Aircraft Color Schemes, U.S. Air Force

 

 

Introduction

The US Air Force became an independent service in 1947 and for much of the next decade retained the schemes being used in the late part of World War II, using the Army and Navy Aircraft (ANA) system that was originally introduced in September 1943. By and large, most combat aircraft were left in natural metal finish until the reintroduction of camouflage schemes during the Vietnam War.

On March 1st, 1956 the US introduced the Federal Standard system, formally known as FED-STD-595. 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. Notoriously, Olive Drab was a different color altogether in the semi-gloss version used by the US Army on tanks (FS 24087), and the matt version used by the USAAF and on helicopters (FS 34087), this being an error that was later corrected. Previous to the FS system being introduced, the US published Federal Specification TT-C-595 on January 12th, 1950 which superseded the ANA system with a four-digit palette. This was short-lived and as a result, is not referenced in this page.

The Federal Standard system has goine 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:

 

Tactical Air Command (1947-1960s)

The Tactical Air Command was formed in 1946, a year before the USAF was established, and continued the late World War II tradition of leaving their aircraft unpainted in their natural metal finish or Aluminium FS 17178. This was only interrupted by the use of Olive Drab ANA 613/FS 34088 or Black ANA 604/FS 17038 for anti-glare purposes in front or around the canopy though this was not univeral (for example, this was uncommon on Korean War-era F-86s). Night fighters and tactical night bombers also followed the wartime tradition of being overall black. Despite the blandness of this scheme, most aircraft were even more colorful than their wartime predecessors, with flamboyant squadron and wing markings. The adoption of the TAC SEA scheme for the Vietnam War in the 1960s ended this. The first Federal Standard 595 range was introduced in 1956, before this aircraft still used the wartime ANA system. There were numerous FS matches for Olive Drab, with FS 34088 being the particular match for ANA 613, not the often confused FS 34087 which was even lighter and browner. In any case, by 1956 few aircraft used Olive Drab at all.

Paint guide: Any aluminum or silver (preferably lacquer) will do for the NMF. Post-war aircraft generally had many different colored NMF panels so mixing standard aluminum with dark and white aluminum is recommended. There are few paints that uniquely match FS 34088 so use of any Olive Drab that matches with late war ANA 613 should be acceptable.

 

    ANA 613 ANA 604
FS 17178 FS 34088 FS 17038
Aluminum Olive Drab Black
     
Schemes
Default Overall Anti-glare  
Alternative Overall   Anti-glare
Night     Overall
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous (H8) (H52) H2
Gunze Mr Color (C8) (C12) C2
Humbrol 56 (155) 21
Model Master 1781 (2050) 1747
Tamiya XF-16 - X-1
Vallejo Model Air 71.062 71.016* 71.057
Vallejo Model Color - 70.887* 70.861
AK Interactive - (AK-2204) (AK-719)
AK Real Color RC-020 - (RC-001)
AMMO by Mig A.MIG-194 (A.MIG-240) A.MIG-032
Hataka HTK-078 (HTK-018) HTK-041
Lifecolor LC-74 UA 222 (LC 01)
Mission Models MMM-003 MMP-025 (MMP-047)
Mr Paint MRP-3 (MRP-138) (MRP-5)
Xtracolor X142 (X112) (X012)
Xtracrylix (XA1216) (XA1112) (XA1012)

 

Photos:

Korean War aircraft like these F-84s were finished in natural metal like their late World War II predecessors, and were equally flamboyant.
Night fighters like this F-82 also remained in black like they did in World War II.
TAC aircraft retained their natural metal finish well into the Vietnam War as this pair of F-100s in 1966 show next to one already using the SEA scheme in the background. The NMF was so dulled out in combat that it almost appears gray.

 

Strategic Air Command (1947 - 1960s)

The Strategic Air Command was formed in 1947 and as was standard USAF practice at the time, aircraft were mostly left unpainted in their natural metal finish of Aluminum FS 17178 although there were variations of this theme. B-29s during the Korean War, which performed both day and night bombing, were frequently seen with undersides and sides painted Black FS 17038. This occasionally extended to cover the entire rear fuselage including the fin. During the late 1950s, many SAC bombers began to have their undersides painted in Anti-Flash White (also known coloquially as 'anti-atom' white) as it was believed this would offer protection against nuclear blasts by reflecting the thermal radiation. In 1965, Operation Arc Light began, which was the first use of B-52s in Vietnam as conventional bombers. These had the undersides painted black. Soon thereafter, B-52s adopted either the SAC SIOP or SAC SEA schemes described below which ended the use of NMF on USAF strategic bombers. Note that during this period most SAC bombers had black anti-glare paint in front of the canopy or around it and some also had their radomes fully or partly painted black.

Paint guide: Anti-Flash White has been sometimes matched with FS 17925 which is another version of Insignia White but is closer to pure white than the more commonly used FS 17875. Pictures show anything from a bright white to an ivory-colored white. Again, due to scale effect any gloss white will do.

