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Digital Subscriptions > Scale Aircraft Modelling > November 2017 > Colour Conundrum

Colour Conundrum

The Truth about Late War Luftwaffe Camouflage?


Messerschmitt Me 262A-1a, 7+I, werknummer 500491, owned by the National Air and Space Museum- port side view. Finish is in RLM 81 281H Olive Green (Vallejo 71.020 German Green*) and RLM 82 B567 Bright Green (Vallejo 71.007 Olive Green*) to the upper surfaces with the same colours applied as mottled blotches. The undersides are in RLM 76 Light Blue (Vallejo 71.257 Light Blue RLM 76). The finish and markings types/positions have been matched to photographs. Note that the aircraft splinter scheme demarcations are an approximate match to the standard scheme as laid down in official documentation.

Part 1 RLM 81 and RLM 82

For many years there has been some question and a great deal of debate about both the nomenclature and hue of the three ‘late war’ RLM colours introduced for the upper surface camouflage of Luftwaffe aircraft during 1944, RLM 81, 82, and 83. Much of this debate has centred on the hues of these colours with much confusion being caused by differing descriptions both in the written documents of the time and subjective descriptions of the colours found on various artefacts, which range in size from relatively small airframe components up to and including whole aircraft. RLM 81 in particular seems to be a particular bone of contention as it seems to vary in hue from one artefact to another usually being colloquially described as anything from a dark olive drab greenish brown or brownish green sort of colour to a reddish brown. In addition to these colours, the idea seems to have taken root that there was a pale blue green colour used on the under surfaces of some aircraft such as Me 109s and Fw190s for which the term ‘RLM 84’ has gained some currency.

In more recent years, it appeared that the matter of the upper surface colours had been settled and that RLM 81, 82 and 83 were re-issues of the earlier RLM 61, 62 and 64 colours, which had been dropped in 1938. Evidence for this had come to light in the Czech Republic where a number of late war colour cards had come to light that were described by the late Ken Merrick on pages 123 and 124 of his Classic Publications book ‘Luftwaffe Camouflage and Markings 1933 – 1945’ Volume 1 (referred to as ‘Merrick’ hereafter). Then, in 2012, Luftwaffe camouflage researcher and author Michael Ullmann discovered a number of documents that originated with the Luftwaffe research establishment at Travermunde, which appear to call the re-issued colour interpretation of RLM 81, 82 and 83 into question by suggesting, amongst other things, that RLM 83 was actually shade of dark blue.

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