Aircraft Color Schemes, U.S. Army Aviation

 

 

Introduction

The US Army Aviation is the part of the US Army in charge of its aviation assets including light aircraft and helicopters, and which branched out of the USAAF after its transformation into the USAF. Aircraft have typically utilized camouflage based on the USAF but the mass introduction of helicopters in the post-war period resulted in color schemes different from that of the other branches. Given the very small number of aircraft used by the US Army, this page focuses exclusively on helicopters.

In the post-war era, the he USMC has used the Federal Standard system, formally known as FED-STD-595 and introduced on March 1st, 1956. Each color the palette is identified by a five-digit code. The first digit refers to the sheen of the paint, these being gloss (1), semi-gloss (2), and matt (3). The second digit refers to the color, these being brown (1), red (2), yellow (3), green (4), blue (5), gray (6), all others including whites, blacks, and metallics (7), and flourescents (8). The last three digits are unique for each color and typically go from darker to lighter. The inital palette included 358 colors though strangely enough, some colors only officially exist in one or two out of the three sheens. Yet again, the widely used color, Olive Drab, has become a source of confusion in the post-war era given the different shades of its matt version used by aircraft (FS 34087) and its semi-gloss and gloss versions used by vehicles (FS 24087/14087). This was an error that was only revised in 1983 with a revision to FED-STD-595A.

The Federal Standard system has gone through numerous revisions, starting with FED-STD-595A in January 1968 (437 colors), FED-STD-595B in January 1994 (611 colors), and FED-STD-595C in January 2008 (650 colors). On February 17th, 2017, the Federal Standard system was replaced by the Aerospace Material Specification Standard 595, or AMS-STD-595. It is largely equivalent to the Federal Standard system and most existing colors have been carried over with identical numbers. Given the availablilty of color chips and digital matches with RGB and Hex values, FS and AMS colors can be considered highly accurate though the digital samples below should be taken only as general reference and can vary considerably even with small changes to monitor settings.

 

Contents:

External Links:

Post-war / Korean War / Vietnam War schemes (1947-1970s)

US Army helicopters used the same basic camouflage scheme throughout much of its first four decades of existence, based on an overall pattern of Olive Drab FS 34087 that was only interrupted by occasional anti-glare panels in Black FS 37038 as well as identifications bands (typically in the tail boom) in Insignia Yellow FS 13538. Aircraft on training duties would also have sections painted in International Orange FS 12197.

As mentioned in the introduction, there is a huge degree of confusion over the post-war shade of Olive Drab, whose predecessor was the wartime ANA 613 and (from January 1950) FS 3412 from the short-lived TT-C-595 standard and which was the shade in use during the Korean War (possibly some still carrying ANA 613). However, the introduction of FED-STD-595 in 1956 resulted in a different pigment mix that was not a direct match to its ANA and TT-C-595 equivalents. FS 34087 is largely accepted to be both lighter and browner than ANA 613. Furthermore, it was also lighter and browner than its semi-gloss version used on US Army vehicles, FS 24087. This was the result of an administrative mistake given that in theory, Federal Standard colors with different first digit should vary only in their sheen. Eventually (decades later), the error was picked up and FS 34087 was eliminated completely from the FS palette, the shade being redesignated FS 34088 in FED-STD-595B. At the same time, FS 24087 (as well as FS 14087) was redesignated FS 24086 (and FS 14086). Although ANA 613 does not have a direct FS match, it has been closely compared to FS 33070. Likewise, 3412 has been compared to the wartime Lustreless Olive Drab 319 used by the US Army Corps of Engineers.

Note that the US Marine Corps, despite using many of the same helicopters as the US Army, were painted initially Glossy Sea Blue and from the 1950s onward, in a gloss Field Green FS 14097. This is a much greener color than FS 34087 and would be very easy to distinguish between two helicopters parked together although as is often the case, helicopters in combat conditions faded and ended resembling each other far more than when freshly painted.