 

  FS 17178 FS 17925 FS 17038
Aluminum Anti-Flash White Black
     
Schemes
Basic Overall   Anti-glare
Basic (B-29 Korea) Upper   Lower / Sides
Anti-Flash Upper Lower Anti-glare
Arc Light (B-52) Upper   Lower
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous (H8) (H1) H2
Gunze Mr Color (C8) (C1) C2
Humbrol 56 (22) 21
Model Master 1781 2144 1747
Tamiya XF-16 (X-2) X-1
Vallejo Model Air 71.062 71.001 71.057
Vallejo Model Color - 70.842 70.861
AK Interactive - (AK-738) (AK-719)
AK Real Color RC-020 (RC-004) (RC-001)
AMMO by Mig A.MIG-194 (A.MIG-047) A.MIG-032
Hataka HTK-078 (HTK-101) HTK-041
Lifecolor LC-74 LC 51 (LC 01)
Mission Models MMM-003 (MMP-001) (MMP-047)
Mr Paint MRP-3 (MRP-4) (MRP-5)
Xtracolor X142 X405 (X012)
Xtracrylix (XA1216) - (XA1012)

 

Photos:

Most SAC aircraft were in NMF up until the Vietnam War, but many B-29s in Korea wore black undersides which sometimes extended to cover the fin.
A B-47 sporting anti-flash white undersides.
From Operation Arc Light onward, B-52s in Vietnam changed the anti-flash for black though they would soon adopt SIOP/SEA schemes instead.

 

Air Defense Command (1950s-1980s)

The Air Defense Command was a special command of the USAF tasked with defending the continental air space of the US, and existed between 1946 and 1980 in some guise or another. It included all purpose-built interceptors of the mid-Cold War era like the F-101, F-102 and F-106 as well as large number of F-4s in the final years of the command's existence. ADC aircraft worse a specific single-tone scheme of the aptly named ADC Gray FS 16473, a light gray with a subtly warm tone. Radomes were painted Black FS 17038 as were anti-glare panels in front of the canopy, the paint often curving down into the radome.

Paint guide: Most modelling paints attempt to match FS 15042 which would be accurate for a wartime shade but not for the postwar version. No paint company currently makes a postwar-specific ANA 623. Gunze Mr Color C323 (which is unfortunately only available in a box set) comes close despite billing itself as the wartime shade. Mr Paint's version of GSB (marked as both ANA 606/623) appears closer to the post-war version as well.

 

  FS 16473 FS 17038
ADC Gray Black
   
Schemes
Default Overall Radome
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous - H2
Gunze Mr Color - C2
Humbrol - 21
Model Master 1731 1747
Tamiya - X-1
Vallejo Model Air 71.335* 71.057
Vallejo Model Color 70.907* 70.861
AK Interactive AK-2146 (AK-719)
AK Real Color RC-221 (RC-001)
AMMO by Mig - A.MIG-032
Hataka HTK-045 HTK-041
Lifecolor UA 041 (LC 01)
Mission Models MMP-102 (MMP-047)
Mr Paint - (MRP-5)
Xtracolor X138 (X012)
Xtracrylix XA1138 (XA1012)

 

Photos:

An F-102 in ADC Gray. Radomes were typically painted black.
ADC Gray was also used on many F-4s that were transferred to the Air National Guard.

 

TAC SEA Scheme (1960s-1980s)

Shortly after the Vietnam War began, the USAF recognized the need to create a camouflage scheme appropriate for the combat conditions in the theater. The result was the SEA (South-East Asia) scheme that became the default camo scheme for virtually all US Tactical Air Command aircraft that operated during the war. The SEA scheme consisted of an underside of Camouflage Gray FS 36622 with the upper fuselage painted in a pattern of Dark Tan FS 30219, Green FS 34102, and Forest Green FS 34079. The pattern was mostly consistent for each aircraft type although being applied freehand, had slight variations across each individual aircraft. Aircraft used for night operations as well as the F-111 had the Camouflage Gray replaced with Black FS 17038, but unlike earlier night aircraft these retained the three topside colors. Although the SEA scheme was most well known for its use in Vietnam, the USAF quickly adopted it elsewhere as well, even in Europe, and in the case of aircraft like the F-111 up until their retirement in the 1990s. There are also numerous photographs that appear to show SEA scheme aircraft with an unidentified light green color instead of Dark Tan but this is known to have happened as a result of bad paint batches.

Paint guide: You can't go wrong with Gunze here, all shades are quite accurate. Camouflage Grey is probably the trickiest to match; it should be a warm light gray with a very subtle hint of duck egg green. There is more leeway with the other colors, particularly since in combat SEA aircraft looked quite worn. Dark Tan is often pictured as a light tan, possibly due to lighting or fading. And as mentioned above, it was not unknown for aircraft to be painted with bad paint patches that produced a light green instead. This has occassionally been matched to FS 34201 or RAF Sky. As usual, a slightly lightened black should be preferred for the undersides, such as NATO Black, in order for weathering to look more appropriate.

 

  FS 36622 FS 30219 FS 34102 FS 34079 FS 17038
Camouflage Gray Dark Tan Green Forest Green Black
         
Schemes
Basic (Day) Lower Upper Camo Upper Camo Upper Camo  
Basic (Night)   Upper Camo Upper Camo Upper Camo Lower
Alternative (A-7)   Wrap Camo Wrap Camo Wrap Camo  
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous H311 H310 H303 H309 H2
Gunze Mr Color C311 C310 C303 C309 C2
Humbrol 28 118 117 116 21
Model Master 1733 1742 1713 1710 1747
Revell - - - - X-1
Tamiya - - - - X-1
Vallejo Model Air 71.296 71.125 71.289 71.294 71.057
Vallejo Model Color 70.883* 70.874*   70.893 70.861
AKAN 2023 2021 2003 2002 (1048)
AK Interactive AK-2104 AK-2103 AK-2102 AK-2101 (AK-719)
AK Real Color RC-254 RC-225 RC-083 RC-027 (RC-001)
AMMO by Mig A.MIG-226 A.MIG-202 A.MIG-004 A.MIG-206* A.MIG-032
Hataka HTK-039 HTK-012 HTK-021 HTK-016 HTK-041
Lifecolor UA 021 UA 015 UA 002 UA 001 (LC 01)
Mission Models MMP-095 MMP-066 MMP-028* MMP-058 (MMP-047)
Mr Paint MRP-104 MRP-103 MRP-102 MRP-101 (MRP-5)
Xtracolor X140 X102 X116 X110 (X012)
Xtracrylix XA1140 XA1102 XA1116 XA1110 (XA1012)

