate Primer in order to better 611 Interior Green.
match the standardisation for Interior Green (ANA 611) as ANA Bulletin 157
issued on September 28, 1943, stated: “ANA 611 Interior Green is intended
for standardisation of the product obtained by tinting zinc chromate primer,
Specification AN--TT--P--656, for shop coat or interior finish purposes.” 

ANA 611 Interior Green

The closest FS colour to the ANA 611 colour standard is FS 34151, but at
some distance at 4.30. As measured, ANA 611 appears slightly duller and
less green than 34151, but Smith described his 1943 sample as ‘brighter
Yellow Green and greener’ than the FS colour.
Typically the appearance of the Yellow Green finish was between FS 14255
and 14257, often a little more yellowish, but flat rather than gloss. The con-
flation of the term Yellow Green with the later ANA 611 Interior Green (q.v.)
is not helpful in appreciating their actual colour difference.

Meanwhile the USN had developed their own cockpit interior colour
during 1940 camouflage experiments based on the Army Air Corps colour
Dark Green 30 (q.v.).

Dark Green 30 Temporary Camouflage

(Paint, Water Dry, Spec. 14057)
Dana Bell compared Dark Green 30 to FS 34092, but stated that 30 was
‘blacker’. This author found the colour a significantly darker black-green of
very low saturation.

It seems that no official colour standard was established for Dull Dark
Green, which in USN applications was subject to BuAer approval. On Sep-
tember 12, 1942, Spec. No.98-24113-A, Amendment No.6, changed the
Army cockpit requirement for Bronze Green 9 to Dull Dark Green. The same
ambiguity with Yellow Green as to which was to be applied and where

real colors of wwii aircraft / 185


British Aircraft
Colours in the

186 / real colors of wwii aircraft

real colors of wwii aircraft / 187
3.1 Introduction

An aspect essential to preliminary understanding in the study of aircraft or, worse, a colour photographic image. Whilst by no means ruling out
paint colours is the difference between colour standards and actual ap- the evidential value of such artifacts and images caution is advised, es-
plied paints or dopes. The two are often confused. The colour standards pecially when seeking to use a single example as evidence of a colour
were the benchmark for the colour required by the specifying author- standard or official painting practice.
ities. and aircraft and paint manufacturers were expected to provide
and apply paint or dope which matched, within reasonable tolerance, This study examines the colour standards promulgated for the Royal Air
to those standards, sometimes in terms of formulae, but always in Force (RAF) and Royal Navy (RN) Fleet Air Arm (FAA) by the British Air Min-
terms of the colour appearance to be achieved. It was inevitable that istry (AM) during the Second World War and disseminated to aircraft man-
variance was introduced in the manufacture of the paint, even before ufacturers by the Ministry of Aircraft Production (MAP). Aircraft manufac-
other factors such as the application processes, surface treatment and turers were expected to procure paint which matched the official colour
wear, environmental degradation or age-related colour shifts had oc- standards, but were not constrained by standard formulae. This resulted
curred. When extant paint samples which have been subject to any or in paints which when new, matched the colour standards in accepted
all these factors are measured, they may be found to vary significantly tolerance, but which could and did vary significantly in terms of colour
from the original colour standard, therefore it is inappropriate to cite shift and quality when subjected to age and exposure. In addition, the AM
them as reliable examples of that original colour standard. They are only procured paints direct from manufacturers for retention in RAF stores and
examples of specific paint as applied to a specific aircraft, reflecting application by service units for purposes of maintenance and/or re-finish-
all its life changes, and cannot be considered definitively “typical” for ing during overhauls, or for changes in camouflaging practice. Therefore
all aircraft of that type or the colour standard(s) concerned. Thus it is an aircraft finished in standard colours using paint from one manufacturer
essential to refer to the original colour standards in order to understand might be re-finished or touched-up after repair by service personnel using
the actual colour as specified and required. Linked to the tendency to paint ostensibly of the same colour standard but from a different manufac-
confuse between colour standards and applied paints is a tendency to turer and with pigments of quite different photo-chemical characteristics.
identify any significant colour variations found on applied paint arti-
facts as completely new and hitherto unknown colours. This tendency Air Ministry Orders (AMO) relating to colour schemes were considered to
has increased with a general trend for revisionist research marked by be policy directives and were not intended to be technical instructions. Air
a failure to grasp the manufacturing technology, pigment chemistry Ministry considered that in every case Directorate of Technical Develop-
and ageing characteristics of 1940’s paints. The further away the events ment (DTD) Technical Circulars specifying camouflage colours for aircraft
become, the more the earlier references (even where impeccably docu- types and types of operation were to be taken as the overriding authority
mented) are sometimes disregarded for new theories based on the tan- for production and maintenance purposes.
gible “smoking gun” or “silver bullet” of an extant applied paint sample

Gauntlet Mk.Is of 19 Sqn. RAF,

pictured at Duxford sometime
between summer 1935 and summer
1938. All aircraft in anodized
metal and aluminium dope (fabric
surfaces) overall. The blue and white
checkerboard pattern was the unit
marking (Alex Crawford coll.)

188 / real colors of wwii aircraft

3.2 Camouflage 3.3 Temperate
Colours Land Scheme
Following the end of the First World War British aircraft, predominantly In February 1933, the DTD requested the RAE to design a new camouflage
fabric-covered biplanes, generally adopted a non-camouflage scheme of scheme for use on the upper surfaces of aircraft to reduce their visibili-
aluminium dope with polished natural metal panels and bright identifica- ty when seen from above, either when flying over or stationary on the
tion colours. The aluminium dope ‘V84’ was developed from experiments ground in terrain typical for Southern England. The development work for
to achieve an effective protective covering for aeroplanes operating in the the new camouflage was co-ordinated by AM HQ’s Research Directorate
Middle East. An exception was made in the case of night bombers where for Materials (R.D.-Mat) and conducted by the RAE’s Chemistry Department
efforts to create an effective night camouflage - night flying dope - were and Experimental Flight, with input from the Aerodynamic, Electrical Engi-
made from 1925 to 1929. Those experiments focussed on improving the neering and Instrument and Photographic Departments. Preliminary ex-
‘invisibility‘ of the dark, greyish green NIVO finish (Night Invisible Varnish, periments addressed the suitability of different colours and tones, whether
Orfordness, Spec.2.D.103), developed during the First World War, to search- more than one colour was desirable and in that event the best kind of
lights, which were becoming more effective. Following a 1917 recommen- pattern to be applied. Testing involved the use of scale models as well as
dation, NIVO was being applied overall to aircraft operating at night. The full scale trials with aircraft under observation and photographed.
improvements tested included replacing NIVO with various black dopes
and a night flying blue developed by the Royal Aircraft Establishment Trials concluded that the predominant colours of Southern England were
(RAE) at Farnborough, adding dark brown, ultramarine and various black greens and browns, the green varying from the bright tones of meadows
pigments to NIVO, as well as fibre or cork particles to render the dope sur- and growing crops to the dark green of woodlands and the browns from
face less reflective - more matt. The experiments were not entirely success- the golden yellows of ripe cornfields and stubble to the dark earth of
ful due to application and durability issues with the experimental dopes ploughed land. The proportion of greens to browns varied with the sea-
prepared, resulting in a recommendation to spray the undersides of NIVO son, with greens predominating over browns 3 to 1 in spring and summer,
camouflaged aircraft with a dope prepared like NIVO but without castor oil whilst in autumn and winter this was reversed approximately 3 to 1 in fa-
and with the addition of 2 lbs of carbon black pigment per gallon, ground vour of browns. It was therefore decided that a camouflage of green and
in diacetene alcohol, ethyl or butyl phthalate. It is uncertain whether this brown in equal parts should be serviceable throughout the seasons.
recommendation was followed but NIVO continued to be applied to the
RAF’s night bombers until the general introduction of camouflage prior to Tests then focussed on choosing the best green and the best brown to
the outbreak of the Second World War. meet this requirement, with the understanding that compromise would
be required, and a pragmatic realisation that the changing tones due to
the seasons and weather (wet earth is generally darker, dry earth lighter
and more yellowish) would make minor variance in paints insignificant.
More important was the diffuse reflectivity (the average apparent light-
ness) of the colours. The green selected - designated Dark Green - was a
dull bronze green, containing a proportion of red pigment (an ‘olive’ green
rather than a blueish - or viridian green) with a diffuse reflectivity of 10%,

Hurricane Mk.IIa (Z2667), coded

WX-E of 302 (Polish) Sqn. RAF,
Westhampnet, April 1941. The upper
surfaces of this aircraft were finished
in TLS in ‘A’ pattern. Note the tail
band and spinner in Sky colour,
introduced on November 27, 1940
(Robert Gretzyngier coll.)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 189

whereas the brown - designated Dark Earth - was an averaging of the with small patches of woodland”. The general principle was to use the
browns observed, with a diffuse reflectivity of 15% to provide optimum approximately equal areas of green and brown in “a bold design with
contrast with the green. The colour standards for these two colours are the object of breaking up the characteristic outline of the aircraft” and that
shown below. “at any given moment the aeroplane in flight would be projected against
a background, the colour and tone of which would harmonise sufficiently
well with one portion of the aeroplane’s surface and render it inconspicu-
ous; the other portion, even though seen, would not give the immediate
impression of an aircraft.”

The colours and general scheme having been decided on, trials of the
camouflaged aircraft were held elsewhere, tested in the Army Manoeuvres
of September 1934 and with service trials in Army Co-operation and Fight-
Dark Green Dark Earth er Squadrons, all of which resulted in favourable reports. As the aircraft in
use were still predominantly biplanes, the RAE devised a shadow shading
The tendency of Dark Earth to chalk (the polymer of the paint surface is scheme whereby the upper surfaces of the lower wings and lower fuse-
eroded by a combination of heat, moisture and light resulting in a pow- lage sides of biplane aircraft were painted in lighter shades of the Dark
dery, greyish-white pigment or patina forming on the surface. This process Green and Dark Earth to compensate for the shadow caused by the upper
is exacerbated by certain types of white pigment, for example the anatase wings and the darker appearance of the lower fuselage as seen obliquely.
form of titanium dioxide as well as by common paint fillers and extenders
like China clay. Titanium dioxide is both a UV-activated oxidation catalyst
and a UV absorber. Free radicals are formed at the surface of the paint film
and these then oxidise the paint binder by photocatalytic degradation.
This reduces the gloss and produces a friable layer on the surface of the
paint film - “chalking”. In effect the titanium dioxide pigment and any ex-
tender/filler particles are being ‘released’ from the fractured binder to form
a greyish-white powdery patina over the surface of the paint. This has the
effect of dulling and greying the appearance of the underlying colour and Light Green Light Earth
is often mistaken for colour fading. The powdery residue, like fine chalk
dust but usually slightly greyish rather than pure white, will appear on the The Light Green is comparable to FS 34102 as a fair equivalent, the FS colour
hand when rubbed across the paint surface. Within a careful maintenance being a slightly more saturated green. The Light Earth is comparable to FS
regime the surface chalking can be reduced by cleaning off or “cutting” to 33245 also as a fair equivalent, again the FS colour being slightly more satu-
reveal the original colour of the paint strata beneath.) more significantly rated. A curious anomaly is that the contrast between the shadow-shading
than Dark Green with exposure resulted in increasing contrast between colours was greater than for Dark Green and Dark Earth, Light Green being
the two colours with the appearance of the Dark Earth often becoming 11% but Light Earth 30%. No explanation for this has so far been discovered.
lighter, more yellowish or greyer. The Dark Green is comparable to FS
34083, a close and useful match in the modern US FS 595 colour standard. In February 1936, the Air Ministry decided on their policy with regard to
FS 34079 is often cited as a match for Dark Green but it is lighter, less satu- the camouflaging of aeroplanes, concluding that all Home based fighters
rated and slightly less olive than the standard, being a Munsell GY - Green and bombers should be camouflaged, and to incorporate a conspicuous
Yellow rather than Y - Yellow (in the Munsell and other colour systems olive yellow ring around the national markings which could be painted out on
drabs are effectively very dark yellows). The Dark Earth has no close equiva- mobilisation.
lent in FS 595, the closest being FS 33105 which is not reddish enough and
is less saturated. FS 30118 is also cited for Dark Earth, but is similarly not In March 1937, the new camouflage colours were established for the ‘high
reddish enough and less saturated, Dark Earth being a Munsell YR - Yellow speed interceptor monoplane’, the Hawker Hurricane, with Hawker Aircraft
Red, whilst 33105 and 30118 are both Munsell Y - Yellows. Ltd. confirming that the scheme could be applied in production. Hawk-

The pattern of camouflage for Dark Green and Dark Earth was based on a
study of aerial photographs of Southern England which revealed “a broken, Air Ministry Scheme for High Speed
irregular patchwork of small fields separated by hedges and interspersed Interceptor Monoplane

190 / real colors of wwii aircraft

er requested details of the alternative scheme as it was intended that the bright blue pigment) to the basic carbon black or black dye produced a
pattern would be applied in two variants, ‘A‘ and ‘B‘ with the colours and “serviceable matt blue-black surface”. In May 1936, searchlight trials of the
pattern reversed. new Night colour were conducted at Lee-on-Solent and at Fort Monkton
in co-operation with the School of Electric Lighting using Fairey IIIF aircraft.
In respect to the diagram accompanying this confirmation, it was pointed These were deemed successful and it was recommended that the dark,
out that the undercarriage fairings, shown as Dark Green, were to be con- matt blue-black finish should be standardised as ‘Night’. Night became a
sidered part of the under surface and should be finished in aluminium. The standard finish for the under surfaces of night bombers.
Air Ministry further advised RAE that the national insignia should show red,
white, blue and yellow rings, and that the diagram should indicate that the
under surfaces were to be shown as aluminium. The title was also to be
amended to read ‘Camouflage Scheme for Single-engined Monoplanes and
Army Co-operation, etc.’

In May 1937, the C-in-C Fighter Command, Air Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding,
endorsed the adoption of the ‘approved green camouflage scheme’ (it was lat-
er clarified that he meant TLS). Also in 1937, with the basic colours and pattern
settled on, the RAE conducted tests of various proprietory camouflage paints Night Black
submitted by in order to meet the new standards, including Night (q.v.). By
August 1938 the standardised Dark Green and Dark Earth upper colours were Night still exists in the modern British Standard (BS) 381C as 642 Night and
being referred to as the Temperate Land Scheme (TLS). although included in the “greys” section, now has a cited Munsell value of
8.9 B (Blue) 2.1/0.2 which is indeed an extremely dark blue - or blue-black
Camouflage pattern designs specific to each type of aircraft had been de- of low colour saturation. A wartime MAP swatch for Night confirms a sim-
veloped by the time of the Munich crisis in 1938 with the exception of ilar very deep blue-black hue of 0.3 B 1.3/0.9. A pure black, without colour
Fleet Air Arm and Coastal Command. Scheme colours for aircraft based tone, is Munsell N 1.0/0.0 and in some post-war BS 381c colour listings 642
overseas had not been decided on, but TLS and Temperate Sea Scheme Night was given a Munsell value of N 1 for gloss and N 1.5 for matt, possibly
(TSS - q.v.) would form the basis for all future, non-specialised camouflage being confused with the ‘Glyptal Synthetic’ type glossy black paint adapted
schemes in the RAF. Air Observation aircraft (e.g. Auster) were camouflaged from the USA (as a result of searchlight trials held in May and July 1944,
with TLS on both upper and under surfaces. Squadron and individual air- the latter using a Halifax repainted with the US gloss black paint at USAAF
craft code letters with TLS were to be Medium Sea Grey (q.v. under 3.5 Day Burton Wood, specifications were drawn up for the new glossy black under
Fighter Scheme) which was first standardised for identification markings surface paint and with materials imported from the USA it was applied to
on camouflage aircraft in October 1936. Spinners on Day Bombers were to new bombers in production from April 1945). On its own, or in juxtaposi-
be Dark Green or Dark Earth. tion to other colours Night might simply look like black to many observers.
The colour chip published in ‘British Aviation Colours of World War Two’ is
a Munsell YR - yellow red - and effectively a very dark black brown! Apart
from a possible aberration, it might have a lot to do with variance in the
3.3.1 Night carbon black pigment used - available from blue shade to red shade. Ap-
Night was an alternative under surface colour to aluminium for night plied Night could present a slightly blueish - or slightly purplish-brown un-
bombers in TLS and other types where considered appropriate to opera- dertone, dependent upon actual pigment composition and illumination.
tions. As a camouflage colour Night has a longer pedigree than is generally However, in colour science terms the wartime standard was not pure black
realised, mainly because it was often referred to colloquially as ‘matt black’ but blue-black.
by RAF personnel and even in official documents. In early 1935, experi-
ments re-commenced to explore a superior under surface anti-searchlight
finish to NIVO, still considered effective night camouflage from above, but
very clearly visible in searchlight beams from below. A darker and more
matt finish was considered to be more effective, but difficulty was expe-
rienced in creating a serviceable matt black dope using the standard car- Air Ministry diagram showing TLS
bon black pigment. As a result, it was found that adding ultramarine (a with Night under surfaces on a Bristol
Blenheim Mk.1

real colors of wwii aircraft / 191

Air Ministry diagrams showing TLS
with Night under surfaces for four
engined monoplane bombers

192 / real colors of wwii aircraft

Three Battle Mk.Is of 218 Sqn. RAF,
in flight over Northern France,
probably in January 1940. K9325,
HA-D, was shot down on May 11,
K9353 HA-J crashed one day later,
whilst K9324 was one of the few
aircraft of this unit which survived
the French campaign. The aircraft
were painted in TLS with Night
undersides. Note the overpainted
serial numbers under the wings
(Crown Copyright)

Another similarly painted Battle

Mk.I (K9408), coded PM-N of
103 Sqn. RAF, photographed at
Betheniville, France, in March 1940.
Note the gas detection patch on
the port wing (Crown Copyright)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 193

Defiant Mk.I (N1744) of 256 Sqn. RAF
in very worn overall Special Night
finish, spring 1941 (Phil Listemann

194 / real colors of wwii aircraft

Hampden B Mk.I (R5852), coded
OL-Y of 455 Sqn. RAAF, pictured
in flight in June 1942. It carried
the standard finish of Bomber
Command aircraft of the time, i.e.
TLS over Special Night, with high
demarcation between the colours
on the fuselage sides
(Phil Listemann coll.)

Hampden Mk.I (L4074), coded KM-

O, from 44 Sqn., Drem, Scotland,
December 1939. Temperate Land
Scheme of Dark Earth and Dark
Green on the upper surfaces with
Night on the undersides

As searchlights became more powerful, concern was raised about the ef- of Bomber Command with three Blenheims and three Whitleys finished in
fectiveness of Night and in consequence a Special Night finish was de- Special Night on their under surfaces. In January 1940, Special Night was
veloped from 1939 as “dead black cellulose camouflage dope”, with minor authorised for the under surfaces of all night bombers.
changes to improve its composition over time. Unlike Night which was a
dark blue-black, Special Night was a true matt black finish. Manufacturers RAE stated that during 1940/41 Special Night was being misapplied as an
were allowed some leeway in its specification and the finish required spe- overall finish on RAF night fighters such as the Boulton-Paul Defiant, Bristol
cial application and special cleaning. A post-war report on the develop- Beaufighter and De Havilland Mosquito, as well as Night Intruder aircraft
ment of RAF wartime camouflage described the development of Special like the Hawker Hurricane. This related to an instruction issued by the Air
Night from 1940, but that related to a revision of the original 1939 Special Ministry on November 27, 1940 that night fighters were to be painted ‘matt
Night specification in February 1940 as Ch.127 or R.D.Mat.2A, where the black (special night)’ on all surfaces with national markings as for night
pigment became a “special black dye on a metallic oxide base”, and was bombers, a requirement repeated in AMO A.513 of July 10, 1941 (Para 2(i)
considered to be superior in terms of resistance to wear and tear. (c)). During 1941/42 Special Night was also applied overall to the Whitleys
of No.4 Group. However, Special Night was never intended as an overall
On May 22, 1939, trials of Special Night were held at the Air Fighting Devel- finish for night flying, but only as an under surface anti-searchlight finish
opment Unit (AFDU) at Northolt with a Wellington painted overall in the for night bombers.
finish. In August of the same year, further trials were held by No.6 Group

real colors of wwii aircraft / 195

Short Stirling Mk.IV, probably coded 8E-W from ‘B’ Flight of 295 Sqn. RAF, at
Kastrup airfield in September 1945. The photos provide a nice view of the Dark
Earth, Dark Green and Night scheme. Note the quotation from Shakespeare’s
“Merchant of Venice” and mission markings under the cockpit (Hanne Laursen
via Nationalmuseet, Danmark)

196 / real colors of wwii aircraft

Special Night to Spec.D.T.D/R.D.M.2A was held in RAF Stores with its own
specialist thinners as well as standard Night, which was the required un-
dercoat for Special Night, so it was feasible for aircraft originally in Temper-
ate Land scheme to be re-painted or touched up with Special Night on
station without the same preparation or quality of finish to be achieved in
aircraft factories. Special Night was declared obsolete by November 1942,
but some aircraft painted in the finish remained in service beyond that.
The under surfaces of night bombers then reverted to standard Night.
Both Night and Special Night were also available in RAF Stores as Distem-
pers for temporary camouflage under DTD 441. Spinners and aircraft seri-
al numbers were usually painted in Night although RAF stores also held
stocks of plain black synthetic enamel for brush application (33B/159) un-
der specification DTD 260A ‘S’.

3.3.2 Sky
Sky was developed from a pre-war proprietory paint colour devised by Sid-
ney Cotton for his secret pre-war photographic reconnaissance flights. He
described it himself thus:
“One day at Heston I was watching the Maharajah of Jodhpur take off in
his private plane, and very soon after it left the ground I lost sight of it. Soon
A nice in-flight shot of Whirlwind Mk.I I realised that it had disappeared altogether. It was painted a pale, duck-egg
(P6985), coded HE-J of 263 Sqn. RAF, green, and I was convinced that this was why I had lost sight of it; it had simply
reveals yet another interpretation of merged in the background. I got the Titanine Dope Company to make up a
the order issued on November 27, 1940 similar paint, slightly lighter in hue, and I registered it as ‘Camotint‘ (although I
(Phil Listemann coll.) took out no patents), and I had the Lockheed painted with it.”

In May 1937, Air Chief Marshal Dowding had suggested that fighter aircraft
with aluminium painted under surfaces should be finished with one under
surface wing painted ‘dull black‘ to improve anti-aircraft recognition. Alumini-
um was critical to wartime aircraft production and RAE began an exploration
of aluminium versus white as an under surface colour. In October 1937, Dowd-
ing reported the results of experiments at North Weald, and recommended
that the Hurricane should be produced with the under surface of the wings
painted white to starboard and black to port. A memo of January 8, 1938, from
DTD to the Resident Technical Officer (RTO) at Hawker Aircraft Ltd., confirmed
Hurricane Mk.I (most likely P2549), coded SD-L of 501 Sqn. RAF, prepared for a
sortie at Betheniville, France, in May 1940. This aircraft was finished in TLS in
‘A’ pattern, with white/Night undersides, although it appears that the under
surface of the starboard stabilizer and elevator remained in aluminium dope
(Crown Copyright)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 197

Blenheim Mk.IV (R3600) of 110 Sqn.
RAF, Wattisham, June 1940. It carried
a factory-applied TLS with Sky
undersides (Crown Copyright)

Groundcrew refuelling Spitfire Mk.IIa

(P7420) of 19 Sqn. RAF at Fowlmere
airfield in September 1940. The
aircraft was just recently delivered
from 6 MU, and carries a freshly-
applied TLS over Sky
(Crown Copyright)

198 / real colors of wwii aircraft

Hurricane Mk.I (P2923), coded VY-R, flown by F/O Albert G. Lewis of 85 Sqn.,
landing at Castle Camps in July 1940. Temperate Land Scheme of Dark
Earth and Dark Green in “A” pattern on the upper surfaces with Sky on the
undersides (Crown Copyright)

Hurricane Mk.Is of 303 (Polish) Sqn. RAF, pictured at Leconfield in late

November 1940. All the aircraft were painted in TLS over Sky, with the under
surfaces of the port wings painted black with temporary camouflage
distemper under DTD 441, which was available as both Night and Special
Night. The wing centre area remained in Sky (Robert Gretzyngier coll.)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 199

PDU Spitfire in overall Camotint or Sky finish - March 1940 PDU Blenheim in overall Camotint or Sky finish - March 1940

that the port side colouring “is not strictly black but the standard ‘night‘ finish”. At
first, the centre section of the aircraft continued to be painted aluminium. In
April 1938, the scheme was extended to Spitfires, and in May it was confirmed
that the black and white colours should meet on the centre line, obviating
the aluminium-painted centre section. Correspondence then continued as
to whether the ailerons could be painted by service units re-painting earlier
delivered aircraft in view of balance considerations. It was not until April 1939
that the Director of Operational Requirements confirmed that ailerons should Sky
remain as factory-doped in aluminium.
Sky is a Munsell GY - Green Yellow and bearing in mind the variance in for-
With the commencement of hostilities and RAF aircraft operating over mulae and pigments used, FS 34424 is a useful if not precise match in FS 595.
France, the colouring of under surfaces was again considered, but con- The original proprietory Titanine ‘Camotint’ formula for Sky of White rinted with
siderable confusion at first reigned over the introduction of ‘Camotint‘ for about 4% Yellow Oxide and a trace of Prussian Blue used on early photo-re-
the under surfaces of Blenheim bomber and fighter squadrons. The RAE connaissance unit (PRU) aircraft, later gave way to various revised formulae
had been investigating under surface camouflage, comparing ‘Camotint‘ combining White, Black, Green and Yellow “bases”, the constituent pigments of
to a blue finish which they had developed and which they preferred. On one of these being Antimony Oxide (white), Vegetable Black, Chromium Ox-
November 25, 1939, C-in-C Bomber Command had advised the Air Minis- ide (green) and Yellow precipitated Iron Oxide with China Clay as an extender.
try that the under surfaces of Blenheims of 139 Sqn at Watton (in TLS) had Other proprietory formulae were used and the paint was available in several
been painted “grey-blue so as to merge into the background of the sky when media, including distemper, resulting in considerable variation in the appear-
viewed from below”. Whether this colour was related to ‘Camotint‘, to the ance of the colour. As with many paints of this era, surface “chalking” tended to
French gris-bleu clair (light grey-blue) colour (as the aircraft were preparing reduce the colour to a lighter and more greyish appearance unless a rigorous
to go to France) or to the blue developed by the RAE as ‘Sky Blue‘ (q.v.) is maintenance regime was in place.
uncertain. On November 30, a telegram was sent to Fighter and Coastal
Commands that a ‘light blue‘ rather than black under surface colour was By March 1940 Camotint or Sky was already in use as an overall colour
being introduced for Blenheim squadrons. On December 2, 1939, the Air on Spitfires and Blenheims of the Photographic Development Unit (PDU),
Ministry formally approved the adoption of ‘grey-blue‘ for the under sur- Heston. On June 6, 1940, the Air Ministry advised all Commands that all
faces of Blenheim aircraft. At a Directorate of Equipment meeting held on fighter aircraft were to be painted with ‘Sky Type S’ on the their under sur-
January 10, 1940, a representative of RAE produced samples of the original faces. A flurry of immediate queries resulted in a clarifying instruction the
‘camotint green egg-shell finish‘ and the ‘new egg-shell blue finish’. It was following day that Sky could be described as ‘Duck Egg Bluish Green’. On
recorded that samples were being made up by Cellon as an alternative June 10, a further instruction stated that in view of a shortage of Sky paint,
source of supply to Titanine, and that DTD would decide the best colour aircraft could continue to be operated with black and white under surfaces
and finish to be adopted, after which the finish would be introduced in the interim, but by the end of the month it was clear that units were mix-
and given a DTD specification. By April 1940 Bristol Aeroplane Co. Ltd., ing their own ‘pale blue‘ paints from available stores of white, yellow and
were advised that “the pale blue-green which has been called Camotint is blue paints to re-paint aircraft. This resulted in non-standard versions of Sky
now defined as Standard Sky and this description should be given in your bearing resemblance to contemporary BS colours ‘No.1 Sky Blue‘ (not to be
schedule” (for Blenheim IV). Despite this, the new paint was still being confused with MAP/RAF Sky Blue) and ‘No.16 Eau-de-Nil’. Indeed units may
referred to inconsistently in documentation, including ‘Light Sea Green‘ have referred to those standards when attempting to mix ‘Duck Egg Bluish
and ‘Duck Egg Green’. Green‘ themselves.

