Resources

Aircraft Colors and Camouflage, US Marine Corps

 

 

Introduction to US color standards

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On 12 January 1950, the US published Federal Specification TT-C-595 which superseded the ANA system with a four-digit numbering system. This was short-lived and just a few years later was superseded by the Federal Standard system, formally known as FED-STD-595.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.

 

Contents:

External Links:

References:

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)

* A single asterisk also denotes implicit matches for same-country standards where there is an official succession between standards. For example, H327* would match ANA 509 even if the label only references FS 11136 since ANA 509 is its official predecessor. This does not apply when there are considerable differences between successive paints (ex: Olive Drab No. 41/ANA 613/FS 34087) and this will be described in the text. By and large, however, single asterisk matches should be considered close enough to unique matches as to not be seriously questioned.

The paint charts make no distinction between gloss, semi-gloss, and matt variants of a color if the correct sheen is unavailable (ex: gloss FS 11136 will be a specific match for matt FS 31136 if the latter does not exist in the same paint range). Exceptions are made where there is a known or suspected color difference (ex: FS 24087 and 34087).

AIRCRAFT

RAF Harrier scheme (1971)

The USMC was quick to adopt the British-developed Harrier S/VTOL aircraft where it was known as the AV-8A and entered service in 1971. The AV-8A was virtually identical to the RAF's Harrier GR.1 and all original deliveries were made in the existing RAF Harrier scheme. This consisted on a topside camouflage of Dark Green BS 241 and Dark Sea Grey BS 638 along with an underside color of Light Aircraft Grey BS 627. It is unclear which colors would be used on subsequent repaints. It is likely that most were repainted in the colors that would later be used in the Land Camouflage Scheme (see below). However, it has also been suggested that other approximations of the RAF colors or other experimental colors may have been used. In the late 1970s, most Harriers began transitioning into lo-viz markings which would have necessitated a repaint, meaning that by the turn of the decade it is likely that all Harriers were in FS colors.

It was common for both USMC and RAF Harriers to wear a temporary, washable white distemper over the Dark Green while on Arctic training missions. This lasted throughout the time the Land Camouflage Scheme was in use as well.

Paint guide: All of these paints are adequately represented (see USAF and USN pages) and should not present a problem.

 

  BS 627 BS 241 BS 638
Light Aircraft Grey Dark Green Dark Sea Grey
     
Schemes
Basic Lower Upper Camo Upper Camo
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous H332 H330 H331
Gunze Mr. Color C332 C330 C331
Humbrol 166 163 164
Model Master - 2060* 2059
Revell - - -
Tamiya - XF-81* XF-54
Vallejo Model Air - 71.324 -
Vallejo Model Color - - 70.991**
AKAN 70014 70020 70017
AK Interactive - AK 2011* -
AK Real Colors RC298 RC286* RC296
AMMO by Mig - A.MIG-915 -
Colourcoats ACRN20 ACRN09 ACRN03
Hataka HTK-217 HTK-143 HTK-140
Lifecolor - - UA 108**
Mission Models - MMP-977* -
Mr. Paint MRP-374 MRP-110* MRP-113
Xtracolor X015 X001 X004
Xtracrylix XA1015 XA1001 XA1004

 

Photos:

This AV-8A flies along the other major components of USMC air power in 1971, the year of its introduction.
This pair of AV-8As from MCAS Cherry Point in 1974 show some fading and wear in their original RAF colors.
This AV-8A in 1982 has been repainted with new FS colors and lo-viz markings. They appear similar to the ones used in the Land Camouflage Scheme.
Harriers were frequently seen in an Arctic scheme consisting of a white distemper.

 

Harrier Land Camouflage Scheme (1985-1993)

The Land Camouflage Scheme was introduced for USMC aircraft and helicopters from 18 April 1985 (MIL-STD-2161(AS)). Given that USMC Harriers were already painted in a three-tone disruptive pattern based on their RAF counterparts, the switch to the LCS only involved a different set of colors which were noticeably darker than their predecessors. These were Extra Dark Green FS 34064 and Dark Blue Grey FS 36099 for the topside while Light Gull Gray FS 36440 was used for the undersides. The introduction of the LCS also coincided with the entry into service of the AV-8B Harrier II which is best known for wearing this scheme throughout the 1980s. Later in the decade, the LCS gradually transformed into a two-tone wraparound scheme involving only the topside colors.