 

Photos:

A trio of Vietnam War 'Thuds' with SEA scheme in an alternative pattern. FS 30219 tended to fade considerably in the field compared to the greens, and very quickly.
Non-SAC F-111s wore SEA camo (with black rather than FS 36622 undersides) regardless of where they were based until their retirement in the 1990s.
Gunships like this AC-119 had black undersides in a pattern remniscient of Korean War B-29s.
Bad batches of FS 30219 made some F-4s look like they carred a lime green. In some other photos, color balance is to blame for a similar effect. It was not uncommon to see some aircraft sporting good and bad batches simultaneously.
In what would be the first of many departures from the norm, the A-6D originally went from a standard SEA pattern to a wraparound scheme, omitting the underside FS 36622.

 

Links:

 

SAC SIOP & SEA Schemes (1960s-1980s)

The Single Integrated Operational Plan was the US's general plan for nuclear war during much of the second half of the Cold War. Strategic Air Command aircraft adopted what has been known as the SIOP scheme which was akin to a strategic version of the SEA scheme, used primarily on B-52s and FB-111s. Most B-52s that were used over Vietnam used this scheme which consisted of an underside of Insignia White FS 17875 and a topside pattern of SAC Bomber Tan FS 34201, SAC Bomber Green FS 34159, and Forest Green FS 34079. It is possible that some early FB-111s used Camouflage Gray FS 36622 as the underside color but this must have been quickly changed to Insignia White as most photos of aircraft in SIOP schemes conclusively point to the latter being used. Some B-52s in the SIOP scheme have been pictured with Radome Tan FS 33613 which was not a color used frequently by the USAF.

It should be noted that not all B-52s used during the Vietnam War used the SIOP scheme and instead used a SAC-specific version of the tactical SEA scheme. This B-52-specific SEA scheme used Black FS 17038 as the main underside color, extending along the sides as well as the fin and replaced Dark Tan with SAC Bomber Tan and Green with SAC Bomber Green for the topside camouflage.

Paint guide: Vietnam War era SAC schemes are difficult to reproduce given that few paint manufacturers produce SAC Bomber Tan / Green. Vallejo makes an equivalent green but it's tan does not match exclusively to the FS number which suggests that it might be slightly inaccurate. Mr Paint also has a SAC Bomber Green which is labelled with a different FS color (34127). Strangely enough, Tamiya XF-49 and XF-65 might be close enough matches.

 

  FS 17875 FS 34201 FS 34159 FS 34079 FS 17038
Insignia White SAC Bomber Tan SAC Bomber Green Forest Green Black
         
Schemes
SAC SIOP Lower Upper Camo Upper Camo Upper Camo  
SAC SEA   Upper Camo Upper Camo Upper Camo Lower / Sides
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous H316 - - H309 H2
Gunze Mr Color C316 - - C309 C2
Humbrol (22) - - 116 21
Model Master 1745 1792 1793 1710 1747
Revell          
Tamiya (X-2) XF-49 (?) XF-65 (?) - X-1
Vallejo Model Air 71.279* 71.023* 71.329 71.294 71.057
Vallejo Model Color (70.820) - - 70.893 70.861
AKAN   2047 2016 2002 (1048)
AK Interactive AK-2052 - - AK 2101 (AK-719)
AK Real Color RC-222 - - RC 027 (RC-001)
AMMO by Mig (A.MIG-047) - - A.MIG-206* A.MIG-032
Hataka HTK-043 HTK-069 - HTK-016 HTK-041
Lifecolor (LC 51) UA 039 UA 059 UA 001 (LC 01)
Mission Models MMP-104 MMP-097 MMP-098 MMP-058 (MMP-047)
Mr Paint MRP-99 - (MRP-249) MRP-101 (MRP-5)
Xtracolor X141 X119 X118 X110 (X012)
Xtracrylix XA1141 - - XA1110 (XA1012)

 

Photos:

A typical SIOP-colored B-52s. This camo was used into the 1980s until replaced by Euro I.
FB-111s in SAC service also sported the SIOP scheme.
Some B-52s used an alternative scheme which replaced white with black, similar to the SEA gunship scheme. Confusingly, this scheme is also known as SEA despite the fact the topside colors were the SIOP three-tone.

 

Links:

 

Military Airlift Command (1960s - 1980s)

Like most USAAF strategic aircraft, most MAC aircraft were painted in NMF in the 1950s and into the 1960s. Later, however, they adopted a scheme that would be used not only on MAC aircraft but also non-combat SAC aircraft like tankers. This was an elegant and very un-miltiary scheme of Insignia White FS 17875 as the topside camo over ADC Gray FS 16473 undersides as well as the upper surfaces of the wings (aside from movable surfaces like flaps). Radomes or noses were Black FS 17038 and the demarcation between 17875/16473 on the fuselage sides was highlighted by a True Blue FS 15102 line. In some aircraft like KC-10, the area around the cockpit were also occasionally painted this color. This scheme was eventually replaced by the Euro I scheme in the 1980s, but many strategic aircraft continued using it such as the RC-135.

