RAF camouflage colours during WWII

Why then were Wessexes and Pumas two-tone green from the mid-90s, but not Chinooks ...

Enemy Forces 1: Can you see that Chinook?
Enemy Forces 2: What?
EF1: Can you see that Chinook?
EF2: SPEAK UP! YOU WHAT?
EF1: CAN YOU SEE THAT CHINOOK?
EF2: EH?
EF1: I SAID CAN YOU SEE THAT CHINOOK?
EF2: EH? I CAN'T HEAR YOU - THAT BIG GREEN THING IS REALLY BLOODY NOISY, ISN'T IT???
EF1: YOU WHAT?

Etc, etc...

I believe - but would have to check - that the real answer was that the two-tone was effective on the smaller airframes, but didn't appear to make an appreciable difference on the larger machines - their noise signature was, in all seriousness, something of a giveaway. Bear in mind this might be complete Arrse as I'm remembering a conversation with a mildly jolly Wokka Mate in the Bistrot du Boucher, Arras, circa 2012...
 
Enemy Forces 1: Can you see that Chinook?
Enemy Forces 2: What?
EF1: Can you see that Chinook?
EF2: SPEAK UP! YOU WHAT?
EF1: CAN YOU SEE THAT CHINOOK?
EF2: EH?
EF1: I SAID CAN YOU SEE THAT CHINOOK?
EF2: EH? I CAN'T HEAR YOU - THAT BIG GREEN THING IS REALLY BLOODY NOISY, ISN'T IT???
EF1: YOU WHAT?

Etc, etc...

I believe - but would have to check - that the real answer was that the two-tone was effective on the smaller airframes, but didn't appear to make an appreciable difference on the larger machines - their noise signature was, in all seriousness, something of a giveaway. Bear in mind this might be complete Arrse as I'm remembering a conversation with a mildly jolly Wokka Mate in the Bistrot du Boucher, Arras, circa 2012...
I'd have to agree on the two-tone on smaller frames - at about 2000m on an average Summer/Autumnal day, everything takes on a shade of grey-green, and putting two Gazelles, one in each scheme, at about 2km, the older green/black scheme was more visible.
 
Which begs the question: why are the Apaches in dark green? Along with my other pet hate: mandatory markings that are barely visible.
 
The roundels on the F35 are ridiculous.
 
Can anyone answer a question about RAF camouflage colours during WWII.

There is a lot of information about what colours were used on aircraft at different times and the particular patterns used and so on but not much on why certain changes were made.

In 1941 a change was made on fighter aircraft from the early war combination of Dark Green & Dark Earth to Dark Green/Dark Grey combination. The same change was also made to the colours of specific bomber aircraft (the Mosquito is referred to the Air Ministry Order making the changes) but not to heavy bombers or night bombers.

I can see why dark grey and dark green would be a better combination of colours because there is actually very little brown visible from the air so my question is why not make the change for all aircraft?
by 41 you had the Fighters and light bombers crossing the channel for rodeos, rangers and circuses and brown shows up well over water. same happened for Malta based Spits getting toned down
 
Early Coastal Command types were finished in dark earth/green. It was pretty short-lived and the dark Earth was changed to sea grey, which was reduced to upper surfaces only as the war progressed - white being surprisingly effective against the murk of the north Atlantic.
 
There's some legalese that says you have to be able to identify which side the participant is on, it doesn't say how hard you have to look to be certain.
Yep.
Which, in these days of hundred mile range Air to Air missiles, seems a tad silly.
On the other hand, this SAAF mirage was a photorecon job, used over Angola and other places, and apart from the a tail number, had no markings.
Deniability, see?
Likewise the B26s allegedly used by the alleged CIA airforce flown by Cubans in Zaire were 'black', literally and figuratively.

1517349-large.jpg
 

Cold_Collation

LE
Book Reviewer
I've written a few lines on this before.

A lot of the colouring of aircraft might be counterintuitive to some but there's good science involved.

Much of it is obvious, some less so. For instance the green/brown of RAF fighter aircraft in early WWII was a lot to do with the altitudes they might be encountered at. A light grey Spitfire might still be viewed from above, and it made sense to blend with the countryside of Kent, for example. Remember that in general WW2 aircraft habitually flew at lower altitudes than now.

The Bombers were painted matt black underneath but later experiments showed that gloss would have been better - and not just from the point of view of not shaving several useful miles an hour off the speed.

Coming forward, there was an article a million years ago (okay, in the 80s) in RAF News about the new AD scheme on Phantoms and Lightnings.

Actually, Lightnings first as that's an interesting one. Highly polished and colourful markings were a product of peacetime and, believe it or not, the threat of actual conflict receding. Lightnings used out in RAFG were painted a dark Forest Green for a while. Counterintuitive again but then look at the tactics the pilots used: spooling around at lower altitudes, using the radar to look up, then zoom-climbing to put in an attack. It made sense against a background of the German forests.

The change to 'all-over' grey for both Lightning and Phantom involved several shades, to counter-shade for shadow. They may look one colour but they're not.