Paint guide:

 

  FS 36440 FS 34064 FS 36099
Light Gull Gray Extra Dark Green Dark Blue Gray
     
Schemes
LCS Lower Upper Camo Upper Camo
LCS (Wrap)   Wrap Camo Wrap Camo
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous H325 - -
Gunze Mr. Color C325 - -
Humbrol 129 - -
Model Master 1730 - 2084**
Revell - - -
Tamiya (X-20) - -
Vallejo Model Air 71.121* 71.019** 71.110**
Vallejo Model Color 70.986* 70.979** 70.867**
AKAN 72014 62046

62052

AK Interactive AK 2051 - -
AK Real Colors RC220 RC342 -
AMMO by Mig A.MIG-241 - -
Colourcoats ACUS01 - ACUS46
Hataka HTK-048* HTK-232 HTK-235
Lifecolor UA 025 UA 119 -
Mission Models MMP-063 - -
Mr. Paint MRP-98 - -
Xtracolor X137 - -
Xtracrylix XA1137 - -

 

Photos:

There appears to have been considerable experimentation in LCS colors before the definitive ones were defined as seen on this early AV-8B on trials.
This early AV-8B retains the Light Gull Gray undersides of the original LCS, but this was soon replaced by a two-tone wrap around.
An AV-8B in the wrap-around LCS which became standard in the late 1980s.

 

Gulf War Harriers (1991)

USMC Harriers were originally deployed to the Gulf (Operation Desert Shield) in Land Camouflage Scheme but were hastily repainted before combat operations began. The new schemes retained the two-tone LCS wraparound pattern but with improvised colors that varied across squadrons (and even between aircraft in each squadron). Perhaps the best known is that of VMA-231 ('Ace of Spades') which used colors similar to Light Gray 36495 and Blue FS 35190. Meanwhile, VMA-311, VMA-513, and VMA-542 sported darker colors, which may have been intended to match Dark Gull Gray FS 36231 and Medium Gunship Gray FS 36118. There was much greater contrast in the Harriers of VMA-331 ('Bumblebees'), which are suggestive of FS 36495 and FS 36118. A small number of one-off schemes were used during the Gulf War, such as one aircraft from VMA-542 sporting an overall gray (possibly FS 36320) and a replacement aircraft from that same squadron seen in an early version of the Tactical Paint Scheme (see below).

Paint guide: Note that it is believed that all these paints were mixed in theater and are only approximations of the colors below.

 

  FS 36495 (?) FS 35190 (?) FS 36231 (?) FS 36118 (?)
Light Gray Blue Dark Gull Gray Medium Gunship Gray
       
Schemes
VMA-231 Wrap Camo Wrap Camo    
VMA-331 Wrap Camo     Wrap Camo
Others     Wrap Camo Wrap Camo
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous H338 - H317 H305 (!)
Gunze Mr. Color C338 - C317 C305 (!)
Humbrol 147 - 140 125
Model Master 1732 - 1740 1723
Revell - - - 74
Tamiya - - (XF-54) (XF-24)
Vallejo Model Air 71.276 - 71.277* 71.097*
Vallejo Model Color - 70.901 70.991 70.868*
AKAN - 72076 72064* / 62009 72040*
AK Interactive - - - AK 2144
AK Real Colors RC253 RC236 RC247 RC244
AMMO by Mig A.MIG-209 - A.MIG-205 A.MIG-204
Colourcoats - - ACUS02 ACUS14
Hataka HTK-050 - HTK-044* HTK-031
Lifecolor UA 023 - UA 033 UA 022
Mission Models MMP-116 - MMP-064 MMP-084
Mr. Paint MRP-364 MRP-239 MRP-100 MRP-40
Xtracolor X139 X160 X131 X130
Xtracrylix XA1139 - XA1131 XA1130

 

Links:

 

Photos:

USMC Harriers were initially deployed in their wrap-around LCS colors, like this aircraft from VMA-513 during Operation Desert Shield.
This aircraft from VMA-231 shows the more well known lighter colors that approximate FS 36495/FS 35190.
This aircraft from VMA-331 had darker colors, the blue being closer to FS 36118. In reality none of these colors had direct FS matches.
The other Harrier squadrons wore a darker, lower contrast two-tone suggestive of FS 36231/FS 36118. (Photo credit: dstorm.eu)

 

Harrier Tactical Paint Scheme (1992-2014)

By the time of the Gulf War, a Harrier Tactical Paint Scheme (HTPS) had been developed and most USMC Harriers gradually converted in the early 1990s, notwithstanding the fact that the updated MIL-C-2161A(AS) from 1 May 1993 continued to show the Land Camouflage Scheme as standard. Initially, the HTPS consisted of a topside color of Medium Gunship Gray FS 36118 which would cover most of the wings, curving around the edges, as well as the upper fuselage from behind the canopy up until the fin. Sides were painted Dark Ghost Gray FS 36320, while the undersides were painted Light Ghost Gray FS 36375. This initial version of the HTPS did not last long, however, possibly because of the excessive contrast between the topside color and the two ghost grays. As such, the HTPS was modified into what would be its most well-known incarnation. Although the topside FS 36118 was retained, the sides were now darkened with Dark Gull Gray FS 36231, leaving the undersides in FS 36320. Perhaps as a result of operating over water, FS 36118 tended to fade more on Harriers than on F-16s and also tended to lose its blueish tint. As such, contrast between the colors was much more subdued.

Paint guide:

  FS 36375 FS 36320 FS 36231 FS 36118
Light Ghost Gray Dark Ghost Gray Dark Gull Gray Medium Gunship Gray
       
Schemes
HTPS (1) Lower Sides   Upper
HTPS (2)   Lower Sides Upper
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous H308 H307 H317 H305 (!)
Gunze Mr. Color C308 C307 C317 C305 (!)
Humbrol 127 128 140 125
Model Master 1728 1741 1740 1723
Revell - - - 74
Tamiya - - (XF-54) (XF-24)
Vallejo Model Air - 71.120 71.277* 71.097*
Vallejo Model Color 70.615 - 70.991 70.868*
AKAN 72032 72030 72064* / 62009 72040*
AK Interactive AK 2057 AK 2058 - AK 2144
AK Real Colors RC252 RC251 RC247 RC244
AMMO by Mig A.MIG-203 A.MIG-208 A.MIG-205 A.MIG-204
Colourcoats ACUS03 ACUS40 ACUS02 ACUS14
Hataka HTK-037 HTK-035 HTK-044* HTK-031
Lifecolor UA 026 UA 027 UA 033 UA 022
Mission Models MMP-073 MMP-074 MMP-064 MMP-084
Mr. Paint MRP-38 MRP-97 MRP-100 MRP-40
Xtracolor X136 X135 X131 X130
Xtracrylix XA1136 XA1135 XA1131 XA1130

 

Photos:

This pair of Harriers show the original (but short-lived) HTPS colors, with the noticeably lighter side and underside colors.
The three colors can be nicely distinguished on this AV-8B. This aircraft also carries darker markings than the norm, which was not uncommon.
The topside FS 36118 tended to fade more on Harriers than on USAF aircraft, resulting in much less pronounced contrast with the side color.
A nice shot of three AV-8Bs, two of which retain the HTPS scheme while the middle one has been repainted in the newer, darker version.

 

Harrier Tactical Paint Scheme (2014-Current)

A new Harrier Tactical Paint Scheme (colloquially known as the 'Dark Harrier Scheme') was specified on 7 September 2014 (MIL-C-2161C(AS)) although it was introduced operationally much earlier, from around 2010. The new HTPS was a darker two-tone scheme consisting of Medium Gunship Gray FS 36118 covering the upper fuselage and sides over Blue Gray FS 35237 undersides. This scheme was pioneered on radar-equipped Harrier Plus aircraft, non-radar aircraft still retained the earlier HTPS three-tone although gradually the latter have also been painted in this scheme. In recent years, aircraft with Dark Ghost Gray FS 36320 undersides have begun appearing which is likely to be the new standard for this scheme.