Paint guide: Most modelling paints attempt to match FS 15042 which would be accurate for a wartime shade but not for the postwar version. No paint company currently makes a postwar-specific ANA 623. Gunze Mr Color C323 (which is unfortunately only available in a box set) comes close despite billing itself as the wartime shade. Mr Paint's version of GSB (marked as both ANA 606/623) appears closer to the post-war version as well.

 

  FS 17875 FS 16473 FS 15102 FS 17038
Insignia White ADC Gray True Blue Black
       
Schemes
Default Upper Lower / Wings Demarcation Radome
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous H316 - - H2
Gunze Mr Color C316 - - C2
Humbrol (22) - - 21
Model Master 1745 1731 2030 1747
Revell (301) - - 07
Tamiya (X-2) - - X-1
Vallejo Model Air 71.279* 71.335* - 71.057
Vallejo Model Color (70.820) 70.907* - 70.861
AK Interactive AK-2052 AK-2146 - (AK-719)
AK Real Color RC-222 RC-221 - (RC-001)
AMMO by Mig (A.MIG-047) - A.MIG-229 A.MIG-032
Hataka HTK-043 HTK-045 - HTK-041
Lifecolor (LC 51) UA 041 - (LC 01)
Mission Models MMP-104 MMP-102 - (MMP-047)
Mr Paint MRP-99 - - (MRP-5)
Xtracolor X141 X138 - (X012)
Xtracrylix XA1141 XA1138 - (XA1012)

 

Photos:

A pair of C-141s wearing the classic MAC white/gray scheme in the mid-1970s. The US Navy also used a similar scheme on many of its non-combat strategic aircraft.
A KC-10 showing the True Blue around the cockpit. The F-4Ds in this picture are also painted ADC Gray.
This scheme is still in use on some non-combat strategic aircraft like the RC-135.

 

TAC /MAC Euro I Scheme (1980s)

The European One scheme, also known as Euro I or more colloquially, the 'lizard scheme', was an attempt to create a camouflage pattern for use by tactical aircraft (mainly those used for ground attack) in the highly forested environment of Central Europe. It was initially applied to the A-10 in the late 1970, and later adopted by Spangdahlem-based F-4E and F-4G units and some A-7E units. TAC Euro 1 schemes were typically three-tone wraparound but the colors variend depending on the aircraft type. A-10s initially used a combination of Medium Green FS 34102, Dark Green FS 34092, and Medium Gunship Gray FS 36118, the later which was soon replaced by Dark Gunship Gray FS 36081 which became the standard gray for this scheme on all aircraft. In contrast, MAC aircraft retained FS 36118 as their gray. It should be noted that FS 34092 and FS 36081 are also known as Euro I Dark Green and Euro I Gray. The F-4E/G version was similar to the A-10 except it replaced Dark Green with Forest Green FS 34079. In contrast, the A-7E version was a two-tone, of Forest Green and Dark Gunship Gray. Note that the Euro I scheme was the product of extensive initial experimentation, namely on the A-10 where Dark Gull Gray (FS 36231) was the initial gray used though this was only seen in the late 1970s. Both F-4 and A-7 units would change to grays by the end of the decade but the A-10 retained the Euro I scheme into the 1990s before also switching to grays, thus making the Euro I the last ever green camouflage scheme used by any US service.

Paint guide: Gunze, Humbrol, and Model Master all reprodues all four colors of the standard Euro I scheme (not including the early A-10As) very accurately, as do most of the newer paint manufacturers.

.

  FS 34102 FS 34092 FS 34079 FS 36118 FS 36081
Medium Green Dark Green Forest Green Medium Gunship Gray Dark Gunship Gray
         
Schemes
TAC Euro I (A-10 Early) Wrap Camo Wrap Camo   Wrap Camo  
TAC Euro I (A-10) Wrap Camo Wrap Camo     Wrap Camo
TAC Euro I (F-4) Wrap Camo   Wrap Camo   Wrap Camo
TAC Euro I (A-7)     Wrap Camo   Wrap Camo
MAC Euro I Wrap Camo Wrap Camo   Wrap Camo  
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous H303 H302 H309 H305 H301
Gunze Mr Color C303 C302 C309 C305 C301
Humbrol 117 149 116 125 032
Model Master 1713 1764 1710 1723 1788
Revell - - - 174 -
Tamiya - (XF-26) - (XF-24) -
Vallejo Model Air 71.289 71.124 71.294 71.097* 71.314*
Vallejo Model Color - 70.895 70.893 70.868* 70.836 (!)
AK Interactive AK 2102 AK 2106 AK 2101 AK-2144 AK-2105
AK Real Color RC-083 RC-230 RC-027 RC-244 RC-243
AMMO by Mig A.MIG-004 A.MIG-238 A.MIG-206* A.MIG-204 -
Hataka HTK-021 HTK-056 HTK-016 HTK-031 HTK-030
Lifecolor UA 002 UA 008 UA 001 UA 022 UA 030
Mission Models MMP-028* - MMP-058 MMP-084 -
Mr Paint MRP-102 MRP-235* MRP-101 MRP-40 MRP-241
Xtracolor X116 X114 X110 X130 X129
Xtracrylix XA1116 XA1114 XA1110 XA1130 XA1129

 

Photos:

The A-10 was the first to adopt Euro I and also the last to replace it, well into the 1990s. This particular plane appears to have some patches of Olive Drab FS 34087 which was not standard on this scheme.
The Euro I scheme used on F-4s was slightly different, switching the Medium Green with Forest Green. Despite the undeniable attractiveness of this scheme, it was used only throughout the 1980s and by the time of the Gulf War, F-4Gs had switched to the Hill Gray schem.
MAC aircraft like this C-141 also adopted Euro I, with the lighter FS 36118 clearly evident.
Always the camo rebel, the A-6D used a two-tone though some aircraft did adopt the standard three-tone. The A-6D used no less than five different camo schemes in its last decade of service!