The key consideration for aircraft is reflectance. As noted, at distance colours merge. You want something that will merge with the horizon and at that point a camouflage pattern isn't much use (actually, I'll come back to this...). That 'single grey' paint scheme which is actually composed of several shades is then rather useful. For merge and haze think of Pink Panther Land Rovers. Experimentation was also done with Yehudi lights to lighten darker areas, and we may yet see the return of something similar in sixth-generation aircraft (intelligent skin coatings, and all that).

Hemp was chosen for Nimrods in part because time on the flight-line was a primary background. Hemp was seen to be 'at least as effective' as the previous white/grey scheme when in the air, so was adopted across the fleet.

The ground-pounders kept the blue-grey upper surfaces, which was wrapped onto the lower surfaces as the risk of 'flashing' and been seen from above by interceptors was deemed greater than the protection apparently afforded against ground threats by having white undersides.

The perceived threat drives colour choices and schemes. Hence the ground-attack fleet turning up in later years in light greys (via the pinks of GW1), as the threat from the ground was seen as greater than from above, and also because with the advent of smart weaponry and stand-off in order to protect against the more potent ground threat, aircraft operate less often at extreme low level. The ground-pounders are now up at medium level where light grey is rather useful.

The current helicopter fleet would once have been seen in greens or something similar to the ground-attack fleet. Now, light grey because the primary threat is from the ground - or that distance/merge thing.

Closer in, disruptive patterns have utility. Those Soviet-style jagged patterns are of less use in a BVR context - however sexy they look. They are useful close-in in terms of confusing the eye as to rate and direction of turn but... well... if you're dogfighting in a modern context things have already gone wrong.

Wildcat is in that two-tone light/dark grey because of the likely background/threat (from the ground) and to help confuse the eye.

That's a very, very potted commentary.
 
later, US aircraft with no paint were polished for the 'go faster' effect.

My race car always went quicker when it had just been washed and polished.


Sort of, it was also quicker to produce and saved money and time.
The move to all aluminium was mainly driven by the fact the USAAF was going looking for a fight from 1944 - you want the opposition to see you and come up for a punch up. Helmut can't really shuffle his feet and claim 'didn't see them Herr Oberst' when a formation of bright shiny Mustangs flies over.
 
Which is probably the rationale behind this rather spiffy dazzle scheme.

20210505_104157.jpg


Re vehicles. ISTR there was a manual for camouflage, but can't remember whether it was incorporated into the crab paint 'bible' (AP119A 0601A) or not. I never consulted it and used the Jedi force instead: 2/1 green to black ratio with artistic license.
 
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Cold_Collation

LE
Book Reviewer
Which is probably the rationale behind this rather spiffy dazzle scheme.

View attachment 570698

Re vehicles. ISTR there was a manual for camouflage, but can't remember whether it was incorporated into the crab paint 'bible' (AP119A 0601A) or not. I never consulted it and used the Jedi force instead: 2/1 green to black ratio with artistic license.
There certainly were manuals. Re. the Lancasters earlier, there was slight variation in the painting on the tail sections but if you stand back off it then it's essentially exactly the same scheme on each aircraft

Snippet from history: the manual for the Hunter stipulated that no camouflage line was to cross an inspection panel, in case one was taken off one aircraft and put onto another.

And no, I can't remember where the hell I got that from but it's true (and probably the same for many other types...).
 
I do recall someone asking several years back about why RAF/FAA planes in the far east had light blue roundels, later modified to include an almost US like bar through the middle but didn't get chance to reply that any plance flying around with a red circle on any surfaces was asking for trouble, still, given that you wouldn't be able to see these until close up it speaks volumes for US recognition skills of the age (which also seems to be lacking in modern times!).

tcsfire3a.jpg


*Yes, I know it's a model, but there are not many good photos of planes at that time.
 
The white bars were an FAA thing, given that the Brit carriers were integrated with US formations. It was a recognition aid for US gunners who weren't familiar with non-US types like Seafires. The kiwis used them too - along with white empennages (along with the RAAF). SEAC didn't bother with them, but did use white fin and wing stripes.
 
Wildcat is in that two-tone light/dark grey because of the likely background/threat (from the ground) and to help confuse the eye.

<snip>
I always thought the blue & grey shading on the USN/Marines planes looked pleasing to the eye but the overall gloss Midnight Blue was my particular favourite.
f7f3p_andreaskauert.jpg

There was also the curious half black & white undersides to British aircraft in the early war years. I always wondered about this as a kid and thanks to Google now know it was an early attempt at making the aircraft easy to identify by friendly observers. Kind of makes some sense when you are flying over your own territory on home defence.
iliad72009reviewbf_3.jpg
 

Cold_Collation

LE
Book Reviewer
I always thought the blue & grey shading on the USN/Marines planes looked pleasing to the eye but the overall gloss Midnight Blue was my particular favourite.
View attachment 570751
There was also the curious half black & white undersides to British aircraft in the early war years. I always wondered about this as a kid and thanks to Google now know it was an early attempt at making the aircraft easy to identify by friendly observers. Kind of makes some sense when you are flying over your own territory on home defence.
View attachment 570753
Markings are arguably superfluous on modern military aircraft. Recognition at the types of typical ranges will likely be electronic of some description.
 
The half black scheme also had the unintended consequence of causing confusion regarding the attitude of the a/c to an opponent - not unlike the false canopy on F-18s. A simple but effective expedient.

20210505_132452.jpg
 

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