The first color standard in use by the US armed forces was known as Specification No. 3-1, introduced on 28 November 1919 and including a palette of 24 colors of which only one would still be in use during World War II. The earliest standard in use by the US Army Air Corps (USAAC) before the war was Specification 14057 which dated from April 1931 and had been revised numerous times since, the latest being Specification 14057-C on 27 December 1939. An updated eight-color (later nine-color) palette was introduced shortly thereafter, in Air Corps Bulletin No. 41 dated 16 September 1940 and this would include all the main colors in use when the US Army Air Force (USAAF) replaced the USAAC in June 1941. Camouflage schemes would later be specified in the Technical Order No. 07-1-1 although in many cases these were applied in an ad hoc manner by commanders in the field. The US Navy (USN) had its own color system during the early years of World War II based around Bureau of Aeronautics (BuAer) Specification M-485 from 6 December 1940 which listed 6 (later 7) basic non-spectacular (matt) colors.
The need to unify color codes for the USAAF and USN (which used completely different camouflage schemes) resulted in the Army and Navy Aircraft (ANA) system, introduced on 28 September 1943. ANA Bulletin No. 157 included an initial palette of 19 mostly matt (plus a few semi-gloss) colors using a three-digit numbering system in the 600s. ANA Bulletin No. 166 added a further 15 gloss colors numbered in the 500s. A number of additional colors were later added for a total of 44. Notably, a few of these were gloss colors but were added to the 600s range. The ANA system also included numerous substitute colors for British colors, necessary in light of the large number of US aircraft provided to the Royal Air Force and Fleet Air Arm through Lend-Lease.
On 12 January 1950, the US published Federal Specification TT-C-595 which superseded the ANA system with a four-digit numbering system. This was short-lived and just a few years later was superseded by the Federal Standard system, formally known as FED-STD-595.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 fluorescents (8). The last three digits are unique for each color and typically go from darker to lighter. The initial palette included 358 colors although some colors only officially exist in one or two out of the three sheens. Although the hues are identical regardless of sheen, there have been some notorious exceptions such as Olive Drab whose semi-gloss version used by the US Army on tanks (FS 24087) was different from the matt version used on helicopters (FS 34087), this being an error that took decades to correct.
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). The ANA Bulletin 157/166 continued to be updated post-war as well, until 15 October 1964 when it was discontinued in favor of FED-STD-595. 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.
Paint guide basics:
All colors in this page include a paint chart with matches or equivalences from 19 different model paint ranges. Paints are considered matches if they are labeled with the intended color (either uniquely on together with another color). Paints are considered equivalences if they are close to the intended color but not labeled as such. The accuracy of any paint is independent of whether it is a match or an equivalence and these are described in the text (there can be poor matches and highly accurate equivalences). The following nomenclature is used in the paint tables and is based on matches or equivalences to US Insignia Red FS 11136:
|Paint||Match or equivalence type (label)|
|MP01||Labeled to match one specific color (FS 11136)|
|MP02*||Labeled to match more than one color of same-country standards (FS 11136 / ANA 509)*|
|MP03**||Labeled to match more than one color of different-country standards (FS 11136 / BS 538)|
|MP04 (!)||Questionable accuracy of label match (doesn't look like FS 11136)|
|MP05 (?)||Questionable accuracy of label match, untested (doesn't look like FS 11136 in the bottle)|
|(MP06)||Close equivalent to FS 11136 (BS 538)|
|(MP07) (?)||Questionable equivalent to FS 11136 (Generic Gloss Red)|
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 Aluminum 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 universal (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 33070 so use of any Olive Drab that matches with late war ANA 613 should be acceptable.
|ANA 613||ANA 604|
|FS 17178||(FS 33070)||FS 17038|
|Gunze Mr Color||(C8)||(C12)||C2|
|Vallejo Model Air||71.062||71.016*||71.057|
|Vallejo Model Color||-||70.887*||70.861|
|AK Real Color||RC-020||-||(RC-001)|
|AMMO by Mig||A.MIG-194||(A.MIG-240)||A.MIG-032|
|Lifecolor||LC-74||UA 222||(LC 01)|
|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.|
The Air (later Aerospace) 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: ADC Gray is another color that has not gotten much love from the main paint manufacturers (Model Master being the exception), although this is thankfully not the case with the newer ones which have covered it far more extensively. Tamiya Sky Gray (XF-19) may be a close equivalent as well.
