Resources

Aircraft Colors and Camouflage, US Navy

 

 

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On 12 January 1950, the US published Federal Specification TT-C-595 which superseded the ANA system with a four-digit numbering system. This was short-lived and just a few years later was superseded by the Federal Standard system, formally known as FED-STD-595.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

 

WORLD WAR II

Early War (1940-42)

On 30 December 1940 the Bureau of Aeronautics (BuAer) determined that the standard color for all ship-based aircraft was to be overall Non-spectacular Light Gray (non-spectacular referring to the matt sheen). This ended a period of experimentation that had taken place earlier in the year, and also the colorful aluminum and yellow scheme which by now was obviously inappropriate for combat conditions. Patrol aircraft would be finished in a two-tone scheme consisting of of a topside color (wings and upper fuselage) of Non-spectacular Blue Gray although the exact color was not initially specified. Later, from 20 August 1941, it was ordered that all ship-based aircraft of the Battle Fleet would use NS Blue Gray topsides and the order was extended to the entire fleet a few months later, on 13 October. Aircraft with folding wings generally had the underside of the folding part painted in the same color as the topside, though this only applied to aircraft where the underside was exposed after folding. So, for example, early Corsairs used Blue Gray on the outer part of the lower wings since they folded upwards. However, the backwards-hinging fold of the Wildcat meant that the entire lower wings were left in Light Gray. As was typical with many USN camo patterns, the colors were sprayed freehand and very inconsistently across units, resulting in some oddities like some Dauntlesses having the tip of their cowls in NS Light Gray.

Neither of the two colors corresponded to a later ANA number and were based on a specification known as M-485 issued on 6 December 1940 (NS Blue Gray was added in 1941 in a revision known as M-485a). This has led to the colors often being referred to as 'Light Gray/Blue Gray M-485'. NS Light Gray is also often designated M-495 but this is incorrect, being based on an unfortunate typo that has been extensively propagated. As to the colors themselves, NS Light Gray is the least complicated of the two since it is a light gull gray that is often compared to ANA 602/620 or FS 36440 although on many photos it appears much lighter. NS Blue Gray is tricker and there is considerable controversy over its exact shade, particularly since the formula was changed in late 1941 and a third version may have been issued in late 1942 as well in preparation for the three-tone scheme (see below) although it is believed it was merely an interim color and not used extensively (if at all). The original Blue Gray faded very heavily in the Pacific sun and had a distinct bleached appearance compared to a freshly painted aircraft. The later version maintained its original color better but was darker and and grayer. An experimental Dark Blue was also known to have been used on some aircraft in a handful of carriers in 1942 in order to better conceal them on deck. Its closest post-war equivalent is FS 35189.

Paint guide:

 

  NS Light Grey NS Blue Grey (1) NS Blue Grey (2)
     
Schemes
General (Dec 40) Overall    
General (Aug 41) Lower (Upper) (Upper)
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous - - -
Gunze Mr Color - C367* C367*
Humbrol - - -
Model Master - 2055 2055
Revell - - -
Tamiya - - -
Vallejo Model Air 71.298* (71.109) (?) (71.109) (?)
Vallejo Model Color - (70.904) (70.904)
AKAN - - -
AK Interactive - - -
AK Real Colors RC255 RC256 RC256
AMMO by Mig - - -
Colourcoats ACUS05 ACUS06 ACUS06
Hataka - HTK-_218* HTK-_218*
Lifecolor - UA 038* UA 038*
Mission Models - (MMP-061) (MMP-061)
Mr Paint MRP-134 MRP-133 MRP-133
Xtracolor - (X162) (X162)
Xtracrylix - - -

 

Photos:

A flight of F4F Wildcats during 1941 wargames showing the overall NS Light Gray scheme.
A then-new F4U-1 Corsair in 1942 showing NS Blue Gray in its deep, unfaded state.
Anyone even remotely doubting just how much the original NS Blue Gray could fade and bleach in the Pacific sun need only see the fabulous series of Life magazine color photos of a flight of SBD Dauntless dive bombers.
This close-up of a group of TBF Avengers shows the sharp contrast between the two freshly-painted colors. This appears to be the later, grayer version.

 

Links:

 

Mid War (1943-44)

On 5 January 1943 (BuAer Specification SR-2C made effective on 1 February), the US Navy switched to a three-tone camo scheme that became standard of the mid-war period and which was still used for many aircraft right up until V-J Day. The new scheme predated the introduction of the ANA system (28 September 1943) but given that all colors were eventually migrated to the new system, the ANA values are provided for convenience. The objective of the new camouflage was to achieve counter-shading of the aircraft, thus requiring gradually lighter colors from the top down.

Although best known as a three-tone, in reality the new scheme used four different types of paint. Topside colors included Non-spectacular Sea Blue ANA 607 for the fuselage and Semi-gloss Sea Blue ANA 606 for the wings. The reason that a semi-gloss paint was used for the wings was in order to replicate the natural shine of the ocean although in terms of hue, the colors were essentially identical both being very dark navy blues (and possibly different than the later Glossy Sea Blue ANA 623 that is described in the following section). Meanwhile, all surfaces that were viewed from below were painted Insignia White ANA 601, a tinted white that was slightly warm but which from a distance looked like a basic white. For the sides of the fuselages, it was originally intended to graduate the topside Sea Blue with the lower Insignia White, resulting in a lack of demarcation and a color approximating Intermediate Blue ANA 608 at the most vertical point. Most photographs show this was not followed in practice and despite the heavy feathering of the demarcations, a clear side color of Intermediate Blue is evident as this would have been significantly less time-consuming than graduating the other two colors. Intermediate Blue is often matched with the post-war FS 35164 but in fact the wartime shade was noticeably lighter, more saturated, and contrasted heavily with Sea Blue.

As with the early war camo, a darker lower wing color (Intermediate Blue) was used in aircraft with folding wings, insofar as this left the lower wing exposed after folding. This was seen in Corsairs but not Hellcats, since the latter retained the backwards-hinge of the Wildcat and thus the entire lower wings were left in Insignia White. Corsairs and Helldivers were notable for having the topside ANA 607 curve downward to meet the wings, and for having the outer half of the lower wing starting from the wing fold painted in ANA 608. In contrast, Hellcats and Avengers typically had the topside color straight along the fuselage and had the lower wings all white although there were some exceptions to both styles. Camo patterns in this scheme were applied freehand and often curved around inconsistently.

Paint guide:

 

  ANA 601 ANA 608 ANA 607
Insignia
White
Intermediate Blue NS Sea Blue
     
Schemes
Basic Lower Sides Upper
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous H316* H56 H54
Gunze Mr Color C316* C72 / C366* C14
Humbrol - (144) (181)
Model Master 1745* (1720) 1718*
Revell - - -
Tamiya - XF-18 (!) XF-17 (!)
Vallejo Model Air 71.279* 71.299* 71.295*
Vallejo Model Color (70.820) (70.903) 70.898*
AKAN (73146) (72050) 72042*
AK Interactive AK 2052* (AK 2054) AK 2233
AK Real Colors RC222* (RC235) RC257
AMMO by Mig - (A.MIG-228) (A.MIG-227)
Colourcoats ACUS10 ACUS08 ACUS33
Hataka HTK-_043* HTK-_027* HTK-_006
Lifecolor - UA 045* UA 044*
Mission Models MMP-104* (MMP-071) MMP-062*
Mr Paint MRP-135 MRP-136 MRP-237*
Xtracolor X141* (X125) (X121)
Xtracrylix XA1141* (XA1125) (XA1121)

 

Photos:

This F6F Hellcat shows the three-tone mid-war scheme. In Hellcats, the fuselage Sea Blue rarely extended into the wings.
An SB2C Helldiver shows the scheme with Sea Blue extending into the wings, similar to that on F4Us.
An impressively detailed close up of an SBD Dauntless in flight. Wartime Intermediate Blue was noticeably lighter than its post-war version.
Larger twin-engined aircraft like this PV-1 Ventura usually had just the upper part of the fuselage in Sea Blue.