 

Links:

 

SAC Euro I Scheme (1980s)

The Euro I scheme was also borrowed by the Strategic Air Command in the 1980s albeit with differences from their TAC / MAC counterparts. The key change was the use of Green Drab FS 34086 as the sole non-gray color used, the rest of the pattern was a combination of Medium Gunship Gray FS 36118 and Dark Gunship Gray FS 36081. In all cases, Green Drab and Dark Gunship Gray were the basic wraparound camouflage colors, with Medium Gunship Gray used only on the undersides. However, in B-52s Medium Gunship Gray was applied evenly throughout the underside, interrupted only by the Green Drab wraparound (that is, Dark Gunship Gray did not extend into the lower fuselage). It is possible that some B-52s lacked Medium Gunship Gray altogether and simply used a FS 36081/34086 wraparound. The SAC Euro I scheme lasted only briefly during the 1980s. Many SAC aircraft were eventually painted overall Medium Gunship Gray gray (possibly Dark Gunship Gray initially and very briefly) which has remained the current color for all strategic bombers in USAF service today, as well as the F-15E.

Paint guide: Green Drab is a difficult color to find though wartime Olive Drab ANA 613 can be used as a passable approximation especially if it leans towards brown rather than green. Ammo by Mig, Lifecolor, and Vallejo Model Color produce Green Drab although in neither case is it a unique FS match.

 

  FS 34086 FS 36118 FS 36081
Green Drab Medium Gunship Gray Dark Gunship Gray
     
Schemes
SAC Euro I Wrap Camo Lower Camo Wrap Camo
SAC Euro I (B-52) Wrap Camo Lower Upper Camo
Current   Overall  
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous - H305 H301
Gunze Mr Color - C305 C301
Humbrol - 125 032
Model Master 1787 1723 1788
Revell - 174 -
Tamiya - (XF-24) -
Vallejo Model Air 71.292 71.097* 71.314*
Vallejo Model Color 70.830* 70.868* 70.836 (!)
AK Interactive - AK-2144 AK-2105
AK Real Color - RC-244 RC-243
AMMO by Mig A.MIG-240* A.MIG-204 -
Hataka - HTK-031 HTK-030
Lifecolor UA 106* UA 022 UA 030
Mission Models - MMP-084 -
Mr Paint - MRP-40 MRP-241
Xtracolor - X130 X129
Xtracrylix - XA1130 XA1129

 

Photos:

Dark Gunship Gray and Field Drab were both very dark colors and the demarcation lines are often hard to tell apart.
An early B-1 showing the underside FS 36118 which was lighter than the two topside colors.
Despite not being a SAC aircraft, the A-6D also adopted the scheme during its ANG years.

 

Shamu scheme (1980s)

Tanker aircraft did not switch to Euro I but it was decided to adopt a proper camouflage scheme in the 1980s given the more civilian look of the white on gray scheme that was used on MAC and non-combat SAC aircraft. The result was the Shamu scheme, named after a famous orca show from Seaworld. Like the orca, the KC-10s and KC-135s took on a dark topside color of Dark Gunship Grey FS 36081 while retaining their old ADC Grey FS 17473 undersides. It is believed that McDonnell Douglas may have used a proprietary grey that does not correspond to an FS number for the underside color of KC-10s which in some pictures looks lighter than ADC Grey. This may have been the case for KC-10s that were introduced after Shamu was implemented. The Shamu scheme was short lived, with tankers, like most strategic aircraft, adopting one-tone schemes in the 1990s.

Paint guide: This scheme should not present a problem, with perhaps a lightened up ADC Grey for late Shamu KC-10s.

 

  FS 16473 FS 36081
ADC Gray Dark Gunship Gray
   
Scheme
Basic Lower Upper
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous - H301
Gunze Mr Color - C301
Humbrol - 032
Model Master 1731 1788
Tamiya - -
Vallejo Model Air 71.335* 71.314*
Vallejo Model Color 70.907* 70.836 (!)
AK Interactive AK-2146 AK-2105
AK Real Color RC-221 RC-243
AMMO by Mig - -
Hataka HTK-045 HTK-030
Lifecolor UA 041 UA 030
Mission Models MMP-102 -
Mr Paint - MRP-241
Xtracolor X138 X129
Xtracrylix XA1138 XA1129

 

Photos:

A KC-135 in the short-lived but strangely attractive Shamu scheme. This would definitely have ADC Grey undersides.
A Shamu KC-135 refuelling a Shamu KC-10 in 1991. Note the two A-7Ds in yet another unique scheme (FS 36118/36270).

 

 

Links:

 

F-15 / Compass Ghost (1976-Current)

The F-15 has had numerous camo schemes throughout its four-decade service life. Initial F-15As came in overall Air Superiority Blue FS 35450 though this was very brief before switching in the late 1970s to a lo-viz scheme of Light Ghost Gray FS 36375 as a base with Dark Ghost Gray FS 36320 camouflage over the inner parts of most of the upper surfaces. This scheme, often known as Compass Ghost (ghost gray and compass gray being used interchangeably), lasted until shortly after the 1991 Gulf War after which some F-15s began adopting the so-called Mod Eagle scheme (see below). Note that the camo patterns differed slightly between aircraft, and radomes often faded slightly compared to the fuselage colors. In the 1990s, A-10s would also recieve an FS 36320/36375 scheme although it was a simpler pattern than that used by the F-15.