200 / real colors of wwii aircraft

Eau-de-Nil BS Sky Blue

The unit mixed and applied Eau-de-Nil type colours typically resembled
FS 14533, whilst the Sky Blue type colour(s) resembled FS 34325, but there
was variation.

DTD Circular No.83 issued on August 23, 1940, established that the under
surfaces of all operational aircraft would be either matt black (e.g. Night)
or Sky (still referered to as duck-egg blue), and might be one or the oth-
er at the discretion of Commands to meet operational requirements. It
was emphasised that the following classes of aircraft would be produced
with duck-egg blue under surfaces: Fighters, Army Co-operation, Gener-
al Reconnaissance, Torpedo Bombers, Blenheim Bombers, Close support
Bombers, Troop Carriers and Bomber Transports. All Bombers except those
mentioned were to be produced with matt black under surfaces. Subse-
quently, DTD Technical Circular 360 of February 23, 1943, required all day
bombers with the exception of Mosquitoes to be finished in TLS with Sky
under surfaces.

On November 27, 1940, the Air Ministry ordered that the under surface of
the port wing on day fighter aircraft of Fighter Command was to again be
painted black and the roundel on that side surrounded by a yellow ring.
Additionally, a vertical band, 18 inches wide, of duck-egg blue, was to be
applied completely around the fuselage in front of the tail plane, and the
spinner was to be painted duck-egg blue. The use of the term ‘duck-egg
blue‘ in this instruction and the appearance of some colour photographs
has given rise to speculation that some units possibly painted the band
and spinner using Sky Blue (q.v.) paint.

On April 7, 1941, the Air Ministry instructed that day fighter aircraft were
to revert to an all Sky under surface finish, dispensing with the port black
wing, but owing to a shortage of Sky (again!) implementation was post-
poned until April 22.

Another Hurricane Mk.I photographed at Leconfield in late November

1940. V6941, coded WX-W of 302 (Polish) Sqn. RAF, had the black area
extended well under the wing centre (Robert Gretzyngier coll.)

Hurricane Mk.Is of 306 (Polish) Sqn.

RAF, March 1941. V7118 carried TLS
in ‘B’ pattern, whilst the remaining
two aircraft were finished to ‘A’
pattern (Robert Gretzyngier coll.)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 201

3.3.3 Sky Blue

Sky Blue

Sky Blue originated as an RAE developed colour to be used on the under

surfaces of target aircraft (the upper surfaces were Identification Yellow
q.v.). It was described as a ‘greyish violet-blue colour with a large admixture
of white’. The colour is decidely pale and unsaturated in comparison to
the contemporaneous BS 381c No.1 Sky Blue standard (see the previous
sub-chapter) and should not be confused with it. There is no comparable
FS colour to Sky Blue. The closest, FS 25530, is a Munsell BG - Blue Green,
and therefore more greenish than Sky Blue’s Munsell B - Blue value.

The possible use of Sky Blue for other purposes during the war is conten-
tious and not supported by firm evidence. This uncertainty is exacerbated
by the habit of referring to colours inconsistently in official documents
with Azure Blue (q.v.) for example frequently being referred to as ‘sky blue’
(sic). At one time it was believed that Sky Blue was possibly used for the
under surfaces of RAF aircraft in the Far East, but official instructions of the
time actually required Azure Blue.

Sky Blue on Queen Wasp target aircraft

Walrus Mk.I (K8343) of 718 Sqn. FAA

finished in aluminium dope overall,
aboard HMS Exeter in the late 1930s
(Naval History & Heritage Command)

202 / real colors of wwii aircraft

3.4 Temperate aircraft were to be painted Sky Grey (q.v.) with that colour brought up on
the vertical sides of the fuselage. The scheme was formally promulgated
in Confidential Admiralty Fleet Order 640 of April 25, 1940, referencing Air/
Sea Scheme Naval Aircraft Diagram 1002 of 1939.

The scheme was of slightly lower contrast than TLS, the Extra Dark Sea Grey
being a Munsell PB - Purple Blue, comparable to FS 26118, and the Dark
Slate Grey a low saturated Munsell GY - Green Yellow. FS matches to that
From 1933 a requirement for sea camouflage colours for the naval aircraft colour are unsatisfactory, FS 34086 being slightly too dark and FS 34096
of the Fleet Air Arm went through a similar period of development involv- being too green. The closest FS colour to Dark Sea Grey is 36118, but the FS
ing experimentation, tests and trials as those which had resulted in TLS. is darker. The closest FS value to Light Slate Grey is 14159, but the FS is sig-
The first tests of proposed colours took place at Lee-on-Solent in October nificantly lighter. By August 1940, when DTD Technical Circular No.83 was
1935, again using Fairey IIIF aircraft and later Blackburn Sharks. The Admi- issued, this scheme was being referred to as the Temperate Sea Scheme
ralty were keen to discover whether a single scheme could be adaptable (TSS). At a conference held on July 23, 1940, to discuss achieving standard-
for FAA aircraft for Home and Overseas service. The camouflage scheme isation and at which the Admiralty were represented, it was agreed that
identified as S.1.E. was adopted in 1939, consisting of Extra Dark Sea Grey was no objection to the FAA adopting duck-egg blue (Sky Type S) for un-
and Dark Slate Grey in a similar pattern to the TLS, with shadow shading co- der surfaces of aircraft rather than Sky Grey. CAFO 1719 of September 26,
lours of Dark Sea Grey and Light Slate Grey for the lower wings of biplanes. 1940, set out that all operational FAA aircraft were to have under surfaces in
With the exception of fighter aircraft, which were to follow the RAF require- Sky except that, in certain circumstances, under surfaces could be painted
ment of split black and white under surfaces, the under surfaces of all other matt black to meet operational requirements.

Extra Dark Sea Grey Dark Slate Grey Dark Sea Grey Light Slate Grey

Swordfish Mk.I (P4167), coded U4B, from 816 Sqn., based at HMS Furious, in
April 1940. Temperate Sea Scheme of Extra Dark Sea Grey and Dark Slate Grey
on the upper surfaces with shadow shading of Dark Sea Grey and Light Slate
Grey for the lower wings and Sky Grey on the undersides

Walrus Mk.I (W3040), coded AA5R,

from 751 Sqn., based at Dundee,
Scotland, in 1944. Temperate Sea
Scheme of Extra Dark Sea Grey
and Dark Slate Grey on the upper
surfaces with Sky on the undersides

real colors of wwii aircraft / 203

Albacore Mk.I (BF712), coded S5R, from 812 Sqn., based at Malta, in December
1942. Temperate Sea Scheme of Extra Dark Sea Grey and Dark Slate Grey on
the upper surfaces with Night on the undersides

Northrop NP-3B patrol bombers of

330 (Norwegian) Sqn. RAF, which
flew operational sorties from Iceland
since late June 1941. All aircraft were
painted in TSS with Sky undersides
(Riksarkivet, Norway)

A diagram from the DTD Technical Circular 360 of July 1943, showing the
two patterns used in the schemes specified for Special Coastal Duties

204 / real colors of wwii aircraft

A formation of Rocs in flight in August
1940. Although both aircraft seem to
carry the later Temperate Sea Scheme
with the upper surface camouflage
extended down the fuselage sides, the
nearest aircraft is fitted with cowling
panels painted to the early TSS,
possibly with Sky Grey lower portions
(Phil Listemann coll.)

A line-up of Albacores from 820

Sqn. FAA. All aircraft had their
undersides quite crudely painted
in Night. The upper surfaces were
finished in standard Extra Dark Sea
Grey and Dark Slate Grey pattern
(Phil Listemann coll.)

From August 10, 1941, RAF Coastal Command (CC) adopted TSS for the up- single colour Extra Dark Sea Grey on the upper surfaces and either Scheme
per surfaces of all operational aircraft. Wellingtons, Whitleys and Liberators A with Glossy White under surfaces to Pattern No.1 (low demarcation) or
were to have matt white sides and glossy white under surfaces. Torpedo Scheme B with Night under surfaces to Pattern No.2 (high demarcation)
bomber and long range fighter squadrons were to have a 50/50 diversity were specified. However, Amendment No.1 of March 30, 1944, to DTD
of aircraft with duck-egg blue (Sky) and matt black (Night) under surfaces. Technical Circular 360 Issue 2 of November 2, 1943, specified Sky for the
All other General Reconnaissance (GR) landplanes were to have duck-egg under surfaces of Scheme A.
blue (Sky) under surfaces. Units were instructed to re-paint their operation-
al aircraft as soon as possible, whilst arrangements were in hand to make The same Circular also specified the scheme for low-flying photo-recon-
the necessary changes on Hudson, Beaufighter and Beaufort aircraft on naissance (PR) aircraft as Extra Dark Sea Grey and Extra Dark Sea Green (q.v.)
the production line and at Maintenance Units (MUs). However, it was not on the upper surfaces with PR Mauve (q.v.) on the under surfaces. Spinners
possible to introduce the new colour scheme into the production line in could be either Extra Dark Sea Grey or Extra Dark Sea Green. A note was in-
the case of Blenheim, Wellington and Liberator aircraft, although it might cluded that the service were permitted license in the colouring and mark-
be possible in certain cases for Whitley V aircraft. The new scheme was not ing of PR aircraft, and although the colour schemes given had been used
at that time to be applied to CC Operational Training Unit (OTU), Develop- for a considerable period, before camouflage was applied to any new type
ment Unit (DU) or Tactical Development Unit (TDU) aircraft. or mark of aircraft known to be alloted for those duties the requirements
were to be confirmed.
DTD Technical Circular 360 of February 23, 1943, specified schemes for air-
craft on coastal duties except PR, Meteorological, Air/Sea Rescue and oth- Light Slate Grey was specified for the colour of code letters and serial num-
er Special Duties as single colour Extra Dark Sea Grey upper surfaces and bers against white on Coastal Command aircraft.
Glossy White under surfaces. Also schemes for Special Coastal Duties of

real colors of wwii aircraft / 205

A rare colour photo of a Fulmar in
standard TSS (AJ-Press coll.)

Taken in April 1942, this picture clearly

shows the camouflage pattern on a
newly-built Fulmar Mk.II (DR661). The
aircraft would soon be delivered to 808
Sqn. FAA (RAF Museum)

206 / real colors of wwii aircraft

Catalina Mk.I (W8424) of 1477
(Norwegian) Flt., finished in standard
TSS. Note the name ‘Vingtor’
(Riksarkivet, Norway)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 207

Corsair Mk.II fighters at Squantum
in 1943. These aircraft were factory-
painted with U.S.-manufactured, near
equivalent colours, i.e. ANA 613 Olive
Drab and ANA 603 Sea Gray on the
upper surfaces, and ANA 610 Sky on
the undersides (NARA)

208 / real colors of wwii aircraft

A clear view of the camouflage pattern
on the upper surfaces of Seafire L
Mk.IIc (LR647), coded R of 808 Sqn. FAA,
which was nosed over HMS Hunter on
February 5, 1944 (RAF Museum)

Swordfish Mk.II (LS298) of ‘O’ Flt.

of 860 (Dutch) Sqn. FAA, based
aboard merchant aircraft carrier MV
Macoma in mid-1944. This aircraft
had Extra Dark Sea Grey and Dark
Slate Grey upper surfaces, and white
undersides (AJ-Press coll.)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 209

Beaufighter TF Mk.X (NE429), coded P6-S of 489 (NZ) Sqn. RAF, escorted by Barracuda Mk.II (LS674), coded 4Y of 826 Sqn. FAA, takes off for a sortie during
Mustang Mk.III (FB123), coded PK-W of 315 (Polish) Sqn. RAF, July 30, 1944. The Operation Goodwood. The Extra Dark Sea Grey and Dark Slate Grey pattern
torpedo bomber had Extra Dark Sea Grey upper surfaces over Sky undersides, on the upper surfaces is clearly visible (IWM via Adam Jarski)
whilst the Mustang carried Day Fighter Scheme, which most likely had
been re-applied with British paints at MUs (Instytut Sikorskiego via Robert

210 / real colors of wwii aircraft

Sunderland Mk.III coded WH-R of 330
(Norwegian) Sqn. RAF, pictured at
Oslo-Fornebu on May 10, 1945. Extra
3.4.1 Sky Grey
Dark Sea Grey upper surfaces and Sky Grey was the under surface colour originally established for the FAA
white undersides (Nationalmuseet, S.1.E scheme. Despite being replaced by Sky on FAA aircraft, it remained
Danmark) in Stores nomenclature until the end of the war, being declared obsolete
only on February 23, 1946. The only other official use for Sky Grey identified
so far was for the codes, when applied, on high altitude fighters in the
Medium Sea Grey (q.v.) finish. These are often depicted as white, but Sky
Grey had a diffuse reflectivity of 43%, similar to Sky, and against the 26%
of Medium Sea Grey could appear very pale and whiteish in photographs.
Sky Grey was also used, in combination with other colours, for trials of ex-
perimental high altitude colours by the AFDU at Duxford, applied to the
under surface of Spitfire Ia X4816, camouflaged on the upper surfaces with
Medium Sea Grey and Dark Sea Grey, and as a camouflage pattern, with
‘Olive Grey‘ (described as mid-way between Dark Sea Grey and Light Slate
Grey) on the upper surfaces of Spitfire Ia X4815 in the ratio two-thirds to
one-third, with Sky Blue under surfaces. The precise appearance of these
camouflage patterns is unknown.
Sea Hurricane Mk.IIc fighters of 835
Sqn. FAA on board HMS Nairana. DTD Technical Circular 360 of February 23, 1943, specified that night fight-
NF700, coded 7-T, served with this ers for Naval use were to be camouflage Sky Grey and Grey Green (q.v.)
unit from July 1943 until it was lost on the upper surfaces with Sky Grey and Sky (camouflage) extending to
in an accident on March 2, 1944, the under surfaces. The boundary between the upper and under surface
whilst NF672, coded 7-K, was used colours was to be roughly along the centre line of the fuselage curving
from late September 1943 until a downwards or upwards to meet the leading and trailing edges of the wing
crash landing on June 27, 1944. The and tailplane roots.
Hurricanes of 835 Sqn. had their upper
and side surfaces painted in white,
except from anti-glare ‘panels’ in front
of the windscreens that had been
left in previous camouflage colours.
It is unsure whether the undersides
were also painted white, or remained
in Sky. A photo of crashed NF672
reveals a clear demarcation between Sky Grey
white, which was brought down the
leading edge, and a darker tone of the Sky Grey is comparable to FS 26373 which is a close match. Rather than a
remaining wing under surfaces true neutral grey it is a Munsell BG - Blue Green of very low saturation (0.4).
(FAA Museum)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 211

Hurricane Mk.IIb (Z2405), coded SZ-S
of 316 (Polish) Sqn. RAF, Colerne, July
1941. This aircraft was delivered from
56 Sqn., where it had been used for
camouflage tests in May 1941
(Robert Gretzyngier coll.)

This Mosquito was painted in Medium Sea Grey overall with Dark Green
disruptive pattern on the upper surfaces, which was promulgated as
standard night fighter scheme from October 1, 1942. However, DZ700
was operated by 333 (Norwegian) Sqn. RAF as F Mk.II, without the radar
system which was not needed for the fighter reconnaissance sorties off the
Norwegian coast. When this photo was taken during late spring or early
summer of 1943, RAF Leuchars was also home of 235 Sqn. RAF, whose
Beaufighters can be seen in the background, including Mk.Ic (JL725),
coded T, which was finished in TSS. This aircraft was damaged and
belly-landed on July 4, 1943. The Hampdens visible in the far background
probably belonged to 455 Sqn. RAAF (Riksarkivet, Norway)

212 / real colors of wwii aircraft

Typhoon Mk.Ia (R7635), coded UO-V, from 266 Sqn., based at Duxford, in early
1942. Day Fighter Scheme of Ocean Grey and Dark Green over Medium Sea

The mixed grey is often presumed to have been darker than the subsequent

3.5 Day Fighter official Ocean Grey, but that is unconfirmed. Apart from speculation regard-
ing the tonal values of monochrome photographs and the expected variance
from mixed paints, it is probable that the idea has also arisen from modellers
Scheme seeking to replicate the mixed grey according to the formula, but using black
instead of the blue-black of Night. The scheme was subsequently designated
the Day Fighter Scheme (DFS), and the change was made immediately in 10,
11 & 12 Groups (and in order of priority for 13, 14, 9, 82 & 81 Groups as supplies
Following concerns expressed about the effectiveness of TLS on fighter aircraft of Ocean Grey paint became available). For DFS, squadron code and individual
operating at higher altitudes from 20,000 to 30,000 ft, trials of colours intended aircraft letters were usually applied in Sky, but there were exceptions to this.
to lighten the scheme were conducted by AFDU. During May 1941 the Hawker
Hurricanes of 56 Sqn at North Weald had been trialled with an experimental At a conference on camouflage held at RAE on September 1, 1941, it was not-
scheme consisting of Medium Sea Grey (q.v.) and ‘Smoke/Olive Grey’ on the ed that in Coastal Command Medium Sea Grey had replaced Sky as an under
upper surfaces with Sky Blue (q.v.) on the under surfaces. This experimental surface colour “because it provided a better compromise camouflage, covering
scheme was not adopted, but it was agreed that a predominantly grey cam- both high and low altitude flying.” From September 11, 1942, the Air Ministry
ouflage would be more effective on day fighters. On August 11, 1941, DTD required night fighter aircraft of Fighter Command to be camouflaged Dark
requested RAE to prepare standards for a new grey colour to be used on the Green and Medium Sea Grey on the upper surfaces, with Medium Sea Grey on
day fighters of Fighter Command for the use by Aircraft Inspection Depart- the under surfaces. Spinners, fins and rudders were supposed to be Medium
ment (AID) and to give the colour a new name. The new colour was mixed Sea Grey too. The following types of aircraft employed as night fighters were
from 7 parts of Medium Sea Grey to 1 part Night. RAE replied immediately that specified: Mosquito, Boston, Hurricane, Beaufighter, Havoc, Typhoon. Intruder
the new colour was to be called Ocean Grey. On August 12, 1941, HQ Fighter aircraft were similarly camouflaged except that under surfaces were specified
Command instructed a change to day fighter camouflage with effect from Au- to be Night. DTD Technical Circular 360 of February 23, 1943, specified that
gust 16, 1941. Upper surface Dark Green camouflage was to be retained, but Mosquito Day Bombers were to be finished in DFS.
the Dark Earth was to be replaced with the grey mixed from 7 parts of Medium
Sea Grey to 1 part Cellon Night. From June 7, 1943, Medium Sea Grey was designated as the upper surface
colour for High Flying Day Fighter Aircraft (e.g. Spitfire VII).

From April 1944, the under surface colour of aircraft under South-East Asia
Command (SEAC) was changed from Azure Blue (q.v.) to Medium Sea Grey,
probably to ease production and delivery, as the requirement for aircraft
to be finished in the Desert Scheme had diminished with the commence-
ment of the Italian campaign.

Ocean Grey Medium Sea Grey

Ocean Grey is a Munsell B - Blue to PB - Purple Blue, approximately similar to FS

26152, which is not quite blueish enough. FS 26187, which has also been cited
as comparable, is lighter and not blueish enough. Medium Sea Grey is a Mun-
sell B - Blue to PB - Purple Blue, comparable to FS 35237, which is darker, and FS
36270, which has similar reflectivity but is also not blueish enough.

Under surfaces were to be finished in Medium Sea Grey rather than Sky
(RAE had suspended work on the visibility of under surfaces for day flying
when Sky was introduced, but on July 18, 1941, resurrected a recommen-
dation from a September 1937 study of daylight camouflage by Professor
Morton [RAE Report E&I 1082] in favour of grey. Whether this influenced
the introduction of Medium Sea Grey as an under surface colour for DFS
is unconfirmed but probable), but the Sky rear fuselage band and spin-
ner were to be retained. In addition, the leading edges of the wings were
to have a strip of Identification Yellow (q.v.) from the wing tip to half way
along the wing. On August 21, more detailed instructions regarding the A Typhoon Mk.Ib of a RCAF
yellow leading edge strips were issued by Air Ministry to HQ Maintenance unit. The photo was taken
Command, copied to Fighter Command Group HQs. On Spitfire aircraft, in 1945, as evidenced by
the strips were to have a depth of 4 inches with 2 inches each side of the the black spinner colour
centre line of the wing edge. On Hurricane aircraft, the strip was to extend introduced in January
from the wing tip to the landing light with the depth of the strip measured of this year (Library and
round the curve to be 6.5 inches and at the wing top 2.5 inches. Archives Canada)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 213

Spitfire F Mk.VIII (JF404), coded
GZ-M, from 32 Sqn., based at Foggia,
Italy, in early 1944. High Flying Day
Fighter Aircraft Scheme of Medium
Sea Grey upper surfaces over PRU Blue

Spitfire LF Mk.VIII (MT982), coded

UM-C, from 152 Sqn., based at
Thedaw, Burma, in summer 1945. SEAC
Scheme of Dark Green and Dark Earth
over Medium Sea Grey

The air display at Kastrup on July 1,

1945. According to 137 Sqn. diary,
yellow, blue and white sections took
part in the display, and it appears
that the markings of the Typhoons
were painted appropriately
(Nationalmuseet, Danmark)

214 / real colors of wwii aircraft

A Spitfire Mk. XIV of 41 Sqn. RAF
pictured at Kastrup airfield after
the end of the hostilities (Hanne
Laursen via Nationalmuseet,

3.6 Desert colours

3.6.1 Middle Stone (sometimes rather than Dark Earth on aircraft operating in the Middle East. A Desert
Scheme (DS) was formalised in AMO A.664 of July 2, 1942, with Middle
referred to as Midstone) Stone replacing Dark Green and the upper surface camouflage becoming
Dark Earth and Middle Stone with Azure Blue (q.v.) under surfaces.
On August 25, 1940, after a perod of flux, the Air HQ Middle East (ME) is-
sued a statement summarising the situation regarding aircraft camouflage
and identification in that theatre. A colour referred to as Midstone (sic) to-
gether with ‘Dark Brown’ (sic) was specified for the sides and upper surfac-
es of Gladiator, Gauntlet and Valentia bomber transport aircraft. Bombers,
Hurricane and Blenheim (fighter) aircraft were in TLS with black and black/
white under surfaces respectively, in the process of being altered to ‘Light
(Middle East) Blue’ (sic). A colour standard for Middle Stone existed as No.62
under that name in BS 381 of 1930, and was of similar if slightly lighter Middle Stone
appearance to the subsequent MAP colour Middle Stone.
Middle Stone or Midstone is a yellow ochre with a strong yellowish tone
Middle Stone was formally introduced in Air Ministry Order (AMO) A.513 of when new, but in applied paint a tendency to fade to a lighter, sandier
July 10, 1941, for the so-called ‘Tropical Land Scheme’, where apparently it colour with ultra-violet (UV) exposure. The closest FS 10266 equivalent may
was to replace the Dark Earth of the Tempeterate Land Scheme to create therefore be reasonably visualised as a slightly weathered example of the
an upper surface camouflage of Dark Green and Middle Stone. However, colour.
a correction issued on December 11, 1941, made it clear that this order
was issued in error and the Middle Stone colour was to replace Dark Green

Tomahawk Mk.IIb (AK402), coded GA-F, flown by F/O Neville Duke of 112 Sqn.,
based in Egypt, in November 1941. Desert Scheme of Middle Stone and Dark
Earth upper surfaces over Azure Blue undersides

real colors of wwii aircraft / 215

A Tomahawk Mk.IIb of 112 Sqn. RAF
painted in Desert Scheme, late 1941
(Argy Spurr via Brian Spurr)

Spitfire F Mk.IXc (EN459),

coded ZX-1 of Polish Fighting
Team, Tunisia, April 1943. The
oversprayed edges of the national
insignia indicate that the desert
camouflage was sprayed freehand.
Note the unusual blue colour of
the unit codes, possibly a field mix
(Crown Copyright)

216 / real colors of wwii aircraft

Hurricane Mk.IId anti-tank aircraft (HV663 & HW313) of 6 Sqn. RAF, Tunisia,
April 1943. HW313 was lost on April 6, 1943. All aircraft were finished in
Desert Scheme (Phil Listemann coll.)