 

Links:

 

Late War (1944-45)

A new change was introduced on 13 March 1944 which specified that all US Navy fighter aircraft switch to a single color of overall Glossy Sea Blue ANA 623 (it was added to the ANA palette in June 1944 and, oddly enough, to the non-spectacular rather than the gloss palette). This was made official on 7 October 1944 (BuAer Specification SR-2e which had been issued on 26 June) which probably explains why aircraft using the new scheme really only started to appear later in the year and in 1945. ANA 623 was a gloss version of ANA 607 which is believed to have been slightly darker on account of being specified with a precise pigment ratio as opposed to being approximated to a color swatch. Despite being a gloss paint, in combat it was highly prone to fading and losing its factory sheen. Its Federal Standard match is FS 15042 but it is important to note that ANA 623 changed formula in the post-war period (see below). Wartime ANA 623 had a more pronounced grayish tint and could be easily differentiated from the Insignia Blue of the national insignia, even after freshly painted and even more so after fading. From this period on, it was common for Grumman aircraft (most Hellcats and some Avengers) to ignore the blue parts of the national insignia, painting only the white star and bars. All other manufacturers painted the insignia in full.

The new single-tone never fully replaced the preceding three-tone scheme, particularly on TBF Avengers and (to a lesser extent) SB2C Helldivers. It also did not apply to many other types of USN aircraft such as anti-submarine, patrol, patrol bombers, and observation aircraft which retained their existing non-spectacular, multi-tone schemes. Notably, ANA 623 was retained on many Lend-Lease aircraft (mainly Hellcats and Corsairs) used by the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm, this being the sole USN scheme that was ever adopted on FAA aircraft during the war.

Paint guide:

 

  ANA 623 (1)
Glossy Sea Blue
 
Schemes
Basic Overall
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous H55
Gunze Mr Color C71 / C365*
Humbrol 181*
Model Master 1717*
Revell -
Tamiya XF-17 (!)
Vallejo Model Air 71.300*
Vallejo Model Color (70.898)
AKAN (72042)
AK Interactive AK 2234
AK Real Colors RC258
AMMO by Mig (A.MIG-227)
Colourcoats ANA623
Hataka HTK-_001*
Lifecolor UA 047*
Mission Models MMP-065*
Mr Paint MRP-14
Xtracolor X121*
Xtracrylix XA1121*

 

Photos:

Wartime color photos of ANA 623 are surprisingly rare. This TBM Avenger shows a relatively clean airframe but shows how little gloss Glossy Sea Blue actually had in the field.
ANA 623 also faded considerably and was prone to wear as in this F4U Corsair (very late in the war as this was a F4U-4 variant). Note how the Insignia Blue of the roundels is strongly contrasted.
Another color shot of an F4U under maintenance. The glossy sheen of ANA 623 is evident.
A rare photo of ANA 607 on the Helldiver and ANA 623 on the Hellcat in the background. ANA 623 looks darker but it could just be a fresh paint job compared to the faded Helldiver (the unfaded section of the cowling is nearly identical).

 

ASW Schemes (1943-45)

It became obvious that the new three-tone scheme implemented in 1943, while ideal for the Pacific, did not work nearly as well in the drearier, overcast skies of the Atlantic. As a result, on 19 July 1943 an order was issued by the the Atlantic Fleet's air commander providing two new Anti-Submarine Warfare schemes (most Atlantic USN aircraft were engaged in ASW duties) known as Scheme I and II. Scheme I was for aircraft operating in areas with clear skies such as the southeastern seaboard and the Caribbean. This was a three-tone scheme consisting of Dark Gull Gray ANA 621 as a topside color over Light Gull Grey ANA 620 sides and an underside color of Insignia White ANA 601. The topside color typically curved downward to meet the wings like in three-tone Pacific Corsairs. Scheme II was for aircraft operating in areas of overcast, cloudy skies like the North Atlantic and was a two-tone scheme of ANA 621 over ANA 601, the latter which replaced the areas painted in ANA 620 in Scheme I. Given that most combat in the Atlantic occurred at northern latitudes, Scheme II was by far the most common of the two and the one seen on the few color photos of Atlantic aircraft that were taken.

The two dark gull grays were added later (June 1944) to the ANA palette and their only major use in a US wartime scheme is this. Light Gull Gray is in some respects superseded the older Light Gray from the M-485 specification though it is known that the colors differed slightly. Dark Gull Gray does not have a direct predecessor.

Paint guide:

 

  ANA 601 ANA 620 ANA 621
Insignia
White
Light Gull Gray Dark Gull
Gray
     
Schemes
ASW Scheme I Lower Sides Upper
ASW Scheme II Lower / Sides   Upper
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous H316* H51 H57
Gunze Mr Color C316* C11 C73
Humbrol - 140* -
Model Master 1745* 1730* 1740*
Revell - - -
Tamiya - (XF-20) (XF-54)
Vallejo Model Air 71.279* 71.121* 71.277*
Vallejo Model Color (70.820) 70.986* 70.991*
AKAN (73146) 72014* 72064
AK Interactive AK 2052* AK 2051* -
AK Real Colors RC222* RC220* RC247*
AMMO by Mig - A.MIG-241* A.MIG-205*
Colourcoats ACUS37 ACUS01* ACUS02*
Hataka HTK-_043* HTK-_048* HTK-_044*
Lifecolor - UA 025* UA 033*
Mission Models MMP-104* MMP-063* MMP-064*
Mr Paint MRP-135 MRP-98* MRP-100*
Xtracolor X141* X137* X131*
Xtracrylix XA1141* XA1137* XA1131*

 

Photos:

A flight of SBD Dauntlesses over the Atlantic wearing the more popular ASW Scheme II.
Atlantic-based Liberators (known as PB4Y in USN service) also wore the ASW scheme.
A slight variation of the ASW scheme was the use of a wave demarcation similar to the Sea Search scheme used by the USAAF's ASW units.

 

Links:

 

POST-WAR

Post-war / Korean War (1947-1955)

US Navy aircraft continued using Glossy Sea Blue ANA 623 throughout the immediate post-war era but 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. It was also standard practice during this period not to paint the blue sections of the roundel altogether, a practice that Grumman introduced during World War II. Although Korean War aircraft were no less prone to get dirtied up (particularly since many were land-based), most color photos conclusively show very minimal fading of the paint.

From 2 January 1947 (BuAer Specification SR-2f), the use of ANA 623 would spread to nearly all major combat types including patrol aircraft, seaplanes, and helicopters the latter which were becoming increasingly important components of naval operations as the Korean War would later show. Although new schemes were introduced in 1955 that finally broke the ANA 623 monopoly (see below), the delays in repainting (usually only once an aircraft was sent for maintenance or overhaul) meant that Glossy Sea Blue airframes would still be seen all the way until the end of the decade.