Paint Guide: Many of the newer paint manufacturers carry Air Superiority Blue, as does Gunze in its Mr Color range. Compass Ghost is a tricky combination to get right given that the difference is so subtle that both paints need to be accurate. Unfortunately, that is easier said than done. For example, while Gunze H307 matches very well with Dark Ghost Gray, H308 has a strange purple-ish tint that I think is not a good match for Light Ghost Gray. Lifecolor may be the most accurate in acrylic.

 

  FS 35450 FS 36375 FS 36320
Air Superiority Blue Light Ghost Gray Dark Ghost Gray
     
Scheme
Air Superiority (F-15) Overall    
Compass Ghost (F-15)   Base Upper Camo
Compass Ghost (A-10)   Lower Upper
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous - H308 (!) H307
Gunze Mr Color C74 C308 (!) C307
Humbrol - 127 128
Model Master - 1728 1741
Revell - - -
Tamiya - - -
Vallejo Model Air 71.332* - 71.120
Vallejo Model Color - 70.615 -
AK Interactive AK-2145 AK-2057 AK-2058
AK Real Color RC-239 RC-252 RC-251
AMMO by Mig - A.MIG-203 A.MIG-208
Hataka HTK-155 HTK-037 HTK-035
Lifecolor UA 037 UA 026 UA 027
Mission Models - MMP-073 MMP-074
Mr Paint MRP-240 MRP-38 MRP-97
Xtracolor - X136 X135
Xtracrylix - XA1136 XA1135

Links:

 

Photos:

Early F-15As worse an overall Air Superiority Blue. Thankfully it did not last long.
This is the standard Compass Ghost grey scheme. The demarcation lines between FS 36320/36375 are very subtle. Japanese F-15Js are the only Eagles that continue to use this scheme.
The A-10 also adopted FS 36320/36375 scheme after abandoning Euro I in the mid-1990s.

 

Hill Gray (1978-Current)

The Hill Gray scheme was adopted in the late 1970s as a three-tone lo-viz camo for the then-new F-16 (Hill AFB being the first station to receive them). This consisted of Light Ghost Gray FS 36375 as the underside color, with Medium Gray FS 36270 for the upper forward fuselage and fins, and Medium Gunship Gray FS 36118 for everything else. The demarcation point between FS 36270/FS 36118 curved downward from the end of the canopy though the exact position differed between aircraft. A slightly modified two-tone version was soon applied to most existing USAF F-4s (particularly F-4Gs), with Medium Gray replacing Light Ghost Gray. Notably, the outer half of the F-4's wings were left in Medium Grey. After the 1991 Gulf War, USAF F-16s switched to a two-tone scheme by replacing Light Ghost Gray with Medium Gray. However, most non-US aircraft that used the Hill Gray scheme retained the original three-tone pattern. Note that F-16 radomes were originally painted black since Medium Gray interfered with the radar beams. However, pilots complained that this made their aircraft stick out during dogfights. They were eventually painted with a special gray that is close to Medium Grey but had a habit of darkening significantly - and very quickly - in service. F-4s also had the tip of their radomes painted black.

Paint guide: All three paints are widely available. I find Gunze H305 to be highly inaccurate for FS 36118 (too light and lacks the blue-grey tint) but compensates by making an excellent radome color for F-16s. The problem of H308 having a purple-ish tint is less problematic when apired with H306 (Medium Grey) when paired with H307 (Dark Ghost Grey) but I still think Lifecolor makes the best FS 36375 on the market. Tamiya's XF-24 is spot on for FS 36118 despite not being an official match. Overall, FS 36270 is so close to a generic neutral gray that it's hard to get wrong.

 

  FS 36375 FS 36270 FS 36118
Light Ghost Gray Medium Gray Medium Gunship Gray
     
Schemes
F-16 (Early) Lower Sides Upper
F-4 / F-16 (Late)   Lower Upper
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous H308* H306 H305 (!)
Gunze Mr Color C308* C306 C305 (!)
Humbrol 127 126 125
Model Master 1728 1725 1723
Tamiya - - (XF-24)
Vallejo Model Air - 71.275 71.097*
Vallejo Model Color 70.615 70.870 70.868*
AK Interactive AK-2057 AK-2141 AK-2144
AK Real Color RC-252 RC-249 RC-244
AMMO by Mig A.MIG-203 A.MIG-211 A.MIG-204
Hataka HTK-037 A054 HTK-031
Lifecolor UA 026 UA 028 UA 022
Mission Models MMP-073 MMP-118 MMP-084
Mr Paint MRP-38 MRP-39 MRP-40
Xtracolor X136 X133 X130
Xtracrylix XA1136 XA1133 XA1130

 

Photos:

The demarcation between FS 36270 and FS 36375 is subtle but noticeable in this Gulf War F-16A which still carried the original three-tone scheme. Very early F-16As had black radomes.
This F-4G wears the two-tone Hill Gray scheme. There were slight differences between aircraft of both types in how the scheme was applied.
In the 1990s, USAF F-16s adopted a two-tone scheme (though the aircraft in the foreground appears to be carrying FS 36375 drop tanks). Note the different shades of the radome. NATO EPAF F-16s still mostly retained the three-tone with the exception of Norway (overall FS 36270).