3.6.2 Azure Blue 3.6.3 Deep Sky

On November 21, 1940, the Air Ministry advised RAE that Air HQ ME had Deep Sky originated from RAE colour experiments initiated from November
stated that Sky on the under surfaces of Blenheim bombers sent to that 1940 to achieve a suitable under surface finish for high altitude flying. The RAE
theatre was too light and too green for local skies. The Air Ministry agreed prepared a ‘Note on the Visibility of Under-surfaces at High Altitude’ proposing
that a more suitable colour was required and forwarded a sample of paint that a range of blues be prepared and examined at altitudes over 30,000 ft
colour that HQ ME considered satisfactory and obtained by mixing blue, using pre-prepared panels. In January 1940, full scale trials were conducted
yellow, and a small quantity of aluminium powder. The Air Ministry consid- at the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment (A&AEE) at Bos-
ered aluminium powder unsuitable for use in a finish of that type and that combe Down, using a Hurricane with the under surfaces of each wing paint-
it should be avoided. The RAE was requested to prepare panels with Type ed in different blue colours, one 25% darker and one 25% lighter than Azure
S finish showing the colour required and also to give the colour a suitable Blue. After these trials it was considered that an even darker blue was required,
name. It appears that the sample concerned was not Azure Blue but a co- and further tests were conducted with deeper blues of decreasing reflectivity,
lour referred to as ‘Iraq Sky’. The RAE had already been involved in develop- down from 20% to 18% and 12% respectively on two aircraft. After the trials the
ing experimental tropical schemes since 1936, but the actual antecedence darker of the blues, being made more dull and less vivid, was standardised on
of Azure Blue is uncertain. On December 10, 1940, the MAP advised RAE high flying aircraft as Deep Sky. On August 13, 1943, the RAE stated that Deep
under title ‘Under Surface Colour for Aircraft in Middle East’ that the colour Sky was optimised for aircraft operating from 35.000 to 40,000 ft in response to
and finish of 20 standard panels of ‘azure blue‘ were considered satisfactory a request from ORS India for PRU aircraft in that theatre to be finished in ‘a deep
and requested a further 50 panels for AID. sky blue’.

Azure Blue Deep Sky

Azure Blue, a Munsell PB - Purple Blue of strong saturation (6.0) has no close Reflectivity was reduced to only 8% on the final colour. Deep Sky has no
or useful equivalent in FS 595. The closest colour FS 35240 is too dark and close equivalent in FS 595, the closest FS 15080 being darker and less sat-
less saturated, being more greyish, whilst FS 35231 also cited as an equiva- urated. The application of Deep Sky to the under surfaces of RAF Flying
lent and of the same hue and of similar saturation, is even darker. Fortress day bombers is contentious and beset by apparently conflicting
documentation. The use of Deep Sky as an overall colour on PR aircraft in
On October 30, 1941, the Air Ministry instructed that operational aircraft the Middle East is unconfirmed.
for service abroad were to be camouflaged in TLS or DS according to the
nature of the country in which they were to operate. Under surfaces were
to be Azure Blue and this included the TLS aircraft of SEAC. The tendency
for RAF personnel to refer colloquially to Azure Blue as ‘sky blue’, even in
official documents, has caused confusion with the colour Sky Blue (q.v.),
which was paler and more greyish in appearance.

Spitfire Mk.Vs of 417 Sqn. RCAF

camouflaged in desert colours,
Tunisia, spring 1943
(Phil Listemann coll.)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 217

3.6.4 Mediterranean Blues
Light and Dark Mediterranean Blue were developed from 1935 as exper-
imental sea camouflage in combination with Dark Sea Green and Light
Sea Green for use in tropical environments by both flying boats and land-
planes. Their use for these purposes beyond trials is uncertain, but both
blues were listed in Stores Vocabulary in 1942. Interestingly, at that time
Dark Mediterranean Blue was only available in 5 gallon containers to DTD Light Mediterranean Blue Dark Mediterranean Blue
83A Cellulose 33B/318 for Home and 33B/411 for Overseas use, whilst Light
Mediterranean Blue was only available for Overseas use as DTD 314 Syn- Both colours have been associated with operations from Malta. On April
thetic in half gallon 33B/354 and one gallon 33B/355 containers. By 1943 30, 1942, a signal from Director of Movements noted that Hurricane IIc air-
Dark Mediterranean Blue retained the same categories, but Light Mediter- craft for Malta reinforcement were to be fitted with 2 cannon only and
ranean Blue was then available in both Cellulose to DTD 83A or 308 in 5 camouflaged to meet Malta’s requirements - duck-egg blue (Sky?) under-
gallon containers 33B/319 for Home and 33B/412 for Overseas use, as well neath and ‘plain Mediterranean blue above’ (presumably Dark Mediterra-
as Synthetic to DTD 314 or 517 in 5 gallon containers 33B/347 for Home nean Blue?). DTD Technical Circular 360 of February 23, 1943, specified that
and 33B/442 for Overseas use. Home use were possibly intended for Main- the under surfaces of Day Fighters for Malta were to be coloured Light
tenance and/or Delivery units preparing aircraft for overseas use, but the Mediterranean Blue.
1942 imbalance in stores availability is mysterious.

3.7 Photo-
(PR) Colours
The RAF’s Photographic Development Unit (PDU) and later Photo Recon-
naissance Unit (PRU) developed from Sidney Cotton’s clandestine pre-war
aerial photo surveys. The unit was permitted extensive leeway in its own
development and use of specialised finishes for its aircraft. AMO A.926 of
December 12, 1940, stated that:
“Aircraft of the Photographic Reconnaissance Unit and No.421 Flight (Early
Warning Reconnaissance) are coloured and marked in accordance with opera-
tional requirements and the colour schemes need not conform to the standard
system. Special arrangements are to be made by the Photographic Reconnais-
sance Unit and No.421 Flight with HQ Fighter Command for the safety of these

Not all the schemes used, especially experimental or ad hoc schemes, have
been documented or confirmed. Monochrome photographs showing ap-
parently unusual tones and combinations have attracted much specula-
tion but very little certainty. Contemporaneous descriptions suffer from
the usual tendency to refer to colours by generic or popular names rather
than official nomenclature.

Spitfire PR.IV aircraft of the PRU Egypt and operated in the Middle East re-
ceived a finish referred to as ‘royal blue’ or ‘bosun blue’, and the two PR
Hurricanes sent to Burma as well as the Hurricane and B-25 aircraft of No.5/
No.3 PRU (India) were reportedly painted in this colour. Whether this ‘royal
blue’ was actually Deep Sky, Dark Mediterranean Blue or some other un-
officially promulgated colour is unknown. It has been suggested that the
colour might have been the No.6 Royal Blue of BS 381c of 1930 (still extant
in BS 381c as No.106 Royal Blue), but that colour is such a dark purplish
blue as to be almost black, and seems an unlikely contender.

A memo from the Deputy Director of Operational Research dated October

28, 1944, notes that low altitude Mosquito PR aircraft were then finished
in TSS over Sky.

Beaufighter Mk.I (T3301) was converted for PR use at 2 PRU in Heliopolis in

late 1941. It was initially uniformly painted in a light colour which might be
Medium Sea Grey or PRU Pink. The latter is known to be around as early as
October 1941 (Argy Spurr via Brian Spurr)

218 / real colors of wwii aircraft

Another photo of a Beaufighter
Mk.I in service with 2 PRU. It is
probably the T3301 after repainting
into a dark colour, possibly the
so-called ‘bosun blue’ (Argy Spurr
via Brian Spurr)

This drawing of a Hudson Reconnaissance Bomber and PR Spitfire was

supplied to HQ CC by the PRU at Heston for the purposes of identification on
July 21, 1940. The colours shown were not specified in the covering memo

real colors of wwii aircraft / 219

3.7.1 Photo-Reconnaissance
Unit Blue
This colour was developed by the PRU and originally supplied by Titanine
Ltd as ‘Cosmic Blue’, subsequently referred to as ‘PRU Special Blue’ and
ultimately as PRU Blue. DTD Technical Circular 360 of February 23, 1943,
specified PRU blue as an overall colour on high-flying PR and Meteoro-
logical aircraft. PRU Blue was also specified as the under surface colour for
high-flying day fighters with Medium Sea Grey upper surfaces.

Hurricane PR Mk.II (DG622) is another

aircraft from 2 PRU which received PRU Special Blue
the dark overall finish that seems
distinctive for this unit (Argy Spurr The colour chip here is rendered from a measured PRU Blue sample as
via Brian Spurr) provided by PRU Benson to Research Directorate Materials in August 1941.
There is no useful match in FS 595, the closest FS 15109 being too blue.
Like many RAF wartime paints, PRU Blue tended to chalk in service to a
lighter, less greenish appearance.

Mosquito B Mk.IX (ML897), coded D, from No.1409 Met Flight, based at Wyton,
in late 1944. PRU Blue overall. The external fuel tanks that had been painted in
Medium Sea Grey, were probably replacement parts

Spitfire PR Mk.XIX of 682 Sqn.

RAF pictured in Italy in 1944. This
machine was finished in PRU Blue
overall (James V. Crow coll.)

220 / real colors of wwii aircraft

Mosquito PR Mk.XVI (NS502) of
544 Sqn. RAF, illustrates the overall
PRU Blue scheme with full invasion
markings. July 1944
(Crown Copyright)

3.7.2 PRU Special Pink DTD Technical Circular 360 Issue 2 of November 2, 1943, also specifies this
PRU Special Pink was applied overall to fighter-reconnaissance Spitfires, scheme for PR low flying aircraft. Spinners were to be Extra Dark Sea Grey
but does not appear as a specification within AMOs or DTD Technical Cir- or Extra Dark Sea Green.
culars. PRU Special Pink was not in Vocabulary of Stores (NIV) therefore not
a ready mixed colour.

Extra Dark Sea Green PRU Mauve

PRU Special Pink PRU Mauve was at first made up from 5 parts PRU Pink, 2 parts PRU Blue
and 1 part Identification Red (Bright), but was later held in stores as listed
The PRU Special Pink is rendered from a measured sample of the colour in DTD Technical Circular 360 Issue 2 of November 2, 1943, as 33B/594 in 5
provided to RD Materials by PRU Benson in August 1941. It is a pale, gallon containers to DTD 83A or 308 Cellulose and 33B/597 and 33B/599
pink-tinted greyish ‘pumice’ colour and not as saturated as many depic- in 5 gallon containers to DTD 314 or 517 Synthetic for Home and Overseas
tions suggest. It has been compared to FS 31668 and althought that is the use respectively. However, the use of this colour overseas has not been
closest colour in FS 595 it is more saturated and ‘warmer‘ than the actual confirmed.
colour being a Munsell YR - Yellow Red rather than R - Red.

3.7.3 Extra Dark Sea Green

and PRU Mauve
The low-flying PR scheme of Extra Dark Sea Grey and Extra Dark Sea
Green upper surfaces over Mauve under surfaces is described in a memo
from PRU Benson to HQ Coastal Command dated December 22, 1942, as
Scheme ‘B’ for low flying aircraft.

Spitfire FR Mk.IX (MK716), coded X,

from 16 Sqn. RAF, photographed at
A-12 Balleroy, Normandy, in September
1944. This low-lever reconnaissance
aircraft was painted in PRU Pink
overall, with the invasion markings
applied to the lower areas only
(Phil Listemann coll.)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 221

3.8 Air Sea Rescue
AMO A.664 of July 2, 1942, specified TSS with Sky under surfaces for aircraft
engaged on air sea rescue (ASR) duties. Amendment No.5 to DTD Technical
Circular 360 of June 5, 1943, permitted Azure Blue under surfaces if special-
ly required for aircraft destined Overseas.

Spitfire Mk.Vb (BL591) of 277 Sqn. On January 24, 1943, the HQ Fighter Command requested that the red
RAF, summer or autumn 1944. Note code letters of 277 ASR Sqn Spitfires should be replaced with yellow code
the yellow codes that had been letters. The red code letters were found to be without authority and should
specified for ASR units in January have been Sky for Spitfires engaged on ASR duties. After discussion with
1943, and invasion markings limited Air Ministry the code letters for both 276 and 277 Sqns were specified to
to the lower areas of the aircraft be yellow, with additionally a black line, 12” wide, running from the root of
(Chris Thomas coll.) the spinner to the tailwheel underneath the aircraft.

3.9 Transport
Amendment No.5 of June 29, 1943, to DTD Technical Circular 360 of Febru-
ary 23, 1943, specified that service transport aircraft were to be finished in
TSS with Azure Blue or, if specially required, Night under surfaces.

222 / real colors of wwii aircraft

3.10 Grey Green Stores listing appended to painting instructions issued on September 14, 1942, as
synthetic enamel to DTD 260A in one gallon containers 33B/216 for spray applica-
tion. Curiously, this colour was not listed as obsolete as with other colours in Febru-
ary 1946 by RD Mat, but thereafter does not appear in Stores listings.

Grey Green, referred to as ‘Cockpit Grey Green’ in some RAF documents,

was originally intended as a standard interior colour applied to both crew
areas and other interior areas, such as wheel wells, etc. Cockpit paint trials
were held by RAE in 1925 to replace the white enamel, which was then
being applied to cockpit interiors with a matt oil paint of more suitable
colour. Three colours were tested - a light grey, a grey green and a buff. The
light grey was suggested as most suitable, pending approval for tropical
use, but ultimately a grey green was selected as the light grey was consid- (Cockpit) Grey Green
ered too bright for use Overseas.
Grey Green is a Munsell GY - Green Yellow of low saturation. There is no
Interestingly, this colour was NIV in Enclosure 1A Leaflet B.8200/39 issued as a draft close FS 595 equivalent, FS 24227 being too green and FS 24226 being too
by RD Mat in September 1939, and was not included in Aircraft Design Memoran- grey - the colour is approximately between the two.
dum No.332 (Issue 2) of the same year. However, the colour does appear in the

A viev into the pilot’s cockpit of

Barracuda (FAA Museum)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 223

This picture of Spitfire Mk.Vc
(JG726), coded AN-L of 417 Sq.
RCAF, gives a good view of the
identification colours. Note the
different shade of the red colour of
the fin flash and bright blue colour
of the fuselage roundel.
(Crown Copyright)

3.11 Identification Dull Blue stores items, but simply described those paints Red 33B/166-167
and Blue 33B/164-165 as ‘Colour, identification, cellulose, matt’. This sug-
gests that the latter were possibly the original ‘bright’ colours. However,

Colours on September 1, 1940, the MAP wrote to RTOs referencing DTD Circular
No.84 Identification Colours on Aircraft, requesting them to advise their
firms that dull identification colours were required “because it is understood
that several firms are still purchasing the bright colours which are glossy.” The
issue appears not to have been resolved because on September 29, 1941,
the MAP again wrote to RTOs referencing DTD Technical Circular No. 227
Prior to the re-introduction of camouflage, the national insignia - roundels Aircraft Roundels - Glossiness of Paint, advising that when existing stocks of
and fin flash on RAF aircraft were in ‘bright’ colours - red and blue. On June paint were exhausted, the non-glossy yellow, dull blue, dull red and white
30, 1936, DTD advised that all colours used for application in connection were to be used on all types of aircraft.
with camouflage schemes should be matt finish, and additionally request-
ed the RAE to provide 100 standards on metal for Dull Red and Dull Blue. An RAE note on Identification Markings in November 1941 suggests that
Some confusion has arisen from the fact that Stores listings and official the Red in particular might have been subject to variance, because reflec-
documentation did not always distinguish between bright and dull co- tivity of 18% is given for it, whereas reflectivity of the bright Red standard
lours, but simply state ‘Red’ and ‘Blue’. Terminology has also caused prob- was 12% and for the Dull Red standard 10%. The Blue, however, was con-
lems where ‘Dull’ is sometimes used ambiguously in relation to a matt sistent with Dull Blue at 4%, and the Yellow at 57%.
finish rather than to colour value. However, the actual 33B (Aircraft Dopes
& Finishes Vocabulary) listings in Aircraft Design Memorandum No.332 (Is- On July 20, 1942, the HQ Bomber Command noted that No.4 Group had
sue 2) of 1939 onwards verify Dull Red 33B/73-74 and Dull Blue 33B/69- issued local instructions to tone down their identification markings and
70. The question of whether bright paints continued to be used in some the description of that in the document tends to exacerbate uncertainty as
cases has not been fully resolved as Vocabulary numbers for Red and Blue to whether bright red and bright blue paint were still being used:
listed in parentheses were noted ‘to be used first’ before the Dull Red and “Where ‘red’ dope is required, ‘dull red’ to be used

224 / real colors of wwii aircraft

Where ‘white’ is required , ‘sea grey’ to be used
Where ‘blue’ is required, ‘dull blue’ to be used
Where ‘yellow’ is required, 1 part yellow and 2 parts ‘light earth’ to be used”
Unfortunately this uncertainty is unresolved at the time of writing. Official
memoranda make it clear that the bright red and blue were re-instated
post war.

(Bright) Red Dull Red (Bright) Blue Dull Blue

The ‘bright’ red is close to FS 21105. The ‘bright’ blue is approximately simi-
lar to FS 15052, but the FS colour is slightly darker. The Dull Red is approxi-
mately similar to FS 20109, but just a little more red saturated. The Dull Blue
is approximately similar to FS 25053 in hue, but darker.

Identification Yellow was a uniquitous paint colour used for many purposes.
Aircraft Design Memorandum No.332 (Issue 2) of 1939 stated that unless oth-
erwhise specified, all training aircraft were to be given a glossy yellow finish

real colors of wwii aircraft / 225

Spitfire DP845 in flight in October
1943. Being a prototype, it had
undersurfaces painted in yellow
(Phil Listemann coll.)

Tempest Mk.I (HM599) prototype,

spring 1943. Ocean Grey and Dark
Green over Identification Yellow

over all their external surfaces. The Memorandum listed materials to be used of OTU, AFDU, Fighter Interception Unit (FIU) and No.2 School of Army
and emphasised that a glossy finish was required - for metal and wood parts Co-operation were to conform to normal camouflaged colour schemes
33B/162 Synthetic Yellow and for fabric covered components 33B/77-78 Iden- for the aircraft role. Target towing aircraft were to have yellow under sur-
tification Yellow, followed by 33B/85-86-87 Covering, transparent with a note faces with 3 ft wide, black diagonal stripes, set 6 ft apart on the yellow
that ‘the colour, identification yellow, is for use over the standard red dope, and the background. Anti-Aircraft (Searchlight Co-operation) aircraft were not to
covering transparent is to be used as the final coat, to impart a glossy finish’. be painted black underneath rather than yellow, whilst prototype and ex-
perimental aircraft, including private venture aircraft, were to have yellow
Enclosure 1A of B.6200/39 appended to a minute of RDM on September 2, under surfaces. DTD Technical Circular 360, Amendment 4 of May 28, 1943,
1939, required the top surfaces of communications aircraft to be finished exempted prototype flying boats and amphibians from having yellow un-
in TLS with sides and under surfaces in yellow. On November 21, 1939, the der surfaces, but instead to be painted according to their intended role.
Air Ministry advised a change whereby training aircraft were to be cam-
ouflaged but with sides and under surfaces remaining yellow. On August DTD Technical Circular No.489 issued on April 5, 1945, required all es-
1, 1940, an instruction sheet issued to the Civilian Repair Organisation by cape doors, hatches and break-in panels to be marked internally and
Director of Repair & Maintenance (DRM) advised that all training aircraft, externally in yellow in two stages. In Stage I, inside the aircraft, all
communication aircraft and air transport squadron (sic) with TLS or TSS knobs, handles and releases were to be painted yellow with the pe-
upper surfaces had the lower half of the fuselage and all under surfaces riphery of all normal hatches and exits to be marked with a continuous
painted yellow, whilst Anti-Aircraft (Searchlight Co-operation) aircraft were 2” wide line. Externally, all knobs, handles and releases were likewise to
similarly painted, except that their upper surfaces were ‘black’. be painted yellow and on camouflaged aircraft all normal hatches and
exits were to be marked with a broken yellow line 0.5” in width, each
AMO A.926 of December 12, 1940, now required aircraft with yellow under yellow segment 1” long with a gap of 12” or less if necessary, between
surfaces to have the upper surface camouflage extended downwards to each segment. On uncamouflaged aircraft, all these markings were to
cover the whole of the side surfaces of the fuselage, a requirement first be bright red (q.v.). In Stage II, all external break-in panels were to be
signalled to units on November 27, 1940, following a proposal in an Air marked by right-angle corner markings, yellow on camouflaged aircraft
Ministry meeting on October 30, 1940, to discuss the matter. All aircraft and bright red on uncamouflaged aircraft.

226 / real colors of wwii aircraft

A Spitfire F.21 of 602 Sqn. RAF
pictured during the take-off. Note
the hood and door marked with
broken yellow lines
(Phil Listemann coll.)

3.12 Code Letters

The complex subject of RAF squadron code and individual aircraft letters
is beyond the scope of this article on colours, but as an overview of the
subject, the Air Ministry letter of April 30, 1942, to all Commands, is rele-
Identification Yellow vant. This stated that code letter colourings for day fighters and Fighter
Command OTU aircraft excluding night fighters was duck egg blue (Sky),
The yellow of the standard is close to FS 13415, which is a useful equiva- for Coastal Command aircraft with white under surfaces was Light Slate
lent. FS 33538, which has often been cited as an equivalent, is further away, Grey, and for all other operational and OTU aircraft excluding Fighter Com-
being both lighter and brighter. mand OTU day fighter aircraft, was Dull Red. The widespread use of Dull
Red code letters outside Bomber Command is not well appreciated and
many monochrome photos of e.g. communications aircraft are misinter-
preted as having Medium Sea Grey or Sky letters.

real colors of wwii aircraft / 227

Mikhail V. Orlov

Soviet aircraft

228 / real colors of wwii aircraft

real colors of wwii aircraft / 229
The widespread use of camouflage on Soviet Air Force aircraft actu- ple, photographing using light filters). The difficulty in creating such paints is
ally began with an order dated June 20, 1941, two days before the that the painted surfaces, with different spectrograms, may have the same co-
beginning of the Great Patriotic War. Naturally, this order could not lour, but if the observation conditions are changed (for example, a light filter
be executed within a few days, so Soviet aircraft entered the battle is applied, or the illumination spectrum is changed), the difference between
painted in accordance with previous instructions and regulations. them can become striking. This phenomenon is called the metamerism of co-
This varied from single-colour schemes to camouflage patterns lour. Ideally, non-decodable paints should have a spectrum of reflection that
consisting of several colours, the latter of which were carried by is absolutely identical to the earth’s background, so it is not worth dreaming
a considerably small number of aircraft that had previously been about full non-decoding.
utilised in local conflicts. To describe this diversity, the story has to
begin with the events that had occurred a few years before the war. Coating system [система лакокрасочных покрытий]. The painting pro-
But before we discuss the paints and colours, we need to clarify the cess consists of the application of successive layers of primer, putty, lacquer
meaning of such terms as “camouflage”, “protective painting”, and and enamel. The need for applying several layers is driven by the fact that
some others used in the USSR in the 1930s-1940s. it is impossible to combine in one material all the properties that a coating
must have: high adhesion, good protective properties, weather resistance
and high decorative or camouflage properties. The number of layers and
the materials used depend on the type of the surface to be painted. Each
layer was applied after the previous one had dried. Sequentially applied

4.1 Terms layers of various painting materials formed the coating system.

and definitions The typical coating system

for fabric surfaces consisted of:
•• four-five layers of colourless ‘aerolac of the first coating’
Many use the term “camouflage” as a synonym for “painting”. However,
AIN, applied only with a brush. The lacquer was applied
camouflage or disruptive painting refers to the painting of the upper and
to stretched fabric, increasing its strength, giving resis-
side surfaces of an aircraft, with large patches of colour that are close to
tance to gasoline, oil and water, and allowing for the cre-
those prevailing on the ground terrain, thus helping to break up the out-
ation of an even surface;
line of the aircraft.
•• intermediate (priming) layer of aluminum ‘aerolac of the
second coating’ AII Al., applied in order to protect the
Protective painting [защитная окраска] means painting the upper and
fabric from exposure to ultraviolet rays. It was applied
side surfaces in one colour, which is close in tone, saturation, and especially
with a spray gun or brush;
in lightness, to the basic background of the earth. Depending on the area
•• two sprayed layers of an ‘aerolac of the second coating’ in
where it has to be used, protective painting can be applied not only with a
decorative or camouflage colour, in accordance with the
green or white (during winter) colour, but also in other colours.
colour scheme specified for the particular aircraft.
Protective colour [защитный цвет] was the name used in the USSR during
the period under review, for a green colour with a yellowish or yellow-
ish-brown tinge. The official name of the colour АII З was “protective” [“З” in The typical coating system for
Cyrillic represents the letter “Z” for защитный / “zashchitnyi” - “protective”]. external surfaces of the aircraft
However, the letter “Z” was often deciphered as зеленый / “zelenyi” - “green”. with a wooden (plywood) skin, glued
Aircraft dopes [аэролаки – “aerolacs”] were nitrocellulose lacquers intended for
to a framed structure, consisted of:
•• two layers of nitrocellulose glue AK-20;
painting exterior surfaces of aircraft. Aerolacs were available in unpigmented
•• a thin layer of putty;
(colourless) and pigmented variants. Colourless aerolacs were called ‘aerolacs
•• a layer of nitrocellulose glue AK-20 and a fabric coating
of the first coating’, and designated AIN [АIН]. Pigmented aerolacs were used
that was glued on;
for final surface finishing. They were called ‘aerolacs of the second coating’, and
•• two layers of putty;
denoted AII [AII]. Two variants of pigmented aerolacs had been manufactured:
•• a layer of aluminum ‘aerolac of the second coating’ AII Al.;
AII(k) [AII(к)] were to be applied with brush, whilst AII(p) [AII(п)] were to be
•• two layers of an ‘aerolac of the second coating’ in decora-
applied with spray gun. The only difference between them was in viscosity.
tive or camouflage colour, in accordance with the colour
Due to this, in the following text I will not make any distinction between the
scheme specified for the particular aircraft.
AII(k) and AII(p) paints, but the reader must be aware that the full names of the
particular lacquers were, for example, AII(к) светло-голубой [“svetlo-goluboi” -
“light blue”] or AII(п) защитный [“zashchitnyi” - “protective”], although the name The typical coating system for
of the colour was often reduced to one or a few letters. In 1941, the new matte external metal surfaces of mixed
nitrocellulose lacquers of the AMT series were introduced, whose colours were construction aircraft, consisted of:
indicated by numbers. •• a layer of oil-based primer ALG-5 [АЛГ-5] with hot air
drying, or glyptal primer 138A.
Aircraft enamels [аэроэмали - “aeroemali”/”aeroenamels”] were aviation •• two layers of an ‘aerolac of the second coating’ in decora-
paint and varnish materials with an oil enamel base, and used for painting tive or camouflage colour, in accordance with the colour
the metal surfaces of aircraft. The designation of an aircraft enamel consist- scheme specified for the particular aircraft.
ed of letters “AE” [АЭ] and a number denoting the colour, e.g. AE-8 or AE-
9. In 1940, letter “E” was removed from the designation of enamel paints.
If the enamel was glyptal-based, the letter “f” [ф] was added behind the
number, e.g. A-19f [A-19ф]. When the matte oil enamels were introduced in
The typical coating system for
1941, the letter “m” was added behind the number, e.g. A-24m. external surfaces of all-metal
aircraft consisted of:
The designation of the enamels intended for painting internal surfaces •• a layer of oil-based primer (for example, ALG-5).
consisted of the letter “A” and the number denoting the colour (oil-based), •• one opaque and one finishing layer of oil enamel in dec-
or letters “DM” [ДМ] and the name of the colour (nitrocellulose-based). Fur- orative or camouflage colour, in accordance with the co-
thermore, there existed some lacquers and enamels whose designations lour scheme specified for the particular aircraft, applied
did not fit the system described above. Their designations will be deci- with wet brush or spray gun.
phered where necessary.