Paint guide: Any post-1956 US Army helicopter should not be particularly difficult to build given that FS 34087 is very widely available, and most paint ranges have various Olive Drab shades of which at least one covers the post-war version. However, generic Olive Drab shades like Tamiya (XF-62) and Humbrol (66 and 155) typically cover wartime shades and are therefore inaccurate for a post-war helicopter. More problematic would be Korean War helicopters which may have come in ANA 613 (also widely available) or the more complicated 3412 given that the TT-C-595 has been largely erased from memory. If one assumes that Lusterless Olive Drab 319 is a close match, then there are a few makers including Lifecolor (UA 220) and Mission Models (MMP-024).

 

  ANA 613 ANA 613 (!) ANA 506 ANA 508
(FS 33070) FS 34087 FS 13538 FS 12197
Olive Drab Olive Drab Insignia Yellow International Orange
       
Schemes
Basic (pre-1956) Overall   (ID bands) (ID bands)
Basic   Overall (ID bands) (ID bands)
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous H325 H325 H309 H305
Gunze Mr Color C325 C325 C309 C305
Humbrol 129 129 116 125
Model Master 1730 1730 1710 1723
Revell - - - 174
Tamiya (X-20) (X-20) - (XF-24)
Vallejo Model Air 71.121* 71.121* 71.294 71.097*
Vallejo Model Color 70.986* 70.986* 70.893 70.868*
AK Interactive AK-2051 AK-2051 AK 2101 AK-2144
AK Real Color RC-220 RC-220 RC-027 RC-244
AMMO by Mig A.MIG-241 A.MIG-241 A.MIG-206* A.MIG-204
Hataka HTK-048* HTK-048* HTK-016 HTK-031
Lifecolor UA 025 UA 025 UA 001 UA 022
Mission Models MMP-063 MMP-063 MMP-058 MMP-084
Mr Paint MRP-98 MRP-98 MRP-101 MRP-40
Xtracolor X137 X137 X110 X130
Xtracrylix XA1137 XA1137 XA1110 XA1130

 

Photos:

Immortalized in the series M*A*S*H, this H-13 Sioux is painted on what is likely ANA 613 or 3412.
By the time of the Vietnam War, FS 34087 was the standard Olive Drab color on helicopters like the iconic UH-1 Huey, shown here in action.
This OH-6 prototype shows the Insignia Yellow tail bands that were common in Army helicopters.
A nice, clean shot of a S-53 with training markings in International Orange.

 

Helo Drab scheme (Late 1970s-Current)

US Army helicopters began adopting a darker drab paint beginning in the late 1970s, which became known as US Army Helo Drab FS 34031. This is a confusing color as it can change shade in different lighting conditions, looking either as a very dark green, khaki, or gray. US Helo Drab has since been the standard color seen in all US Army helicopters, notably those that were introduced in the 1980s like the AH-64 and UH-60 which have worn this color throughout their entire service lives with minimal variation. An exception to this color is the CH-47 which is described below.

Paint guide: Helicopter colors don't get much love among paint manufacturers, and US Helo Drab is not an exception: aside from Model Master, it has not been covered by the traditional manufacturers although Tamiya's Khaki Drab XF-51 is not too far off the mark. The newer ranges have been more favorable although even so, far from universal.

 

  FS 34031
US Army Helo Drab
 
Schemes
Basic Overall
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous -
Gunze Mr Color -
Humbrol -
Model Master 2024
Revell -
Tamiya (XF-51)
Vallejo Model Air -
Vallejo Model Color -
AKAN -
AK Interactive -
AK Real Color RC-229
AMMO by Mig -
Hataka HTK-067
Lifecolor -
Mission Models -
Mr Paint MRP-174
Xtracolor X153
Xtracrylix -

 

Links:

 

Photos:

US Army Helo Drab helps give the AH-64 Apache its menacing appearance.
Subject of innumerable loony conspiracy theories, the "black helicopters" (UH-60 Blackhawks) aren't actually black though they may very well be repainted before the impending UN/FEMA takeover.
Even those helicopters operating in desert conditions retain the Helo Drab color, like this CH-47 Chinook. Chinooks were later repainted in Woodland Sage.

