Tag Archives: US Navy

US Navy and Royal Navy Military Model Airplane Colors

Another post that ought to be a page- with more research. Lets start like this and improve then.

A lovely on-line reference is

1) US Navy and US Marines and US Air Force – Today – Tactical fighters and fighter-bombers and electronic warfare planes tend to appear in multiple gray colors- it used to be the Navy was all about Light Gull Gray, 36440 (flat) or 26440 (semi gloss), and the USAF about Ghost Gray Light and Dark, but its bit more mixed up now. The transport planes like C-5, C-17, KC-10, KC-135, C-130, etc, tend to be one or two grays, 36118 Gunship Gray (a darker tone) being very popular for transports. Generally muted national markings, some bright tail or nose art. Some examples:

FA-18E & F, F-15 Air Superiority, (FS595b)

36320 Dark Ghost Gray, – MM Acryl 4761, Polly Scale 505374, Gunze H053, Revell 36374, Humbroil 128, Vallejo 047

36375 Light Ghost Gray, – MM Acryl 4762, Polly Scale 505376, Gunze …., Revell ….Humbroil 127, Vallejo 050, 990

F-15 <darker colors- air-ground low altitude?> FS595b:

36176 Dark Gray, – MM Acryl 4754, Polly Scale 505232, Gunze …., Revell …., Humbroil …., Vallejo ….

36375 Medium Gray, – MM Acryl …., Polly Scale 505330, Gunze …., Revell …., Humbroil …., Vallejo ….

F-16 Three tone, mix of semi-gloss and glossy:

36118 Dark Sea Gray, Flat, – MM Acryl 4752, Polly Scale 414182; 505382, Gunze … Humbroil …., Revell, Tamiya XF24, Vallejo 053, 868

26118 Dark Sea Gray, Satin, – MM Acryl …., Polly Scale …., Gunze … Humbroil 125, Revell, Tamiya …., Vallejo ….

36270 Neutral Gray, Flat, – MM Acryl 4757, Polly Scale 505384, Gunze … Humbroil …., Revell, Tamiya XF24, Vallejo 048, 870

26270 Neutral Gray, Satin, – MM Acryl …., Polly Scale 505258 Gunze … Humbroil 126, Revell, Tamiya …., Vallejo ….

36375 Light Ghost Gray, – MM Acryl 4762, Polly Scale 505376, Gunze …., Revell ….Humbroil 127, Vallejo 050, 990

2) US Navy, 1970s, 36440 Light Gull Gray overall (F-14s, F4s, RF-8s) or on top side with glossy white on the bottom. muted black or gray national markings.

3) US Navy, 1960s, late 1950s. 26440 semi-gloss Light Gull Gray or 16440 glossy Light Gull Gray on topside, glossy white on bottom. Bright color national markings, squadron markings

4) US Navy, Mid 1950s, Korean War, late 1940s. Glossy Sea Blue overall. Grumman airplanes often omitted the Insignia Blue disc and outline on their national markings and just featured white stars and bars against the Sea Blue.

5) US Navy, late-war to VJ day: fighters: F4U, F6F, F4F, F7F (deployed but never in action) overall glossy sea blue OR dark (gull?) gray over white (some shiny white, some flat white) under and sides for anti-submarine patrol.

6) US Navy, 1943-1945, “Three tone” for all combat types, flat sea blue over intermediate blue over non-specular white. Undersides of folding wings which would face up when folded were intermediate blue. Intermediate blue was a lot like the blue-gray which had been the top-side color early in the war… Generally this was the scheme for the Pacific and Operaiton Torch, landings in Italy, etc.

OR anti-submarine patrol colors (Generally meaning Atlantic deep water patrols) dark Gull Gray over whites.

7) US Navy, 1941 to 1943: Blue gray (similar to Intermediate blue from later years) over light gray (similar to 36440 light gull gray). From early 1941 to mid 1942 the national markings included red and white striped rudders, and red spots on the middle of the white stars. The red was eliminated in the Pacific by June, 1942, to prevent confusion with Japanese markings.

8) US Navy, 1940?-1941: Overall light gray- 36440 Light Gull Gray or ANA-6** Light Gray.

9) US Navy Pre-war: Aluminum laquer fuselage, chrome yellow wings.

National markings and squadron markings are more convoluted and its best to follow what your references show. Operation Torch markings included a yellow surrounding ring on the star marking. This was after the red dots were removed/overpainted in the middle of the stars. Red was used briefly as an outline for the star-and-bar when the bars were first added, but was replaced by insignia blue surrounding.

10) The Royal Navy marked all its airplanes for Operation Torch with the correct yellow-surround-blue-circle-white-star USN markings- so Sea Hurricanes and Seafires, in otherwise standard Royal Navy Slate Gray/Sea Gray/Sky or Ocean Gray colors, would carry the US marking instead of UK red/white/blue roundels. The hope was the Vichy French might give US markings a pass but attack if they saw UK markings… it isn’t clear that this worked. Red/White/Blue tail flash on RN planes was retained with the “US” markings, as were squadron and individual aircraft numbers and letters.