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:

Compared to wartime ANA 623, the post-war version did not fade as much and maintained more of its gloss sheen, as can be seen in this war weary Korean War Corsair.
A very good photo of an AD-1Q Skyraider showing the clearly brighter post-war ANA 623. By this time the roundel blue was not painted.
The use of GSB was almost universal across USN combat aircraft in the immediate post-war era. Although this photo is dated 1959-60, this P2V Neptune is still wearing GSB.
Helicopters were also no exception, as this Korean War-era HUP-1 shows.

Links:

 

Cold War / Vietnam War (1955-1971)

From the mid-1950s, the US Navy adopted a much lighter two-tone gray camo for its carrier aircraft that would be one of the longest lasting schemes ever used by any air service. The first incarnation of this scheme was made official on 23 February 1955 (MIL-C-18263(Aer)) and called for all carrier-based aircraft to be painted with a topside color of Light Gull Grey FS 36440 and glossy undersides of Insignia White FS 17875. This scheme was partly designed to reduce themal effects of nuclear weapons. One of the interesting aspects of this scheme is that movable surfaces like flaps and rudders were painted Insignia White on all sides. This was not officially dictated but became almost universally adopted. FS 36440 is a darker and slightly warmer hue than the wartime ANA 620 which it superseded. In most cases, it looks like a neutral light gray but can also appear warmer with a slight creamish hue to it. FS 17875 is also similar to the wartime ANA 511 in that it is a tinted off-white, although the post-war version has an ivory-like color. It was common for many aircraft to include anti-glare panels in front of and sometimes around the cockpit, these being Black FS 37038.

From 15 August 1956 (BuAer letter Aer-AE-421/214), aircraft based in the continental United States were allowed to carry a special high-visibility scheme that was previously applied to aircraft operating in the Arctic. This consisted of a certain proportion of the rear surfaces of the aircraft (fuselage, wings, and stabilizers) being painted in International Orange FS 12197, which is more of a red than an orange. Unlike the Arctic scheme, this was to be applied using a temporary paint which was to be removed in the event that the aircraft was relocated outside the continental US. These guidelines were rescinded on 16 February 1964 after which only aircraft employed in training, target control, and SAR duties (which previously used Fluorescent Red-Orange FS 28913 but which also switched to International Orange thereafter).

Despite the overall monotony of this scheme, USN aircraft during this period featured high-viz markings and flamboyant unit decorations, often covering much of the aircraft. This certainly contrasted with the more subdued Vietnam War-era USAF aircraft in South-East Asia camo schemes. Simply put, USN aircraft have never looked better (and probably never will).

Paint guide:

 

  FS 17875 FS 36440 FS 12197
Insignia
White
Light Gull Gray International Orange
     
Schemes
General Lower / Flaps Upper  
Arctic / CONUS Lower / Flaps Upper Rear
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous H316 H325 -
Gunze Mr Color C316 C325 -
Humbrol - 140 -
Model Master 1745 1730 2022
Revell - - -
Tamiya - (X-20) -
Vallejo Model Air 71.279* 71.121* -
Vallejo Model Color (70.820) 70.986** -
AKAN (73146) 72014 -
AK Interactive AK 2052 AK 2051 -
AK Real Colors RC222 RC220 -
AMMO by Mig - A.MIG-241 -
Colourcoats ACUS36 ACUS01 ACUS46
Hataka HTK-_043 HTK-_048* HTK-_062
Lifecolor - UA 025 -
Mission Models MMP-104 MMP-063 -
Mr Paint MRP-99 MRP-98 MRP-232**
Xtracolor X141 X137 X104
Xtracrylix XA1141 XA1137 -

 

Photos:

The FJ-2 Fury (the naval version of the legendary F-86 Sabre, and not to be confused with the earlier, straight-wing FJ-1) entered service around the time of the transition from GSB to LGG/IW and so many aircraft were seen in both schemes.
No aircraft sported the LGG/IW scheme better than the F-4 Phantom, the USN's workhorse during the Vietnam War. Although the fuselage colors were the same, radomes often varied in color as this pair of aircraft show.
The ivory-like nature of Insignia White is evident when contrasted with the porcelain white of a toilet, a non-standard ordinance that was used by this AH-1 Skyraider as a publicity stunt during the Vietnam War.
This F3H Demon as well as an early Phantom in the background is wearing the prominent International Orange on sections of the rear fuselage. They are probably continental-based aircraft on training.

 

Links:

 

Cold War / Vietnam War (1971-1980)

The introduction of MIL-C-18263F(AS) on 29 June 1971 made some modest changes to the prevailing scheme, namely that the entire surface of the aircraft was given a gloss sheen. As such, the new colors became Light Gull Gray FS 16440 (originally just named 'Light Gray') over Insignia White FS 17875. As with the earlier scheme, movable parts like flaps and rudders were typically left in Insignia White even though official illustrations specified the entire topside to be in Light Gull Gray. By this time it was also common to apply a special tan-colored protective coat to radomes (and occasionally other areas) and was seen mostly on A-6s, F-14s, F/A-18s, and S-3s. This protective coat is typically matched to FS 33613 (which is informally known as Radome Tan). Overall, the new scheme was virtually identical to the preceding one, with the only perceptible difference being the glossier topsides.

In 1976 the Tactical Paint Scheme project was launched with the intention of replacing the long-standing LGG/IW scheme (see below). Due to the time it would take to develop and evaluate, it was decided to eliminate the highly detectable Insignia White on carrier-based fighters (F-4s and F-14s) as soon as possible, leaving them in overall FS 16440. This was authorized on 18 February 1977 and was implemented gradually, with most existing aircraft repainted by 1980.

Paint guide:

 

  FS 17875 FS 16440 FS 33613
Insignia
White
Light Gull Gray Radome Tan
     
Schemes
General Lower / Flaps Upper (Radome)
Fighters (1977-)   Overall  
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous H316 H314 H313
Gunze Mr Color C316 C314 C313
Humbrol - 129 148
Model Master 1745 1729 1709
Revell - - -
Tamiya - (X-20) -
Vallejo Model Air 71.279* 71.121* (71.074)
Vallejo Model Color (70.820) 70.986** -
AKAN (73146) 72014 -
AK Interactive AK 2052 AK 2051 AK 2053
AK Real Colors RC222 RC220 RC227
AMMO by Mig - A.MIG-241 -
Colourcoats ACUS36 ACUS01 -
Hataka HTK-_043 HTK-_048* -
Lifecolor - UA 025 -
Mission Models MMP-104 MMP-069 MMP-070
Mr Paint MRP-99 MRP-98 MRP-394
Xtracolor X141 X137 X107
Xtracrylix XA1141 XA1137 -

 

Photos:

This A-7 Corsair II shows the glossy sheen of FS 16440 compared to its matt predecessor. The hue is identical, however.

These F-14s from VF-1 and VF-2 are lined up on the deck of the USS Enterprise on their first deployment 1974-75. Note the Radome Tan on some aircraft as well as the different styles of anti-glare panels.
By the turn of the decade, most F-14s had switched to an overall Light Gull Gray camo as seen on this aircraft from VF-111 'Sundowners', one of the most photogenic of all Tomcat squadrons.

