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german aircraft color schemes

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#1 fitzee



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Posted 26 November 2006 - 06:27 pm

Perhaps the answer to this question is speculative, but why did the Germans paint their aircraft in "gaudy" almost pop art color schemes. I know in some cases it was for recognition in the air by fellow pilots, but some of the paint jobs must have taken alot of time and work to accomplish and seem to have the opposite effect of camoflage treatments... any ideas?


#2 Adrian Roberts

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Posted 26 November 2006 - 11:57 pm

I presume you mean something like the scheme on this Albatross DV?
As far as the fuselage colours are concerned, it is difficult to believe that this kind of thing was anything other than a morale-boosting exercise which happened to aid recognition. Out of all nations, British aviators seemed to have been allowed less scope than other countries.

But the lozenge scheme on the wings of this aircraft, which was very common in the latter half of the war, may look gaudy close up but was a very effective camouflage scheme from any distance, especially from above. It worked on the zebra principle of breaking up the outline of the aircraft. The fabric was printed like this in the factory before being cut to fit the aircraft, so was not a question of being painstakingly applied in the field. From above, this aircraft's gaudy fuselage would hardly be noticeable.

Apparently, red dye was the most difficult to obtain, and so was reserved for the aces - though I feel vulnerable to being shot down on this one by those who may tell me this is a myth. If true, it may be why the greatest ace of them all had an all-red aeroplane.

The yellowish colour of many early war aircraft was the colour of the unpainted linen fabric


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#3 Dolphin



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Posted 27 November 2006 - 12:11 pm


Adrian is correct in saying that the colourful schemes used by German and, to a lesser degree, Austro-Hungarian fighter pilots were a morale-boosting idea. There were two basic aspects to German fighter markings:

a distinctive marking for the unit, such as the black and white tails of Jasta 2, the yellow noses of Jasta 10, the orange diamonds on the tails of Jasta 30, the pale blue fuselages of Jasta 57, etc; and

personal markings to identify the pilot, often based on his home town, his former Army unit, a nickname, his girlfriend, and so on.

I believe that the Germans applied the philosophy that personally marking his machine helped to make the pilot feel just a touch more invincible, and anything that boosted a pilot's confidence and aggression was something to be encouraged.

However, in most cases, the colourful markings were confined to the fuselage. The wings were usually left in green and purple camouflaged upper-surfaces and light blue under-surfaces in 1917 and in dark upper and light under lozenge pattern fabric in 1918.