Paint guide:

 

  FS 35237 FS 36118
Blue Gray Medium Gunship Gray
   
Schemes
HTPS (2014) Lower Upper
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous H338 H305 (!)
Gunze Mr. Color C338 C305 (!)
Humbrol 147 125
Model Master 1732 1723
Revell - 74
Tamiya - (XF-24)
Vallejo Model Air 71.276 71.097*
Vallejo Model Color - 70.868*
AKAN 72043 72040*
AK Interactive - AK 2144
AK Real Colors RC253 RC244
AMMO by Mig A.MIG-209 A.MIG-204
Colourcoats ACUS38 ACUS14
Hataka HTK-050 HTK-031
Lifecolor UA 023 UA 022
Mission Models MMP-116 MMP-084
Mr. Paint MRP-364 MRP-40
Xtracolor X139 X130
Xtracrylix XA1139 XA1130

 

Photos:

A great shot of the attractive and menacing 'Dark Harrier' scheme that is now standard on all remaining USMC AV-8Bs.
Radomes vary on dark Harriers, being painted either in the top or lower fuselage colors.
Newer Harriers have begun using the older underside color of Dark Ghost Gray again. Markings and stencils on the topside color are also in DGG.

 

HELICOPTERS

Post-war / Korean War (1947-1955)

From 2 January 1947 (BuAer Specification SR-2f), the use of Glossy Sea Blue ANA 623 would spread to nearly all major combat types including helicopters the latter which were becoming increasingly important components of naval operations for both the USN and the USMC. around 1947/48 the pigment composition of GSB was altered in order to produce a color that would be less prone to fading and losing its glossy sheen. This new version of ANA 623 also ended up being slightly lighter and more saturated than its wartime predecessor, and does not match FS 15042 or any other Federal Standard color for that matter. This would be the last instance in which major USMC helicopters would use the same scheme as the USN.

Paint guide:

 

  ANA 623 (2)
Glossy Sea Blue
 
Schemes
Basic Overall
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous (H54) (?)
Gunze Mr. Color (C14) (?)
Humbrol (181) (?)
Model Master (1718) (?)
Revell -
Tamiya (XF-17) (?)
Vallejo Model Air (71.295) (?)
Vallejo Model Color (70.898) (?)
AKAN (72042) (?)
AK Interactive (AK 2233) (?)
AK Real Colors (RC257) (?)
AMMO by Mig (A.MIG-227) (?)
Colourcoats ACUS35
Hataka (HTK-_006) (?)
Lifecolor (UA 044) (?)
Mission Models (MMP-062) (?)
Mr. Paint (MRP-237) (?)
Xtracolor (X121)
Xtracrylix (XA1121)

 

Photos:

There are surprisingly few color photos of Marine helicopters during the Korean War, but this H-19 Chickasaw clearly shows the Glossy Sea Blue.
A fleet of HO3S-1 helicopters around Inchon in 1951 show the nice glossy sheen of post-war ANA 623.

 

Cold War / Vietnam War (1955-1985)

From the early 1950s it became obvious that Glossy Sea Blue was inappropriate color for low-flying helicopters in combat areas. From 16 February 1955 (BuAer Instruction NAVAER 07.2), it was determined to switch all helicopters to Light Gull Gray (FS 36440). However, this lasted barely over a year. From 16 July 1956 (MIL-C-18263(Aer)), it was decided to paint USMC helicopters in a so-called Land Camouflage Scheme consisting of Field Green FS 34097 overall. No major changes to the scheme were made for a decade and a half until on 9 March 1972 (an amendment to MIL-C-18263F(Aer)) it was decided to switch to a gloss version of the existing color, Field Green FS 14097. These colors were the main ones used on all USMC helicopters during the Vietnam War. However, it has also been documented that some helicopters originally intended for Army use but which were diverted to the USMC during the war remained in Olive Drab FS 34087 which was the default Army helicopter color at the time.

Aside from the overall Field Green color, many USMC helicopters during this period carried Insignia Yellow FS 13538 tail bands, which was also used on other insignia and markings. Some Vietnam War era helicopters also had certain sections of the aircraft like the nose or parts of the tail painted Black FS 17038.