 

Tactical Paint Schemes (1980-Current)

Concerns over the detectability of the LGG/IW scheme resulted in the development of so-called Tactical Paint Schemes from 1976, a process that took various years with final evaluations taking place in 1980-81. The TPS was not so much a scheme as it was a camouflage technique whose purpose was to reduce detection probability and range, as well as confuse the identity and number of the aircraft. Unlike previous schemes, the TPS was specifically tailored for each aircraft on account of its size, shape, and role although the same four-color palette was used in either two-tone or three-tone patterns. The introduction of the TPS also saw the change towards low-visibility markings as well. The first specification that formalized the application of TPS was MIL-STD-2161(AS) from 18 April 1985 although the first scheme was authorized on July 1980 for the then-new F/A-18A. Revisions to the specification (1993, 2008, and 2014) remain in place to this date, the latter being the one currently in use.

The four colors include, from lightest to darkest: Light Gray FS 36495, Light Ghost Gray FS 36375, Dark Ghost Gray FS 36320, and Blue Gray FS 35237. The first of these, FS 36495 was only briefly used on the F/A-18A as well as the A-7E. The most common variant of the TPS has been a combination of FS 36320 for the topsides and FS 36375 for the undersides. The colors are very similar to each other and the demarcation is often hard to perceive particularly for aircraft that have shown signs of wear. Gray Blue FS 35237 is noticeably darker and is typically used in the areas around the cockpit. Although each aircraft's unique TPS pattern was illustrated in the specification, mild variations were seen such as certain colors extending beyond their normal areas. Their use on each major USN combat aircraft is described below:

The following table summarizes the schemes above:

  Cockpit Upper Sides Lower
A-4        
  36320 36375 36495
A-6        
  36320 36375 36375
A-7        
  36320 36320 36375
F-4        
  35237 36320 36375
F-4 (USMC)        
  36118 36320 36375
F-14 (1)        
  35237 36320 36375
F-14 (2)        
35237 36320 36375 36375
F/A-18 (1)        
35237 36375 36495 36495
F/A-18 (2)        
  36320 36375 36375
S-3        
35237 36375 36375 36375

 

Finally, there was still widespread use of Radome Tan FS 33613 protective coatings on radomes and sometimes the tips of fuel tanks. This practice became less widespread by the 1990s.

Paint Guide:

 

  FS 36495 FS 36375 FS 36320 FS 35237
Light Gray Light Ghost Gray Dark Ghost Gray Blue Gray
       
Scheme
TPS (Lower) (Lower) (Upper) (Upper)
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous H338 H308 H307 H337
Gunze Mr Color C338 C308 C307 C337
Humbrol 147 127 128 145
Model Master 1732 1728 1741 1721
Revell - - - -
Tamiya - - - -
Vallejo Model Air 71.276 - 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 RC253 RC252 RC251 RC237
AMMO by Mig A.MIG-209 A.MIG-203 A.MIG-208 A.MIG-210**
Colourcoats - ACUS03 ACUS40 ACUS38
Hataka HTK-_050 HTK-_037 HTK-_035 HTK-_046
Lifecolor UA 023 UA 026 UA 027 UA 145**
Mission Models MMP-116 MMP-073 MMP-074 MMP-072
Mr Paint MRP-364 MRP-38 MRP-97 MRP-105
Xtracolor X139 X136 X135 X126
Xtracrylix XA1139 XA1136 XA1135 XA1126

 

Photos:

An early F/A-18A shows the unique TPS scheme of early Hornets, notably the use of FS 36495 as the underside color.
This freshly painted F/A-18E does show the demarcation lines between Light and Dark Ghost Gray in the nose and the rear fuselage.
A nice comparison between an F-14 in overall Light Gull Gray behind one in a still somewhat patchy TPS scheme.
These F-14s in TPS show the FS 35237 demarcation line quite well. All three aircraft have distinct patterns for this color.
The S-3 sub-hunter was the only USN aircraft to have a single-color TPS, with the exception of the area around the cockpit.
Before fully transitioning to the Hornet, the last remaining USMC F-4s were seen wearing a Medium Gunship Grey topside color in the late 1980s.

 

Links:

 

Ferris Scheme (1976)

At the same time that the Tactical Paint Schemes began their development, an ambitious new camouflage technique was proposed by Keith Ferris, a well-known aviation artist. This so-called Ferris Scheme involved high-contrast splinter patterns as well as a false canopy on the underside of the nose which intended to deceive enemy pilots with respect to the orientation of the aircraft. The three colors used were Light Gull Gray FS 36440 and Dark Gull Gray FS 36231 for the sides and undersides, with Medium Gunship Gray FS 36118 on the topside. The Ferris Scheme was applied to numerous USN fighters, notably the F-4 and F-14, and was even trialled on the USAF's then-new F-15. However, it proved unsatisfactory and was never formally adopted even though some of its elements such as the false canopy was later adopted by USMC F/A-18s as well as many foreign air forces. The splinter pattern has also inspired numerous modern foreign camouflage schemes.

 

Paint guide:

 

  FS 36440 FS 36231 FS 36118
Light Gull Gray Dark Gull Gray Medium Gunship Gray
     
Schemes
Ferris Lower / Sides Lower / Upper Upper
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous H325 H317 H305 (!)
Gunze Mr Color C325 C317 C305 (!)
Humbrol 140 140 125
Model Master 1730 1740 1723
Revell - - 74
Tamiya (X-20) (XF-54) (XF-24)
Vallejo Model Air 71.121* 71.277* 71.097*
Vallejo Model Color 70.986** 70.991 70.868*
AKAN 72014 62009 72040*
AK Interactive AK 2051 - AK-2144
AK Real Colors RC220 RC247 RC-244
AMMO by Mig A.MIG-241 A.MIG-205 A.MIG-204
Colourcoats ACUS01 ACUS02 ACUS14
Hataka HTK-_048* HTK-_044* HTK-031
Lifecolor UA 025 UA 033 UA 022
Mission Models MMP-063 MMP-064 MMP-084
Mr Paint MRP-98 MRP-100 MRP-40
Xtracolor X137 X131 X130
Xtracrylix XA1137 XA1131 XA1130

 

Photos:

Although mostly experimental, a few F-4s wearing Ferris camouflage were pictured intercepting Soviet Tu-95s.

The deck of the USS Enterprise in 1976 shows some F-14s from VF-1 using the Ferris Scheme.

 

Heater-Ferris Scheme (1983-1984)

Later, in 1983-84 another experimental camouflage based on the Ferris scheme was developed by Lt. Cmdr. Chuck 'Heater' Heatley of the Naval Fighter Weapons School. The new scheme (popularly called Heater-Ferris) called for a graduated four-tone deceptive pattern running diagonally across the aircraft. The colors used, from lightest to darkest were Light Gull Gray FS 36375, Light Sea Gray FS 36307, Blue Gray FS 35237, and Intermediate Blue FS 35164. Light Sea Gray and Intermediate Blue had not been used on any post-war scheme, the former being a stone gray while the latter was the color that superseded the well-known wartime color, but which was slightly darker and grayer. The other two colors were also part of the TPS schemes that were being implemented around the same time. Although the scheme was successful during trials and nearly approved, it was ultimately deemed as not sufficiently superior to the TPS to justify widespread use. Notably, two squadrons of F-4S Phantoms (VF-301 and VF-302) used it operationally before their transition to F-14s.