Non-decodable or indistinguishable paints [недешифрируемые краски], are

classified as paints, aeroenamels or aerolacs, whose colour is indistinguishable Unspecified types of painting materials, as well as a number of certain lay-
from the earth’s background, even with the help of special means (for exam- ers, varied depending on the time of the aircraft production.

230 / real colors of wwii aircraft

4.2 Until 1940
Experimental work on the study and implementation of camouflage in
138A primer the USSR, was carried out from 1926, but the first Soviet aircraft painted
with disruptive patterns appeared as late as in 1939, during the Battles of
Khalkhin-Gol. Before that, protective painting was mainly applied to Soviet
aircraft, but they did not suffer from monotony. Since 1937, the colours of
Soviet aircraft changed like a kaleidoscope. Before one option had been
fixed as a standard, another one, and subsequently a third one, came to
ALG-1 primer replace it. The air force units could be equipped with differently painted air-
craft of the same type, at the same time. As the aircraft were not repainted
at the unit level, all this diversity was partially preserved until June 22, 1941.

Around 1937, probably under the influence of the painting schemes car-
ried by the German aircraft of the Legion Condor, used during the Spanish
Civil War, light grey colours were added to the “palette” of Soviet military
ALG-5 primer aviation. These were oil enamel AE-9 and nitrocellulose lacquer AII light
gray, both intended for finishing the external surfaces of land-based air-
craft. Technical specifications [технические условия, abbr. as ТУ - “TU”] for
these paints were officially introduced on January 1, 1938, but they could
be manufactured earlier in accordance with temporary specifications.
‘Aerolacs of the second coating’ AII were intended for painting the fabric
skin that had been pre-impregnated with a colourless ‘aerolac of the first
coating’ AIN, as well as wooden surfaces that had been covered with fabric
and prepared for painting. The AE-9 enamel was designed for painting the
external duralumin surfaces of the aircraft, but it could also be used for the
internal surfaces of the fuselage. In the case of aircraft of mixed construc-

A SB from the 5th SBE (High-speed

Bomber Squadron) / 162nd RAP
(Reserve Aviation Regiment) had an
accident at Shaikovka airfield on
June 7, 1940. The aircraft was painted
in light grey overall (Russian State
Military Archive)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 231

This I-153 entered the war in silver tion, these paints were to be applied together, which indicates that their
finish. Inside the star insignia a black colour was identical.
circle is inscribed (V. Vakhlamov coll.)
However, the AE-9, which was made from a zinc oxide (white) base, gave
an unstable coating which drastically chalked in a short period of opera-
tion in open air conditions, so it was soon forced out from use on aircraft
external surfaces in favour of the silvery AE-8 oil enamel. The latter con-
sisted of 90% of LM-15A oil varnish and 10% of aluminum powder with a
particle size of no more than 130 microns. The application of the AE-8 over
the surface that had been previously coated with a zinc chromate primer
ALG-1 [АЛГ-1] in yellow colour, was carried out with a spray gun, in two
layers. This coating protected the duralumin surface from corrosion. The

TU for the AE-8 paint was introduced in December 1938. Its nitrocellulose
equivalent for painting wooden and fabric skin was aluminum lacquer AII
Al.. The examples of aircraft entirely painted in grey and aluminum colours
were the UT-2 trainers, and the SB and DB-3 bombers. Some silvery DB-3s
DB-3T of the 1st MTAP (Mine-torpedo flew at least until 1943.
Bomber Aviation Regiment), 1938. The
aircraft was painted with AE-8 (metal Introduction of the AE-9 light grey, AE-8 aluminum, and the AII lacquers of
surfaces) and AII Al. (fabric surfaces) the same colours did not exclude the use of the usual painting of the up-
per surfaces of aircraft in a protective colour. At the beginning of February
1937, the head of the Department of the Material and Technical Supply of
the Air Force of the Red Army, Brigade-engineer E.V. Aleksandrov, signed
Circular No. 133580 for all senior military representatives of the Red Army
Air Defense Forces at the aircraft factories on “the issue of choosing stan-
dard colours for painting the aircraft, engines and aggregates”. According
to this document, the upper surfaces of the wings, stabilizers and fuse-
lages were to be painted in a protective colour, whilst the undersides in
silver-aluminum, instead of the previously used blue. The reason for this

232 / real colors of wwii aircraft

An I-16 type 5 manufactured in 1938. The aircraft is in quite a good condition,
although the armament and gun sight were removed, and the German
souvenir hunters cut out the red stars from the wings and an aperture in the
fuselage, behind the cockpit. This machine was probably finished with AE-8
and AII Al. aluminium paints. The lack of shine may be explained by the fact
that the photo was taken on a cloudy day, which is confirmed by the absence
of sharp shadows. The silver finish, unusual for an I-16, speaks for the special
purpose of this aircraft. Judging by the presence of attachment points for the
PAU-22 gun camera, it may have been used for aerobatic demonstration. It is
possible it retained the factory-applied finish until 1941. The national insignia
were also present in the pre-war position. A red number “1” was painted on the
rudder (E. Mombeeck coll.)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 233

Photographed in the summer
of 1941, this I-16 type 5 still had
the upper surfaces painted in a
protective colour, and the national
insignia in the pre-war positions.
Note the vertical tail tip painted in
red or yellow (M. Maslov coll.)

The 150th BAP under the command

of Lt. Col. I.S. Polbin, was transferred
from Siberia to the front in the
summer of 1941. The SB bombers of
this unit retained the camouflage
finish that had been applied during
the military conflict on Khalkhin-Gol
(V. Vakhlamov coll.)

234 / real colors of wwii aircraft

change was most likely that the shiny aluminum paint had a maximum of us”. However, such a camouflage pattern stood out sharply against the
reflectivity that makes the lower surfaces covered with them, closer in monotone background of the steppe. Furthermore, during the first com-
lightness to the background of the sky, than if they were painted in blue. bat sortie, this aircraft attracted the attention of the Japanese pilots, and
Aircraft such as the I-15bis, U-2 and R-5 were painted this way. became the target of violent attacks from their side. The result was that
Grinyov ordered the camouflage to be washed off.
This period also featured, albeit to a rather limited extent, the first use
of camouflage on Soviet aircraft. Based on the analysis of emergency
regulations stored in the Russian State Military Archive, it was possible
to determine some camouflage patterns used during the military con-
flict on Khalkhin-Gol. From the beginning of the conflict in May 1939,
until July 1939, all of the SB bombers captured on the photographs had
a single (grey or silver) colour scheme. The first photograph of a cam- 4.3 1940
ouflaged SB bomber (thin serpentine bands applied over the original
light background) is dated July 27, 1939. A similar situation (except for
the date) is observed in regard to the I-153 fighters. The same cam- The camouflage experience gained during the conflict on Khalkhin-Gol
ouflage scheme also appeared on the Putilov-Stal and Douglas DC-3 was not implemented into the entire air force. Soviet military aviation en-
transport aircraft which operated in this area. The bands were probably tered the Soviet-Finnish war (November 30, 1939 – March 13, 1940) with-
applied with a standard paint of a protective colour, even though it out proper camouflage. Only two months after the outbreak of hostilities,
did not fit the colour of the summer faded steppe. However, no yel- on January 31, 1940, the Air Force of the Red Army issued Order No. 14
low or brown paints were available at that time. After the end of the with the “Instruction on the camouflage of operational airfields of active
conflict, the aircraft retained their camouflage pattern. The 150th BAP armies for the winter period”. This regulation officially called for applica-
(Bomber Aviation Regiment) under the command of Lt. Col. I.S. Polbin, tion of camouflage painting for the aircraft when they are based in terrain
transferred from Siberia in the summer of 1941, entered the battle with with bushes or trees, although only for the winter period. In this case, the
Germans flying the SBs finished in a “snake” painting scheme. In the rear main colour should be the basic colour of the aircraft, whilst white patches
Trans-Baikal military district, due to the general shortage of materials should be temporarily applied with a washable paint, which consisted of
during the war years, aircraft painting schemes were not updated since zinc white, chalk and casein. The instructions provided exemplary winter
peacetime, and the aforementioned camouflage patterns survived un- camouflage patterns for the TB-3, SB, R-5 and I-16. When based in a treeless
til 1943 on such aircraft as DB-3s and MBR-2s. terrain, the aircraft were recommended to be painted entirely in white. The
instruction did not require exact copying of the recommended painting
At the end of the conflict on Khalkhin-Gol, in September 1939, another schemes and was calculated for “the manifestation of a maximum initiative
camouflage test was conducted on the I-16 fighter that belonged to Lt. by the personnel”. For this reason, the camouflage patterns included in the
N.V. Grinyov, commander of one of the squadrons of the 22nd IAP (Fighter manual were only considered as examples. Subsequently, it was required
Aviation Regiment). The painting process was carried out by the technical to fulfill only two conditions: the size of the white patches was to be no
staff of the squadron, under the direction of a camouflage specialist who less than one meter in each direction, and their shape was to be curvilinear.
arrived in the regiment. According to the description of A.V. Vorozheikin, The instruction was developed in short time by the Military engineer 2nd
“there were black zebra stripes and leopard spots, yellowness of the des- rank E.Z. Yasin, a specialist in military deception [маскировка - “maskirov-
ert and spring greenery of the steppe, and all this was mixed with brown, ka”] from the Department of Logistics, who later became the head of the
white and blue shades. Most importantly, the specialist was proud that camouflage service of the Air Force during the Great Patriotic War. Howev-
everything met the requirements of the science, and as a confirmation, er, with only 420 copies printed, the instruction could not even reach all
he flipped the pages of an album of aircraft camouflage schemes in front concerned units.

Yak-1 s/n 0209 painted by Factory No.

301 in the pre-war protective finish.
The accident took place on January
28, 1941. The aircraft was flown by S.G.
Plygunov (V. Vakhlamov coll.)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 235

June 1941. A “Chaika” captured by the
On May 24, 1940, a meeting was held at the Krasnopresnenskiy Factory
Germans, painted in accordance with
of the Main Directorate of the Paint and Coatings Industry, in order to
the resolution of the USSR Defense
review the standards of new colours. It was attended by the representa-
Committee No. 220cc of May 23, 1940.
tives of the GUAS KA and the Krasnopresnenskiy Factory, director of the
The upper surfaces were green, the
Factory No. 36 Pichugin, and senior engineer Krol, from the Third De-
underside - blue. Black circles were
partment of the First General Directorate of the NKAP. The Krasnopresn-
inscribed within the red stars
ensky Factory took up the manufacture of enamels intended for paint-
(V. Vakhlamov coll.)
ing all-metal aircraft. Until June 3, 1940, a ton of dark green enamel had
to be produced and delivered to the factory No. 22, where a trial batch
of aircraft was to be painted using it. The Factory No. 36 was to pres-
ent “samples of coatings for fabric and wooden surfaces based on the
approved samples of enamel coatings for metal surfaces”. During the
Another order was issued on April 9, 1940, already after the end of hostili- meeting, the representatives of the GUAS KA and the Main Directorate
ties. Order No. 034 was entitled “On camouflage measures of the Air Force of the Air Force [Главное управление Военно-Воздушных сил, abbr. as
units”, and this referred to ignoring the elementary requirements of cam- ГУ ВВC – “GU VVS”] stated that “the adopted colours are temporary, and
ouflage. As can be seen from the content of this order, despite the lessons that it is urgent to develop methods for aircraft camouflage painting
of the war, everything remained the same at the front line. and corresponding paint compositions”. For painting the lower surfac-
es of aircraft, a glyptal-based enamel, AM-4, in a grey-blue colour, was
In the spring of 1940, the issue of aircraft painting began to be addressed chosen for the first trials. That paint was successfully used for painting
at state level. On May 23, 1940, the USSR Defense Committee adopted Res- the crankcases of engines from 1935. However, inspections of the SB
olution No. 220сс [совершенно секретно - “top secret”], which stipulated bombers painted with this enamel in the Kiev and Belorussian military
that from May 25, 1940, the upper surfaces of aircraft should be painted districts, which were conducted in May, revealed that the AM-4 could
in green, with the undersides finished in blue. On the same day, pursuant not be recommended for painting the external surfaces of aircraft.
to the aforementioned regulations, the People’s Commissariat of the Avia-
tion Industry [НКАП – “NKAP”] issued Order No. 228c [секретно - “secret”], Despite the tight deadlines, the execution of the orders was soon fully sup-
which, since May 25, “cancelled the existing painting schemes for the air- ported with material and technical supplies. Looking ahead - in November
craft (red, steel, white, grey, etc.) as exposing”, and ordered the directors of 1940, another “Specification for paint and coating materials” was approved,
the aircraft plants to switch to “the following coating colours: which listed all the “lacquers, enamels, primers, fillers and diluents used in
a) for the upper surfaces of the wings and tailplanes, upper and side sur- the aviation industry”. According to this document, oil-based and glypt-
faces of the fuselages - a greenish colour (looks like the colour of grass), al-based enamels, as well as nitrocellulose lacquers, were used for painting
b) for the lower surfaces of the wings, stabilizers and fuselage - a pale blu- the exterior surfaces of aircraft.
ish colour (the colour of the clouds).”
Aircraft already painted before May 25, 1940, were not to be repainted. At the For the application of the newly prescribed protective coatings, glyptal
remote Factories No. 83, 99, 125, 126, and 153, the production of aircraft in the enamel paints, A-19f light green and A-18f light blue, were introduced.
new colours was to begin on June 10, 1940. The same order specified that They were manufactured from June in accordance with temporary spec-
samples of the new colours should be coordinated with the Main Director- ifications. The colour range of the AII nitrocellulose lacquers was also ex-
ate for Aviation Supply of the Red Army [Главное управление авиационного panded. The already known light gray, red, black, protective and aluminum
снабжения Красной армии; abbr. as ГУАС КА - “GUAS KA”] no later than on colours were supplemented by light blue, light green, tobacco, cream and
May 24 (therefore, in one day), and subsequently delivered to the paint and orange. If the orange colour was used for polar aviation aircraft, the cream
coatings factories. Initially, paints were supposed to be manufactured in accor- color had a decorative purpose, and the light blue was the usual colour of
dance with the “current technical specifications for the corresponding types of the lower surfaces, then the light green and tobacco, combined with each
products in the previously used colours, guided by the new colour standards other or with the protective colour, opened the way to the introduction of
coordinated with the GUAS KA”. Worth noting is that blue oil enamels were camouflage as a standard aircraft finish.
not produced at all at the time when the aforementioned orders were issued.

236 / real colors of wwii aircraft

MiG-3 s/n 2171, flown by Lt. N.M.
Estyen of the 5th IAP VVS KBF (Fighter The inspection of the execution of the orders, conducted by the military
Aviation Regiment of the Red Banner authorities, revealed that by July 22, 1940, they had already been imple-
Baltic Fleet Air Force). It was shot down mented at fighter aircraft factories No. 1 (I-153), No. 21 (I-16), No. 153 (I-16),
on July 12, 1941. The aircraft was No. 292, and No. 301. Indeed, the “Seagulls” [Чайка – “Chaika”] painted in a
painted with A-19f and A-18f (metal protective (green) colour start to appear on the photographs dated sum-
surfaces), and AII Sv.Zel. and AII Sv.Gol. mer of 1940. The situation was different in the case of the bomber aircraft
(fabric surfaces) (Erik Mombeeck coll.) factories. The Factory No. 126 in Komsomolsk-on-Amur, in June 1940 still
painted the DB-3s in the old way. The Factory No.125 in Irkutsk, supplied
the Air Force with unpainted SB bombers even in early August 1940! It was
only from August 9, ie. starting with the aircraft No. 47/11, that this factory
began painting aircraft in the protective colour.

However, the new colours approved by the GUAS KA were sharply rejected
by the Air Force Staff. On May 29, the deputy head of the logistics depart-
ment of the Air Force Staff, Col. Romanov, wrote about the new protective
finish in a report to the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Lt. Gen. F.K. Arzhe-
nukhin: “On May 28, the logistics department accidentally learnt that the
factories were painting aircraft in accordance with a newly developed and
approved recipe, taking into account the camouflage requirements.

real colors of wwii aircraft / 237

I-16 in tricolour camouflage (sand/green/dark
brown) developed for the Kiev Special Military
District. Scheme No. 9 (Russian State Military

I-16 in tricolour camouflage (green/green/sand)

developed for the Special Red Banner Far Eastern
Army. Scheme No. 12 (Russian State Military

I-16 in two-colour camouflage (green/dark

brown) developed for the Moscow Military
District. Scheme No. 14 (Russian State Military

I-153 in tricolour camouflage (grey/green/

yellow-green) developed for the Special Red
Banner Far Eastern Army. Scheme No. 18
(Russian State Military Archive)

I-153 in tricolour camouflage (sand/4BO green/

dark brown) developed for the Kiev Special
Military District. Scheme No. 15 (Russian State
Military Archive)

SB in tricolour camouflage (grey/green/dark

brown). Scheme No. 6 (Russian State Military

The signature in the test report states that this SB

was painted in five-colour camouflage (sand/
grey/4BO green/yellow-green/dark brown).
Scheme No. 1 (Russian State Military Archive)

238 / real colors of wwii aircraft

A review of the approved new colour samples available in the department, August 1940. UTI-26-1 painted in black
determined that: and green camouflage, developed in
1. The paints are decodable, which is unacceptable given the current OKB of A.S. Yakovlev. Rear sides of the
status of military deception. prop blades were black (A.S.Yakovlev
2. When prescribing the use of a green colour scheme, the changes in Design Bureau)
lightness valid for camouflaging the aircraft in the air, when viewed
from above, were not considered.
3. It is doubtful if the use of blue colour for the lower surfaces helps
reducing visibility of the aircraft against the sky background.
4. Furthermore, the adopted finish is glossy and therefore more reflec-
tive in the sunlight…”

The Air Force leadership, and in particular its commander, Lt. Gen. Y.V. Smush-
kevich, considered the proposal of the Staff as rational, and decided that
instead of many scattered works, one study that will combine efforts of all
the interested parties, should be conducted. As a result, fifteen camouflage
schemes were developed: six for SB, six for I-16 and three for I-153. These
schemes were prepared for different military districts within the country.
The patterns intended for the SB consisted of five, four and three colours.
To avoid applying patches of a small size that may merge together when
viewed from a long distance, the patterns for fighter aircraft were limited to
two or three colours. Practically all of them included the 4BO green (protec-
tive), which by that time has already been selected as the standard colour.
In addition, sand, dark green, dark brown, yellow-green and grey were used.

real colors of wwii aircraft / 239

I-28 fighter painted in black and green
camouflage, developed in OKB of A.S.
Yakovlev (A.S.Yakovlev Design Bureau)

I-30 fighter painted in black and green The aircraft used for comparison, carried factory finishes that had been
camouflage, developed in OKB of A.S. standard at the time of manufacture: the upper surfaces of the I-16
Yakovlev (A.S.Yakovlev Design Bureau) were painted in protective colour AII Z; I-153 - a new, lighter green co-
lour AII Sv. Zel.; SB - light grey colour AE-9. Furthermore, the recently
purchased example of a German Bf 109 E in standard factory camou-
flage was delivered. From all heights (500, 1000, 2000, 3000, and 4000
m), the Messerschmitt was clearly visible. The observers reported: “... the
best seen is the MSh-109 aircraft, which immediately catches the eye
with its dark paintwork.”

On August 28, 1940, six aircraft from the 134th SBAP (High-speed
Bomber Regiment), based in Podolsk, flew over the airfield of the
Air Force Research Institute (Научно исследовательский институт
военно воздушных сил, abbr. as НИИ ВВС - “NII VVS”). The crews were
tasked with determining the number and type of aircraft located on the
airfield. It turned out that none of the crewmen detected all aircraft.
Different numbers from 0 to 17 were specified. Only one bomber crew
specified the type of aircraft, indicating the presence of two SBs. In fact,
there were 16 camouflaged planes at the airfield: six SBs, seven I-16s,
and three I-153s, plus one example of each type finished in standard
protective painting. The largest test of disruptive patterns conducted
in the USSR ended in success. The camouflage was washed off from the
aircraft, and the latter were sent back to their units.

Now the leadership of the Air Force inquired the NKAP about introduc-
ing camouflage patterns in three, four or five colours for all aircraft from
December 15, 1940. However, the implementation of this plan was not

240 / real colors of wwii aircraft

possible due to lack of paint. To accelerate the trials, they were carried out Worth noting is that there was one experimental design bureau [Опытное
using easily washable casein paints, whilst permanent coatings had yet to be конструкторское бюро, abbr. as ОКБ - „OKB”] that applied camouflage on its
developed and manufactured. experimental aircraft, without even waiting for the end of tests of disruptive
painting schemes that were conducted in the NII VVS. This was the OKB of
The new recipes were only tested in December, but major difficulties were A.S. Yakovlev. The UTI-26-1 tested in July-August 1940, the I-28 built in Octo-
ahead. There was a limited set of pigments for non-decodable paints: ocher; ber 1940, and the I-30 tested in April 1941, all carried the same quite simple,
orange, lemon and yellow lead chromates; umber; red iron oxide; mummy two-colour camouflage scheme consisting of black patches applied over a
brown; green chromium oxide; ultramarine; cobalt blue and cobalt green. green (protective) background. In 1940, the design bureau formalized the
Deposits in the USSR could quantitatively satisfy the needs of the paint and aforementioned camouflage pattern in form of a drawing entitled “I-26 single
coatings industry, but practically all pigments proven to be of inadequate fighter. Camouflage”. However, the first swallows did not bring the spring, and
quality. It was necessary to ensure the paint factories were supplied with the German pilots who attacked the Soviet airfields on June 22, 1941, did not
high quality - in particular, finely grinded - pigments. Temporarily, prior to the have to search long for their targets.
development of matte coatings, it was decided to produce non-decodable
paints “on the currently used base”, ie. glossy.

The base colour for camouflage painting was to be a protective colour. The
process of repainting the entire aircraft fleet of the Red Army Air Force as of
1941, with this colour, would require 124 tons of glyptal or oil enamels, and
266 tons of nitrocellulose lacquer. Moreover, it was necessary to paint new
aircraft built in the factories. It took time to produce so many paints.

Despite all the works carried out in 1940, none of the multicolour schemes
had eventually been used in mass production. The last pre-war governmental
orders were those issued on May 23, 1940, which had been discussed above.
In accordance with them, at the beginning of war most of the Soviet aircraft
had green upper surfaces and blue undersides. There were also earlier-built
aircraft in the ranks, which were still entirely finished with light grey or silver A drawing of the black and green
paint. camouflage scheme for the I-26
fighter, developed in 1940 in OKB of
A.S. Yakovlev (A.S. Yakovlev Design

real colors of wwii aircraft / 241

Paints used for painting the external surfaces of aircraft 1937-1940

Name Colour Date of introduction Type

AE-7 [АЭ-7] Protective Late 1937 - early 1938 Oil enamel

AII Zasch. [AII

Protective Approx. 1937 Nitrocellulose lacquer

AII Sv.Serv. [AII

Light grey Approx. 1937 Nitrocellulose lacquer

AE-9 [АЭ-9] Light grey Approx. 1937 Oil enamel

AE-10 [АЭ-10]** Dark grey Approx. 1937 Oil enamel

AE-8 [АЭ-8] Silver 1938-1939 Oil enamel

AII Al. [AII Ал.] * Silver 1938-1939 Nitrocellulose lacquer

AII Sv.Gol. [AII

Light blue 1940 Nitrocellulose lacquer


Tobacco 1940 Nitrocellulose lacquer

AII Sv.Zel. [AII

Light green 1940 Nitrocellulose lacquer

AII Krem. [AII

Cream 1940 Nitrocellulose lacquer

AII Or. [AII Ор.] Orange 1940 Nitrocellulose lacquer

A-19f [А-19ф] Light green June 1940 Glyptal (alkyd) enamel

A-18f [А-18ф] Light blue June 1940 Glyptal (alkyd) enamel

Notes: Oil and glyptal enamels were used for painting metal surfaces, whilst nitrocellulose lacquers (“aerolacs of the second
coating”) were intended for wooden and fabric surfaces, and metal surfaces previously primed with hot-dried primer.
* From mid-1940 used only for the priming layer for nitrocellulose lacquers.
** Used for duralumin surfaces of seaplanes.

