Francis Gabreski and his ground crew in the background of his P-47D-25-RE Thunderbolt s/n 42-26418, RAF Boxted, June 1944.

RAF Camouflage on WW2 USAAF Aircraft

USAAF Camouflage Reference Contents:

RAF camouflage schemes used on US aircraft

When the United States joined the ranks of nations embroiled in World War II, a curious transformation took place in the United States Army Air Forces: many of its aircraft donned striking resemblances to Royal Air Force camouflage schemes. These adaptations included versions of the Temperate Land Scheme, characterized by Dark Earth and Dark Green over Sky, as well as the Desert Scheme, featuring Middle Stone and Dark Earth with the undersurfaces painted in Azure Blue.

Among the aircraft predominantly sporting these patterns, the P-40 stood out. As the primary US fighter in service during the Pearl Harbor era, it had already tasted combat through the American Volunteer Group, affectionately known as the 'Flying Tigers,' in China, where they proudly showcased the Temporary Land Scheme colors.

Interestingly, numerous aircraft initially intended for lend-lease were originally painted in authentic RAF schemes, only to find themselves adopted by the USAAF following the Pearl Harbor attack. Moreover, some USAAF units stationed in the UK, particularly at RAF Duxford and RAF Boxted, opted for actual RAF paints in their aircraft. Duxford-based aircraft had Dark Green over Sky camouflage, while those from Boxted were painted according to the Fighter Day Scheme which consisted of Ocean Grey and Dark Green over Medium Sea Grey. In these adaptations, there was usually little effort to replicate the precise RAF patterns, resulting in a captivating array of diverse and often irregular USAAF camouflage styles.

Initially, US equivalent paints adhered to DuPont standards designed to mirror RAF colors. Within the Temperate Land Scheme, 71-009 Dark Earth proved somewhat lighter than the RAF counterpart, while 71-013 Dark Green came impressively close to the UK hue. The 71-009 Dark Earth color aligns well with FS 30219, while 71-013 Dark Green closely matches FS 34096, though some experts have suggested FS 34079 as a suitable alternative for Dark Green due to its striking similarity. 71-035, the second Dark Earth variant, came later and was much darker, closer to the RAF color and also less faded. 71-021 Sky, however, has remained a subject of debate. While DuPont's standard closely resembled the RAF original, it appeared perceptibly lighter, leaning towards FS 35670, a non-military shade. The nearest military match would be FS 35622, colloquially known as 'Duck Egg Blue,' but even that was notably lighter. In color photographs, Sky often seemed to take on various gray tones, including a light tan grey (closest to FS 36622) and a sky gray. This divergence could stem from efforts to emulate Sky Grey rather than Sky. Whether these differences reflect genuinely distinct paint shades or simply variations in photo coloration remains a topic of discussion. Notably, most color photos of US versions of Sky featured factory-fresh aircraft, while most RAF Sky photos portrayed aircraft in the field, typically dirtier and weathered. Furthermore, factory-fresh RAF Sky photos frequently showcased early Hurricanes and Spitfires, which might have been painted in Sky Blue. In black and white, this would appear lighter and create more pronounced contrast with the topside colors, similar to the DuPont hues.

Turning to the Desert Scheme, 71-069 Middle Stone closely matched the RAF version in brightness, making them almost indistinguishable in black and white photos. However, U.S. Middle Stone lacked the mustard undertone found in its RAF counterpart and closely aligned with FS 30266. When paired with the later 71-035 Dark Earth, it would have boasted significantly greater contrast compared to the RAF originals or when aaplied together with 71-009. Conversely, 71-062 Azure Blue closely resembled the RAF shade, albeit being slightly darker. This color has been likened to FS 35231.

The introduction of newer ANA colors prompted US factories to adopt designated ANA equivalents in lieu of DuPont matches. In many instances, these ANA equivalents diverged substantially from their RAF counterparts. While 71-035 Dark Earth, Middle Stone, Sky, and Azure Blue received their respective ANA successors, the colors used in the Day Fighter and Temperate Sea Scheme did not. Instead, both schemes utilized the same equivalents for their greens and grays. ANA 613 Olive Drab, similar to FS 33070, corresponded to the greens, while ANA 603 Sea Grey, closely aligned with FS 36118, represented the grays. Though these hues bore a reasonable resemblance to the Temperate Sea Scheme, they fell notably short of mirroring the Day Fighter Scheme: Olive Drab proved too dark and brown, while Sea Grey lacked the distinctive blue tint of Ocean Grey. Additionally, the US equivalent to Medium Sea Grey was ANA 602 Light Grey. Although often matched to FS 36440, it was believed to be somewhat darker and unsuitable as a Medium Sea Grey equivalent. It was soon replaced with ANA 621 Dark Gull Gray, which shared similar brightness but leaned somewhat warmer. Just as USAAF aircraft might have utilized Dark Olive Drab No. 41 before transitioning to ANA 613, it's possible that only a few late-WWII aircraft ever employed it, if at all.

MAP - DuPont Color Comparison (1940-1943)

Color Designation MAP DuPont FS
Dark Green (1)
71-013 34083
Dark Earth (1)
71-009 30140
Dark Earth (2)
71-035 30118
Middle Stone
71-069 30266
Sky (1)
71-021 35622
Azure Blue
71-062 35231
This comparison table illustrates the difference between the original RAF colors (MAP), their American counterparts (DuPont), and modern FS equivalents.