Paint guide:

 

  FS 36375 FS 36307 FS 35237 FS 35164
Light Ghost Gray Light Sea Gray Blue Gray Intermediate Blue
       
Scheme
Heater-Ferris Splinter Splinter Splinter Splinter
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous H308 - H337 (H56)
Gunze Mr Color C308 - C337 (C72) / C366*
Humbrol 127 - 145 144
Model Master 1728 1726 1721 1720
Revell - - - -
Tamiya - - - -
Vallejo Model Air - - 71.114 71.299*
Vallejo Model Color 70.615 - 70.905 70.903
AKAN 72032 77101 72043 72050
AK Interactive AK 2057 AK 2055 AK 2056 AK 2054
AK Real Colors RC252 RC250 RC237 RC235
AMMO by Mig A.MIG-203 - A.MIG-210** A.MIG-228
Colourcoats ACUS03 - ACUS38 (ACUS08)
Hataka HTK-_037 HTK-_266 HTK-_046 HTK-_027*
Lifecolor UA 026 UA 113 UA 145** UA 045*
Mission Models MMP-073 MMP-075 MMP-072 MMP-071
Mr Paint MRP-38 MRP-245 MRP-105 (MRP-136)
Xtracolor X136 X134 X126 X125
Xtracrylix XA1136 - XA1126 XA1125

 

Photos:

The Heater-Ferris Scheme is one of the most attractive ever used on a fighter, as seen on this pair of F-4S Phantoms.

The two F-4 squadrons that used the Heater-Ferris Scheme had mirror image patterns of each other as seen here.

 

Patrol schemes (1955-Current)

The use of Glossy Sea Blue on patrol aircraft ended on 23 February 1955 (MIL-C-18263(Aer)) when it was determined that Sea Plane Gray FS 26081 was to be used instead. This is a semi-gloss dark gray with hints of blue. Unfortunately, in black and white photos it is all but indistinguishable from the earlier GSB which makes it difficult to determine when the switch was made to the new scheme. Color photos also tend to be hard to tell apart given that different color balances or lighting conditions could make them look almost identical. From 2 October 1958 (NAVAER Instruction 07.2A, SUP-1), all ASW aircraft began painting the upper part of the fuselage Insignia White FS 17875. This 'white top' scheme was done for the purpose of solar heat reflection of the fuselage roof, a technique which had previously been implemented on other large, high-endurance aircraft like transports and utility aircraft. The hard demarcation line typically ran at the vertical edge of the sides and given that the Insignia White was restricted to the fuselage, this meant the wings, fins, and stabilizers were left in Sea Plane Gray. This scheme lasted for little over a decade, as the switch to glossy fuselage colors on carrier-aircraft from 29 June 1971 also resulted in change in scheme for patrol aircraft. Light Gull Gray FS 16440 replaced the previous GSB while the solar reflecting Insignia White was retained for the upper fuselage. Although MIL-STD-2161A(AS) from 1 May 1993 continued to specify the IW/LGG scheme, ASW/AEW aircraft began shifting to an overall FS 16440 shortly thereafter. This single-tone scheme persists to this day.

One slight change took place from 1 May 1993 (MIL-STD-2161A(AS)) with the switch to Untinted White FS 17925 in areas that were previously painted Insignia White (the name Insignia White has been used for both). This color is described in the Interiors section. Despite the change to overall FS 16440 for ASW/AEW aircraft, many other USN support aircraft continue to use some combination of Light Gull Gray and Insignia/Untinted White.

Paint Guide:

 

  FS 26081 FS 16440 FS 17875
Sea Plane Gray Light Gull Gray Insignia
White
     
Schemes
General (1955) Overall    
General (1958) Lower   Upper
General (1971)   Lower Upper
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous H301 H314 H316
Gunze Mr Color C301 C314 C316
Humbrol 032 129 -
Model Master 1788 1730 1745
Revell - - -
Tamiya - (X-20) -
Vallejo Model Air 71.314* 71.121* 71.279*
Vallejo Model Color - 70.986** (70.820)
AKAN 72008 72014 (73146)
AK Interactive AK 2105 AK 2051 AK 2052
AK Real Colors RC243 RC220 RC222
AMMO by Mig - A.MIG-241 -
Colourcoats ACUS43 ACUS01 ACUS36
Hataka HTK-_030 HTK-_048* HTK-_043
Lifecolor UA 030 UA 025 -
Mission Models MMP-099 MMP-063 MMP-104
Mr Paint MRP-241 MRP-98 MRP-99
Xtracolor X129 X137 X141
Xtracrylix XA1129 XA1137 XA1141

 

Photos:

This photo of a P2V (later P-2) Neptune was taken in 1958 by which time it was painted in overall Sea Plane Gray.
An early P-3 Orion (then known as the P3V) shows the IW/SPG scheme that became the standard scheme of patrol aircraft throughout the 1960s. Radomes were painted black.
The P-3 is undoubtedly the best known user of the IW/LGG scheme that was in use from the 1970s all the way into the 1990s.
USN patrol aircraft currently wear an overall FS 16440 scheme like this P-8 Poseidon.

 

HELICOPTERS

Cold War (1955-1980)

Like most USN aircraft, helicopters abandoned Glossy Sea Blue on 23 February 1955 (MIL-C-18263(Aer)) when they adopted Light Gull Gray FS 36440 overall. However, this scheme would not last long. From 30 July 1957 (MIL-C-18263A(Aer)), all carrier-based helicopters were ordered to switch to Engine Gray FS 16081. This is a descendant of the wartime ANA 513 and is essentially the gloss version of Sea Plane Gray that was being used on patrol aircraft during this period. An exception to the rule were the carrier-based ASW versions of the SH-3 Sea King which from 29 June 1971 (MIL-C-18263F(AS)) featured an inverted version of the scheme used on carrier-based aircraft. This consisted of Insignia White FS 17875 for the topside and gloss Light Gull Gray FS 16440 for the bottom half. However, all other helicopters continued using Engine Gray until the eventual transition into the Tactical Paint Schemes in the 1980s (see below).

Identification bands, when used, were Insignia Yellow FS 13538 and, like aircraft, some helicopters based in the continental US also had sections of the fuselage painted International Orange FS 12197 between 1957-64. Furthermore, aircraft engaged in anti-submarine duties (namely the HSS-1) had their noses and tails painted Fluorescent Red Orange FS 28913 from 7 December 1957 (MIL-C-18263B(Aer)).