Although the use of Medium Green was a vast improvement over previous USMC helicopter colors, in late 1976 there was a request to apply a low infra-red reflective, non-spectacular paint. This was formalized by the Chief of Naval Operations in January 1977 (message 121828Z) and April 1977 (message 041506Z) which approved the use of Medium Field Green FS 34095, which was originally known as Marine Corps Green in light of its specific USMC use. This was very similar to the previous color, being only slightly darker, which means comparing the two colors is difficult unless they are side by side. Around the same time, there was a shift towards lo-viz markings, replacing the large, colorful markings and insignia that had been characteristic throughout the Vietnam War.

Paint guide:

 

  FS 34097 FS 34095 FS 13538 FS 37038
Field Green Medium Field Green Insignia Yellow Black
       
Schemes
Vietnam Overall   (ID bands) (Nose / Tail)
Post-Vietnam   Overall (ID bands) (Nose / Tail)
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous H340 - H329 H12
Gunze Mr. Color C340 - C329 C33
Humbrol 105 - 154 33
Model Master 1712 1786 1707 1749
Revell - - - 04
Tamiya - - - XF-1
Vallejo Model Air (71.093) (?) 71.022** 71.078** 71.057
Vallejo Model Color - 70.823** - 70.950
AKAN - 62051 72001 78005
AK Interactive - - - AK 735
AK Real Colors RC231 RC209** - RC001
AMMO by Mig - - - A.MIG-046
Colourcoats ARUS04 - - C02
Hataka - HTK-059** HTK-066 HTK-041
Lifecolor - - UA 140** LC 02
Mission Models MMP-029** - - MMP-047
Mr. Paint MRP-236* MRP-369 - MRP-171
Xtracolor X115 - X106 X012
Xtracrylix - - - XA1012

Links:

 

Photos:

This UH-1E Huey at Chu Lai base in Vietnam is painted in the original non-spectacular Field Green color (FS 34097) used until 1971 (the photo is from 1965).
A Huey flies alongside the then-recently introduced AH-1J SeaCobra. The Huey is still likely painted in FS 14097 while the SeaCobra appears to feature the newer (and darker) FS 34095.
This CH-46 Sea Knight during the 1982 Invasion of Grenada shows the later FS 34095 with lo-viz markings that were now the norm on most USMC helicopters.

 

Land Camouflage Scheme (1985-1993)

From 18 April 1985 (MIL-STD-2161(AS)), the USMC helicopter fleet switched to an attractive but short-lived three-tone version of the Land Camouflage Scheme. This fit into the pattern of multi-tone green/gray schemes that were being used by the USAF at the time and which made sense given that USMC helicopters would likely operate over land rather than over sea. The LCS consisted of an irregular wrap-around pattern of Blue Gray FS 35237 with Medium Field Green FS 34095 and matt Black FS 37038. Occasionally the black was kept to a minimum, and was usually the least preponderant of the three colors. This scheme was still applied during the 1991 Gulf War although it was not uncommon for USMC helicopters to adopt alternative schemes that were typically applied in theater (see below).

Paint guide: All colors are described in previous sections.

 

  FS 35237 FS 34095 FS 37038
Blue Gray Medium Field Green Black
     
Schemes
LCS Wrap Camo Wrap Camo Wrap Camo
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous H337 - H12
Gunze Mr. Color C337 - C33
Humbrol 145 - 33
Model Master 1721 1786 1749
Revell - - 08
Tamiya - - XF-1
Vallejo Model Air 71.114 71.022* 71.057
Vallejo Model Color 70.905 70.823* 70.950
AKAN 72043 62051 78003
AK Interactive AK 2056 - AK 735
AK Real Colors RC237 RC209* RC001
AMMO by Mig A.MIG-210** - A.MIG-046
Colourcoats ACUS38 - C02
Hataka HTK-046 HTK-059* HTK-041
Lifecolor UA 145** - LC 02
Mission Models MMP-072 - MMP-047
Mr. Paint MRP-105 MRP-369 MRP-171
Xtracolor X126 - X012
Xtracrylix XA1126 - XA1012

 

Photos:

This AH-1W Super Cobra wears the three-tone LCS as it takes off from an amphibious assault ship.
A perennial workhorse of the USMC, the CH-46 has never looked better than with the the three-tone LCS.
The venerable Huey wore the three-tone LCS for their participation in the 1991 Gulf War.