Gulf War schemes (1991)

Like the USMC, the US Army also devised ad hoc camouflage schemes for the 1991 Gulf War, although with less variation that its Marine counterparts. The desert color used is US Army Sand FS 30277, which is slightly darker and with an olive tint compared to US Marine Sand FS 33711 which was used on USMC helicopters. In practice Most of the time the entire aircraft was painted sand although in many cases, there remained pieces (like troop compartment doors) that retained their original US Army Helo Drab. Nevertheless, there is confusion over whether this is the correct sand shade, with other possibilities being Dark Sand FS 33303 (used on the A-10 experimental 'Peanut' scheme) or CARC Tan FS 33446 (the basic desert color of US Army/USMC tanks). The three colors, in combat conditions, would probably be difficult to distinguish, with Dark Sand having an olive tint, and CARC Tan slightly more beige. There is certainly noticeable variation in the colors seen on photographs.

Paint guide: US Army Sand relatively well represented, though none of the traditional paint ranges have it in acrylic. It is not always known as 'US Army Sand' but as long as the FS number matches, it should be good. For those inclined to use Dark Sand, this is one of the most difficult paints to find: only Vallejo Model Color has it in its range. A close approximation would be the Dunkelgelb RAL 7028 light base used in some modulation sets (these are included in the paint chart in parenthesis). CARC Tan is relatively well avialable among the newer paint ranges but is often known as 'US Armor Sand' or 'US Desert Sand'.

 

  FS 30277 FS 33303 FS 33446
US Army Sand Dark Sand CARC Tan
     
Schemes      
Basic Overall    
Alternative (?)   (Overall) (Overall)
Color matches      
Gunze Aqueous - - -
Gunze Mr Color - (CMC04) -
Humbrol 187 - -
Model Master 1704 - 2136
Revell - - -
Tamiya - - -
Vallejo Model Air 71.138 - 71.122
Vallejo Model Color 70.988 70.821 -
AKAN 2024 - -
AK Interactive - (AK-007) AK-122
AK Real Color RC-084 - RC-079
AMMO by Mig - (A.MIG-903) A.MIG-025
Hataka HTK-210 - -
Lifecolor UA 019 (UA 249) -
Mission Models MMP-086 - MMP-038
Mr Paint - - MRP-80
Xtracolor - - -
Xtracrylix - - -

 

Links:

 

Photos:

Gulf War US Army Sand was likely mixed in theater and may have resulted in different shades like this AH-1 and OH-58 from different units show.

 

Woodland Desert Sage scheme (2009-Current)

To date, all US Army helicopters use US Army Helo Drab with the notable exception of the CH-47F transport. In 2009, a US Army study concluded that a new paint was needed which would provide ideal camouflage properties in a single color for operations in various environments. The color chosen was a chemical agent resistant coat (CARC) version of FS 34201 which became known as Woodland Desert Sage. This FS color matches that used by the USAF for its SIOP scheme used on SAC bombers during the 1970s and 80s and which is generally referred to as SAC Bomber Tan. Woodland Desert Sage varies considerably in tone depending on lighting but is best described as a somewhat olive tan or khaki that can lean towards green or yellow in different photos.

Paint guide: For modelling purposes Woodland Desert Sage is identical to SAC Bomber Tan which is what FS 34201 is usually referred to. It is not the most widely available color given that it was only used in the SAC SIOP scheme.