242 / real colors of wwii aircraft

4.4 1941-1942 abbr. as ВИАМ - “VIAM”]. At the end of November 1940, the VIAM reported
the development of a set of six colours of matte nitrocellulose lacquers and
glyptal-based enamels designed for camouflage painting, and another colour
intended for painting the lower surfaces of aircraft. The colours of the paints
By the end of 1940, the industry had already mastered the manufacture of were as follows: No. 1 light brown, No. 2 grey with yellowish shade, No. 3 yel-
protective, light green and tobacco (probably brown) colours, which en- low, No. 4 green with yellowish shade, No. 5 dark green, No. 6 black, No. 7 blue.
abled to introduce at least three camouflage schemes: protective + light However, before they could be applied to mass-produced aircraft, it was nec-
green, protective (or light green) + tobacco, and protective + light green essary to manufacture an experimental batch of each paint, and conduct a
+ tobacco. However, information on the production and use of AII Tab. co- test consisting of painting a few dozen aircraft with these paints and operating
lour has not yet been discovered. them for several months under supervision of specialists. Based on its results,
a decision would be made as to whether the paints could be introduced for
The development of aviation paint and coating materials in the Soviet Union mass production, or if their recipes needed to be modified. Furthermore, par-
was carried out in laboratory No. 9 of the All-Union Institute of Aviation Ma- ticipation of a number of chemical factories would be required, in order to or-
terials Science [Всесоюзный Институт Авиационного Материаловедения, ganize the supply chain of the new paint components.

I-16 fighter from an unknown unit.

The camouflage pattern matches
the standard scheme introduced in
June 1941

real colors of wwii aircraft / 243

The camouflage pattern carried by Force were summoned to the Kremlin in regard to camouflage matters”.
these I-16s also resembles the standard The reason was a letter directed to the Central Committee about the lack of
scheme (M. Maslov coll.) aircraft concealment in the military districts close to the borderline. During
the meeting, ongoing work on the camouflage was reported. Stalin gave
instructions to finish this within three days. By this time, the OKB Yakovlev
manufactured models of aircraft with disruptive camouflage, which were
soon approved as samples.

In the first half of 1941, temporary TUs for the new range of nitrocellulose lac- On the last peaceful Friday, June 20, 1941, the USSR People’s Commissariat
quers, in new colours, were developed. To quickly launch their production, a of Defense issued Order No. 0043 “About camouflaging aircraft, runways,
glossy version was also designed, which differed from the matte one in the and airfield structures”. In addition to ascertaining negative facts, the or-
absence of the so-called “additives for dullness”, ie. talc and zinc stearate. Glossy der included instructions for action: “By July 20, 1941, the aviation units,
nitrocellulose lacquers received the designation AGT [АГТ: A - аэролак - “aero- through their own efforts and with the involvement of aircraft workshop
lac”; Г - глянцевый - “glossy”; T - meaning unknown]. Each colour was marked manpower, should apply camouflage to all available aircraft in accordance
with a different number that coincided with the colour reference numbers with the attached colour scheme, with the exception of the lower surfaces
mentioned in the previous paragraph. However, during the war glossy nitro- which are to be left in the old colour (…) Action plans to be reported on
cellulose lacquers were practically unused. Their time came after the war’s end, June 23, 1941.”
when their usage increased due to a lack of combat losses. An aircraft’s longer
service life would then require using more durable and weather-resistant paint On the same day, the Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force, Lt. Gen. P.F.
and coating materials. However, in 1941, the Air Force applied constant pres- Zhigarev, approved the “Instruction on the camouflage painting of aircraft
sure to the industry, demanding the release of matte nitrocellulose lacquers. of the Air Force of the Red Army”. That document contained four short in-
These were designated AMT [A - аэролак - “aerolac”; M - матовый - “matte”; structions signed by the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Maj. Gen. B.L.
T - meaning unknown]. The numbers that indicated the particular colours, re- Teplinsky, and two colour diagrams of black-green camouflage schemes.
mained the same as those of the AGT lacquers. For the purpose of painting The inclusion of such a number of instructions was caused by the need
all-metal aircraft, oil-based enamels of nearly the same colour, were developed. to introduce uniform camouflage for aircraft already in service, that had
been painted in varying ways. The whole process was to be performed in a
An active participant in the development of the new colours was a VIAM as- way that would ensure the minimal use of materials and time. On all-metal
sociate, V.V. Chebotarevskiy, who is not widely known despite the fact that his aircraft with upper surfaces painted in a protective colour, black patches
contributions to the Soviet aviation, were no less significant than those of the should be applied using the new oil paint, A-26m. The paint should be
famous general designers. A magazine article dedicated to him was entitled applied in one layer, using a brush or a spray gun. Within the instructions, it
“The man who painted Aeroflot”, but this is not true, or rather, not the whole was also designated AM-26, whilst on the colour schemes - FM-26 (glyptal
truth. Chebotarevskiy “painted” not only (and actually, not really much) the variant of enamel). In the case of aircraft with wooden or fabric skin, the
Aeroflot fleet, but also the entire Soviet military aviation. Since the late 1930s, camouflage patches were to be applied with black AMT-6 nitrocellulose
the USSR did not build a single aircraft which didn’t use putty, paint or varnish lacquer. The colour of the lower surfaces and the green (protective) base
developed by Chebotarevskiy, or with his participation. colour of the upper surfaces was to remain the same. Repainting aircraft
that had been painted in a light (grey or silver) colour, was more difficult.
On May 6, 1941, the NKAP issued Order No. 417сс “About disruptive paint- Firstly, the upper and side surfaces had to be covered with a green A-24m
ing of aircraft”, which instructed the directors of aircraft factories to deliver enamel (for all-metal aircraft) or AMT-4 nitrocellulose lacquer (for aircraft
aircraft with disruptive camouflage of the upper and side surfaces, and of wooden or mixed construction). Then the camouflage patches were to
light grey undersides, from October 1, 1941. However, the camouflage be applied with a suitable black paint. Again, the instruction did not say a
schemes had not yet been determined, so the whole process was broken word about repainting the lower surfaces. It therefore can be concluded
into several stages, and eventually the plan went awry. that the aircraft that had been previously painted grey or silver overall, re-
tained their original colour on the lower surfaces.
A critical impulse to the introduction of camouflage was given less than
a month before the outbreak of war. As A.S. Yakovlev writes in his mem- The first camouflage diagram included in the instructions was intended for
oirs: “In late May or early June, senior executives of the NKAP and the Air single-engine aircraft, whilst the second - for twin-engine aircraft. Howev-

244 / real colors of wwii aircraft

The camouflage scheme intended for single-engine aircraft, included in the “Instruction on the camouflage
painting of aircraft of the Air Force of the Red Army” that had been issued on June 20, 1941

The camouflage scheme intended for twin-engine aircraft, included in the “Instruction on the camouflage
painting of aircraft of the Air Force of the Red Army” that had been issued on June 20, 1941

real colors of wwii aircraft / 245

LaGG-3 s/n 3121376, completed on
June 10, 1941, was one of twenty-eight
LaGGs built by Factory No. 21, which
had been painted in multicolour
camouflage. On the photo we can
see light brown, black and green
camouflage patches. This aircraft
crashed on June 14, 1941 (Russian
State Archive of Economy)

The camouflage of this I-16 looks like

the standard one, but it was obviously
applied at the front (V. Vakhlamov

246 / real colors of wwii aircraft

Judging by the light tone of the base colour, this Il-2 left the factory in the
standard “1940” finish, i.e. with the upper surfaces painted with A-19f and AII
Sv.Zel.. The unusual camouflage scheme was most likely applied at unit level,
or at the repair shop. The number of the national insignia, and the size of the
star on the fuselage, indicate that final painting process took place after July
17, 1941, as the insignia were applied in accordance with the protocol of the
concurrence meeting of the NKAP and GU VVS, on the issue of identification
markings. According to that document, the national insignia were supposed
to be applied on the fuselage, in addition to the vertical tail and the lower
surfaces of the wing. These stars were supposed to be of 1m diameter, and
without black edging. However, as you can see on the photos, the pre-war
insignia on the vertical tail was not repainted, whilst the fuselage star that had
been painted after the application of black camouflage patches, still featured
the black edging. Factory-applied stars on Il-2s were either of the same size, or
those painted on the vertical tails were considerably larger (E. Mombeeck coll.)

er, the camouflage scheme was, in fact, the same - the camouflage patches the wings and relocated to the tailfins on the fuselage sides. Only those
had the same colours (green and black) and similar shape and arrange- located on the wing undersides remained unchanged. In practice, the na-
ment. The artist used drawings of the Yak-1 and Yak-4 aircraft as a basis. tional insignia were usually applied both on the tailfins and fuselage sides.
As the latter had a twin tail, the scheme could be easily used for the Pe-2
bombers, but problems could arise when camouflaging SB, DB-3 and Li-2 The instruction was signed for printing on the second day of the war - June
aircraft. In the case of single-engine aircraft, no complications were fore- 23, 1941. However, on June 23, hardly anyone remembered the instruc-
seen. Each diagram depicted the aircraft in four views, but their choice was tions and the “action plan”. The war itself repainted the aircraft, and this had
strange: port side, top, bottom, and… front. The camouflage of the star- to be performed under the enemy fire. Of course, the instructions could
board side was therefore left for free interpretation. One circumstance al- not reach the front lines in a timely manner, but the included schemes
lows us to assert that these painting schemes were intended for the aircraft were used with sufficient accuracy to paint aircraft in the factories. This
industry, rather than for military units. In contrast to the instructions, which especially concerned Yakovlev and Lavochkin fighters.
ignored the case of underside colour, the diagrams included the following
information: the lower surfaces should be painted with “matte light blue At the factories subordinated to the NKAP, the rush was not smaller. In re-
paint”. The type was not listed, but the mention of matte paint indicates sponse to the order for efficient camouflage painting, at the beginning of
that these were to be the new colours that had received the designations June 1941, Factory No. 21 in Gorky started to apply multicoloured cam-
A-28m (oil-based enamel for all-metal aircraft), and AMT-7 (nitrocellulose ouflage to LaGG-3 fighters. According to the memoirs of Chebotarevskiy,
lacquer for aircraft of mixed construction). The shape and arrangement of who took part in these works, glossy and matte nitrocellulose lacquers
the black patches strongly resembled the camouflage schemes applied to of light brown, grey, green and black colours were used. The shape and
Yakovlev UTI-26-1, I-28 and I-30 fighters. This was especially notable on the arrangement of the camouflage patches were determined by sketches
tail part of the aircraft, whilst the forward part of the fuselage, tailfin and that had been drawn in several variants. A total of 28 aircraft were painted
wing, the black patches had a simpler form. Thereby, A.S. Yakovlev, without this way. Amongst them was LaGG-3 s/n 3121376, completed on June 10,
hesitation, proposed a widespread introduction of a somewhat simplified 1941, which crashed during tests at maximum speed on June 14. The cam-
disruptive camouflage scheme of his fighters. Worth noting is that the di- ouflage proved to be effective even at close distances. Despite this, the
agrams and instructions show the changed, four-position arrangement of remaining 27 aircraft, which had not yet been transferred to the Air Force,
the national insignia. The stars were removed from the upper surfaces of were repainted in accordance with the new order No. 547cc, issued by the

real colors of wwii aircraft / 247

Il-2 s/n 1618, built by Factory
No. 381, in standard ‘1941’
camouflage scheme, June 1942
(V. Vakhlamov coll.)

NKAP on June 20, 1941, which introduced the two-colour camouflage as a standard. The factories were ordered from July
1 to paint combat, training and passenger aircraft in accordance to the approved scheme. Exceptions were made for the
remote Factories No. 153 and No. 126, which were given two weeks more to implement the order. The order defined the
colours of the paints: blue, green and black. Furthermore, the aircraft already serving in the Air Force units were to be
repainted. However, the order was not even sent to the factories before the war began. The dispatch was carried out on
June 24 and 25.

Numerous confirmations for the application of black and green camouflage can be found in the instructions and
repair documentation issued during the first years of the war. This included the Production Instruction VIAM K17
(LK9) entitled “The main types of protective coatings of land-based aircraft from corrosion” (approved on July 18,
1941); “Interim guidelines for the repair of the Yak-1” (1942); “Repair of the LaGG-3 and La-5” (1942); “Catalogue of

248 / real colors of wwii aircraft

Very accurate rendition of the standard AII light blue nitrocellulose lacquer was the last ‘aerolac of the second coat-
‘1941’ camouflage scheme on a Su-2 M-88 ing’ that remained in limited use for painting the external surfaces. Its
artillery spotter (V. Vakhlamov coll.) colour was a really light blue, lighter than AMT-7, and almost without a
grey tinge. The album of paint samples from 1948 does not include a paint
chip of AII light blue, because at this time, this lacquer was no longer used.
Description of the shade is provided on the basis of the earlier archival
samples and remnants of fabric skin that had been sourced from aircraft

materials for the repair of aircraft and engines” (approved on April 10, The TUs for AMT-4 and AMT-6 were introduced in early July 1941, whilst
1943); “Norms for the consumption of materials for single restoration the TU for AMT-7 came in August 1941. This explains the lack of this name
and field repair” (1943); etc.. All these documents regulated the use of in the instructions dated June 20, 1941. The colour of these lacquers was
AMT-4 green, AMT-6 black and AMT-7 light blue nitrocellulose lacquers controlled “in accordance with the sample reference cards, within the limits
or A-24m, A-26m and A-28m oil-based enamels of the relevant colours of the approved technical tolerances”. The AMT lacquers were designed
for camouflage painting. Paints for exterior surfaces with other colors for painting the fabric skin, pre-impregnated with a colourless ‘aerolac of
and designations are not mentioned in documents issued before 1943. the first coating’ AIN and primed with an ‘aerolac of the second coating’ AII
With the exception of AMT-1 light brown, which was introduced in Aluminum (in wartime used only for combat aircraft), as well as for painting
1943, nitrocellulose lacquers in the remaining three colours from the wooden skin that had previously been covered with fabric, puttied, and
range of seven developed in late 1940, had never been used in Soviet primed with AII Al.. What’s more, the AMT lacquers were used for painting
aviation. In the case of the AII lacquers, aside from the light blue colour the metal surfaces of mixed construction aircraft. For this purpose, a special
that had been used very rarely, only red and white (for insignia) and primer was used.
aluminum (for the priming layer for AMT paints) are mentioned.
At the same time as the nitrocellulose lacquers, oil enamels of similar co-
Let’s try to clarify the shades of these colours. An album of paint samples, lours were developed: A-24m (green), A-26m (black), and A-28m (light
ie, samples that are painted with the actual paints, and not printed, can blue). These enamels could truly be called “matte”, as this was ensured not
help us. Such an album was issued by the Ministry of Chemical Industry only by inclusion of the “additives for dullness” (talc and kaolin), but also
in 1948. It included all the basic colours used during the war. Of course, by their film-forming component. But the same component, because of
during almost 50 years (the description and comparison of colours was its yellowish hue, brought some colour change that was especially notice-
done in 1996), the shade of the colours had changed, but preserving the able in the case of bright colours. For example, the colour of the A-28m
album in a library. under constant temperature and with the absence of enamel eventually got a greenish tinge due to the addition of the oil var-
light, had significantly reduced the level of these changes, which makes nish’ yellowness to the blue pigment part. The greenness was enhanced
the album the most reliable source in existence. Moreover, the samples under the influence of temperature and sunlight exposure, etc. The A-24m
from this album match other samples of aviation paint that are preserved green enamel differed a little in colour from the AMT-4 lacquer. Its rather
in the Russian archives. dark shade made the difference in the optical properties of nitrocellulose
and oil varnishes indistinguishable. The A-24m and AMT-4 were originally
AMT-4 green nitrocellulose lacquer. “Green” is the so-called “normative” made from lead chromate (yellow pigment), Milori blue or chromium ox-
name, which in some cases does not accurately describe the actual co- ide (green), and carbon black with addition of other pigments. Oil enamels
lour. The colour of the AMT-4 was based on the 4BO standard (although were designed to be applied over the previously primed external metal
was not a direct match for the latter), so the name “protective” or “green surfaces of aircraft, using a spray gun. Due to the unsatisfactory painting
with a yellowish tinge” is more appropriate for it. Despite “matte” included properties, brush application was allowed only as an exception, under the
in its name, a fresh layer created with this lacquer was semi-matte, and condition of subsequent flicking, ie. leveling applied to the painted surface
this feature was typical for all paints from the AMT range. Sometimes with the tip of a dry brush.
aircraft painted with AMT lacquers were covered with a layer of AV-4d/v
[АВ-4д/в] colourless varnish, which gave the surface a glossy finish. As ex- Despite the numerous orders issued by the NKAP and the Air Force, there
plained in the Manual for Aviation Engineering Service [Наставление по were still many unresolved issues at the factories and repair organizations.
инженерно-авиационной службе, abbr. as НИАС-43 - “NIAS-43”), this was However, the leaders did not dare to act at their own discretion. On July 17,
done “to improve the aerodynamic characteristics of the aircraft”, so to raise 1941, the Deputy People’s Commissar of the Aviation Industry, P.A. Voronin,
the speed of the mass-produced aircraft to the level achieved by the pol- sent a letter to the Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force, Lt. Gen. P.F. Zhig-
ished prototypes, the camouflage properties could have been sacrificed. arev, in which he enquired as “to indicate whether it is necessary to strictly
follow the scheme approved by you on all aircraft, both with respect to the
AMT-6 black nitrocellulose lacquer. In this case, the colour name faithfully shape of camouflage patches and the relative arrangement of colours”. In
reflects the reality. the same letter, he suggested to clarify whether it was possible to use the
old glossy (AII light blue) instead of the new matte light blue paint (AMT-7).
AMT-7 light blue nitrocellulose lacquer. More precisely, it can be described
as light grey-blue. When stored, a “slight change in colour” was allowed. The simplification of the paintwork usually concerned the priming layers
rather than the finishing layers. For example, in the case of U-2 aircraft, con-

real colors of wwii aircraft / 249

Yak-1 flown by Sr. Lt. M.D. Baranov of sidering the reduction of the service life during wartime, and to speed up
183rd IAP (Fighter Aviation Regiment), the painting process, from the beginning of war two layers were omitted: a
summer 1942. The aircraft is finished layer of АIN clear dope and a priming layer of АII Al. lacquer. In August 1941,
in the standard camouflage scheme of Factory No. 21 for the same reason abandoned the application of AII Al.
AMT-4/AMT-6/AMT-7 primer to the LaGG-3 fighter. The painting process at this plant consisted
of application of “one double layer” of AMT-4, AMT-6 and AMT-7 nitrocellu-
lose lacquers, which was done using a spray gun, with the black patches
applied using a stencil. Further attempts to simplify the painting processes
were made by the factories after 1942, but they were often not allowed by
the controlling organizations. From the response of the NII VVS to the Fac-
tory No. 387, which manufactured the U-2: “Reduction of aircraft’s service
life during wartime cannot serve as the basis for the endless removal of
one coating after another”.

We cannot rule out the possibility of using other types of paints in the
NKAP factories, and, especially, in the repair workshops of the Air Force
during the first months of the war. There are many reasons for this: evac-
Yak-7s pictured at Factory No. 153 in uation of the paint and coatings factories, difficulties with supply of raw
1942. The standard ’1941’ scheme is materials and ready-made paints, loss of territories on which deposits of
fairly accurately reproduced on the raw materials were located, etc. All of this disrupted the program of mil-
port side of the aircraft, although the itary equipment production and could force the use of stocks of the old
patches on the vertical tail correspond AII nitrocellulose lacquers. The shortage of raw materials was practically
to the pattern developed in OKB of A.S. constant. The main task was to replace the rare raw materials with less
Yakovlev in 1940 (V. Vakhlamov coll.) deficit ones. In 1941-42 period, there was not even enough chalk, which

250 / real colors of wwii aircraft

Yak-7s in Factory No. 153. The pattern
was required for production of washable white camouflage paint, not to on the starboard side of the aircraft in
mention nitrocellulose, acetone, ethyl acetate, and tricresyl phosphate for the center of the photo, which was not
nitrocellulose lacquers. Despite all difficulties, in the summer of 1941 the regulated by the instructions issued on
aviation industry started production of camouflaged aircraft. The situa- June 20, 1941, is distinctively similar to
tion with paints began normalizing only from the beginning of 1942. The the scheme developed in OKB of A.S.
supply of raw materials was improved, and new chemical factories were Yakovlev in 1940 (V. Vakhlamov coll.)
tasked with production of aircraft paints. From 1942, this included one of
the largest factories in the country, the “Free Labor” plant at Yaroslavl. Of
course, there were still some problems with raw materials, as many depos-
its of pigments were located in Ukraine, and they were captured by the
Germans. This forced the industry to look for suitable substitutes available
from local sources.

One of the conditions for successful camouflaging is using a variety of co-

lours, as their repeatability leads to uncovering the objects camouflaged in
the same way. However, mass production has a reverse requirement, ie. the Yak-7s pictured at Factory No. 153
use of standard colours and patterns, so it is quite natural to see variations in 1942. Their starboard sides are
of the standard camouflage scheme that are distinctive for aircraft man- camouflaged in accordance with the
ufactured in a particular factory, rather than for a certain type of aircraft. standard ’1941’ scheme, The black
For example, the LaGG-3 and La-5 fighters built by Factory No. 21 in Gorky edges of the national insignia are
show a fairly accurate rendition of the standard ‘1941’ scheme. Particular- clearly visible (V. Vakhlamov coll.)
ly noticeable is a semi-circular black patch on the rear fuselage. Despite

real colors of wwii aircraft / 251

UT-2MV painted
in standard ‘1941’
camouflage scheme,
as interpreted by
Factory No. 47.
October 1942
(V. Vakhlamov coll.)

Standard ‘1941’ camouflage scheme

for twin-engine aircraft applied to Yak-
6s, pictured during a ceremony in April
1943. The aircraft were founded by the
workers from Chkalov (now Orenburg)
and dedicated to the partisans of
Belarus, as indicated by the inscription
on the fuselage (V. Vakhlamov coll.)

the differences in some details, the painting scheme of these aircraft may
be called standard, which means not full compliance with the approved
scheme, but the use of most of its elements: colours, shape and arrange-
ment of the basic camouflage patches. Curiously, some photographs of
Lavochkin fighters reveal a reversed colour scheme, ie. with green patches
applied in place of the black ones, and vice versa. The presence of such
scheme does not contradict the requirements of camouflage. On the con-
trary, it is confusing that there are very few photos documenting it.

The standard ‘1941’ scheme was also used for painting Yakovlev fighters.
The Yak-1 aircraft produced by Factory No. 292 in Saratov usually carried
a semicircular patch on the tail part. The same is observed on the pho-
tos of Yak-7 built by Factory No. 153 in Novosibirsk. However, sometimes
this patch is missing. In most of such cases, however, the forward fuse-
lage wears the standard pattern. Often, the aforementioned patch may be
found on the photos of the starboard side of the aircraft. As it is difficult to
find photos showing both sides of the same aircraft, a question arises: did
the factories, in order to reduce the repeatability of colours, sometimes
apply the camouflage scheme in a mirrored way, and that deviations from
the standard were accepted only when they concerned the starboard side,
which was not shown in the camouflage diagrams? OKB Yakovlev contin-
ued to stand out among others. Experimental Yaks were often painted dif-

An U-2 in black/green camouflage

scheme (V. Vakhlamov coll.)

