Deeply nerdy WWII RAF/USAAF/RAAF/Flying Tigers camouflage stuff: Flat Dark Earth Federal Standard.

A question that brought someone to this blog was “Flat Dark Earth Federal Standard”. I dunno if they got what they wanted, but its a deep, complex and somewhere between clear-eyed historical inquiry and a just plain nerdy subject.

“Dark Earth” is the name of an official British color during the 1930s and beyond. Federal Standard sounds like something reaching for US Federal Standard 595, a or b, the post 1950 standard for US government purchases, including airplanes for the military. Truth is, there isn’t a precise match between UK “Dark Earth” and either 1930s/40s A/N colors OR common FS 595 colors.

I’ve got a pointer to a nice site about FS 595 colors in another posting; here’s a great discussion of the relation between British paint (names and colors), what US manufacturers used to fulfill cash purchase and, later, Lend Lease, orders, US Army/Navy (A/N) colors compared to British colors, how airplanes made for foreign delivery were taken over by US forces or transferred from one foreign outfit to some other- French orders to the UK, UK orders to China, UK orders to USAAF.

To answer the question quickly, the best source of “Dark Earth” I know is Polly Scale Dark Earth. Testor’s Model Master Dark Earth would be my second choice. I’m sure Gunze-Sangyo offer a Dark Earth and also Tamiya, though the Tamiya won’t be called “Dark Earth” and of course, Humbroil, Xtracolor and probably Revell Germany have one too.

None are matched to a “Federal Standard” number. There is a British Standard (there’s a “BS” and Lucas joke there…) that specifies colors for Her Majesty’s Government purchases, similar to US FS 595, and no doubt there’s a Dark Earth in the standard. But 95%, or more, of “Dark Earth” references will be to 1930s-1940s RAF colors or what US aircraft built for the UK used, and the various books I look through all specify the color by name, not by some BSC531c reference number. This doesn’t mean there wasn’t one, just that I don’t know it off the top of my head.

I’ve read that Bell Aircraft had a paint supplier who’s best attempt at “Dark Earth” was redder than the British version, and that this was the color that wound up on the early model P-39s, built to British standards, that were diverted to Guadalcanal and Australia, and designated “P-400” to differentiate them from US-spec P-39s. The link above suggests that Curtis had a good match, from Du Pont’s paint division, and that P-40s with Dark Earth looked very much like UK-built planes with Dark Earth.

How well Lockheed, North American, Boeing, and others, matched to British specs would be interesting to know.

Gotta go to work, happy modelling!

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