  FS 34201
Woodland Desert Sage
 
Schemes
Basic Overall
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous -
Gunze Mr Color -
Humbrol -
Model Master 1792
Revell -
Tamiya XF-49 (?)
Vallejo Model Air 71.023*
Vallejo Model Color -
AKAN 2047
AK Interactive -
AK Real Color -
AMMO by Mig -
Hataka HTK-069
Lifecolor UA 039
Mission Models MMP-097
Mr Paint -
Xtracolor X119
Xtracrylix -

 

Photos:

This photo shows Woodland Desert Sage closest to its actual FS color match.
In different lighting conditions it can look greener or, as in this case, more sand-like.

 

Interiors

All US helicopters have had the same interior colors during the post-war period. Like aircraft, helicopters were initially painted with ANA 611 Interior Green, with the instrument panels typically in ANA 515 Black. From 1953 onward, cockpits were painted Dark Gull Gray FS 36321 as were interiors like troop compartments, although items such as seats as well as the floor and ceilings could be other colors. However, the introduction of night goggles from around the 1970s onward resulted in cockpits being painted Black FS 37038. This has since been the standard cockpit color of all helicopters, with troop compartments remaining FS 36231.

Paint Guide: Cockpits tend to look lighter when photographed and it is usually a good idea to contrast certain sections of the cockpit with a lighter overall black like NATO Black or Tire Black.

 

  ANA 611 ANA 621 ANA 604
FS 34151 FS 36231 FS 37038
Interior Green Dark Gull Gray Black
     
Schemes
Pre-1953 Cockpit / Interiors    
Early   Cockpit / Troop area  
Late   Troop area Cockpit
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous H56 H56 H12
Gunze Mr Color C366 C366 C33
Humbrol 144 144 33
Model Master 1720* 1720* 1749
Revell - - 08
Tamiya XF-18 XF-18 XF-1
Vallejo Model Air 71.299* 71.299* 71.057
Vallejo Model Color 70.903* 70.903* 70.950
AKAN 2004 2009 (1048)
AK Interactive AK-2054 AK-2054 AK-735
AK Real Color RC-235 RC-235 RC-001
AMMO by Mig A.MIG-228 A.MIG-228 A.MIG-046
Hataka HTK-027 HTK-027 HTK-041
Lifecolor UA 045 UA 045 LC 02
Mission Models MMP-071 MMP-071 MMP-047
Mr Paint MRP-136 MRP-136 MRP-171
Xtracolor X125* X125* (X012)
Xtracrylix XA1125* XA1125* (XA1012)

 

Photos:

This USAF H-19 from the 1950s shows the ANA 611 cockpits and interiors that were the norm until the end of the Korean War.
Early Hueys still featured the Dark Gull Gray cockpits common with aircraft. Later Hueys went all-black.
This AH-1S shows the all-black cockpits that are now the norm on all US helicopters and which are optimized for night vision.
Troop compartments like that on this CH-47 are painted in Dark Gull Gray although all the different equipment can be a myriad of colors.

 

Paint Charts

Federal Standard FED-STD-595B

        TT-C-595 ANA
  FS 12197 International Orange ID marks 1205 ANA 506
  FS 13538 Insignia Yellow ID marks 1310/1315 ANA 508
  FS 30277 US Army Sand Camo (Gulf War) - -
  FS 33070 (!) Olive Drab Camo (pre-1956) 3412 (!) ANA 613
  FS 33303 Dark Sand Camo (Gulf War ?) - -
  FS 33446 CARC Tan Camo (Gulf War ?) - -
  FS 34031 US Army Helo Drab Camo (Current) - -
  FS 34087 Olive Drab Camo (post-1956) 3412 (!) ANA 613 (!)
  FS 34151 Interior Green Interiors (pre-1953) 3430 ANA 611
  FS 34201 Woodland Desert Sage Camo (CH-47F) - -
  FS 36231 Dark Gull Gray Interiors (post-1953) 3615 ANA 621
  FS 37038 Black Cockpits (current) 3725 ANA 604

 

 

Last modified: 17 April 2019