252 / real colors of wwii aircraft

On the stills taken from the
newsreel you can see that the
camouflage scheme of this
LaGG-3 is the same on both sides,
and corresponds to the standard
pattern (V. Vakhlamov coll.)

ferently, and some mass-produced aircraft built by Moscow factories (No. Управления Заказов и Технического Снабжения ВВС КА, abbr. as ГУЗиТС
82 and No. 301) could adopt their camouflage. ВВС КА – “GUZiTS VVS KA”] requested the NKAP to paint 20 LaGG-3 and
Pe-2 aircraft at the Factories No. 21 and No. 22 for testing a new tricolour
Photographs of biplanes (I-15, I-153, U-2), camouflaged in accordance with camouflage. This scheme was tested in several regiments in the rear and at
the standard ‘1941’ scheme, are practically unknown. On some photos of the front line and received positive evaluation. Its total advantage over the
the I-16, the camouflage patterns resemble the standard to some extent. standard two-colour scheme, was noted. Until 1943, the question about
The same situation is observed with regard to MiG-3s, many of which were the introduction of the tricolour painting passed through a number of in-
completed before the war. All these aircraft received their black and green stances, but no final decision was made. Another discussed camouflage
camouflage not at the factories, but at the unit level, or at the mobile option was a bright, single-colour scheme intended for fighter aircraft.
aircraft repair shops [Подвижная авиационная ремонтная мастерская, However, the factories continued production of aircraft in two-colour cam-
abbr. as ПАРМ - “PARM”]. It’s likely that the “Instruction on the camouflage ouflage until mid-summer of 1943.
painting of aircraft of the Air Force of the Red Army” did not reach many
combat units, or was found by them too complicated. In 1942, the VIAM developed inflammable chlorovinyl (chlorinated PVC)
paints in standard colours: KhV-4 [ХВ-4] green, KhV-6 [ХВ-4] black, KhV-7
However, the NKAP factories did not always adhere to the standard [ХВ-4] blue and DD-118А grey. The latter was intended for painting the
scheme. The patterns applied to the Il-4, Yer-2 and Pe-2 bombers, as well as internal surfaces. In July, tests of the new paints were conducted on Yak
the Li-2 transports, differed a lot from it. The only common feature was the fighters. From August, work was carried out on the introduction of these
use of the prescribed combination of colours. At the same time, the two materials to the industry, but in April 1943 it was far away from being fin-
colour camouflage of the Yak-6 can safely be called standard. ished, as the paint factories had no free capacity. Chlorovinyl paints be-
came widespread only after the war.
One way or another, due to the efforts of industry and the Air Force, cam-
ouflage became commonly used. According to the recollections of Maj.
Gen. K.D. Denisov, in August 1941 he received an I-16 fighter with camou-
flage finish. There was no other similar aircraft in his regiment. However,
in June 1942, he fought in a single, uncamouflaged Yak-1 in the regiment.
The number of “patched” aircraft in the Air Force increased, but the effec-
tiveness of the standard black and green camouflage did not suit the mil-
itary. “The camouflage of the La-5 aircraft, like other domestic fighters, is
unsatisfactory” - such phrases are often found in reports and letters sent
to the NKAP. This led to the tests of the new schemes. In June 1942, the
Main Directorate of Orders and Technical Supply of the Air Force [Главное

real colors of wwii aircraft / 253

La-5FN from the 32nd IAP (Fighter
Aviation Regiment), summer 1943.
The black and green camouflage was
applied to the starboard side of the
aircraft in accordance with the ‘1941’ La-5F flown by A. Maksimenko,
scheme. The spinner and front cowling founded by the pioneers of Arzamas,
are probably painted in light grey- Gomel area, October 1943. The
blue (AMT-7). This could have been a fighter still carries the standard
squadron or regiment marking ‘1941’ camouflage scheme, applied
(V. Vakhlamov coll.) to the starboard side. The four small
stars behind the cockpit are victory
markings (V. Vakhlamov coll.)

254 / real colors of wwii aircraft

4.5 Winters of 1941-42
and 1942-43
“White as snow” should be the winter protective paint. However, it was
discovered that many white pigments (for example, zinc and lead white)
have a reflection spectrum that is very different from the snow spectrum in
the ultraviolet range. This made possible to easily detect aircraft that would
be unnoticeable for the naked eye on a snow background, using special
photographic filters.

By October 1941, the VIAM developed MK-7 paint, which was indistin-
guishable in the ultraviolet range of the spectrum. It consisted of a paste
(chalk diluted with water with alcohol, and 0,1-0,2% ultramarine added to
Winter of 1941-1942, MiG-3 of the 16th eliminate the yellowing of chalk) and a fixer (casein glue mixed with wa-
IAP PVO (Fighter Aviation Regiment of ter). The paste and the fixer had to be mixed immediately before use in
the Air Defence Force). Judging by the a 6:1 ratio, filtered, and then diluted with water in order to achieve the
shine of the engine cowling, we can proper consistency. The paint was to be applied directly over the summer
assume that the aircraft, in violation camouflage in two layers, using a spray gun, or in one-two layers using
of the rules, was painted with white oil a brush. The resultant paint layer should have been smooth, without any
paint or AII Al. (V. Vakhlamov coll.) signs of roughness, and applied in such a manner that the summer camou-
flage layer would slightly show through it. Depending on the size of chalk

grain, the winter camouflage could reduce the aircraft’s speed from 10 to
25 km/h. It was possible to significantly reduce the loss of speed, or even
fully avoid it, by polishing the painted surfaces with fine sandpapers No.
Yak-1B flown by Maj. V.I. Shishkin of the 1, 00, and 000, or simply a rough rag, once the paint layer dries, but such
581st IAP (Fighter Aviation Regiment), measures were not realistic in frontline conditions.
January 1943. The upper surfaces are
uniformly painted in white, whilst the The MK-7 was applied in two ways. According to the instructions issued on
undersides remained in AMT-7 October 12, 1941, it should cover the entire upper and side surfaces of an
aircraft, except for the identification markings. The aircraft was to remain in
this form until the spring. When the snow started to melt, exposing patches

Loading ammunition to a Li-2 transport, 1943. The winter camouflage

of this aircraft was created by overpainting the green patches with
white paint. The aircraft carries both the military star insignia and civil
registration on the rear fuselage (V. Vakhlamov coll.)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 255

1943. The winter camouflage of
this A-20 “Boston” was undoubtedly
applied at the front, using brushes of ground at an airfield, the winter camouflage had to be partially washed
(V. Vakhlamov coll.) off, and when there was very little snow, the white coating was completely
removed, using water or soda solution. In the second case, which was not
validated by the orders, but quite often used in practice, white paint was
applied in the form of patches, thus forming a winter camouflage scheme.
Various combinations of colours were possible, depending on the imagi-
An U-2 liaison aircraft in service on nation of the technicians and the amount of white paint available. Aircraft
the Central Front, 1943. The summer manufactured in the winter period should have had the MK-7 paint ap-
camouflage was left untouched in the plied over the summer camouflage scheme at the factory level.
areas around the markings
(V. Vakhlamov coll.) Worth noting is that MK-7 paint was rather fragile and, if the coating was
not refreshed, it gradually erased, exposing the summer colours. In result,
by the end of winter the so-called “spring” camouflage appeared on the
aircraft by itself.

256 / real colors of wwii aircraft

Yak-7 s/n 3322, painted with washable
white paint in the factory, in the way In addition to the chalky MK-7, two other variants existed. The MK-7Sh [МК-
prescribed by the instructions, i.e. “that 7Ш] was gypsum-based, whilst in the case of MK-7F [MK-7Ф], chalk was di-
the summer camouflage layer would luted with water, with alcohol and formalin. Due to the shortages of chalk,
slightly show through it”. The only other white washable paints were developed and tested in 1942: S-1 [C-1],
violation of the rules is the application S-4a [C-4a], and V [B], which were based on alabaster, lime, and gypsum,
of white paint to the propeller blades, respectively. In January 1942, the State Union Bureau of Paint and Varnish
which will lead to reduction of Coatings “Lakokraspokrytiye” [Лакокраспокрытие] proposed a recipe for
aircraft’s maximum speed. This fighter white paint based on the Ural gypsum to the Main Artillery Department.
was tested at the NII VVS in 1943 The paint, named AB-1 [АБ-1], was manufactured in Perm, and used for
(V. Vakhlamov coll.) painting the Su-2 aircraft in Factory No. 135, which had been evacuated
there. According to the conclusion made by the NII VVS, in terms of prop-
erties such as: flow, weight gain, drying time, and others, the AB-1 was
very close to the MK-7, and its camouflage properties (non-decodable in
ultraviolet) exceeded the latter. Nevertheless, AB-1 was not widely used in
aviation. The MK-7 remained the main white paint.

In addition to the use of washable paints, the documents mention indi-

vidual cases of applying winter camouflage to the aircraft using white oil
enamels and nitrocellulose lacquers, and even aluminum lacquers - for
example, in the 6th IAK (Fighter Aviation Corps) in November 1942. Such
Yak-7B, spring 1943. The aircraft attempts were suppressed by the command and were not validated.
carries the so-called ‘spring’ scheme:
the uniform white camouflage was
partially washed off, revealing the
black and green undercoat.

real colors of wwii aircraft / 257

4.6 1943 Only the standard colours of the following types were allowed to be used
for aircraft painting: green - AMT-4 (for metal surfaces: A-24m), light brown
- AMT-1 (A-21m), grey-blue - AMT-11, dark grey - АМТ-12 (А-32m), blue -
АМТ-7 (А-28m). Two paints, ie. AMT-4 and AMT-7 (and their oil analogs), are
In the second half of 1943, aviation units began to receive unusually paint- already known. The list didn’t specify black paint (for Il-4 and Pe-8), which
ed aircraft, which gradually replaced those camouflaged in green and was without doubt the AMT-6, also used since 1941. And what about the
black. The new camouflage scheme was regulated by the document en- rest?
titled “Schemes for aircraft camouflage painting”, which was developed in
accordance with the Order of the NKAP and the Air Force of the Red Army The AMT-1 light brown nitrocellulose lacquer was also developed in 1941
No. 389c/0133 that had been issued on July 3, 1943, and approved on July but was not demanded by the Air Force until July 1943, when the specifica-
18. The document defined the colours and types of paints to be used, as tion for it was approved along those for AMT-11 and AMT-12. The colour of
well as the shape and arrangement of the camouflage patches. The upper AMT-1 can be described as light grey-brown. The TU allowed “minor colour
and side surfaces of all fighter aircraft were to be painted in two colors: changes during storage”. Like other AMT paints, the AMT-1 gave a semi-
grey-blue and dark grey, whilst for aircraft such as Pe-2, Il-2, U-2, UT-2 and matte finish. The TU for the A-21m paint, the oil enamel analog of AMT-1,
Yak-6 a tri-colour pattern was prescribed, which consisted of green, light was introduced in September 1943. The colour of this enamel was slightly
brown and dark grey. In the case of the Il-4 and Pe-8 bombers, black colour different from the AMT-1 colour, probably due to the differences in film
was to be used instead of dark grey. The lower surfaces of all aircraft were forming. The oil base had a yellowish shade, so the colour of A-21m was
to remain in the same blue colour as previous. Two variants of camouflage more yellowish and warmer. Like all oil enamels, the A-21m gave a matte
pattern were developed for all aircraft, except for fighters. finish.

Worth noting is that the tactical and technical requirements of the NII VVS The AMT-11 had a medium grey colour with a slight bluish cast. The TU
for the development of aircraft paint and varnish coatings for 1943, ap- for its oil enamel analog was not introduced in 1943, as it was specified
proved by Maj. Gen. P.A. Losyukov on February 24, 1943, stipulated that only for the camouflage of fighter aircraft, whilst at that time there were no
“the upper and side surfaces of aircraft should be camouflaged with at all-metal fighter aircraft built which would require painting with oil enam-
least three colours: green (colour no. 4), black (colour no. 6), and sand els. The metal cowlings of mixed construction aircraft were painted with ni-
(colour no. 1)”. The colour numbers matched the numbers of the relevant trocellulose lacquers, which were applied over the surfaces that had been
AMT lacquers. Furthermore, according to the draft of the order to switch previously primed with ALG-5 primer and dried with hot air. This process
to the new painting schemes that had been developed in April 1943, the could be performed without any special difficulties at the NKAP factories.
tricolour camouflage was planned for all aircraft, including fighters, and
the ratio of green, black (rather than dark gray, as eventually used) and The AMT-12 nitrocellulose lacquer and A-32m oil enamel were to replace
light brown colours was supposed to be 5:2:3. In April, the NII VVS also the black AMT-6 and A-26m paints in the new camouflage scheme. From
tested a Yak-9, which was painted in two shades of grey. The conclusion now on, the latter would only be used for painting propeller blades. Both
of this camouflage trial was sharply negative: both shades of grey “stand new dark grey paints were quite dark, with the AMT-12 lacquer being a
out against the background present in most of our districts. This makes bit darker than the A-32m. The reason for such a seemingly insignificant
the aircraft parked at the grass/ground apron easily distinguishable even change was the conclusion drawn by the camouflage specialists that the
for visual observation with the naked eye. In terms of its physical prop- pure black colour does not occur in the background of the earth. Even the
erties, both shades of the grey paint are decodable, and the painted air- shadows made by the folds of the terrain, when viewed from above, do not
craft is easy to detect when viewed from the air through special glasses. appear to be black, but dark gray.
As far as the concealment measures are concerned, this kind of painting
scheme is completely unsuitable for combat aircraft”. In conclusion, it was The Order No. 389c/0133 also determined the procedure for introduc-
only allowed that one grey be used as one of the components of 3- or tion of the new camouflage schemes. The supplies of all necessary paints
4-colour camouflage scheme. Let’s remember these facts, and return to should have been delivered by July 25, 1943. The fighter aircraft painted in
the “Schemes ...”. the new camouflage scheme should start leaving the factories from July
15, the remaining aircraft types - from August 1, and before that date, on
July 15, it was prescribed to replace the black colour used in the existing
two-colour scheme of built aircraft, with dark grey. Prior to receiving the
Standard camouflage scheme for
fighter aircraft, introduced in 1943

258 / real colors of wwii aircraft

Standard tricolour
camouflage schemes
for Pe-2 and Pe-3,
introduced in 1943

Standard tricolour
camouflage schemes
for Il-2, introduced in

real colors of wwii aircraft / 259

Standard tricolour
schemes for Pe-8,
introduced in 1943

Standard tricolour
schemes for Il-4,
introduced in 1943

260 / real colors of wwii aircraft

Standard tricolour
camouflage schemes
for Yak-6, introduced
in 1943

Standard tricolour
schemes for U-2,
introduced in 1943

real colors of wwii aircraft / 261

Standard tricolour
schemes for UT-2,
introduced in 1943

standard blue-grey and dark grey paints, it was acceptable to use mixtures N.P. Seleznev, requesting to give instructions to the military leaders of the
of AMT-7 light blue and AMT-6 black nitrocellulose lacquers, or A-28m light 11th Main Directorate (mass production of light aircraft: U-2, Yak-6, etc.) to
blue and A-28m black oil enamels, made in accordance with the special accept aircraft painted in two-colour camouflage until September 1. From
instructions and samples provided by the VIAM. Such measures for mixing the draft of that letter, as an unreal dream, the Deputy People’s Commis-
paints, never allowed before, indicate a special urgency in the introduction sar of the Aviation Industry, P.V. Dementyev, removed the proposal to also
of the new camouflage. Documentary evidence of the use of paint mix- retain the two-colour camouflage on these aircraft “for a further period”.
tures was not found, nor were the “special” instructions and samples them-
selves. However, it is impossible to exclude their use at the initial stage of Even if the aircraft was actually painted in a tricolour scheme, it’s not always
the introduction of the new camouflage. In this case, the colours of such possible to see this on the photographs, because the AMT-4 and A-24m
paints could significantly differ from the “real” AMT-11 and AMT-12 (A-32m). greens, and the AMT-12 and A-32m dark greys had similar reflectivity: up
In the same part of the order, the need for delivery of aircraft painted in to 9% and 12%, respectively. Given that the green colour on black and
different variations of camouflage schemes (concerning those types for white photographs looks like a dark gray, you can distinguish these colours
which two variants of camouflage had been developed) was highlight- only on high quality images, on which the camouflaged surfaces are well
ed. Repainting the aircraft that had already served with the Air Force, was illuminated. On this background, only the AMT-1 light brown enamel is
not planned. The new camouflage was to be applied to them only during clearly visible (reflectivity up to 22%). These bright patches that fully match
overhauls. the shape and arrangement ordered in the “Schemes...”, are visible in some
photographs of Il-2, U-2 and, less commonly, Pe-2. Based on this, the pres-
How meticulously were the requirements of the “Schemes…” met? The ence of standard tricolour camouflage schemes on these aircraft types can
standard scheme is very often observed on the photos of fighter aircraft be confirmed with sufficient confidence. There are photos of other aircraft,
from that period, such as LaGG-3, La-5, Yak-3, and Yak-9, although the such as the Il-4, which clearly show tricolour camouflage, but the patterns
shape of camouflage patches happens to be somewhat distorted. Usually do not match the prescribed schemes. The “Schemes...” do not include any
this is expressed in the absence of precise angles, which became rounded patterns for the Tu-2. At the time of the development of this document,
when the camouflage pattern was applied with a spray gun, without using the mass production of Tu-2 at the Factory No. 166 in Omsk was stopped.
a stencil. Most differences from the prescribed schemes are observed in On July 17, 1943, the day before the approval of the “Schemes...”, the State
engine cowling areas. The reason for this was probably that the paint coat- Defense Committee issued Resolution No. 3754 on the launch of the Tu-2
ing on the latter was more likely to be repaired, being the most prone to production at the Factory No. 23 in Moscow. The first production aircraft
damage during the operational use of aircraft. left the assembly line only in November. Although it was possible to use
the Pe-2 camouflage schemes for painting the Tu-2, the factory preferred
The situation was different in regard to the tricolour camouflage, which to develop their own pattern consisting of the same three colours: A-21m,
was not easy to apply to aircraft such as Pe-2, Il-4, Pe-8, etc. because of their A-24m and A-32m.
large size. In many factories, the introduction of new camouflage schemes
was delayed due to the lack of new paints, and it was more difficult to ap- And what were the reasons for changing the camouflage colours? The
ply three colours (not counting the blue for the lower surfaces) than two. green and black camouflage gave best protection from detection from
On the last day of July, the NKAP appealed to the Chief of Main Director- above to the aircraft standing on the ground or flying at a low altitude,
ate of Orders of the Air Force, Lt. Gen. of Engineering and Aviation Service i.e. when the distance from the aircraft to the earth background was sig-

262 / real colors of wwii aircraft

Improved La-5F s/n 392101109, built in
August 1943. The camouflage scheme nificantly smaller than to the observer, and therefore the influence of the
resembles the “1943” standard (Russian haze layer of the atmosphere between the camouflaged aircraft and the
State Archive of Economy) earth, was limited. With an increase in the observation altitude, the colour
difference between the areas of the earth’s surface gradually decreases, in-
creasingly changing to an achromatic difference, i.e. only in lightness. The
haze layer gives the colours of the earth’s background a cold, bluish shade.
Therefore, a fighter aircraft camouflaged in green and black, whilst gain-
ing altitude and approaching the enemy flying at high altitude, stands out
with its green patches that contrast with the bluish-greyish background
of the earth. Given the long-standing discontent of the military with black
and green camouflage, the reason seemed clear: Soviet aviation was to
move to offensive operations and gain - in a literal and figurative sense - al-
titude, for which a new camouflage was needed. But it was not that simple.

Let’s remind ourselves of how the wooden skin of aircraft was created. The
plywood covering was glued to the framework and covered with two lay-
ers of nitrocellulose glue, then a thin layer of putty was applied, again a lay-

real colors of wwii aircraft / 263

Yak-7B flown by Capt. A.V. Vorozheykin er of nitrocellulose glue, and the fabric was glued on. The fabric was subse-
of the 728th IAP (Fighter Aviation quently covered with two layers of putty, a priming layer of AII Al. (during
Regiment), December 1943. The wartime, this layer could be omitted) and two layers of AMT nitrocellulose
aircraft carries a fairly standard AMT- lacquer. At the end of 1942 / in early 1943, at the factories in Chelyabinsk
11/AMT-12/AMT-7 finish and Novosibirsk, the composition of the nitroputty ASh-22 [АШ-22] was
changed. Without any serious study, the lead chromate was replaced with
red iron oxide. The resulting putty was used at aircraft factories during the
entire winter and spring. In summer, under the influence of heat, internal
stresses appeared in the layer of putty, which caused the cracking of the

A classic photo of a classic example paint layer. Moisture penetrated through the cracks, dramatically reduc-
of the standard camouflage scheme ing the strength of the fabric adhesion, and led to its separation. Cracking
prescribed for fighters in 1943. In the concerned nearly a thousand aircraft, including the Yak-7 fighters built in
foreground, Yak-9D flown by Hero Factory No. 153, Yak-1s from Factory No. 292, and La-5s from Factories No.
of the Soviet Union, Capt. M.I. Grib, 21 and No. 99. The factory brigades were sent at the front and returned the
from the 6th GvIAP VVS ChF (Guards defective aircraft to service in 2-3 weeks (in the rear, the repairs continued
Fighter Aviation Regiment of the Black until September). And literally within 2-3 days, as A.S. Yakovlev notes in his
Sea Fleet Air Force). Note the victory memoirs, the famous battle at Oryol-Kursk salient began!
markings in form of small stars applied
above the “shoulders” of the national As we can see, an attempt to solve the problem of lead chromate shortage
insignia on the tailfin. May 1944, by its removal from the putty composition, almost led to serious shortages
Sevastopol area (Author: Y.A. Khaldei) of aircraft in a decisive battle. However, the lead chromate was included in
the green paints A-24m and AMT-4. If you cannot remove it from the putty,

264 / real colors of wwii aircraft

On the photos of aircraft in tricolour camouflage, usually only the light brown
patches are clearly visible. In this case, three of the four “Sturmoviks” are
painted in accordance with one of the variants of the standard scheme, whilst
the aircraft no. 12 features the second variation of the scheme. Leningrad
Front, May 21, 1944 (V. Vakhlamov coll.)

Il-2M built by Factory No. 30, May 1944. The

aircraft is painted with AMT-1/AMT-4/AMT-12/
AMT-7. Camouflage of the upper surfaces
resembles one of the variants of the standard
scheme A reference Il-2. The camouflage
scheme is generally consistent with the
“1943” standard. Inside the cockpit, test
pilot V.K. Kokkinaki (OKB Ilyushin)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 265

Il-2s “Sturmoviks” in the workshop of September 1944. An Il-4 belonging
Factory No. 1 in Kuybyshev. The light- to 5th GvAP / 50th AD / 6th AK ADD
coloured camouflage patches on the (5th Guards Aviation Regiment /
wing perfectly resemble the standard 50th Aviation Division / 6th Aviation
“1943” scheme (V. Vakhlamov coll.) Corps of the Long Range Aviation),
presumably flown by double Hero of
the Soviet Union, Capt. V.I. Osipov. The
tricolour camouflage is clearly visible,
and it doesn’t resemble the prescribed
scheme. The undersides are black
(V. Vakhlamov coll.)

266 / real colors of wwii aircraft

For unknown reason, the designers of
the “Schemes for aircraft camouflage then can you reduce the consumption of chromate in paints? The paint for-
painting” in 1943, ignored the Li-2 mulations allowed for the possibility of replacing the yellow chromate and
aircraft. The pattern remained Milori blue with a single pigment: green chromium oxide, but the chromium
unaltered for a long time, but the oxide was scarce too - in 1943, the NKAP received only 53.8% of the required
colours were probably changed. This amount. It was also impossible to replace the lead chromate with zinc chro-
particular machine was tested at the mate: in March 1943, due to the total shortage of zinc chromate, production
NII VVS in 1943 (V. Vakhlamov coll.) of ALG-1 and ALG-5 primers was suspended. The only way out was to sharply
reduce the production of green paints. The painting schemes of 1943 simply
respond to this decision: from the most common type of aircraft, i.e. the fight-
ers, the green colour is completely missing, whilst in the case of other aircraft,
the demand for green paints is reduced by more than 1,6 times.

Of course, to become standard, the painting scheme consisting of two shades

of grey, should be, at least, not worse than the other options. To determine
its camouflaging properties, between June 20 and 27, 1943, the NII VVS con-
ducted comparative tests which involved a Yak-9, painted with blue-grey ni-
trocellulose lacquers in two shades, and two Yak-1s, one finished in the then
standard black and green scheme, and one that carried a tricolour camouflage
consisting of patches of green, black and light brown colours, which had
been designed by the camouflage service of the Air Force. During the tests,
In this photo, the tricolour camouflage the aircraft were visually observed on the ground and in-flight, against the sky,
scheme is clearly visible (V. Vakhlamov clouds, forests, fields and residential areas. In addition, the aircraft were pho-

real colors of wwii aircraft / 267

U-2 in standard tricolour
camouflage scheme
(V. Vakhlamov coll.)

In 1945, the comedy entitled

“Heavenly Slug” was filmed. The
main role was played by the
U-2, renamed in 1944 to Po-2.
Thanks to the professionalism
of cameraman A. Sigaev, the
standard tricolour camouflage
is clearly visible

268 / real colors of wwii aircraft

Tricolour camouflage scheme for
Тu-2, developed by Factory No. 23

tographed from various distances. The grey camouflage scheme turned out
to be the best, but some points raise doubts. For example, if aircraft standing
on the ground that are painted in grey-blue and tricolour scheme, are equal-
ly poorly visible and merge with the background of the grassy terrain when
viewed from 3000 m - which is quite possible - then as the observation alti-
tude decreases, strange things begin to occur. From an altitude of 2000 m, the
tricolour Yak-1 “is easily detectable and sharply visible against the background
of the airfield”, whilst the Yak-9 painted in grey-blue tones “is difficult to de-
La-5FN s/n 392120104, built by tect, merges with the background of the terrain”. Even more interesting are
Factory No. 21 in May 1943. It was the views from altitudes of both 500 m and 1000 m: “both aircraft are easily
withdrawn from trials at the NII VVS detectable, but the grey-blue scheme better merges with the background of
due to repeated damage of the fabric the green terrain, making it difficult to determine the silhouette of the aircraft,
covering of the wing (Russian State whilst the tricolour scheme sharply stands out, and highlights the contour of
Archive of Economy) the aircraft”. Of course, the light brown patches of the tricolour scheme could
“stand out” on a green background, but it’s strange that the grey-blue cam-
ouflage is said to merge with green terrain when viewed from 500 m. Per-
haps other factors had an impact on the conclusions drawn by the testers?
Undoubtedly, the blue-grey painting scheme provided the best camouflage
effect in the air, both when viewed against the background of the earth, and
against the sky. In the latter case, it allowed for the concealment of the dimen-
sions, and in some cases, the silhouette of the aircraft and the distance to it.
Finally, it is interesting that in the conclusion of the report from the camouflage
tests, the blue-grey scheme was not compared with the tricolour camouflage,
but only with the standard two-colour finish:
1. “Painting the upper and side surfaces in the blue-grey scheme gives a
better camouflage effect than the standard two-colour scheme used for
mass-produced aircraft”.
2. “The blue-grey painting scheme of the Yak-9 aircraft No. 01-18 is consid-
ered to be the standard”.

real colors of wwii aircraft / 269

June 1943, comparative tests of
camouflage at NII VVS. A Yak-1 painted
in a tricolour camouflage consisting
of patches of green, black and light
brown colours (V. Vakhlamov coll.)
Yak-9 fighter painted with blue-grey
nitrocellulose lacquers in two shades,
pictured during the same tests. During
the development process the shape of
camouflage patches was eventually
changed (V. Vakhlamov coll.)