 

Gulf War schemes (1991)

As with Harriers, the USMC experimented considerably with camouflage colors and patterns during the Gulf War and different units tended to have different schemes, often mixed and applied in theater. On a basic level, all USMC helicopters were still officially bound to the Land Camouflage Scheme and those that did not apply an in theater scheme simply retained this three-tone (described above). However, various other schemes appeared during the conflict, the most widespread which are described below.

It is highly recommended to look at the links below, particularly dstorm.eu which has photos of a huge number of aircraft and helicopters during the Gulf War.

Paint guide:

 

  FS 33711 FS 30279 FS 30219 FS 30117 FS 35237
USMC Sand Desert Sand Dark Tan Earth Red Blue Gray
         
Schemes
Overall Sand Overall        
Two-tone Desert Wrap Camo (Wrap Camo) (Wrap Camo) (Wrap Camo)  
Two-tone Sand/Gray Wrap Camo       Wrap Camo
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous - - H310 - H337
Gunze Mr. Color - - C310 - C337
Humbrol - (250) 118 186 145
Model Master - 2053* 1742 1701 1721
Revell - - - - -
Tamiya - - - (XF-52) -
Vallejo Model Air - 71.140* 71.125 17.293 71.114
Vallejo Model Color - - 70.874* - 70.905
AKAN - - 72021 - 72043
AK Interactive - AK 2111 AK 2103 - AK 2056
AK Real Colors RC228 RC032 RC225 RC031 RC237
AMMO by Mig - - A.MIG-202 - A.MIG-210**
Colourcoats - - ACUS18 - ACUS38
Hataka HTK-035 HTK-068 HTK-012 - HTK-046
Lifecolor UA 090 UA 089 UA 015 UA 241 UA 145**
Mission Models - - MMP-066 MMP-027 MMP-072
Mr. Paint - MRP-243 MRP-103 - MRP-105
Xtracolor - - X102 - X126
Xtracrylix - - XA1102 - XA1126

 

Links:

 

Photos:

An AH-1 flies with its improvised desert camo. Some were painted USMC Sand overall but most combined it with FS 30279 or FS 35237.
CH-46s and CH-53 typically carried darker desert colors than the AH-1s and UH-1s. They nevertheless varied considerably between units.
This CH-46 landing on the deck of the USS Wisconsin wears a camo similar to AV-8B Harriers although the light color looks like a very light beige.

 

Tactical Paint Scheme (1993-Current)

In common with the post-Cold War shift into grays, the USMC formally introduced a Tactical Paint Scheme for most of its combat helicopters and which was first specified from 1 May 1993 (MIL-STD-2161A(AS)). This consisted of an overall fuselage of Light Ghost Gray FS 36375 with all upper sections (fuselage, wings, and engines) in Blue Gray FS 35237. As is common with most modern US schemes, the color of markings and stencils in many (but not all) was also inversed, thus producing a uniform lo-viz effect. All USMC helicopters continue to use the TPS scheme to this day although there are a few exceptions. A three-tone variant of the TPS is used specifically on the MV-22B Osprey tilt-rotor assault transport. Aside from the above two colors, it uses an intermediate color of Dark Ghost Gray FS 36320 on the sides. Strangely enough, the CH-53D (and only this particular variant) reverted to an overall gloss Light Gull Gray FS 16440 from 15 August 2008 (MIL-STD-2161B(AS)).

Paint Guide: All colors are described in previous sections.

 

  FS 36375 FS 36320 FS 35237
Light Ghost Gray Dark Ghost Gray Blue Gray
     
Scheme
TPS Lower / Sides   Upper
TPS (MV-22B) Lower Sides Upper
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous H308 (!) H307 H337
Gunze Mr. Color C308 (!) C307 C337
Humbrol 127 128 145
Model Master 1728 1741 1721
Revell - - -
Tamiya - - -
Vallejo Model Air - 71.120 71.114
Vallejo Model Color 70.615 - 70.905
AKAN 72032 72030 72043
AK Interactive AK 2057 AK 2058 AK 2056
AK Real Colors RC252 RC251 RC237
AMMO by Mig A.MIG-203 A.MIG-208 A.MIG-210**
Colourcoats ACUS03 ACUS40 ACUS38
Hataka HTK-037 HTK-035 HTK-046
Lifecolor UA 026 UA 027 UA 145**
Mission Models MMP-073 MMP-074 MMP-072
Mr. Paint MRP-38 MRP-97 MRP-105
Xtracolor X136 X135 X126
Xtracrylix XA1136 XA1135 XA1126