|FS 16473||FS 17038|
|Gunze Mr Color||-||C2|
|Vallejo Model Air||71.335*||71.057|
|Vallejo Model Color||70.907*||70.861|
|AK Real Color||RC-221||(RC-001)|
|AMMO by Mig||-||A.MIG-032|
|Lifecolor||UA 041||(LC 01)|
|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.|
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, Medium 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: This is one of the most widely available multi-tone camo schemes on the market and you can't go wrong with the Gunze and Model Master versions. Camouflage Gray 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 occasionally been matched to FS 34201. 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||Medium Green||Forest Green||Black|
|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|
|Gunze Mr Color||C311||C310||C303||C309||C2|
|Vallejo Model Air||71.296||71.125||71.289||71.294||71.057|
|Vallejo Model Color||-||70.874*||70.893||70.861|
|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|
|Lifecolor||UA 021||UA 015||UA 002||UA 001||(LC 01)|
|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 reminiscent of Korean War B-29s.|
|Bad batches of FS 30219 made some F-4s look like they carried 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-7D originally went from a standard SEA pattern to a wraparound scheme, omitting the underside FS 36622.|
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 receive 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, Gunze H307 matches very well with Dark Ghost Gray but H308 is too dark and has a strange purple-ish tint that I think is not as great a match as their other USAF colors (some might disagree). Model Master seems to be the gold standard although AK Real Colors and Lifecolor may be the most accurate in acrylic and Mr Paint in lacquer.
|FS 35450||FS 36375||FS 36320|
|Air Superiority Blue||Light Ghost Gray||Dark Ghost Gray|
|Air Superiority (F-15)||Overall|
|Compass Ghost (F-15)||Base||Upper Camo|
|Compass Ghost (A-10)||Lower||Upper|
|Gunze Mr Color||C74||C308||C307|
|Vallejo Model Air||71.332*||-||71.120|
|Vallejo Model Color||-||70.615||-|
|AK Real Color||RC-239||RC-252||RC-251|
|AMMO by Mig||-||A.MIG-203||A.MIG-208|
|Lifecolor||UA 037||UA 026||UA 027|
|Early F-15As worse an overall Air Superiority Blue. Thankfully it did not last long.|
|This is the standard Compass Ghost gray 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.|
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 Gray. 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 Gray 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. FS 36270 is so close to a generic neutral gray that it's hard to get wrong. The demarcation with FS 36375 should be subtle but noticeable, which spells trouble for versions of the latter which are too dark (like Gunze) since the colors could end up being difficult to tell apart. FS 36118 is widely available with some versions slightly more blue than others but this is evident in photos as well. I find Gunze H305 to be highly inaccurate for FS 36118 (too light and lacks the blue-gray tint) but compensates by making an excellent generic radome color for F-16s. In contrast, Tamiya's XF-24 is spot on for FS 36118 despite not being labeled as such.