270 / real colors of wwii aircraft

Aerial photo of the Yak-9 (1) in grey
two-colour scheme and Yak-1 in
tricolour scheme, taken during the
tests (V. Vakhlamov coll.)

4.7 Winter
of 1943-1944
During the winter of 1943-1944, the winter camouflage of Soviet aircraft
An Il-4 flown by the crew of Jr. Lt.
was a subject of some changes. Formally, due to the introduction of a new
Chizhov from the 1st GvAD DD
fighter camouflage of two shades of grey, but most likely in order not to
(Guards Long Range Aviation Division)
reduce the maximum speed, the white camouflage was ceased to be ap-
pictured after an accident on February
plied, which was recorded in a number of orders. This, however, did not
16, 1944. The painter apparently used
apply to other aircraft. In this regard, we provide the full text of the letter
a lot of imagination when applying
sent by S.V. Ilyushin to the People’s Commissar of the Aircraft Industry A.I.
the winter camouflage to the vertical
Shakhurin, dated October 1943 (original spelling and punctuation are pre-
tail (V. Vakhlamov coll.)
“The Il-2 aircraft leave the factories painted in summer and winter camou-
flage schemes.

real colors of wwii aircraft / 271

Winter camouflage is made by painting the aircraft with chalky paint, had to start releasing aircraft in the new painting scheme from May 1, 1944,
whose quality is only suitable for painting fences, but does not work well whilst Factory No. 116 in Semenovka (Primorsky Krai), had to began from
for aircraft painting, firstly because it makes the surface of the aircraft in- June 1. Repainting the existing fleet of aircraft was not planned. Simulta-
credibly rough, and secondly, during the service life, the paint peels off neously, the national insignia (stars) were ordered to be applied with red
and the aircraft surface becomes dirty and even rougher, and thirdly, when nitrocellulose lacquer AII Kr [АII Кр], with a black edging.
this paint is washed off with hot water, the fabric covering of the aircraft is
damaged, and therefore the wooden parts will rot. However, the changes in Soviet aircraft painting that year did not end. On
Factory No. 30, in agreement with myself, recommended painting the Il-2 October 1, 1944, the State Defense Committee adopted Resolution No.
aircraft like fighter aircraft, i.e. so that the painting scheme is unified for 6639c, in which, amongst other things, approved “the proposal of the Mili-
winter and summer. tary Council of the Air Force on the transition to unified painting of all types
One Il-2 was painted as Yak and La fighters and was presented for approval of aircraft in accordance with the pattern established for fighter aircraft”.
to the Chief Engineer of the Air Force of the Red Army, Comrade REPIN. In accordance with this resolution, on October 6, 1944, the NKAP and the
REPIN rejected our proposal. Therefore, the chalky paint remains in use for Air Force issued Order No. 5590/0207 “About the new camouflage paint-
winter camouflage of the Il-2 aircraft. Comrade REPIN, in a conversation ing of aircraft”, which served as the basis for the development of the new
with the director of Factory No. 30, com. SMIRNOV, suggested that the loss schemes. By the same order, “on the basis of extensive experience in the
of speed caused by application of chalky paint does not matter for the Il-2. combat operation of aircraft on the fronts of the Patriotic War and taking
I consider it necessary to report to you my disagreement with painting the into account the current situation in the air”, it was prescribed on Novem-
Il-2 aircraft with chalky paint. ber 15, 1944, to launch the production of all types of aircraft in the same
Aviation industry is doing a lot to improve the production of the Il-2 aircraft colours as used for fighter aircraft and complete the transition to this cam-
in order to increase the maximum speed of the aircraft, and the improve- ouflage on January 1, 1945. All aircraft that carried the new camouflage,
ments carried out by the factories are worth a lot of effort and labour. Nev- were not to be painted in white for the winter period.
ertheless, despite this, here at the factory, after the aircraft surface is well
finished, the aircraft is painted like the most common fence. Of course, the A new album of camouflage schemes had already been signed by the
factory workers will have no desire to work on improving the aerodynam- Chief of the Camouflage Service of the Air Force, Engineer-Lt. Col. E.Z.
ics of the Il-2 aircraft, as all this work is destroyed there. Yasin, on October 18, 1944, but it was released only in 1945. The album
I ask you to put the question to the Secretary of the Central Committee of says: “The upper and side surfaces of all types of aircraft are painted in two
the VKP(b) Com. MALENKOV about the cancellation of painting Il-2 aircraft colours: blue-grey and dark grey”; for painting it was allowed to use “only
in white camouflage and approval of a unified fighter painting scheme”. the standard paints of the following types”: blue-grey AMT-11 (for metal
surfaces - А-33m) and dark grey АМТ-12 (А-32m). Camouflage schemes
In the aforementioned letter, the reader can see not only the dissatisfaction were provided for fighters; Il-2 and Il-10 (mutual scheme for both types);
with the MK-7 paint, but also at what level the paint issues were solved: the Pe-2, Pe-2I, and Tu-2 (mutual scheme); Il-4; Pe-8; Li-2; Shche-2; Po-2; UT-
general designer had the authority enough only for painting one “own” air- 2, and Yak-6. Only one variant of camouflage pattern was now provided
craft. However, accidentally or not, his efforts were not completely useless, for each type of aircraft. Even if we consider that grey camouflage proved
and development began in late 1944. to be effective for fighters, its use for Il-2 and Il-10 ground attack aircraft,
and Po-2 and UT-2 liaison aircraft, which operated at low altitudes, is a
strange idea. Near the ground, at small distances, typical for enemy fighter
attacks at these aircraft, grey camouflage is less effective than a painting
scheme, which includes patches of green colour. At the same time, at large
observation distances (for example, when enemy reconnaissance aircraft

4.8 1944-1945 search for ground-based attack aircraft), the green colour would naturally
change its shade just like the background colour. The introduction of a
painting scheme consisting of patches of dark grey and blue-grey colours
on ground attack and liaison aircraft can only be explained by disregarding
On March 15, 1944, a new order of the NKAP and the Air Force of the Red the camouflage in the conditions of air supremacy, and (or) an even great-
Army No. 194c/045, was issued. The directors of Factories No. 116 and No. er shortage of pigments needed for manufacturing green paint.
168, which manufactured the UT-2 and UT-2M aircraft, were ordered to
paint the entire aircraft in blue-grey colour with AMT-11 nitrocellulose lac- In addition to the already known AMT-11, AMT-12, and A-32m paints, the
quer, instead of applying the tricolour camouflage to the upper and side A-33m oil enamel appeared on the list. In 1944, this enamel was produced
surfaces, and a light blue colour to undersides. Factory No. 168, in Volzhsk, in accordance with temporary specifications. It was necessary only for

Standard camouflage
scheme for fighter
aircraft, introduced in
autumn 1944

272 / real colors of wwii aircraft

scheme for
Il-2 and Il-10,
introduced in
autumn 1944

scheme for Pe-2,
Pe-2I and Tu-2,
introduced in
autumn 1944

scheme for Il-4,
introduced in
autumn 1944

real colors of wwii aircraft / 273

Standard camouflage
scheme for UT-2,
introduced in autumn

Standard camouflage
scheme for Pe-8,
introduced in autumn

Standard camouflage
scheme for Li-2,
introduced in autumn

274 / real colors of wwii aircraft

scheme for Shche-2,
introduced in
autumn 1944

camouflage scheme
for Po-2, introduced
in autumn 1944

camouflage scheme
for Yak-6, introduced
in autumn 1944

real colors of wwii aircraft / 275

The camouflage pattern of this Yak-9
matches well to the prescribed scheme. all-metal aircraft, as in other cases, AMT-11 blue-grey nitrocellulose lacquer
The camouflage was not covered in (applied over the ALG-1 primer) was used for painting the metal surfaces.
white for the winter. The aircraft seen The A-33m was darker than AMT-11. In the TU, which was introduced only
in the background was apparently in 1947, its colour was called dark grey-blue.
repaired and received enlarged
national insignia during this process. The lower surfaces of all aircraft were to be painted in light blue (AMT-7
Winter 1944-1945, 3rd Air Army or A-28m). As with the album from 1943, repainting aircraft that had
(V. Vakhlamov coll.) already served with the Air Force, was not planned. The new camou-
flage was to be applied to them only during overhauls. The standard
camouflage scheme for fighters was the same as the one specified in
1943. In the case of Pe-2 aircraft, the ‘1943’ camouflage scheme was
modified into the new one by covering the green areas with blue-grey
colour, and light brown patches with dark grey, except for the patch
on the port tailfin. The pattern intended for Yak-6 was modified in a
similar way, except for one light brown patch on the port side of the
nose. The new camouflage schemes for other aircraft did not resem-
ble the previous ones. On the Po-2 and UT-2 aircraft, the demarcation
La-5FN armed with two ShVAK of dark grey and blue-grey colours is formed by straight, broken lines,
cannon, painted in standard which, although simplified the process of application, was effective
camouflage scheme. Early 1945 only at large observation distances, when the corners of the pattern
(Russian State Archive of Economy) blended with their surroundings. However, such camouflage was prob-
ably justified by its intended use in the conditions of the Western Euro-

276 / real colors of wwii aircraft

Shche-2 s/n 171747, released by
Factory No. 47 on May 25, 1945. pean landscape, which often looked as drawn using a ruler. The ‘1944’
This aircraft was painted with strict camouflage schemes were the least used in practice. Before they were
accordance with the camouflage printed and sent out to be implemented, the war in Europe was near its
scheme prescribed in 1944. It belonged end, whilst in peacetime the need for camouflage ceased to be sharp,
to the flight detachment of Factory No. and aircraft production began to decline. Nevertheless, Shche-2 aircraft
32, and crashed on May 24, 1946, four built by Factory No. 47 in 1945, were painted in accordance with the
kilometers from the airfield of Factory new pattern.
No. 21 in Gorky. Crew: I.I. Velikorad,
A.F. Mozalev (Russian State Archive of Concluding the review of aviation colours of the war period, we should
Economy) say a few words about the black paints used for painting the lower
surfaces of aircraft that operated at night. Initially, these were washable
casein paints. In July 1941, the MK-6 casein paint was developed, which
consisted of equal parts (by weight) of carbon black and kaolin, with
the addition of casein glue. This paint was characterized by deep matte
finish and had to “firmly stick to the lacquer coating”. However, exploita-
tion revealed insufficient adhesion of MK-6 to painted surfaces, and in
1942, other variants of black paint were created: casein MK-8 and chlor-
ovinyl “Night” [“Ночь”]. The latter was washed off with pyrobenzene,
A Shche-2 built by Factory No. 47 and instead of water. Both new paints used the carbon black pigment. The
owned by Factory No. 387, pictured “Night” paint was manufactured at Factory No. 36 and was widely used
on June 13, 1946. Another example for painting aircraft of the Long Range Aviation [Авиация дальнего
of application of the prescribed действия, abbr. as АДД - “ADD”] units. In comparison with AMT-6 black
camouflage scheme. The war has nitrocellulose lacquer, MK-8 and “Night” had a 10-14 times lower reflec-
ended, but the aircraft still carries tivity. Furthermore, in 1943, on request of the ADD, a non-washable,
a combination of civil and military nitro-oil, matte black enamel A-31NM [А-31НМ] was developed. The
markings. The Po-2s were overturned customer liked the paint, but its release was not established.
by a hurricane (Russian State Archive
of Economy)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 277

An Il-4 with black undersides. This
aircraft belonged to the Black Fleet Air
Force (V. Vakhlamov coll.)

Il-4 from the 1st GvBAK (Guards

Bomber Aviation Corps). The aircraft
is finished in the winter night bomber
camouflage, with the upper surfaces
painted white and black underside
(V. Vakhlamov coll.)

278 / real colors of wwii aircraft

Enamels and lacquers used for camouflaging aircraft in 1941-1945

Period of
Name Colour Colour description Use

Upper surfaces of all aircraft together with

АМТ-6 Black Black 1941-1943
AMT-4 *

Upper surfaces of all aircraft together with

А-26m Black Black 1941-1943

Upper surfaces of all aircraft together with

Green with a AMT-6 until July 1943, later upper surfaces
АМТ-4 Protective Since 1941
yellowish tinge of all types of aircraft except fighters
together with AMT-1 & AMT-12

Upper surfaces of all aircraft together with

Green with a А-26m until July 1943, later upper surfaces
А-24m Protective Since 1941
yellowish tinge of all types of aircraft except fighters
together with А-21m & А-32m

Upper surfaces of all types of aircraft except

АМТ-1 Light brown Light brown Since 1943
fighters together with AMT-4 & AMT-12

Light brown with a Upper surfaces of all types of aircraft except

А-21m Light brown Since 1943
yellowish tinge fighters together with А-24m and А-32m

Upper surfaces of fighter aircraft together

Very dark, close to
АМТ-12 Dark grey with AMT-11, for other aircraft together with Since 1943
AMT-1 & AMT-4

Upper surfaces of fighter aircraft together

Very dark, close to
А-32m Dark grey with А-33m, for other aircraft together with Since 1943
А-21m & А-24m

Grey with a bluish Upper surfaces of fighter aircraft together

АМТ-11 Light blue-grey Since 1943
tinge with AMT-12

Darker than AMT- Upper surfaces of fighter aircraft together

А-33m Dark blue-grey Since 1944
11 with А-32m

АМТ-7 Light blue Light blue-grey Undersurfaces Since 1941

Light greenish
А-28m Light blue Undersurfaces Since 1941
blue **

МK-7 White White Winter camouflage 1941-1943

White White Winter camouflage 1941-1943

МK-6 Black Black Undersurfaces of aircraft used at night Since 1941

МK-8 Black Black Undersurfaces of aircraft used at night Since 1942

Black Black Undersurfaces of aircraft used at night Since 1942

Notes: The “A-” oil enamels were used for painting the external metal surfaces, whilst the “AMT-“ nitrocellulose lacquers were intended for
wooden and fabric surfaces, and external metal surfaces of mixed construction aircraft.
* From the second half of 1943, used only for painting the propeller blades.
** After some time of use.
real colors of wwii aircraft / 279
4.9 Frontline
The previous sub-chapters discussed how Soviet aircraft paintwork
evolved during World War Two, in accordance with orders and other of-
ficial documents. Now, let’s see what remained from the instructions in
ordinary life of the military repair units, such as the mobile aircraft repair
shops PARM-1, which were part of the aviation regiments. It is based on
the memories of V.V. Pshenichnov, who commanded PARM-1 No. 1087 of
the 562nd IAP PVO (Fighter Aviation Regiment of the Air Defence Force),
in 1941-1945, and illustrated with photographs he took during that peri-
od. Pshenichnov finished the war as a technician-lieutenant and devoted
his life to the development of rocket and space technology. He eventually
Yak-1M M-105PF built by Factory No. became a doctor of technical sciences, a professor, and was awarded six
115, tested in 1943 at the NII VVS. The orders, including the Order of Lenin.
camouflage pattern applied at Factory
No. 115 differed from those applied by
other factories (OKB Yakovlev)

280 / real colors of wwii aircraft

In autumn of 1941, during the Battle of Moscow, the regiment lost aircraft
one after another. The limited personnel of PARM were mainly concerned
about how to repair the damaged Yaks, which had reached the airfield;
how to pick up those aircraft which had force-landed outside the base,
and put all the more or less usable equipment back into operation. There
was no time to think about painting during that period. Only the damaged
areas were touched up.

In winter, all aircraft were painted white. Coarsely ground chalk was used,
which could only be applied with brushes. As the painting process was
carried out in cold weather conditions, in order to prevent the mixture of
chalk, casein and water from freezing, an alcohol-based liquid had to be
added. The resulting surface was very rough. White paint layer successful-
ly survived until the spring of 1942, when it was washed off, not without

The need for painting occurred for two cases: mechanical damage to the
aircraft and damage to the surface itself. Most of all, the personnel tried to
paint only the repaired areas, without touching the remaining ones. At the
same time, they did not follow any standard schemes, which, by the way,
they did not know. During the painting process they were rather guided
by instinct and intuition, although they naturally looked around and con-
sidered the appearance of other aircraft. In result, the regiment was com-
posed of quite differently painted aircraft, which camouflage often did not
resemble the factory-applied schemes after various repairs and installation
of spare parts.

One of the most common defects of Soviet aircraft was the poor quality of
paint coatings. Aside from the reasons mentioned above, the aircraft were
constantly parked in the open air and suffered from the sun, rain and snow
(the tarpaulin covers covered only the engine cowling and the cabin). As a
PARM-1 No. 1087 belonging to the result, the surface was covered with a net of cracks. This mainly concerned
562nd IAP PVO. Carpenter Popov, who the wings. The aircraft of the PVO units had a longer service life than those
successfully mastered the painting from the frontline aviation, but after a year, or a year and a half of operation,
process, at work (V. Vakhlamov coll.) it was necessary to change the fabric coating of the wings. When restoring
the aircraft skin, the PARM personnel tried to follow the factory technology.
After removal of the old coating, the wing was covered with nitrocellulose
glue, then the fabric was stretched over it, and sealed with another lay-
er of nitrocellulose glue. Once it had dried, the ‘aerolac of the first coating’
was sprayed over, the putty applied, sometimes in two passes, then the
The painting process is almost finished. surface was sanded and, finally, the ‘aerolacs of the second coating’ could
The camouflage pattern follows the be applied, using a spray gun. The latter were usually applied in one layer,
scheme applied by Factory No. 115
(V. Vakhlamov coll.)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 281

Painting the aircraft number
using a stencil. On the left, Sgt. V.I.
Dubrovin (V. Vakhlamov coll.)

as the shortage of paints was permanent. Contrary to popular belief, only

the AMT nitrocellulose lacquers were used, which were received through
the Battalion of Airfield Support [Батальон аэродромного обеспечения,
abbr. as БАО - “BAO”]. Any car, tank, or occasionally acquired (in general,
non-specified for aircraft) paint, had never been used. It was not customary
to mix the lacquers in order to achieve the desired colour. When the work-
shop lacked any particular colour, the ratio of the camouflage patches was
simply changed. Otherwise, the PARMs were not officially supplied with
camouflage pattern diagrams. Nevertheless, some kind of typical painting

I-15bis from the Pacific Fleet

Aviation, painted in the
distinctive scheme used in the Far
East. The camouflage patches
are edged in black (Central Naval

282 / real colors of wwii aircraft

schemes existed, as the same personnel dealt with the same type of air- This U-2 from the Pacific Fleet Aviation
craft. Once the painted surface had dried, the personnel tried polishing had the camouflaged patches edged
with rags, but this did not result in any noticeable increase of aircraft speed. in a bright colour (Central Naval
In the end, they applied the tactical numbers and national insignia, using Archive)
plywood stencils, as well as the maintenance inscriptions and the number
of PARM at the rear part of the fuselage (with red paint). The 562nd IAP
aircraft didn’t carry any distinctive markings that would be uniform for the
entire regiment or its squadrons, but some machines sported emblems
and other colour elements, which were applied either on a pilots’ request,
or had already been present on the aircraft when they came from other units of the 2nd Fighter Air Corps, which were based at Sagan and Sorau
regiments. At the request of several pilots, Pshenichnov painted a leopard air bases (now the cities of Żagan and Żary in Poland), collected damaged
on their aircraft, whilst others were adorned with a devil emblem, which aircraft from previously used airfields and places of forced landing, and
resembled a Kasli iron sculpture (famous folk craft and art products, made started repairing them. All available technical staff were involved in order
of cast iron, produced at the factory located in the town of Kasli, in Chel- to restore as many aircraft as possible for use in the spring-summer oper-
yabinsk region). ation. As a result, on a total of 217 La-5, La-7, Yak-9 and Yak-3 fighters, “the
paintwork was restored by puttying, painting and polishing, using cap-
When reading the preceding text, we must consider that the 562nd IAP tured paint and coating materials”. What kind of paints and which colour
was based near Moscow for the entire war, and therefore its aircraft repair schemes were used, is unknown.
shop did not have the worst supply of materials. However, these conditions
could be different in other air regiments. Many repair workshops moved Perhaps the worst situation with paint and coating materials concerned
together with their units, first to the east, and then to the west. This caused the 12th Air Army, which was stationed in the Far East. Until August 1945,
additional difficulties in their work, and it may be assumed that deviation this air army did not participate in military operations. It guarded the far
from the requirements of the official regulations, could be more signifi- eastern air border of the USSR, and trained flight personnel for the oper-
cant. Whilst studying the documents of the Aviation Engineering Service ational units. In 1942, due to shortage of nitrocellulose lacquers in the air
[инженерно-авиационной службы, abbr. as ИАС - “IAS”), we can note two force of the Transbaikal Front, the command of the 12th Air Army request-
facts. Firstly, the shortage of paint and coating materials was almost per- ed permission to receive 5,5 tons of paint from the reserve of the People’s
manent, and secondly, the applications for these materials mention only Commissariat of Defense. Next year the situation did not improve. In June
those enamels and lacquers that were regulated by the current regula- 1943, Sen. Lt. Bespaltsev, senior engineer of the 12th ORAP (Independent
tions. This explains all deviations from the prescribed painting scheme on Reconnaissance Aviation Regiment) that was subordinated to the 12th Air
those aircraft which had undergone repairs at the front. Army, reported to the commander: “A big drawback in the condition of our
equipment is that the Pe-2 aircraft are used for two years and have never
Here are a few examples. During an overhaul performed in January 1945, been painted. Now I think about painting them, but I cannot do this due
the upper surfaces of Yak-7B s/n 2822 that belonged to 736th IAP PVO, to the lack of paint”.
were painted with a mixture of green and blue enamels, which gave a light
brown colour. Worth noting was the high level of surface smoothness, The aircraft of the Pacific Fleet were in a similar situation. However, there
which gave hope for an increase of the aircraft speed. An inspection of were craftsmen who despite, or maybe thanks to, the lack of paint, man-
a similarly painted Yak-9D s/n 0211 that belonged to the regiment com- aged to create an original camouflage for their planes. The camouflage
mander, which had been performed in the summer of 1944, revealed that scheme applied to various types of aircraft (U-2, I-15bis, I-16, MiG-3, MBR-2)
the fabric coating was maintained in no worse condition than in the case that belonged to different regiments, had one common feature: the cam-
of aircraft painted with standard AMT-11 and AMT-12 lacquers. In 1945, the ouflage patches were edged with white or black bands. A bright edge at
Air Force began to pay less attention to the camouflage requirements, and the junction of dark patches, or a dark edge between bright patches, in-
fighter aircraft with polished surfaces and single-colour finish of the upper creased the contrast of camouflage and, therefore, its effectiveness. This
and side surfaces began to appear more often in the units. These were method was described in 1928 by E.F. Burche in his book “Camouflaging
mostly overhauled machines. the aircraft in the air”. During the war, Burche led the camouflage service at
the headquarters of the Naval Air Force. Amongst other awards, E.F. Burche
At the end of the war, the range of paints used in Soviet aviation increased received the medal “For the victory over Japan”, so his authorship in this
due to war booty. It can’t be said that they were extensively used, because case is beyond doubt.
captured paints and solvents were mastered with great difficulty, but the
following fact is known from documents. Before the attack on Berlin, the

real colors of wwii aircraft / 283

4.10 A view from
the inside
Since the 1930s, the basic paint for the internal surfaces was the A-14 steel
(grey) oil enamel, and its glyptal variant, A-14f [А-14ф]. During repairs, it
could be applied over a surface that had previously been painted in almost
any way. It was used for painting the internal surfaces of aircraft fuselage,
cockpit, framework, wheel rims, landing gear, engine frame, flaps, some-
times engines, etc. On metal surfaces, the enamel was applied over a layer
of ALG-1 yellow zinc chromate primer (whose colour varied from light to

Instrument panel painted with FG-5

nitrocellulose lacquer. It was intended dark yellow), whilst on wooden surfaces it could be applied directly, with-
for the short-range bomber version of out previous priming. The dried film of A-14 enamel was shiny, grey, of a
the Bolkhovitinov S aircraft. 1940 medium lightness, without noticeable tonal variation. Duralumin frame-
(M. Maslov coll.) works could only be covered with one layer of ALG-1 primer.

At the beginning of war, an attempt was made to simplify the rules for
painting internal surfaces. An instruction issued in July 1941, specified the
following options for painting metal surfaces: coating with paint consist-
ing of equal parts of ALG-1 primer and A-14 enamel, or ALG-1 with an addi-
tion of 6% of aluminum powder. Before applying the aforementioned paint
coating, parts made from aluminum and magnesium alloys underwent
chemical oxidation or anodization in chromic acid. The aluminum parts
were not painted after anodic oxidation in sulfuric acid. Later, for painting
parts made from magnesium alloys, a system of coatings from layers of
ALG-1 primer, ALG-5 oil-based primer of a grey-green colour, and an outer
layer of A-9 blue oil enamel (or glyptal A-9f ), was used. Before painting,
the parts made from magnesium alloy, as the least corrosion-resistant, un-
derwent chemical oxidation. Later, steel and aluminum parts were simply
painted with ALG-5 primer. This coating was matte, grey-green, of medium

Difficulties in supplying aircraft factories with paint and coating materials,

required allowance for some colour variation, depending on the availabil-
ity of certain colours. During the war, the internal surfaces of aircraft built
in the NKAP factories could therefore be painted in one of several ways
listed below.

284 / real colors of wwii aircraft

Instrument panel painted with “T” Wooden surfaces had four basic
matte nitrocellulose lacquer. It comes colour options:
from an UPO-21 aircraft that had been •• two layers of AII Al. nitrocellulose lacquer over a layer of
built by Factory No. 21, which suffered ND-113 grey nitro primer;
an accident on November 19, 1940 •• two layers of DD-118B grey chlorovinyl paint (when
(Russian State Archive of Economy) using DD-118A, three layers were applied). It should
be noted that some batches of these paints could be
made using aluminum powder because of the shortage
of zinc white. In this case, the grey colour thus became
•• two layers of A-14 grey oil enamel (or glyptal based
•• one layer of VIAM-B3 [ВИАМ-Б3] resin glue (mainly in-
tended for aircraft in the construction of which delta-ve-
neer wood was used, and the parts were glued with this
adhesive. The experimental I-301 was “painted” in this
way, not only from the inside, but also from the outside.)