 

Mod Eagle (1992-Current)

After the 1991 Gulf War, some F-15s began adopting the so-called Mod Eagle scheme using Aggressor Gray FS 36251 as a base and a a new Mod Eagle Gray FS 36176 as the upper camouflage color. This took place first among PACAF units shortly after the end of the Gulf War but was later adopted by the entire F-15 fleet and is the standard scheme for all USAF and ANG F-15s currently in service. It is also the standard scheme on Saudi F-15Cs as well as their Eurofighter Typhoons. Although it is officially considered a grey, FS 36176 can appear very blue, especially when recently painted, and the edges of the camo pattern are much more pronounced relative to the base than in the earlier Ghost Gray scheme with more pronounced waves as well. PACAF aircraft traditionally painted their base codes in FS 36251 whereas all other units kept them in black.

Officially, the Mod Eagle scheme is also used on the F-22. Nevertheless the F-22's metallic sheen turns the FS 36176 into a much more neutral dark grey, with no hint of blue at all. Or, as I suspect, the actual color is different: my main suspicion is that it is FS 36170, the same used on the Have Glass scheme (see below). The F-22 also has the edges of some of its surfaces painted in a lighter grey, which many consider to be FS 36375 although this is unproven. Having personally seen the F-22 at air shows, it certainly looks very dark under British overcast skies and the upper camo color did not resemble in the least the FS 36176 seen on the Lakenheath-based F-15s parked nearby.

Paint guide: The older paint lines like Gunze and Tamiya came out before the Mod Eagle and have not incorporated them into their lineups although strangely Model Master once produced them but then retired them although FS 36251 is available as an acrylic (4754). Almost all newer paint lines, however, do. Lifecolor makes a very accurate representation of both colors, and although labelled as RAF Ocean Grey, Tamiya's XF-82 is an excellent match for FS 36176 (it is far too blue for RAF Ocean Grey). As for the F-22, it is really up in the air. I would use possibly FS 36170, FS 36081 or FS 36099 instead of FS 36176 to capture the the dark grey upper camo of the F-22. The unique metallic sheen is difficult to replicate, however, and most of the best F-22 models seem to have some custom mix of metallic paint with the standard camo paints to achieve the effect.

 

  FS 36251 FS 36176
Aggressor Gray Mod Eagle Gray
   
Scheme
Mod Eagle (F-15) Base Upper Camo
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous - -
Gunze Mr Color - -
Humbrol - -
Model Master 1794 -
Tamiya - (XF-82)
Vallejo Model Air 71.274 71.273
Vallejo Model Color - -
AK Interactive AK-2142 AK-2143
AK Real Color RC-248 RC-246
AMMO by Mig - -
Hataka HTK-157 HTK-158
Lifecolor UA 034 UA 029
Mission Models - -
Mr Paint MRP-94 MRP-93
Xtracolor X132 X157
Xtracrylix XA1132 XA1157

 

Photos:

The Mod Eagle scheme is noticeably darker than the older Compass Ghost scheme as can be seen in this rare picture of both schemes together.
Despite being technically a gray, blue definitely dominates in FS 36176, particularly when freshly painted. Current F-15s also look more blue than early Mod Eagle aircraft from the 1990s.
Officially, the F-22 also uses the Mod Eagle scheme though it is clear that the darker camo color is different even when accounting for the metallic sheen. The base color does appear to be FS 36251 though it also looks different due to the optical illusion of being next to a darker grey rather than the blue-gray FS 36176.
The F-22's metallic sheen causes huge changes in both colors, as evidenced how light the inner fins and forward fuselage look compared to the upper fuselage.

 

Sources:

 

Strategic ACC / AMC schemes (1992-Current)

In 1992 the SAC and MAC were disbanded, with the SAC's combat aircraft (B-1, B-2, and B-52 bombers) going to the new Air Combat Command (ACC) while the MAC's transport aircraft and the SAC's tankers going to the new Air Mobility Command (AMC). As became the norm after the end of the Cold War, these aircraft were grayed up in their entirety, with the ACC adopting an overall Medium Gunship Grey FS 36118 while the AMC adopted an overall AMC Gray FS 36173, which had previously not been used on any other major camo scheme and which has been matched closely to the World War II era Neutral Gray No. 43. An addition to the ACC strategic scheme is the F-15E, notwithstanding that it is a tactical aircraft.

Paint guide: Almost all paint ranges carry both of these colors. NG 43 can be used as a substitute for FS 36173 and consequently, Tamiya XF-53 matches well too. Be wary of Gunze for FS 36118 as it is too light and neutral but Tamiya XF-24 makes a great match.

 

  FS 36173 FS 36118
AMC Gray Medium Gunship Gray
   
Scheme
ACC (Strategic)   Overall
AMC Overall  
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous - H305 (!)
Gunze Mr Color - C305 (!)
Humbrol 156 125
Model Master 2035 1723
Tamiya (XF-53) (XF-24)
Vallejo Model Air 71.051 71.097*
Vallejo Model Color 70.992 70.868*
AK Interactive - AK-2144
AK Real Color - RC-244
AMMO by Mig - A.MIG-204
Hataka HTK-265 HTK-031
Lifecolor UA 046* UA 022
Mission Models - MMP-084
Mr Paint MRP-365 MRP-40
Xtracolor X158 X130
Xtracrylix XA1158 XA1130

 

Photos:

Transports and tankers like this C-17 and KC-135 are now painted by the aptly named AMC Gray.
Meanwhile, the strategic bombers of the ACC like this B-1 are painted in overall FS 36118. The F-15E, a tactical aircraft, also carries this scheme.