Paint Guide:

 

  FS 36440 FS 16081 FS 13538 FS 28913 FS 12197
Light Gull Gray Engine Gray Insignia Yellow Fluorescent Red Orange International Orange
         
Scheme          
General (1955) Overall   (ID bands)    
           
General (1957)   Overall (ID bands) (Nose / Tail) (Nose / Tail)
Color matches          
Gunze Aqueous H314 H301 H329 - -
Gunze Mr Color C314 C301 C329 - -
Humbrol 129 032 154 (209) -
Model Master 1730 1788 1707 2041 2022
Revell - - - (332) -
Tamiya (X-20) - - - -
Vallejo Model Air 71.121* 71.314* 71.078** - -
Vallejo Model Color 70.986** - - - -
AKAN 72014 72008 72001 - -
AK Interactive AK 2051 AK 2105 - - -
AK Real Colors RC220 RC243 - - -
AMMO by Mig A.MIG-241 - - - -
Colourcoats ACUS01 ACUS43 - - ACUS46
Hataka HTK-_048* HTK-_030 HTK-_066 (HTK-_268) HTK-_062
Lifecolor UA 025 UA 030 UA 140** - -
Mission Models MMP-063 MMP-099 - - -
Mr Paint MRP-98 MRP-241 - (MRP-193) MRP-232**
Xtracolor X137 X129 X106 X161 X104
Xtracrylix XA1137 XA1129 - - -

 

Photos:

This HUP-2 has transitioned to the short-lived overall Light Gull Gray look.
This CH-46 Sea Knight shows the typical Cold War-era scheme of overall Engine Gray.
The HSS-1 was on the main ASW helicopters during the Cold War and wore the very noticeable Fluorescent Red Orange sections on the nose and tail.
The exception to all these schemes was the SH-3, with an elegant scheme that was the inverse of some of the aircraft on deck.

 

Tactical Paint Scheme (1980-Current)

In parallel with aircraft, USN helicopters also adopted Tactical Paint Schemes from the 1980s onward. This consisted of Light Ghost Gray FS 36375 on the fuselage sides, with Blue Gray FS 35237 on all surfaces directly facing upward. Undersides were painted Light Gray FS 36495. The three colors tend to appear very similar on the field and the demarcation lines are often hard to perceive, particularly on more worn out and faded helicopters. These colors remain in use today, and are most notable on the SH-60 Seahawk, the USN's main ship-based anti-submarine helicopter.

There always seems to be an exception to every US helicopter rule, in this case is the MH-53E Sea Dragon which retains the same base color as older USN helicopters although its matt version, Dark Gunship Gray FS 36081.

Paint Guide: All colors are described in previous sections.

 

  FS 36495 FS 36375 FS 35237 FS 36081
Light Gray Light Ghost Gray Blue Gray Dark Gunship Gray
       
Scheme
TPS Lower Sides Upper  
MH-53E       Overall
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous H338 H308 H337 H301
Gunze Mr Color C338 C308 C337 C301
Humbrol 147 127 145 032
Model Master 1732 1728 1721 1788
Revell - - - -
Tamiya - - - -
Vallejo Model Air 71.276 - 71.114 71.314*
Vallejo Model Color - 70.615 70.905 -
AKAN - 72032 72043 72008
AK Interactive - AK 2057 AK 2056 AK 2105
AK Real Colors RC253 RC252 RC237 RC243
AMMO by Mig A.MIG-209 A.MIG-203 A.MIG-210** -
Colourcoats - ACUS03 ACUS38 ACUS43
Hataka HTK-_050 HTK-_037 HTK-_046 HTK-_030
Lifecolor UA 023 UA 026 UA 145** UA 030
Mission Models MMP-116 MMP-073 MMP-072 MMP-099
Mr Paint MRP-364 MRP-38 MRP-105 MRP-241
Xtracolor X139 X136 X126 X129
Xtracrylix XA1139 XA1136 XA1126 XA1129

 

Photos:

This SH-60B shows the subtle difference between the side and underside colors.
Even the SH-3 lost its unique IW/LGG scheme and adopted the TPS.
The exception to the modern rule is the lumbering MH-53E with a menacing Dark Gunship Gray scheme.

 

OTHER

Interiors (1941-1954)

The topic of US wartime interiors is highly complicated and in many cases remains speculative to this day. This is because there was considerable leeway with respect to individual manufacturers using their own standards which means that even the same aircraft built in different factories could have different interior colors. For the most part, US aircraft used the same basic corrosion-resistant primer known as Zinc Chromate which also became the default color for exposed interior spaces. The name of this primer referred to the main pigment used rather than the color which was a bright yellow with a greenish hue, hence why it was also referred to as Yellow Zinc Chromate. The exact tone of YZC varied slightly between manufacturers and it was never assigned a number on any color system. A second color was created by adding black enamel to zinc chromate, producing what became known as Green Zinc Chromate (also called Tinted Zinc Chromate). This was used mostly on unexposed interior spaces, cockpits, as well as repainted parts that were previously covered only in YZC. Manufacturers often used different proportions of zinc chromate and lamp black in their mixes and as a result GZC varied even more in practice than YZC. Eventually, a standardized version of GZC was developed in late 1942 and became known as Interior Green (ANA 611 after the implementation of the ANA system on 28 September 1943). This was slightly darker and browner than the average GZC shade and later superseded by FS 34151 which was even browner still than the wartime shade. Notably, Grumman and Vought used proprietary primers in the early during the war, known colloquially as Grumman Gray and Salmon Pink respectively.

There were no standardized requirements for painting exposed interior spaces but typical USN practice was for most carrier-based aircraft to have their landing gear spaces and components (wheel wells, covers, landing gear, and wheel hubs) painted in the same color as the lower fuselage, with the only notable exception being the S2BC Helldiver which painted them in GZC/IG. This, combined with the early use of proprietary primers by Grumman and Vought, meant that YZC was rare on exposed interiors of USN combat aircraft unlike those of the USAAF. Aside from that, all other structural spaces such as bomb bays and (non-cockpit) crew compartments were painted in GZC/IG, independent of the cockpit color. Post-war, practices for painting interiors continued to vary between aircraft although many still retained the wartime tradition of using the underside color for all landing gear spaces. This remained in place until 25 March 1954 (BuAer Instruction NAVAER 07.1) when major changes to interior colors were implemented and which are described below.

Paint guide:

 

      ANA 611
Yellow Zinc Chromate Green Zinc Chromate Interior Green
     
Schemes
General Interiors Interiors  
General (1943) Interiors   Interiors
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous - - H58
Gunze Mr. Color C352 C351 C27
Humbrol - - 226
Model Master - 1734 1715*
Revell - - -
Tamiya XF-4** - -
Vallejo Model Air 71.107 71.094 71.137*
Vallejo Model Color - - 70.850*
AKAN 72034 - 72004*
AK Interactive AK 2207 AK 2306 AK 2303
AK Real Colors RC263 RC262 -
AMMO by Mig A.MIG-221 A.MIG-220* (!) A.MIG-220*
Colourcoats ACUS23 ACUS22 ACUS09
Hataka - - HTK-_211*
Lifecolor - - UA 004*
Mission Models MMP-067 MMP-068 MMP-059*
Mr. Paint MRP-129 - MRP-131
Xtracolor X408 - X117*
Xtracrylix - - XA1117*

 

Bomb bays and crew compartments (aside from the cockpit) were typically painted in GZC/ANA 611 as shown on this restored TBM-3 Avenger.
This F4U being restored at the Naval Aviation Museum in Florida is using the same Salmon Pink primer that was used by early Vought aircraft.
Sadly, there are no color pictures of Grumman Gray primer but this F4F Wildcat under maintenance in the hangar of the USS Enterprise shows it in the exposed wing root.
Most carrier-based USN aircraft used the underside color for wheel wells and landing gear, as seen in this SBD-5 Dauntless being loaded.