|FS 36375||FS 36270||FS 36118|
|Light Ghost Gray||Medium Gray||Medium Gunship Gray|
|F-4 / F-16 (Late)||Lower||Upper|
|Gunze Aqueous||H308||H306||H305 (!)|
|Gunze Mr Color||C308||C306||C305 (!)|
|Vallejo Model Air||-||71.275||71.097*|
|Vallejo Model Color||70.615||70.870||70.868*|
|AK Real Color||RC-252||RC-249||RC-244|
|AMMO by Mig||A.MIG-203||A.MIG-211||A.MIG-204|
|Lifecolor||UA 026||UA 028||UA 022|
|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).|
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 varied 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 reproduce 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|
|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|
|Gunze Mr Color||C303||C302||C309||C305||C301|
|Vallejo Model Air||71.289||71.124||71.294||71.097*||71.314*|
|Vallejo Model Color||-||70.895||70.893||70.868*||-|
|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||-|
|Lifecolor||UA 002||UA 008||UA 001||UA 022||UA 030|
|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 scheme.|
|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!|
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 gray, 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 gray, 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 gray, 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 scheme and have not incorporated them into their lineups. Almost all newer paint lines, however, do include them. Lifecolor makes a very accurate representation of both colors, and although labeled 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 36081 or FS 36099 instead of FS 36176 to capture the the dark gray 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|
|Mod Eagle (F-15)||Base||Upper Camo|
|Gunze Mr Color||-||-|
|Vallejo Model Air||71.274||71.273|
|Vallejo Model Color||-||-|
|AK Real Color||RC-248||RC-246|
|AMMO by Mig||-||-|
|Lifecolor||UA 034||UA 029|
|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 gray 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.|
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 certain 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 AK Real Colors, Hataka, Mission Models, and Mr Paint. Most 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|
|Gunze Mr Color||C306||-|
|Vallejo Model Air||71.275||71.280 (!)|
|Vallejo Model Color||70.870||-|
|AK Real Color||RC-249||RC-245|
|AMMO by Mig||A.MIG-211||-|
|These F-35s show the Have Glass scheme in action. Note the subtle brownish hue of fuselage color.|
|In this flight of F-35s, the contrast with the RAM panels is particularly pronounced.|
|More recent F-35s have had the RAM panels painted as close as possible to the fuselage color, as seen on this aircraft during 2019 exercises.|
|An example of an F-16C Block 50 now using this scheme, minus the radome which remains FS 36270. These units are optimized for the SEAD role.|
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 colloquially 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 Untinted White FS 17925 which makes sense as this is the purest white in the Federal Standard range. Pictures show anything from a bright white to an pearl-like white which by some accounts was due to fading and wear. Hataka is the only one to make a specific paint for this color (HTK-101). Again, due to scale effect any gloss white will do.
|FS 17178||FS 17925 (?)||FS 37038|
|Basic (B-29 Korea)||Upper||Lower / Sides|
|Arc Light (B-52)||Upper||Lower|
|Gunze Mr Color||(C8)||(C1)||C2|
|Vallejo Model Air||71.062||71.001||71.057|
|Vallejo Model Color||-||70.842||70.861|
|AK Real Color||RC-020||(RC-004)||(RC-001)|
|AMMO by Mig||A.MIG-194||(A.MIG-047)||A.MIG-032|
|Lifecolor||LC-74||(LC 51)||(LC 01)|
|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.|
|At their most basic, SAC bombers like this B-58 were simply left entirely in NMF except for anti-glare panels and (occasionally) radomes.|
|A B-47 sporting anti-flash white undersides.|
|The B-52 in its infancy was found in the vintage anti-flash SAC scheme.|
|From Operation Arc Light onward, B-52s in Vietnam changed the anti-flash for black though they would soon adopt SIOP/SEA schemes instead.|
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 applied a distinctive protective coating to their radomes that is matched to Radome Tan FS 33613.
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 labeled with a different FS color (34127). AKAN includes both colors but, strangely enough, neither is available in their acrylic range and the green is only found in their enamel range. Tamiya XF-49 and XF-65 might be close enough matches as well.
|FS 17875||FS 34201||FS 34159||FS 34079||FS 17038|
|Insignia White||SAC Bomber Tan||SAC Bomber Green||Forest Green||Black|
|SAC SIOP||Lower||Upper Camo||Upper Camo||Upper Camo|
|SAC SEA||Upper Camo||Upper Camo||Upper Camo||Lower / Sides|
|Gunze Mr Color||C316||-||-||C309||C2|
|Tamiya||-||(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|
|AK Interactive||AK-2052||-||-||AK 2101||(AK-719)|
|AK Real Color||RC-222||-||-||RC 027||(RC-001)|
|AMMO by Mig||-||-||-||A.MIG-206*||A.MIG-032|
|Lifecolor||-||UA 039||UA 059||UA 001||(LC 01)|
|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.|
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-military 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 cheatline. In some aircraft like KC-10, the area around the cockpit were also occasionally painted this color. Some aircraft also had the leading edges left in natural metal finish. 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: These colors are covered in the ADC scheme above. True Blue is not well-represented but is so close to a generic medium blue that any such basic color is acceptable.