 

 

Have Glass (2016-Current)

The Have Glass scheme is a new scheme that is based around an overall Camouflage Gray FS 36170, a new addition to the FS range specifically made for the stealth F-35. Official paint charts show that it has a very subtle brown tint to it but like the F-22, the aircraft's overall metallic sheen means it generally looks darker than it is. The F-35 is also covered in radar-absorbing material (RAM) coating over certian panel lines which are also confusing to replicate as they can look much lighter in some pictures than others but does appear to be closest to Medium Gray FS 36270. It is possible that these fade considerably as there does not appear to be a consistent contrast between the two paints in many pictures. Aside from the F-35, the Have Glass scheme has now been adopted in some F-16s, mainly those units trained in SEAD. The entire fuselage is painted in FS 36170 except the antennas, pylons, wingtip rails, and radome which are in FS 36270, the latter darkening considerably as is the case with normal F-16s.

Paint guide: Some of the newer paint ranges have their version of FS 36170, including Hataka, Mission Models, and Mr Paint. Both look lighter than many pictures but this is likely because the sheen makes them appear darker in real life than on the model. Avoid Vallejo which is far too brown. Replicating the sheen presents the same problem as with the F-22, and perhaps a custom mix with a metallic paint is the most accurate solution.

 

  FS 36270 FS 36170
Medium Gray Camouflage Gray
   
Scheme
Basic (F-35) RAM Overall
Basic (F-16) Radome Overall
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous H306 -
Gunze Mr Color C306 -
Humbrol 126 -
Model Master 1725 -
Tamiya - -
Vallejo Model Air 71.275 71.280 (!)
Vallejo Model Color 70.870 -
AK Interactive AK-2141 -
AK Real Color RC-249 -
AMMO by Mig A.MIG-211 -
Hataka HTK-054 HTK-058
Lifecolor UA 028 -
Mission Models MMP-118 MMP-083
Mr Paint MRP-39 MRP-280
Xtracolor X133 -
Xtracrylix XA1133 -

 

Photos:

These F-35s show the Have Glass scheme in action. Note the contrast with the RAM coatings.
An example of an F-16CJ now using this scheme, minus the radome which remains FS 36270.

 

Interiors (1947-Current)

After World War II, the USAF/USN followed the RAF practice of painting cockpits Black ANA 604, a trend that continued throughout the Korean War. This included repainting wartime-vintage aircraft like P-47s and P-51s though in some cases, many areas of the cockpit retained Interior Green ANA 611. In November 1953, the order was given to factory paint all USAF and USN cockpits Dark Gull Gray FS 36231 (previously ANA 621). This would be the standard color used up until today. During this time, interior areas like wheel wells were painted ANA 611 although the USAF gradually made a shift to Insignia White FS 17875 in the 1960s. This ended the use of ANA 611 as an interior color in USAF service. To this day there has been hardly little variation from this standard. Notably, early F-15s used a Metallic Green-Blue primer for their avionics bays though this was changed to white for aircraft from fiscal year 1979 onward, with earlier aircraft eventually having them repainted after undergoing maintenance.

Paint guide: All of these colors are widely available. Metallic Blue-Green is a difficult match and not well represented, Xtracolor being the only range which offers it. However, it is similar to the turquoise color of Soviet cockpits albeit with a subtle metallic sheen. Gunze makes a Metallic Blue Green (H63/C57) but it matches a World War II IJA/IJN color and is too blue. A custom mix between metallic blue (H88/C76) and metallic green (H89/C77) would be more appropriate.

 

  ANA 511 ANA 515 ANA 611 ANA 621  
  FS 17875 FS 17038 FS 34151 FS 36231  
  Insignia White Black Interior Green Dark Gull Gray Metallic Green-Blue
           
Scheme          
Basic (post-war)   Cockpit Interiors    
Basic (Nov-1953)     Interiors Cockpit  
Basic (1960s-) Interiors     Cockpit  
Basic (F-15 early) Interiors     Cockpit Avionics
Color matches          
Gunze Aqueous H316 H2 - H317 -
Gunze Mr Color C316 C2 - C317 -
Humbrol (22) 21 226 140 -
Model Master 1745 1747 1715 1740 -
Revell          
Tamiya (X-2) X-1 - (XF-54) -
Vallejo Model Air 71.279* 71.057 71.137 71.277* -
Vallejo Model Color (70.820) 70.861 70.850 (!) 70.991 -
AK Interactive AK-2052 (AK-719) AK-2303 - -
AK Real Color RC-222 (RC-001) - RC-247 -
AMMO by Mig (A.MIG-047) A.MIG-032 A.MIG-220* A.MIG-205 -
Hataka HTK-043 HTK-041 HTK-211 HTK-044* -
Lifecolor (LC 51) (LC 01) UA 004 UA 033 -
Mission Models MMP-104 (MMP-047) MMP-059 MMP-064 -
Mr Paint MRP-99 (MRP-5) MRP-131 MRP-100 -
Xtracolor X141 (X012) X117 X131 X159
Xtracrylix XA1141 (XA1012) XA1117 XA1131 -

 

Photos:

Wartime aircraft like this P-51D had their cockpits repainted black. Traces of ANA 611 are still evident.
This F-86A has been fully painted black. Black cockpits were the norm until 1953 though some sections occasionally remained in ANA 611.
From late 1953, all new aircraft had their cockpits factory painted Dark Gull Gray (FS 36231) which has been used on all US aircraft like this RF-4.
ANA 611 remained the main interior color until the 1960s when it was replaced by Insignia White, a color that is still used to this day as can be seen in the weapons bay of this F-35.
An exception to the norm were early F-15s that had their avionics bays painted in metallic green-blue. This was very short lived.

 

 

 

Last modified: 17 April 2019