 

Photos:

The latest UH-1Z and AH-1Z show the TPS scheme in all its (somewhat boring) glory. Note the inverse markings.
Even large helicopters like this CH-53E Super Stallion pictured in 2016 use the TPS scheme. With one exception..
The CH-53D, which kept an overall Light Gull Gray finish up until their retirement from service in 2012.
It's not always easy to distinguish the three colors on the MV-22, particularly the top and sides, but a sharp eye will spot all three in this photo (see the nose and the far engine).

 

OTHER

Cockpits / Interiors (1954-Current)

Note: Aircraft interiors are described in the US Navy page.

All USMC helicopters have followed USN standards with respect to interior and cockpit colors. One major difference has been a requirement for helicopter cockpit colors to be compatible with night vision goggles, resulting in the use of Black FS 37038 overall. Black helicopter cockpits have been seen since the 1970s which suggests this change may have been implemented on 23 August 1971 (MIL-C-8779D), although this has not been verified by the author; it is specified in the subsequent MIL-C-8779D from 17 February 1988. Additionally, troop compartments have been kept in Dark Gull Gray FS 36231. Various other colors are specified for individual troop compartment parts.

Paint Guide: Photos below show USMC and US Army helicopters which had broadly similar interiors.

 

  FS 36231 FS 37038
Dark Gull Gray Black
   
Schemes
General (1956) Cockpit / Troop area  
General (1971) (?) Troop area Cockpit
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous H317 H12
Gunze Mr. Color C317 C33
Humbrol 140 33
Model Master 1740 1749
Revell - 08
Tamiya (XF-54) XF-1
Vallejo Model Air 71.277* 71.057
Vallejo Model Color 70.991 70.950
AKAN 72064* / 62009 78003
AK Interactive - AK 735
AK Real Colors RC247 RC001
AMMO by Mig A.MIG-205 A.MIG-046
Colourcoats ACUS02 C02
Hataka HTK-044* HTK-041
Lifecolor UA 033 LC 02
Mission Models MMP-064 MMP-047
Mr. Paint MRP-100 MRP-171
Xtracolor X131 X012
Xtracrylix XA1131 XA1012

 

Photos:

This USAF H-19 from the 1950s shows the ANA 611 cockpits and interiors that were the norm on all US helicopters until the end of the Korean War.
Early Hueys like this UH-1B 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-595C

  ANA
  FS 13538 Insignia Yellow ID marks ANA 508
  FS 14097 Field Green Camo (Cold War) -
  FS 15042 Gloss Sea Blue Camo (Post-war) ANA 623
  FS 17875 Insignia White Interiors ANA 511
  FS 17925 Untinted White Interiors -
  FS 30117 Earth Red Camo (Gulf War) -
  FS 30219 Dark Tan Camo (Gulf War) ANA 628
  FS 30279 Desert Sand Camo (Gulf War) ANA 616
  FS 33711 USMC Sand Camo (Gulf War) -
  FS 34064 Extra Dark Green Camo (HLCS) -
  FS 34095 Medium Field Green Camo (LCS) -
  FS 34097 Field Green Camo (Cold War) ANA 627
  FS 34151 Interior Green Interiors (pre-1954) ANA 611
  FS 35190 Blue Camo (AV-8 Gulf War) -
  FS 35237 Blue Gray Camo (LCS / TPS) -
  FS 36099 Dark Blue Gray Camo (HLCS) -
  FS 36118 Medium Gunship Gray Camo (HTPS) ANA 603
  FS 36231 Dark Gull Gray Interiors (post-1954) ANA 621
  FS 36320 Dark Ghost Gray Camo (TPS) -
  FS 36375 Light Ghost Gray Camo (TPS) -
  FS 36440 Light Gull Gray Camo (HLCS) ANA 620
  FS 36495 Light Gray Camo (AV-8 Gulf War) -
  FS 37038 Black Cockpits (Night) ANA 604

 

Last modified: 2 February 2021