|FS 17875||FS 16473||FS 15102||FS 17038|
|Insignia White||ADC Gray||True Blue||Black|
|Default||Upper||Lower / Wings||Stripe||Radome|
|Gunze Mr Color||C316||-||-||C2|
|Vallejo Model Air||71.279*||71.335*||-||71.057|
|Vallejo Model Color||(70.820)||70.907*||-||70.861|
|AK Real Color||RC-222||RC-221||-||(RC-001)|
|AMMO by Mig||-||-||A.MIG-229||A.MIG-032|
|Lifecolor||-||UA 041||-||(LC 01)|
|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 and the NMF leading edges. 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.|
An exception to the MAC scheme and all subsequent strategic schemes were Airborne Early Warning (AEW or AWACS) aircraft, of which the first purpose-built design for the USAF was the E-3 Sentry entering service in the late 1970s. Built by Boeing from 707 airframes, these aircraft retained the color that has been used on factory fresh airliners and is known as Boeing Gray FS 16515. This is a very light color, which has a similar tan gray tone to FS 16440. It is also gloss, which from certain angles makes it look nearly white. Early aircraft followed a similar pattern to the USN and featured Insignia White FS 17875 movable surfaces, and leading edges of the wings were left in natural metal finish. Later aircraft were painted all-around Boeing Gray.
The AEW scheme is also used on the E-8. Notably, it's radiotransparent areas under the nose are painted white in contrast to the E-3's black-and-white rotating radome.
Paint guide: Boeing Gray is a relatively rare color, and only few manufacturers carry it. It is also known as Canadian Voodoo Gray as it was initially used on RCAF CF-101s. The closest widely available color is probably FS 36495, although a lightened FS 16440 would be adequate as well.
|FS 17875||FS 16515|
|Insignia White||Boeing Gray|
|Gunze Mr Color||C316||-|
|Vallejo Model Air||71.279*||-|
|Vallejo Model Color||(70.820)||-|
|AK Real Color||RC-222||-|
|AMMO by Mig||-||-|
|This E-3 shows the Insignia White on movable surfaces, as well as the dark NMF on the leading edges.|
|More recently, all AEW aircraft are seen in overall Boeing Gray, as seen in this E-8 (minus the white radome).|
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 the paint 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|
|SAC Euro I||Wrap Camo||Lower Camo||Wrap Camo|
|SAC Euro I (B-52)||Wrap Camo||Lower||Upper Camo|
|Gunze Mr Color||-||C305||C301|
|Vallejo Model Air||71.292||71.097*||71.314*|
|Vallejo Model Color||70.830*||70.868*||-|
|AK Real Color||-||RC-244||RC-243|
|AMMO by Mig||A.MIG-240*||A.MIG-204||-|
|Lifecolor||UA 106*||UA 022||UA 030|
|Dark Gunship Gray and Field Drab are both very dark colors and the demarcation lines are often hard to tell apart.|
|Despite sharing the name, the Euro I schemes were quite different between TAC and SAC aircraft as seen in this B-52 and F-4.|
|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 a similar two-tone scheme during its ANG years.|
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 Gray FS 36081 while retaining their old ADC Gray FS 17473 undersides. It is believed that McDonnell Douglas may have used a proprietary gray that does not correspond to an FS number for the underside color of KC-10s which in some pictures looks lighter than ADC Gray. 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 Gray for late Shamu KC-10s.
|FS 16473||FS 36081|
|ADC Gray||Dark Gunship Gray|
|Gunze Mr Color||-||C301|
|Vallejo Model Air||71.335*||71.314*|
|Vallejo Model Color||70.907*||-|
|AK Real Color||RC-221||RC-243|
|AMMO by Mig||-||-|
|Lifecolor||UA 041||UA 030|
|A KC-135 in the short-lived but strangely attractive Shamu scheme. This would definitely have ADC Gray undersides.|
|A Shamu KC-135 refueling a Shamu KC-10 in 1991. Note the two A-7Ds in yet another unique scheme (FS 36118/36270).|
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 Gray 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. Neutral Gray No. 43 can be used as a relatively close substitute for FS 36173.