Surface Tension, paint codes, yellow zinc chromate using Tamiya paints, RAAF, Bell, thinning Vallejo & MM Acryl paints

Incidentally, if you enjoy or disagree with or otherwise respond to what I write about I’d love to know it- please feel free to comment, replay, email, post satirical videos on YouTube, etc.

A new week brings a new list of search tags:

Surface Tension & effect on waterbased

Water is a ‘polar’ molecule- that is, the distibution of electrons on the surface of a water molecule is uneven.


The single electron that notionally belongs to each of the two hydrogens spends more time over with the one oxygen and less time with the hydrogen nucleus. Result is that the hydrogen nucleus, positive charged, is *somewhat* exposed, and the oxygen atom, having all eight of its outer valence electron spots filled, is *somewhat* negatively charged by the extra time the extra electrons stay there. The contrast with hydrocarbons is marked- hydrocarbons have their carbon atoms surrounded by hydrogens evenly and often symetricly (methane, ethane, benzene, longer, fully saturated ‘enes’.) The result is that the film strength of water next to air is high, while the strength of hydrocarbon surface films is much less. Detergent molecules have a polar end and a non-polar end- they’re long, skinny, things, and one end is very happy in water, the other in hydrocarbons. In plain water, or water based paint, the polar ends co-mingle with the water molecules and the non-polar ends co-mingle with each other… producing a fraction of non-polar behavior- lower surface tension.

The downside of mixing detergent with your water based paint is that detergent dries very slowly, and when dry, can be reconsituted by adding water. So your paint job will be more or less water sensitive, unless you top-coat it.

This surface tension issue is why its even more important with water based paints to emphasise smooth and even coats and not get wound up about covering with one coat. The surface tension is trying to pull the paint you smoothed down into small droplets with the least possible surface area for their volume.

Grey paint, color correcting (“Gray”… … I do the same thing)
Was this about tinting or toning? White and a color is a ‘tint”, black and a color is a “tone”. Adding a gray to a color must have a name, but I can’t think what it is. Mixing colors into gray is as much fun, or not, as mixing any other colors…

WWII Paint Codes



USA: There were a number of paint code and standard systems. For example, the official Olive Drab, for the upper surfaces of US Army Air Corps/Air Force airplanes, was Olive Drab No. 9 before the war, Dark Olive Drab 41 for a time and then Olive Drab ANA 613. Each of these is a different actual color, and the war-time formulations of 613 (and possibly 41) faded quickly, to more than one, distinctive, color.

There is a whole history of what colors were specified before and then by Army/Navy/Air Corps (ANA) numbers and how the standard changed over the years, but the basics are:

Army (Air Corps/Air Force) warplanes were
Olive Drab (No. 9, 41 later, perhaps, ANA 613) over
Neutral Gray. (43, later, perhaps ANA 603 Sea Gray)

Two other colors,Medium Green (42) and
Sand (?, later ANA 616)
were authorized for areas where Olive Drab didn’t do the job.

Azure Blue, ANA 609, was authorized for undersides in the North African theatre.

Medium Green was also used to make splotches on the leading and trailing edges of Olive Drab airplanes, applied to the wings, vertical and horizontal stabalizers and control surfaces, to break up the outline.

Later in the war, no camouflage was required, and natural metal, aluminum dope on fabric surfaces and aluminum laquer in the case of the ultra-smooth P-51 “Laminar” wings, were the standards. Flat black and olive drab were used for anti-glare panels ahead of pilot’s windscreens or in other places the pilot could see their own airplane.

Bronze Green and Dull Dark Green were codified in the middle of the war, 1942-43, for interiors, in addition to the ANA 611 color created as a target for zinc chromate primer to be tinted to with black (and possibly aluminum paste) for UV resistance. A/N 611 paint wasn’t made, as such, primer was tinted by the airframe builders to match the standard to a greater or lesser degree.

Bell Aircraft used a Bronze Green of their own specification throughout the war. Grumman used a light gray of their own specification, similarly.

The US Navy used
USN Blue-Gray, M-485 over
USN Light Gray, M-455, until the end of 1942.

In 1943, the standard for USN airplanes was changed to a 3 color system:
Sea Blue (ANA 606, Semi-gloss, top of flying surfaces, ANA 607, non-specular, top of fuselage)
Intermediate Blue (ANA 608) for the sides,
Flat Insignia White,(ANA 601) for underside of airplane

OR Dark Gull Grey (ANA 621 ) over glossy and flat whites for anti-submarine patrol planes, primarily in the Atlantic.

Late in the war, Navy fighters were specified to be painted overall glossy Sea Blue, and this was extended to ALL USN war planes during the post-war period.

ANA 611 was created as a target for zinc chromate primer to be tinted to with black (and possibly aluminum paste) for UV resistance. ANA 611 paint wasn’t made, as such, primer was tinted to match this.

