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To camouflage or not to camouflage. That is the question

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Dai Fledermaus17/05/2013 12:53:18
1057 forum posts
52 photos

I've often wondered why U.S aircraft during WW2 were generally, although not always, given a polished alloy finish when British, German, and Italian planes were camourflarged or finished in some other drab colour in an effort not to get them noticed. I would have thought that the easiest way to get bounced by an enemy aircraft is to fly a bright shiney plane. Or did camouflage have a limited effect?

Ben B17/05/2013 13:02:41
1424 forum posts
4 photos

You have to consider that the US joined the party slightly late by which time the German defenses were somewhat diminished. A bare metal plane is lighter (therefore slightly faster) and it does a reasonable job of camoflaging. Don't forget the RAF painted great big black and white stripes all over their planes when the invasion time came to avoid being shot down by friendly forces.

Bob Cotsford17/05/2013 13:10:53
8382 forum posts
463 photos

and lots of US aircraft were painted dark blue for operation over water. I'd guess that the Pacific theatre probably involved more flying over wet than dry.

chris basson17/05/2013 13:37:15
168 forum posts
7 photos
Resisting the temptation to comment on the intelligence of our trans-atlantic cousins! Nothing Quite as Pretty as a Polished Mustang though!

Edited By chris basson on 17/05/2013 13:39:24

GrahamC17/05/2013 13:43:49
1240 forum posts
196 photos

Has this also got to do with camoflage actually being more effective at hiding aircraft when they are on the ground? As the war progressed and the allies went more on the offensive, hiding them when on the ground was less of an issue. It would explain why you don't see bare metal FW190's.

Phil 917/05/2013 14:10:16
4287 forum posts
251 photos

I read that Von Richthofen said in WW1 that camouflage did not work well in the air and it was more important to quicky identify freind from foe. So his squadron all had bright easily recognised paint jobs.

Simon Chaddock17/05/2013 14:39:56
5685 forum posts
3024 photos

Bear in mind that the Mustang was primarily a high altitude day fighter.

Brown/green camouflage only works well when viewed from above and relatively close to the ground, not a common situation for a high altitude fighter.

Then of course their is the issue of a vapour trail. You can't really miss that!

Indeed by 1944 most day fighters were actively seeking out the enemy not trying to hide from them.

Transports on the other hand (both UK and American) continued to be camouflage painted.

Dai Fledermaus17/05/2013 16:00:43
1057 forum posts
52 photos

What you say makes sence, but it still doesn't explain why the RAF continued to use camouflage well into the post war period until I'm guessing the introduction or radar on aircraft, and then it didn't matter if another aeroplane was camouflaged or not, it could still be`seen` Camouflage then must have had some merrit.

Phil 917/05/2013 16:46:00
4287 forum posts
251 photos
Posted by Colin Ashman on 17/05/2013 16:00:43:

What you say makes sence, but it still doesn't explain why the RAF continued to use camouflage well into the post war period until I'm guessing the introduction or radar on aircraft, and then it didn't matter if another aeroplane was camouflaged or not, it could still be`seen` Camouflage then must have had some merrit.

I dont know for a fact but maybe the RAF continued with cam just because it looked military and it was what had been used before. The British military tend not to like change?

Mark a17/05/2013 17:19:25
321 forum posts
3 photos

The main reason U.S aircraft were not camouflaged was due to speed of production they saved many thousands of production hours by not painting most of their aircraft and built more of them in the time saved.

Dave Bran17/05/2013 17:40:22
1896 forum posts
5 photos

It wasn't just the weight of the paint, but also that a polished metal finish was the fastest/better fuel economy way to finish.

The super Matt paint applied to early WW2 night fighters had a LARGE slowing effect, and the general matt camo paint used during the Battle of Britain era, when changed to semi-matt finish, improved the speed of every plane it was applied to, some very markedly.

Erfolg17/05/2013 18:33:49
11706 forum posts
1309 photos

I think Simon has it.

If you are concerned about being destroyed on the ground, camouflage could help. Painting the underside could help though when flying and being observed from the ground. Although I have noticed that my models all look dark, whatever the colour, when in the air, that is accepting white, which seems to blend into the sky, when at height, like when used on a model glider. Having said that, I do find, the red, yellow and Orange do look blacker.

When you consider the original Arab, Israel war, the Israelis attacked the Egyptians without warning destroying aircraft on the ground. Does indicate, hiding aircraft can have benefits.

Tom Sharp17/05/2013 22:37:15
387 forum posts

During the WW2 campain in Russia the Germans overpainted their planes pure white during Winter, reverting to splinter camouflage after the snow had melted. Similary they overpainted in sand colour in the Middle East desert campaign.

Phil Brooks17/05/2013 23:26:03
464 forum posts
148 photos

I don't think the introduction of airborne radar had much influence on the RAF's use of camouflage, after all, the V bombers were originally painted in anti-flash white for high level work, but when their role was switched to low level they were camouflaged, right up until and during the Falklands operations, yet they would have stuck out like a sore thumb on radar.

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