|FS 36173||FS 36118|
|AMC Gray||Medium Gunship Gray|
|Gunze Aqueous||-||H305 (!)|
|Gunze Mr Color||-||C305 (!)|
|Vallejo Model Air||71.051||71.097*|
|Vallejo Model Color||70.992||70.868*|
|AK Real Color||-||RC-244|
|AMMO by Mig||-||A.MIG-204|
|Lifecolor||UA 046*||UA 022|
|Transports and tankers like this C-17 and KC-135 are now painted in 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.|
|The B-52 is the longest-serving bomber in the USAF arsenal and has now sported nearly every bomber scheme since 1947.|
|As the USAF's premier strike aircraft, the F-15E is often found with patchy, faded colors, and oddly painted replacement parts (like this intake) too.|
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.
|ANA 611||ANA 515||ANA 511||ANA 621|
|FS 34151||FS 17038||FS 17875||FS 36231|
|Interior Green||Black||Insignia White||Dark Gull Gray|
|Basic (F-15 early)||Interiors||Cockpit|
|Gunze Mr Color||C27||C2||C316||C317|
|Vallejo Model Air||71.137||71.057||71.279*||71.277*|
|Vallejo Model Color||70.850 (!)||70.861||(70.820)||70.991|
|AKAN||72004*||78005||(73146)||72064* / 62009|
|AK Real Color||-||(RC-001)||RC-222||RC-247|
|AMMO by Mig||A.MIG-220*||A.MIG-032||-||A.MIG-205|
|Lifecolor||UA 004||(LC 01)||-||UA 033|
|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.|
Federal Standard FED-STD-595B
|FS 16473||ADC Gray||Camo (ADC, MAC)||ANA 512|
|FS 16515||Boeing Gray||Camo (AEW)||-|
|FS 17038||Black||Camo, Interiors||ANA 515|
|FS 17875||Insignia White||Camo, Interiors||ANA 511|
|FS 17925||Untinted White||Camo||-|
|FS 20400||Tan||Camo (Aggressor)||-|
|FS 30140||Brown Special||Camo (Aggressor)||-|
|FS 30219||Dark Tan||Camo (SEA)||ANA 628|
|FS 30279||Desert Sand||Camo (Aggressor)||ANA 616|
|FS 33613||Radome Tan||Radomes||-|
|FS 34079||Forest Green||Camo (Euro, SEA, SIOP)||ANA 631|
|FS 34086||Green Drab||Camo (Euro I)||-|
|FS 34092||Dark Green||Camo (Euro I)||ANA 612|
|FS 34102||Medium Green||Camo (Euro, SEA)||-|
|FS 34151||Interior Green||Interiors (pre-1953)||ANA 611|
|FS 34159||SAC Bomber Green||Camo (SIOP)||-|
|FS 34201||SAC Bomber Tan||Camo (SIOP)||-|
|FS 35109||Aggressor Blue||Camo (Aggressor)||-|
|FS 35450||Air Superiority Blue||Camo (F-15A, Aggressor)||-|
|FS 36081||Dark Gunship Gray||Camo (Euro I)||-|
|FS 36118||Medium Gunship Gray||Camo (Euro I, Hill, ACC)||ANA 603|
|FS 36170||Camouflage Gray||Camo (Have Glass)||-|
|FS 36173||AMC Gray||Camo (AMC)||ANA 601|
|FS 36176||Mod Eagle Gray||Camo (Mod Eagle)||-|
|FS 36231||Dark Gull Gray||Cockpits (post-1953)||ANA 621|
|FS 36251||Aggressor Gray||Camo (Mod Eagle)||-|
|FS 36270||Medium Gray||Camo (Hill, Have Glass)||-|
|FS 36320||Dark Ghost Gray||Camo (Compass)||-|
|FS 36375||Light Ghost Gray||Camo (Compass, Hill)||-|
|FS 36622||Camouflage Gray||Camo (SEA)||-|
|FS 36628||Light Arctic Gray||Camo (Aggressor)||-|
|FS 37030||Black Camouflage||Camo (Aggressor)||-|
|FS 37038||Black||Anti-glare||ANA 604|