The Northwest African Air Force Aircraft Camouflage

The Northwest African Air Force Aircraft Camouflage

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Northwest African Air Forces (1943)

On 10 March 1943 a new order was given for the HQ Northwest African Air Forces introducing a number of new camouflage schemes using Army Corps of Engineers colors. It is believed that this responded to the beefed up Luftwaffe presence in Tunisia and its success in attacking US airbases during the Battle of the Kasserine Pass. The order called for a general topside camouflage scheme of Field Drab No. 303 and Olive Drab No. 319 (only if the aircraft was not painted in OD 41 already). FD 303 was similar to RAF Dark Earth and said to approximate FS 30118. OD 319 was somewhat in between OD 41 and the later ANA 613, resembling a dark olive brown. It does not match well with any FS color, the closest approximation being a darker and greener FS 34088. Undersides in the general scheme were a mix of Light Blue No. 307 and white in a 1:8 ratio.

The order also gave a number of special schemes to be used depending on the terrain type where the aircraft was based, these being red, yellow, green, and light sand, the latter having two versions depending on whether the terrain was all sand or spotted. These special schemes incorporated numerous other colors, mostly earthly tones, from the USACE palette. These additional colors along with their approximate FS numbers are Earth Brown No. 302 (FS 30099), Earth Red (FS 30117), Earth Yellow No. 312 (FS 30257), Sand No. 306 (FS 33448), and Light Green No. 321 (FS 34258). The order also provided various color drawings for the major combat aircraft types in use. However, the schemes defined for each aircraft type differed from those proposed under the general and special schemes. It is unclear (to me) whether these were intended to be the basic colors used for each aircraft or merely examples; the photos appear more consistent with the former especially since the basic scheme of FD 303/OD 319 would be nearly indistinguishable. In the event, it is believed that only A-20, B-25, and P-40 aircraft ever sported them, and in some cases like A-20, in widely different patterns.

The following table shows the main colors used in the general and special schemes.

Camouflage Upper Lower
General      
FD 303 OD 319 LB / W (1:8)
Red      
EY / ER (1:1) EB 302 LB / W (1:8)
Yellow      
EY / FD (2:1) EB 302 LB / W (1:8)
Green      
LG 321 OD 319 LB / W (1:8)
Light Sand      
Sand 306 Sand 306 LB / W (1:8)
Light Sand (Spotted)      
Sand 306 FD 303 LB / W (1:8)



The following table shows the main colors used in the general and special schemes.

Aircraft Type Upper Lower
A-20      
Sand 306 OD 41 NG 43
B-17      
Sand 306 OD 41 NG 43
B-24      
Sand 49 OD 319 LB / W (1:8)
B-25      
Sand 49 OD 319 NG 43
P-38      
Sand 49 OD 319 LB / W (1:8)
P-40      
EY / ER (1:1) EB 302 LB / W (1:8)

 

Color Guide to NAAF Aircraft

  • Olive Drab No. 319: Corps of Engineer colors are not widely available, with Olive Drab No. 319 being an exception given its use on US Army tanks. 
  • Sand No. 306: Sand is closest to FS 33448 which in turn is very similar to FS 33446, the CARC Tan used on modern US tank desert camouflage which is matched in parenthesis and question mark below.
  • Others: Freshly painted, the Light Blue / White (1:8) mix would have been close to white, and even the lightest blue on the FS palette (FS 35550) would need to be lightened further. The Earth Yellow / Earth Red (1:1) mix is closest to FS 30215 with the Earth Yellow / Field Drab (2:1) mix being similar but with a slight olive hue. All other colors should be close to their FS approximations and can be found in a number of ranges given that they are similar to post-war MERDC colors. Light Green No. 321 is also close to Interior Green ANA 611.
No.306 Sand No.319 Olive Drab
   
Scheme
NAAF (Mar 43) Upper Camo Upper Camo
Paints
Gunze Aqueous - -
Gunze Mr. Color - -
Humbrol - -
Model Master (2136)? -
Revell - -
Tamiya - -
Vallejo Model Air (71.122)(?) -
Vallejo Model Color - -
AKAN - -
AK Interactive (AK 122) (?) -
AK Real Colors (RC079) (?) -
AMMO by Mig (A.MIG-025) (?) -
Colourcoats (ACUS01) ARUS03
Hataka - -
Lifecolor (UA 107) UA 220
Mission Models (MMP-039) (?) MMP-024
Mr. Paint (MRP-80) (?) -
Xtracolor (X812) (?) -
Xtracrylix (XA812) (?) -
Arcus - 518

Photos of NAAF Aircraft

NAAF B-25C 1943 This B-25 still carries the Torch-style national insignia but the camouflage pattern is suggestive of the NAAF scheme (OD 319/Sand 49).
NAAF A-20 47BG 13014 These A-20s of the 47th Bombardment Group used completely unique patterns that did not match the type-specific guidelines but most likely used the colors (OD 41/Sand 306)
NAAF A-20 over Africa Another good photo of the wild A-20 camouflage during this period.

References:

  • Archer, Robert D. and Archer, Victor G., USAAF Aircraft Markings and Camouflage 1941-1947, Schiffer Publishing (1997)
  • Bell, Dana, Air Force Colors Volume 1 1926-1942, Squadron/Signal Publications (1995)
  • Bell, Dana, Air Force Colors Volume 2 ETO & MTO 1942-1945, Squadron/Signal Publications (1980)
  • Elliot, John M., The Official Monogram US Navy & Marine Corps Aircraft Color Guide Vol 2 1940-1949, Monogram Aviation Publications (1989)
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