With the outbreak of war, the

painting of instrument panels
was simplified. Pictured in August
1941, the instrument panel of
LaGG-3 No. 3121715 is painted
with A-14 enamel (Russian State
Archive of Economy)

real colors of wwii aircraft / 285

The instrument panel of this Yak-
1M “Dubler”, which was released by
Factory No. 115 in September 1943, 3] and MV-4 [MB-4] orange nitrocellulose lacquers. The air-cooled engines
had been painted with ordinary black were primed with a layer of 101/19 black primer. Afterwards, the cylinders
paint (OKB Yakovlev) were blackened with 2318/19 oil lacquer, whilst other parts with painted
with 102/19 finishing lacquer, which colour was also black.

Painting the propellers was never a secondary matter. Aside from protect-
As an exception, AII light blue or AMT-7 nitrocellulose lacquers could be ing the metal blades from corrosion and the wooden ones from rotting,
used. The internal surfaces of the wooden aircraft framework could be there are two other issues. Firstly, the colour should reduce the light reflec-
covered with 17-A colourless lacquer or AS [АС] antiseptic lacquer. For the tion caused by rotating propeller, and secondly, the rough paint coating of
convenience of monitoring the condition of welds, the 17-A lacquer could the airscrew greatly reduced the aircraft speed. Since 1941, the propeller
also be applied over welded joints. blades were painted with A-26m matte oil enamel or AMT-6 nitrocellulose
lacquer. In both cases, ALG-1 or ALG-5 primer was used for priming the
When repairing the aircraft, the choice of options depended on the avail- metal blades. For the AMT-6, a red-brown 138A primer could also be used.
ability of materials and the type of paint that had been applied earlier. The In the winter period, when the aircraft were camouflaged with MK-7 wash-
A-14 enamel could be applied over any coating, but the VIAM-B3 glue - able white paint, this did not concern the propeller blades, as otherwise
only over an old coating applied with the same glue (which formed a film the maximum speed of the aircraft could be reduced by 0,5-1%.
of red or red-brown colour). In the absence of resin glue, or at low tempera-
ture, the DD-118B chlorovinyl paint could be used. Due to its shortage, AII The fuel tanks, pipes and components of various systems were always
Al. was ruled out from being used for painting the internal surfaces during painted in the same colour for convenience of maintenance. The tanks and
repairs. pipes of the fuel system were painted in yellow (A-6 oil enamel); cooling
system - green (A-7); oil system - brown (A-8); components and aggregates
The cockpit surfaces were painted, as a rule, with A-14 grey enamel, ex- of the hydraulic system - dark blue (A-9), oxygen system - blue (A-10), air
cept for the instrument panels/dashboards. From the first half of the 1930s, conditioning and pressurization system - black (A-12), fire-fighting equip-
the latter were painted with FG-5 [ФГ-5] black, semi-matte nitrocellulose ment and inerting system - red (A-13). This painting system was used since
lacquer, which later was replaced by T black, matte nitrocellulose lacquer. at least 1937, and deviation from it could only occur due to the shortage
Once dry, the film of this paint cracked, revealing the priming layer, which of necessary colours. Therefore, for example, in 1943, at Factory No. 21, hy-
was usually red. In result, a net pattern was formed from numerous red draulic pipes were painted with AII Al. aluminum nitrocellulose lacquer. All
cracks on a black background. oil enamels used for the aforementioned purposes were glossy. The A-7
had a toxic-green hue, whilst A-8 brown was quite dark. In addition to oil
For painting the engines, special oil and nitrocellulose paint and coating enamels, all these systems could be painted with DM nitrocellulose lac-
materials were used. There were several options. Before painting, the en- quers of the same colours, which differed a little in shades.
gine parts were primed with ALG-1 or ALG-5 hot-drying primer. Then, in
the first two variants, the paint was blackened with 2086f [2086ф] glyp- When using the ski-equipped landing gear, the skids were covered with
tal enamel, or with two layers of MV-109 [MB-109] nitrocellulose lacquer a special varnish AV-4 d/l [АВ-4 д/л (д/л - для лыж - „d/l - dlya lyzh - for
and the outer layer of MV-6 [MB-6] nitrocellulose lacquer. MV-6 created a skis”)], which served to prevent the freezing of skis. The colour of the var-
film that was semigloss black, with a violet hue. The engines could also be nish could vary from straw yellow to light brown. The varnished surface
painted in grey-blue colour with two layers of AM-4 glyptal enamel, or sub- acquired a uniform satin finish.
sequent layers of MV-1 [MB-1] and MV-2 [MB-2] nitrocellulose lacquers. The
latter gave a glossy coating of medium lightness. The engine parts made
from magnesium alloys were oxidized, primed with ALG-1 zinc chromate
primer, and coated with the same paints as other surfaces, but necessarily
applied in two layers. Other options for engine painting included the use
of MV-8 [MB-8] and MV-108 [MB-108] nitrocellulose lacquers, which formed
glossy coatings of a light grey colour. The octane number of consumed
gasoline, was applied to the suction pipes of the engines, using MV-3 [MB-

286 / real colors of wwii aircraft

Painting finish of internal surfaces and aggregates of aircraft 1935-1945

Painted surface Top coat colour Paint type Period of application Notes
Steel grey А-14 (A-14f) [А-14ф] Since 1930s (since 1940)
Metal and wooden surfaces
Light grey AE-9 [АЭ-9] Second half of 1930s
Underwater parts of
Dark grey AE-10 [АЭ-10]
wooden seaplanes
Underwater parts of
Light blue AE-14 [АЭ-14] wooden seaplanes (below
Since 1930s the waterline)
N 17
Antiseptic AS [АС] Wooden surfaces, details of
From light to dark duralumin frameworks
ALG-1 [АЛГ-1]
Parts made from magnesium
Dark blue А-9 Since 1940

Internal surfaces of Grey-green 50% ALG-1 + 50% А-14

the fuselage, cowling, Metal surfaces
hatches, etc. Yellow АLG-1 + 6% Aluminum

Dural surfaces after

Sulfur yellow Without paintwork
anodizing in sulfuric acid
Since 1941
Resin varnish No.1
Surfaces made from delta-
Red-brown (VIAM-B3 glue) [клей
veneer wood
Light blue AII Sv.Gol. [АII cв.гол.]

Blue АМТ-7
Silver AII Al. [AII Ал] Approximately since 1942
DD-118A [ДД-118А] Approximately since Wooden surfaces
(DD-118B) [ДД-118Б] 1943-1944
Grey-green ALG-5 [АЛГ-5] Since 1940s Steel part surfaces
Dark green А-15 (A-15f) [А-15ф] Late 1940s
Cockpits Steel grey А-14 (A-14) [А-14ф] Late 1930s
MV-6 [МВ-6]
Black Since 1930s
2086f [2086ф]
Water-cooled engines АМ-4
Grey-blue 1935
MV-2 [МВ-2]
Light grey MV-108 [МВ-108]
2318/19 Since 1930s Cylinders
Air-cooled engines Black
102/19 Other components
Protective Since early 1930s Wooden propellers. After
Light green painting, a layer of AV-4(/v)
Second half of 1930s [АВ-4(/в)] varnish was
Red applied
AE-11 [АЭ-11]
Propellers DM [ДМ]
Black Backside of metal blades
Since 1941
Yellow Since 1940s Blade tips
Aggregates and pipes:
Fuel system Yellow А-6 (A-6f) [А-6ф]
Cooling system Green А-7 (A-7f) [А-7ф]
Oil system Brown А-8 (A-8f) [А-8ф]
Hydraulic system Dark blue А-9
Since 1930s
Oxygen system Blue А-10 (A-10f) [А-10ф]
Air conditioning and
Black А-12
pressurization system
Fire-fighting equipment Red А-13 (A-13f) [А-13ф]
The colour was specified
From straw yellow
Ski skids AV-4 d/l [АВ-4 д/л] Since 1930s for varnishing unpainted
to light brown

real colors of wwii aircraft / 287

Chapter 1:
• Belling, R. (1989). A portrait of Military Aviation in South Africa. Struikhof Publishers.
• Bernád, D., & Punka, G. (2013). Hungarian Fighter Colors 1930-1945, Vol.1. Sandomierz: Stratus s.c..
• Bernád, D., & Punka, G. (2014). Hungarian Fighter Colors 1930-1945, Vol.2. Sandomierz: Stratus s.c..
• Brown E. D., Janda, A., Poruba, T., & Vladař, J. (2010). Messerschmitt Me 262s of KG & KG(J) units. Hradec Králové: JaPo.
• Brown E. D., Poruba, T., & Vladař, J. (2012). Messerschmitt Me 262 Production & Arado Ar 234 Final Operations. Hradec Králové: JaPo.
• Crandall, J. (2007). The Focke-Wulf Fw 190 Dora. Vol. One. Hamilton: Eagle Editions Ltd.
• Crandall, J. (2009). The Focke-Wulf Fw 190 Dora. Vol. Two. Hamilton: Eagle Editions Ltd.
• Deboeck, M., Larger, E., & Poruba, T. (2005). Focke-Wulf Fw 190D Camouflage & Markings, Part I. Hradec Králové: JaPo.
• Deboeck, M., Larger, E., & Poruba, T. (2007). Focke-Wulf Fw 190D Camouflage & Markings, Part II. Hradec Králové: JaPo.
• Forsyth, R., & Creek, E. J. (2008). Heinkel He 162 Spatz. From Drawing Board to Destruction: The Volksjäger. Hersham: Ian Allan Publishing.
• Forsyth, R., Creek, E. J., & Roletschek, G. (2017). Dornier Do 335 Pfeil/Arrow. Manchester: Crecy Publishing Ltd.
• Green, B. (2000). Augsburg’s Last Eagles. Colors, Markings and Variants of the Messerschmitt Bf 109 from June 1944 to May 1945. Hamilton: Eagle Editions Ltd.
• Green, B., & Evans, B. (2002). Stormbird Colors. Construction, Camouflage & Markings of the Messerschmitt Me 262. Hamilton: Eagle Editions Ltd.
• Griehl, M. (2005). Dornier Do 17 E-Z. Do 215 B. The Flying Pencil in Luftwaffe Service. Erlangen: AirDoc.
• Hitchcock, T. H. The Focke-Wulf Ta 152. Hamilton: Eagle Editions Ltd.
• Janda, A., & Poruba, T. (1997). Messerschmitt Bf 109K. Hradec Králové: JaPo.
• Janda, A., & Poruba, T. (2004). Messerschmitt Bf 109s of JG 52 in Deutsch Brod. Hradec Králové: JaPo.
• Janda, A., & Poruba, T. (2004). Messerschmitt Bf 109G-10/U4 Production & Operational Service. Hradec Králové: JaPo.
• Johnston, D. (2018). German Eagles in the Spanish Skies. The Messerschmitt Bf 109 in Service with the Legion Condor during the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939.
Atglen: Schiffer Publishing Ltd.
• Mankau, H., & Petrick, P. (2003). Messerschmitt Bf 110/Me 210/Me 410. An Illustrated History. Atglen: Schiffer Publishing Ltd.
• Merrick, K. A., & Kiroff, J. (2004). Luftwaffe Camouflage and Markings 1933-1945, Volume One. Hersham: Classic Publications.
• Merrick, K. A., Kiroff, J., Smith, J. R., & Willis, T. (2005). Luftwaffe Camouflage and Markings 1933-1945, Volume One. Hersham: Classic Publications.
• O’Connell, D. (2005). Messerschmitt Me 262 The Production Log 1941-1945. Hersham: Classic Publications.
• Parker, N. (2013-2018). Luftwaffe Crash Archive. A documentary history of every enemy aircraft brought down over the United Kingdom. Vol.1-12. Walton-on-
Thames: Red Kite.
• Poruba, T., & Mol, K. (2000). Messerschmitt Bf 109K. Camouflage & Marking. Hradec Králové: JaPo.
• Poruba, T., & Vladař, J. (2017). Messerschmitt Bf 109s of KG(J) 6. Hradec Králové: JaPo.
• Prien, J. et al. (2000-2018) Die Jagdfliegerverbände der Deutschen Luftwaffe 1934 bis 1945, Teil 1-13. Eutin: Struve’s Buchdruckerei und Verlag / Buchverlag Rogge GmbH.
• Rabeder, H. (2017). Die Knullenkopfstaffel. Luftwaffe long-range photo reconnaissance with Staffel 1.(F)/123 over France, Great Britain, the Mediterranean and
over the Reich. Würzburg: Flechsig Verlag.
• Ries, K. (1978). Deutsche Luftwaffe über der Schweiz 1939-1945. Mainz: Verlag Dieter Hoffman.
• Ritger, L. (2005). The Messerschmitt Bf 109. A Comprehensive Guide for the Modeller, Part 1: Prototype to ‘E’ Variants. Bedford: SAM Publications.
• Smith, J. R., & Creek, E. J. (1992). Arado 234 Blitz. Sturbridge: Monogram Aviation Publications.
• Ullmann, M. (2000). Oberflächenschutzverfahren und Anstrichstoffe der deutschen Luftfahrtindustrie und Luftwaffe 1935-1945. Bonn: Bernard und Graefe Verlag.
• Ullmann, M. (2013). Hornets’ Nest. RLM 83 Dark Blue. Retrieved November 1, 2018, from: http://www.clubhyper.com/reference/rlm83darkbluemu_1.htm
• Vasco, J., & Estanislau, F. (2008). Messerschmitt Bf 110 C, D and E, An Illustrated Study. Variants, Weapons, Equipment. Hersham: Ian Allan Publishing.
• Waiss, W. (2014). Legion Condor. Berichte, Dokumente, Fotos, Fakten. Band 2. Aachen: Helios.
• Weiss, D. (n.d.). Falcon’s Messerschmitt Bf 109 Hangar. Retrieved November 1, 2018, from: https://me109.info/
• Widfeldt, B. (1983). The Luftwaffe in Sweden 1939-1945. Boylston: Monogram Aviation Publications.
• 12 O’clock High. Luftwaffe and Allied Air Forces Discussion Forum. (n.d.). Retrieved November 1, 2018, from: http://forum.12oclockhigh.net/index.php
• BV 222 C, Do 17 E, & Do 17 F Flugzeug-Handbuch.
• D. (Luft) T. 318/2; 2015/1; 2111 H-6; 2177 A-1; 2204 D-1; 2217 E-1, E-3; 2217 J; 2217 K-1; 2217 M-1; 2217 N-1; 2335 A-1.
• L. Dv. 304, 310, 350, 359, 365, 371, 374, 383, 521/1, 553/3, 553/4, 553/5, 556/2, 564.
• Werkschrift 2024 T-1, T-2; 2177 A-3; 2219 A-0.

Chapter 2:
• Archer, R. D. (1995). The Official Monogram US Army Air Service & Air Corps Aicraft Color Guide, Vol.1. Sturbridge: Monogram Aviation Publications.
• Archer, R. D., & Archer, V. G. (1997). USAAF Aircraft Markings and Camouflage 1941-1947. Atglen: Schiffer Publishing.
• Baugher, J. (n.d.). USAAS/USAAC/USAAF/USAF Military Aircraft Serials. Retrieved November 1, 2018, from: http://www.joebaugher.com/usaf_serials/usafserials.html
• Bell, D. (1979). Air Force Colors Vol.1. Carrollton: Squadron/Signal Publications.
• Bell, D. (1997). Air Force Colors Vol.3. Carrollton: Squadron/Signal Publications.
• Bell, D. (2018). Aircraft Pictorial #9. Aircraft Painting Guide Volume One. Tucson: Classic Warships Publishing.
• Dial, J. F. (1964). United States Camouflage WW II. Arlington: Scale Reproductions.
• Elliott, J. M. (1989). The Official Monogram US Navy and Marine Corps Aircraft Colour Guide, Vol.2 1940-1949. Sturbridge: Monogram Aviation Publications.
• Kilgrain, B. C. (1973). Color Schemes and Markings US Navy Aircraft 1911-1950. s.l.: self-published.
• King, J. (2002). The whole nine yards. The story of an Anzac P-40. Auckland: Reed Publishing.
• Martel, C. (1860). On the Materials Used in Painting with a Few Remarks on Varnishing and Cleaning. London: George Rowney & Co. Ltd.
• McDowell, E. R. (1998). Thunderbolt. The Republic P-47 Thunderbolt in the European Theater. Carrollton: Squadron/Signal Publications.
• Pamieri, D. (1981, July). USN Camouflage of WW2 Part 13. US Naval Aircraft Colours. Scale Models (UK).
• Smith, J. H. (1972). ANA Standard Aircraft Colors 1943-1970, Modeler’s Journal Color Chart Supplement C.3. s.l.: self-published.
• Thomas, G. J. (1983, February). True Colours. Airfix Magazine.
• Thomas, G. J. (1999). Eyes for the Phoenix - Allied Aerial Reconnaisance Operations South East Asia 1941-1945. Aldershot: Hikoki Publications.
• Whistler, R. (1969). USAAF Camouflage 1933-1969. Dover: self-published.
• AER-E-25-FZ, F-39-5 (00261) dated September 30, 1940.
• AER-E-25-HY, F-39-5, F-39-1 (010282) dated February 26, 1941.
• AER-E-2571-DMC F-39-5, VV(063183) dated October 23, 1941.
• AER-E-2571-MVS F-39-5, F-39-1 (021076) dated February 6, 1942.
• SR-2c dated January 5, 1943, effective February 1, 1943.
• AER-E-2574-MVS F-39-1 (14708) dated January 30, 1943.
• AN-1-9 dated March 1, 1943.
• AN-1-9a dated June 29, 1943.
• SR-2d Amendment 1 dated March 13, 1944, effective March 22, 1944.
• SR-2e dated June 25, 1944, effective October 7, 1944.

288 / real colors of wwii aircraft

Chapter 3:
• Barker, R. (1969). Aviator Extraordinary: The Sidney Cotton Story. London: Chatto & Windus.
• Tanner, J. (1986). British Aviation Colours of World War Two. The Official Camouflage, Colours & Markings of RAF Aircraft, 1939-1945. London: Arms & Armour Press.
• National Archives, UK.

Chapter 4:
• Hornat J., & Migliardi, B. (2006). Colours of the Falcons. Ottawa: Iliad Design.
• Бурче Е.Ф. «Маскировка ВВС ВМФ», М-Л., 1944.
• Бурче Е.Ф. «Маскировка летательных аппаратов в воздухе», М-Л., 1928.
• ВИАМ, Производственная инструкция № К17 (ЛК9) «Основные виды защитных покрытий сухопутных самолетов от коррозии», М., 1941.
• Ворожейкин А. В., “Истребители”, М., 1961., стр. 257, 264.
• Грекин А.И., Лебедев М.С., «Инструкция по ремонту самолета УТ-2», М., 1939.
• ГУ ВВС КА, «Инструкция по маскирующей окраске самолетов ВВС Красной Армии», М., 1941.
• ГУ ВВС КА, «Военные самолеты СССР», М., 1941.
• «Древесина и ее обработка в самолетостроении», М. 1941.
• Келейников А.М., Маскирующие окраски подвижных объектов», М., 1942.
• МХП СССР, «Альбом накрасок. Образцы накрасок, характеристика красок, основные физико-малярные показатели, применение красок», М., 1948.
• НКАП СССР, Инструкция по технологии лакокрасочных покрытий деталей и агрегатов машин металлической и смешанной конструкций», М., 1939.
• НКАП СССР, “Спецификация на лакокрасочные материалы” 203 АМТУ (взамен 180 АМТУ), М., 1941.
• НКАП СССР, ВИАМ, «Каталог действующих ТУ на авиационные материалы», М., 1942.
• НКАП СССР, Эксплоатационный бюллетень №60 на самолет Ла-5, «Устранение и предупреждение дефектов лакокрасочного покрытия».
• НКАП СССР, «Действующие технические условия на авиационные материалы», Выпуск 18 «Лакокрасочные материалы», М., 1943.
• НКАП СССР, «Руководство для конструкторов», т. 3, М., 1944.
• НКОП СССР, Инструкция ВИАМ №4 «Окраска металлических сухопутных самолетов», М., 1938.
• Платонов Г.П., Карпов Г.И, Полевой ремонт самолетов, М., 1943.
• Русский архив: Великая Отечественная: Приказы народного комиссара обороны СССР. т 13 (2-1), М., 1994.
• Туманов А, Маскировочная окраска, в журнале «Авиация и космонавтика» № 3 1969.
• Технические условия на авиационные лакокрасочные материалы.
• УВВС КА, «Схемы маскирующей окраски самолетов», М., 1943.
• УВВС КА, «Руководство по нанесению лакокрасочных покрытий при ремонте самолетов», М., 1944.
• УВВС КА, «Схемы маскирующей окраски самолетов», М., 1945.
• Чеботаревский В.В., Лаки и краски в народном хозяйстве», М., 1960.
• Яковлев А.С., «Цель жизни», М., 1987.
• Архив ОКБ им. Яковлева.
• РГВА, ф. 29, оп. 23, д. 348.
• из “Ведомости выполнения постановлений КО при СНК СССР по истребителям” по состоянию на 22. июля 1940 г., РГВА, ф. 29, оп. 56, д. 175, л. 246.
• РГВА, ф. 29, оп. 56, д. 183.
• РГВА, ф. 29, оп. 63, д. 30.
• РГАЭ, ф. 8044, оп. 1, д. 307.
• РГАЭ, ф. 8044, оп. 1, д. 652.
• РГАЭ, ф. 8044, оп. 1, д. 849.
• РГАЭ, ф. 8044, оп. 1, д. 952.
• РГАЭ, ф. 8044, оп. 1, д. 996.
• РГАЭ, ф. 8044, оп. 1, д. 998.
• РГАЭ, ф. 8044, оп. 1, д. 1123.
• ЦАМО, ф. 317 ИАД ПВО, оп. 1, д. 122.
• ЦАМО, ф. 4 ГИАД, оп.1, д.77.
• ЦАМО, ф. 7 ГИАД, оп. 1, д. 33.
• ЦАМО, ф. 2 ВА, оп. 4233, д. 2.
• ЦАМО, ф. 12 ВА ИАС оп. 6134, д.4.
• ЦАМО, ф 12 ВА ИАС оп. 6155, д. 2, 8, 19.
• ЦАМО, ф. НИИ ВВС, оп. 485690, д. 161.
• ЦАМО, ф. НИИ ВВС оп. 599240, д .3, д. 51.
• Запись беседы с В.В. Чеботаревским, личный архив М.В. Орлова.

Publication under the patronage of

real colors of wwii aircraft / 289

RLM-Farben is the Aircraft Branch of Farben – Kiroff – Technik, the
specialist in historic German and international paints for aircraft,
cars and other industrial goods.
The heritage of the rich German industrial culture and the
inventive genius of its chemical experts has a strong and lasting
impact up to today and fascinated the researcher and paint
manufacturer Jürgen Kiroff already as a boy.
The expertise gained over the years culminated in two
extraordinary events:
• Jürgen Kiroff was chosen by RAL gemeinnützige GmbH to
take care of its historic archive of original colors and for several
years now he has the honour to be in charge of the RAL
• Kenneth Merrick, the famous Australian ‘Father of German
Camouflage’ asked Jürgen to join him as paint adviser for
his last and most complete two volume book: Luftwaffe
Camouflage and Markings 1933-1945. The reason for this choice
of Ken Merrick is simple: he realised that further progress in
research in historic colours can only be made with a deep
understanding of the chemistry involved in the paints.

For a long time now Jürgen has been consultant and supplier of the
Deutsche Technikmuseum - DTM in Berlin.
Worldwide renown aviation experts like Prof. Dr. Dr. Holger Steinle,
the former curator of DTM aviation exhibition, Koloman Mayrhofer of
CraftLab in Austria, Jerry Crandall in the USA and Alexander Kuncze
in Bavaria appreciate the up to date know how of Jürgen and he is
in very good contact with the Norwegian Aviation Museum and the
Flugwerft Schleißheim of Deutsches Museum.
A network of experts in the chemical industry ensures access
to detailed knowledge and the ability to get the necessary raw
Jürgen Kiroff is also the speaker of the “NIL - Nürnberger
Interessengruppe Lack” the Bavarian network of paint manufactures.
Part of Jürgen’s knowledge was made available for historically
interested enthusiasts and modellers through his participation as
co-author of two recent books: Real Colors of WWII and Real Colors of
WWII Aircraft.

For you as a customer it means: You have a historian

at hand who is also a paint manufacturer.
Your benefits: 1. Choice of correct colors:
We can help to choose the correct colors for your
historic object. This is more important than most
people think: The current RAL-color range does not
match the range of historic colors, even if the name is
the same. RLM colors changed between 1933 and 1945.
Traces of the historic colour on your restoration object
are in almost all cases faded but they are often the key
to identify the original color. Farben - Kiroff - Technik
can take the uncertainty out of your choice of colors.
Correct colors are an import part of live, be it a new
car or a new dress. Give your historic object the correct
color it deserves.

2. Choice of the correct gloss:

The grade of gloss depends on the chemistry used and
this depends on the historical context, even if the color
One Re
ference did not change. In most cases it takes a deep expertise
“… A rem :
inder th to know about these details and give your historic object
Reserve e
Grand C Aircraft WON the correct look.
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United the
States. In the comparatively short period between 1933 and
It also w
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the Rep plica Aircraft the scientific progress, the changing demands due to
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4. To summarise:
We are able to identify and to produce almost any paint
and color that was used on historic German aircraft
according to your individual needs.

Our knowledge in paints will protect your warbird and

give it a long and powerful life with a perfect look!
Phone: (+34) 941 44 52 28