Links:

 

Cockpits (1941-1954)

US cockpit colors in World War II are the subject of much controversy and speculation. Thankfully, there is slightly greater consistency among USN aircraft than their USAAF counterparts despite using the same colors. From 23 August 1938 (TO 50-38), the default cockpit color used by the USN at the start of the war was Bronze Green. This was introduced as early as November 1919 (US Army Specification No. 3-1) where it was known as Bronze Green No. 9. It is a very dark olive green which can be compared to a black-green, although like most cockpit colors it would look considerably lighter in practice. However, adherence to this color was not strictly enforced and manufacturers were allowed to use similar approved colors. The most common was Green Zinc Chromate, which was already in widespread use as a primer for unexposed interior spaces. Some manufacturers were known to have used their own particular variants of GZC, such as Curtiss whose version is known colloquially as Curtis Cockpit Green. Ultimately, the use of Bronze Green or any version of zinc chromate was highly manufacturer-dependent and resulted in many aircraft built in separate factories being finished with different cockpit colors. Additionally, a small number of pre-war aircraft like the Brewster Buffalo and the Douglas TBD Devastator had cockpits painted in an aluminum lacquer. These aircraft saw only limited service during the first year of the war.

From 24 April 1942 (BuAer Specification SR-15d), a new cockpit color known as Dark Dull Green was introduced to replace Bronze Green. There is considerable speculation regarding its exact color and is generally believed to a darker version of Medium Green No. 42/ANA 612/FS 34092 with more of a blueish hue. More problems arise from the fact that it looks vastly different on many aircraft, in some appearing as a turquoise-like blue-green. The fact that this color is much closer to that of actual aged bronze (think of old bronze artifacts and statues) lends even more confusion with Bronze Green. A few months later, the specification of the color that would later be known as Interior Green ANA 611 (which as the previous section described as a specifically tinted version of Green Zinc Chromate) came on 21 December 1942 and many manufacturers that had hitherto used GZC gradually shifted to this new color. Interior Green was formally adopted as part of the ANA system when it was instituted on 28 September 1943 by which time the use of Dull Dark Green had been largely abandoned on USN aircraft.

The final wartime change occurred on 10 October 1944 (BuAer Specification SR-15e) when it was determined that all cockpit areas above the level of the bottom of the instrument panel were to be painted Instrument Black ANA 514. This included areas such as the canopy frame. This practice continued into the post-war era although it also became common for larger areas of the cockpit being painted in ANA 514 such as the entirety of the walls and side panels. Eventually, many aircraft cockpits by the time of the Korean War were painted entirely in ANA 514 until 25 March 1954 (BuAer Instruction NAVAER 07.1) when the use of Dark Gull Gray was introduced.

A summary of the suspected main cockpit colors used on major USN carrier aircraft is as follows. All post-war aircraft used Interior Green and Instrument Black or overall Instrument Black cockpits:

Unlike exterior camouflage, vintage wartime-era color photos of cockpits are a rarity, which makes the problem of approximating the actual colors so much more difficult. Cockpit photos are also notoriously difficult to accurately assess given that colors tend to look lighter than they actually are. Furthermore, restored aircraft like those found in museums may have been repainted and the new color may not match the original. In conclusion, all information here is speculative and should not be taken as the final word on this controversial topic.

Paint guide:

 

        ANA 611 ANA 514
Green Zinc Chromate Bronze Green Dull Dark Green Interior Green Instrument Black
         
Schemes
General (Cockpit) (Cockpit)      
General (Apr 42) (Cockpit)   (Cockpit)    
General (Sep 43)     (Cockpit) (Cockpit)  
General (Oct 44)       Lower cockpit Upper cockpit
Post-War (Alt)         Cockpit
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous - - - H58 H12
Gunze Mr. Color C351 - - C27 C33
Humbrol - (75) - 226 33
Model Master 1734 (2025) - 1715* 1749
Revell - (65) (48) - 02
Tamiya - - - - XF-1
Vallejo Model Air 71.094 71.013* - 71.137* 71.057
Vallejo Model Color - 70.897* - 70.850* 70.950
AKAN - (71076) - 72004* 78004
AK Interactive AK 2306 AK 2205 AK 2106* AK 2303 AK 719
AK Real Colors RC262 RC264 RC230* - RC001
AMMO by Mig A.MIG-220* (!) - A.MIG-077 A.MIG-220* A.MIG-032
Colourcoats ACUS22 ACUS30 ACUS24 ACUS09 C02
Hataka - - - HTK-_211* HTK-041
Lifecolor - (UA 111) - UA 004* LC 72
Mission Models MMP-068 - - MMP-059* MMP-047
Mr. Paint - MRP-132 MRP-229 MRP-131 MRP-171
Xtracolor - - - X117* X012
Xtracrylix - - - XA1117* XA1012

 

A close-up of a restored F4F-4 Wildcat showing what is likely Dull Dark Green, although it is believed that Grumman-built Wildcats used Bronze Green exclusively.
Grumman switched to Interior Green once production of the F6F Hellcat began although it is believed that the first aircraft were still painted in Bronze Green while paint stocks lasted.
Late war aircraft had the upper half of the cockpit walls, side panels, and the canopy frame painted Instrument Black, a practice that continued into the post-war period as in this F4U-4 Corsair.
By the 1950s it was not uncommon for USN aircraft to be painted entirely in Instrument Black like this FJ-1 Fury, although some still had sections like the cockpit floor or seats in Interior Green.

Links:

 

Cockpits / Interiors (1954-Current)

Note: Helicopter interiors are described in the US Marine Corps page.

The first major post-war revision of interior USN colors came on 25 March 1954 (BuAer Instruction NAVAER 07.1) which introduced an overall cockpit color of Dark Gull Gray FS 36231 (ANA 621). This would replace all areas previously in Interior Green (ANA 611) or Instrument Black (514), the latter which became increasingly used in the immediate post-war era for the cockpit as a whole. Certain areas of the cockpit like instrument bezels, canopy frames, and glare shields were left in Black FS 37038. From 16 July 1956 (MIL-C-18263(Aer)), cockpit colors were standardized across all branches. This new specification also determined that interior areas such as landing gear wells and covers were to be painted Insignia White FS 17875 (bomb bays had already been switched to this color a year earlier). This was a welcome move towards homogeneity in non-cockpit interior colors given that, before 1956, these areas were left either in primer, Interior Green, or the same color as the external fuselage depending on aircraft and manufacturer. One slight change took place from 1 May 1993 (MIL-STD-2161A(AS)) with the switch to Untinted White FS 17925 in areas that were previously painted Insignia White (the name Insignia White has been used for both). This color is as close to a natural white as possible (it is composed of just one pigment, Rutile Titanium Dioxide), lacking the ivory tone of FS 17875 although from a distance is probably indistinguishable unless the two colors are shown together.

An additional requirement that was unique to naval aircraft was that all wing areas that were covered by slats and flaps when fully retracted were to be painted Insignia Red FS 11138. Additionally, Insignia Red would also be used to paint the edges of landing gear covers as well as speed breaks. The practice has now been abandoned in the F-35C.