A terrific discussion can be found at the International Plastic Modelers, Stockholm, site:

Published references listed by IPMS Stockholm include

  • Dana Bell – World War II US Aircraft Interior Colors, Fine Scale Modeler October 1997
  • Dana Bell – Air Force Colors, vol. 1-3
  • Robert D. Archer – The Official Monogram US Army Air Service & Air Corps Aircraft Color Guide
  • John M. Elliot – The Official Monogram US Navy and Marine Corps Aircraft Color Guide
  • Doll, Jackson, Riley – Navy Air Colors, Vol. 1, 1919-1945.
  • Dave Klaus – Color Cross-Reference Guide
  • Bert Kinzey – In Detail and Scale
  • Dana Bell, Lee Kolosna, William Reece, Larry Webster – various postings and articles

I own all of the above except Klaus’ book and can recomend them. Dana Bell’s USAAC books and the Doll, Jackson and Riley US Navy books are the most cost-effective, Jack Elliot’s four part USN and Marines reference is clearly a labor of love and manages to tell the official story without losing track of what was happening out in the real world. Archer and Archer are exhaustive but focus on the official version, not what was actually happening. . Kinsey gets in a few words about Bronze Green in his P-39 book.

Dana Bell has a terrific picture in one book showing 6 USAAC B-25s, each carrying a unique combination of camouflage, US national markings, RAF red-white-blue fin flashes and yellow or white aircraft numbers. Perhaps one of them matched the official orders du-jur, but paraphrasing him, “No two USAAC aircraft ever looked exactly the same”. A well considered opinion, well supported.

RAF WWII Paint Codes.

According to the Camouflage and Markings pamphlets from the 1960s, the WarPaint books and SAMI guides, the RAF used named paints in WWII. Common colors were:

Interior Gray Green. More ‘institutional’ than US Interior Green, it was a fuel proof-er for non-metalic structure.

Insignia White, Blue, Yellow, Gray. All about what you’d expect.

British Insignia Red, also called Brick Red. A dark red that didn’t compromise camouflage as much as the real thing.

British “Temperate Land Scheme” was:

Dark Earth & Dark Green upper surfaces
Aluminum paint, Aluminum with one wing Black and one White, Sky, Sky with one black wing, for undersurfaces

North African airplanes replaced Dark Green with “Mid Stone”, a yellow-beige, and used an Azure Blue underside, some versions darker and richer than others.

From late 1941, as air combat moved to higher altitudes, the Temperate scheme we re-worked to a Day Fighter Scheme, with the Dark Brown replaced by Ocean Gray or Mixed Gray, while the underside was done in Sea Gray, Medium.

Propeller tips and the wing leading edge outboard of the gun(s) were warning yellow.
RAAF Camouflage

There were three RAAF colors, similar but not exactly like the pre-war British Temperate scheme- a light blue for underside, a dark brown and a dark green (“Foliage Green”) for disruptive upper patterns. Polly Scale make them pre-mixed and ready to use. RAAF airplanes in WWII didn’y carry any red, including red ‘roos or red circles in roundels, etc, during the war. The result was roundels, fin-flashes, etc, in two tone blue – a pretty light blue in place of the white, and the blue carreid forward from RAAF.

Bell Aircraft Paint Specs + WW2

Bert Kinsey’s P-39 Aircobra In Detail and Scale has a discussion of Bell’s in-house Bronze Green, with an FS 595 number recomendation. I’ll try to remember to post it.

And the usual raft of thinning/airbrushing Testors Model Master Acryl/Vallejo paints, Bay Area hobby shops, train & RC specialists, etc. One about DuPont paints and WWII- at least I’ve already put up a link to all that I know about that subject!

british interiour wwii color silver

Any chance they got, from 1919 up to the later 1950s, the RAF would paint their airplanes with Aluminum paint. It wasn’t that they liked the ‘faux bare-metal’ look, it was the guaranteed opacity of the aluminum pigment- paint something Aluminum and ZERO U.V. light is going to get through and degrade it. And the Aluminum, while essentially gray in visible light, is lighter than most RAF Camouflage colors and thus reduced airframe temperature on sunny days. Thus, Aluminum was the default color for RAF airplane exteriors, and was used inside landing gear wells and doors, along with wheels, struts, etc. All painted with Aluminum paint, lacquer or dope depending on the underlying material. In the fullness of time, landing gear doors and wells usually became the color of the underside of the airplane, easier and neater that way, but gear legs stayed Aluminum until the Vulcan’s glossy black and the light grays/whites of the later 1960s. I’d expect Hunters and Lightnings would have Aluminum gear wells and door interiors, but that F-4K and Ms would have the same glossy white the USN, USMC and USAF got.

Of course, any USN planes operated by RAF or RN would likely keep their USN colors- overall Glossy Sea Blue for the P2V Neptunes, AEW TBMs and A1D Skyraiders in the 1950s, light gray, “interior green’ tinted zinc chromate primer, Bronze Green for WWII aircraft. (Its true Vought used zinc chromate primer with *indian red* pigment as an in-house spec… it was an odd, sorta-salmon, color… but RN mostly got Brewster-built F?B-1s which most people think are F4U-1s

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