MAP - ANA Color Comparison (1943-1945)

Color Designation MAP ANA FS
Middle Stone
ANA 615 30266
Dark Earth (2)
ANA 617 36118
Dark Green (2)
ANA 613 33070
Ocean Grey
ANA 603 36118
Medium Sea Grey (1)
ANA 602 36440
Medium Sea Grey (2)
ANA 621 36231
Sky (2)
ANA 610 34424
Azure Blue
ANA 609 35231
Dark Slate Grey
ANA 613 33070
Extra Dark Sea Grey
ANA 603 36118
This table illustrates the later ANA colors compared to the original RAF colors (MAP) and their modern FS counterparts.

Guide to RAF Camouflage Colors used on USAAF Aircraft

  • 71-021 / ANA 610 Sky: The MAP Sky color was a light greenish gray. The DuPont shade was lighter than the original and more in line with the MAP Sky Blue color. The closest modern analog to DuPont 71-021 is believed to be FS 35622. If considering the later ANA 610, it became closer to the RAF Sky color. The best match of ANA 610 among modern colors is FS 34424.
  • 71-062 / ANA 609 Azure Blue: Compared to its British counterpart 71-062 Azure blue is darker and lacks the purple tint typical of the British color. With the advent of ANA, the color is virtually unchanged. The closest modern analog of US Azure Blue is considered to be FS 35231.
  • 71-069 / ANA 615 Middle Stone: the version of DuPont Middle Stone has not changed significantly with the introduction of the ANA standard. The closest modern analog to US Middle Stone is FS 30266. Compared to the original UK version of this color, it has a warmer ochre tint, while the MAP color is more mustardy.
  • 71-009 Dark Earth: The earlier version of US Dark Earth was significantly lighter than its RAF counterpart and looked more contrasting to 71-013 Dark Green. A close analog of this color is FS 30219, which is widely represented in model paint ranges. In addition, FS 30219 is the closest analog to ANA 628 Sierra Tan, added to the range by a later amendment to ANA Bulletin No. 166 of 12 Dec 1943.
  • 71-035 / ANA 617 Dark Earth: However, the later US version of Dark Earth was even darker than the earlier version, as well as the original MAP Dark Earth color. The closest modern equivalent is FS 30118, which is not rare in the paint range.
  • 71-013 Dark Green: Unlike the others, the close analog of this shade, FS 34083, is not as popular among model paint makers. However, FS 34079 is relatively close to FS 34083 and can be easily found. Both FS are labeled as forest green, used by the Air Force and Army respectively. It is worth noting that FS 34079 is the successor to the ANA 631 Forest Green color.
Original Paint 71-021
ANA 610
Sky
71-062
ANA 609
Azure Blue
71-069
ANA 615
Middle Stone
71-009

Dark Earth (1)
71-035
ANA 617
Dark Earth (2)
71-013

Dark Green
Scheme

Temperate Land

Lower Upper Patches Early Upper Patches Late Upper Patches
Desert Lower Upper Patches Upper Patches Early Upper Patches Late
Arcus Colors - 521 524 528 522 -
Model colors can be used to paint WWII U.S. Army Air Force aircraft delivered by Lend-Lease or operated overseas in cooperation with the RAF.

Photo Reference to USAAF Aircraft Painted in RAF Camouflage

Robert T. Smith standing next to AVG P-40 Tomahawk China November 23 1941
Robert Smith's P-40 from the Flying Tigers group in China illustrates early Temperate Land camouflage consisting of 71-013 Dark Green and 71-009 Dark Earth over 71-021 Sky. Although US Sky is slightly different from the MAP Sky shown in other photos, the upper surface camouflage looks quite similar to the original UK colors.
RAF camouflage on Douglas Boston 1941
Another good example of the Temperate Land camouflage applied to this Douglas A-20 Havoc. The prominent contrast in the colors of the upper surface camouflage indicates that an earlier shade of 71-009 Dark Earth was used in this case. The 71-021 Sky color used for the underside looks significantly lighter than its RAF counterpart, though, as in the picture above.
North American Mustang Mk.IA at the North American Aviation factory Inglewood October 1942
This early North American P-51, in addition to the British "Mustang Mk. Ia" designation, also received British camouflage applied directly at the Inglewood, CA factory. Color 71-021 has a distinct shade of duck egg green on the lower surfaces, close to the British original color. It is worth noting that the P-51 standing behind is painted Dark Olive Drab No. 41. The difference between DuPont's 71-013 Dark Green and Dark Olive Drab No. 41 is obvious. The latter looks darker and duller compared to the Dark Green paint.
Jerry Carver stands in front of Bill Skinner's 308th Squadron Spitfire Lonesome Polecat Pomigliano Italy 1944
As can be seen from the non-standard demarcation line, this Spitfire Mk. VIII, flown by Bill Skinner of the 308th USAAF Squadron, is repainted in a Desert scheme consisting probably of the DuPont analogs Dark Earth, Middle Stone, and Azure Blue.
Colonel Francis Stanley 'Gabby' Gabreski  along with his ground crew in front of P-47D Thunderbolt
Although Francis Gabreski's P-47 was painted in original RAF colors rather than its American counterparts, the camouflage pattern was unique and different from the standard RAF day fighter pattern.
P-47D-23-RE 42-26293 'Belle of Belmont' 63rd FS
Also painted in original RAF colors from British stocks, another P-47 from the 56th Fighter Group is also painted in original RAF colors, as are many others from RAF Boxted. However, unlike Gabreski's aircraft, its camouflage pattern is more similar to the original Day Fighter Scheme.

References to US Lend Lease Camouflage:

  • 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)
  • Rodrigo Aguilera, The World Wars.net

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