Paint guide:

 

  FS 36231 FS 17875 FS 17925 FS 11136
Dark Gull Gray Insignia White Untinted White Insignia Red
       
Schemes
General (1956) Cockpit Interiors   Movable interiors
General (1985) Cockpit   Interiors Movable interiors
Color matches
Gunze Aqueous H317 H316 (H1) H327
Gunze Mr Color C317 C316 C381 C327
Humbrol 140 - (22) 153
Model Master 1740 1745 2144 1705
Revell - - (04) -
Tamiya (XF-54) - (X-2) -
Vallejo Model Air 71.277* 71.279* - -
Vallejo Model Color 70.991 (70.820) 70.842 70.957*
AKAN 62009 (73146) - 72000
AK Interactive - AK 2052 - -
AK Real Colors RC247 RC222 - -
AMMO by Mig A.MIG-205 - - -
Colourcoats ACUS02 ACUS36 - ACUS26
Hataka HTK-_044* HTK-_043 - HTK-_219*
Lifecolor UA 033 - LC 51 LC 56
Mission Models MMP-064 MMP-104 - MMP-101
Mr Paint MRP-100 MRP-99 - MRP-299*
Xtracolor X131 X141 - X103
Xtracrylix XA1131 XA1141 - XA1103

 

Photos:

The massive two-seat cockpit of this A-6A shows the typical cluttered cockpits of the 1960s.
The F/A-18 Hornet introduced the glass cockpit to the USN. This particular aircraft is used by NASA but retains most of its original cockpit configuration.
Unlike the USAF, USN jets like this A-6 Intruder typically had the edges of wheel covers painted in Insignia Red.
Insignia Red has also been used for the interiors of movable parts like flaps, slats, and speed brakes like this F-14 Tomcat.

 

Color Tables

BuAer Specification M-485 (6 December 1940)

  FED-STD Munsell
    Light Gray FS 36440 (?) ?
    Blue Gray FS 35189 (?) 9B 3.5/1.5

 

ANA Bulletin No. 157 (28 September 1943)

  FED-STD Munsell
  ANA 601 Insignia White FS 37875 8.3Y 9.17/0.6
  ANA 602 Light Gray FS 36440 (?) 2.4GY 6.51/0.5
  ANA 603 Sea Gray FS 36118 3.7PB 3.94/0.96
  ANA 604 Black FS 37038 3.2PB 2.28/0.1
  ANA 605 Insignia Blue FS 35044 5.7PB 2.47/1.55
  ANA 606 Semi-gloss Sea Blue FS 25042 1.0PB 2.94/1.5
  ANA 607 Non-spectacular Sea Blue FS 35042 0.3PB 2.67/1.4
  ANA 608 Intermediate Blue FS 35164 0.3PB 4.86/2.45
  ANA 609 Azure Blue FS 35231 5.3PB 5.36/6.35
  ANA 610 Sky FS 34424 ?
  ANA 611 Interior Green FS 34151 3.3GY 4.55/3.6
  ANA 612 Medium Green FS 34092 0.3G 3.57/1.85
  ANA 613 Olive Drab FS 33070 (?) 7.0Y 3.62/1.5
  ANA 614 Orange Yellow FS 33538 0.5Y 7.16/11.0
  ANA 615 Middle Stone FS 30266 ?
  ANA 616 Sand FS 30279 ?
  ANA 617 Dark Earth FS 30118 ?
  ANA 618 Dull Red FS 30109 9.3R 3.71/5.5
  ANA 619 Insignia Red FS 31136 5.2R 4.16/10.65
  ANA 620* Light Gull Gray FS 36440 4.55GY 7.08/0.27
  ANA 621* Dark Gull Gray FS 36231 7.3B 5.36/0.5
  ANA 622* Jet FS 17038 0.8PB 0.68/0.5
  ANA 623* Sea Blue FS 15042 0.55PB 2.59/1.45
  ANA 625* Sea Plane Gray FS 26081 ?
  ANA 626* Semi-gloss White FS 27875 ?
  ANA 627* Field Green FS 34097 ?
  ANA 628* Sierra Tan FS 30219 ?
  ANA 631* Forest Green FS 34079 ?

* Added later

 

ANA Bulletin No. 166 (4 December 1943)

  FED-STD Munsell
  ANA 501 Light Blue FS 15102 3.7PB 3.54/8.15
  ANA 502 Insignia Blue FS 15044 4.9PB 1.25/2.95
  ANA 503 Light Green FS 14187 8.5GY 4.67/8.15
  ANA 504 Olive Drab (FS 24165) 6.8Y 2.88/1.95
  ANA 505 Light Yellow FS 13655 5.4Y 7.74/11.8
  ANA 506 Orange Yellow FS 13538 1.2Y 7.3/13.05
  ANA 507 Aircraft Cream FS 13594 ?
  ANA 508 International Orange FS 12197 9.3R 4.49/13.7
  ANA 509 Insignia Red FS 11136 7.65R 3.13/11.5
  ANA 510 Maroon FS 10049 1.4YR 2.38/3.25
  ANA 511 Insignia White FS 17875 4.2GY 8.93/0.6
  ANA 512 Aircraft Gray FS 16473 2.4B 6.68/0.8
  ANA 513 Engine Gray FS 16081 2.7B 3.10/0.35
  ANA 514 Instrument Black FS 27038 2.4PB 2.30/0.4
  ANA 515 Gloss Black FS 17038 0.9PB 1.34/0.45
  ANA 516 Strata Blue FS 15045 -

Note: Where Munsell values are available, these have been converted to RGB/Hex values using Munsell Color Palette. All others taken from Cybermodeler.

 

Federal Standard FED-STD-595C

  ANA
  FS 11136 Insignia Red Interiors ANA 509
  FS 12197 International Orange Hi-viz marks ANA 506
  FS 13538 Insignia Yellow ID marks ANA 508
  FS 15042 Gloss Sea Blue Camo (Post-war, Patrol) ANA 623
  FS 16081 Engine Gray Camo (Cold War helo) ANA 513
  FS 16440 Light Gull Gray Camo (Cold War) ANA 620
  FS 17875 Insignia White Camo (Cold War), Interiors ANA 511
  FS 17925 Untinted White Camo (Patrol), Interiors -
  FS 20400 Tan Camo (Aggressor) -
  FS 26081 Sea Plane Gray Camo (Cold War helo) ANA 625
  FS 28913 Fluorescent Red Orange Hi-viz marks -
  FS 30117 Earth Red Camo (Gulf War) -
  FS 30140 Brown Special Camo (Aggressor) -
  FS 30219 Dark Tan Camo (Gulf War) ANA 628
  FS 30279 Desert Sand Camo (Gulf War) ANA 616
  FS 33613 Radome Tan Radomes -
  FS 34151 Interior Green Interiors (pre-1954) ANA 611
  FS 35109 Aggressor Blue Camo (Aggressor) -
  FS 35164 Intermediate Blue Camo (Heater) ANA 608
  FS 35190 Blue Camo (Aggressor) -
  FS 35237 Blue Gray Camo (TPS) -
  FS 36081 Dark Gunship Gray Camo (MH-53E) -
  FS 36118 Medium Gunship Gray Camo (Ferris) ANA 603
  FS 36231 Dark Gull Gray Cockpits (post-1954) ANA 621
  FS 36307 Light Sea Gray Camo (Heater) -
  FS 36320 Dark Ghost Gray Camo (TPS) -
  FS 36375 Light Ghost Gray Camo (TPS) -
  FS 36440 Light Gull Gray Camo (Cold War) ANA 620
  FS 36495 Light Gray Camo (TPS) -
  FS 37038 Black Anti-glare ANA 604

* Hex values calculated from official FED-STD-595C XYZ values (Illuminant C at 2° or D65 at 2° for fluorescents) using Nix Color Sensor color converter.

 

Last modified: 2 February 2021