Other Post Aircraft camouflage

muck

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Good evening lads and lasses,

one question if I may: Optical (fixed-wing-)aircraft camouflage, is that still a thing?

During the cold war and a couple of years beyond, it's fair to say most Western air forces were using a wild variety of camo patterns, sometimes surprisingly specific ones. That practice seems to have been ceased. A few Western air forces still use a scheme best described as grey-dark grey, others just stopped renewing old paint jobs (which can make for some hilariously washed-out looks). But more and more often, you'll see aircraft painted uniformly grey.

Obviously, with the advent of highly automatized warfare, aiming assistance devices and whatnot optical camouflage became rather obsolete. I'd always been under the impression that aircraft are painted with a camo pattern so you could hide them if they're parked on the ground, though. Isn't that still a valid reason to camouflage them?

Cheers! And thanks for all your input.
 
I think there are two main reasons for dropping them.

A) Camo patterns only make sense if winged aircrafts get parked on unpaved (parts of) airfields and the like and even there it's easier to just throw a camo net over them or to park them under shelters made out of such netting. Besides that many modern planes aren't even able to operate from unpaved fields nowadays. Therefore such camos don't make much sense anymore and it can even be counterproductive if aircrafts with such camos get parked on paved areas because they'll stick out more than just grey ones.

B) These camo patterns made some sense during times where visual recognition still was the main form of recce to hide lower flying planes from the view above (for example during WWII). Like you said this is basically obsolete today because there are other more efficient means to notice them available.

I'm not really sure but think I've also read somewhere that the grey paint often has something to do with radar absorbing properties. IIRC it seems to be difficult to achieve the same effectiveness with other colours besides grey or black.

Besides that I don't think that washed out paint jobs have something to do with an airforce not being interested to renew them but rather that this happens due to time or financial constraints.
 
I'm not really sure but think I've also read somewhere that the grey paint often has something to do with radar absorbing properties. IIRC it seems to be difficult to achieve the same effectiveness with other colours besides grey or black.
Black is not a colour?
 
Well, what is it then?
 
Well, what is it then?
"Black is not a color; a black object absorbs all the colors of the visible spectrum and reflects none of them to the eyes. The grey area about black: A black object may look black, but, technically, it may still be reflecting some light."

its just a trick of your eyes
 
Trying to be a smart ass, eh?
you missed a big word in there - 'achromatic' - literal meaning "without colour"

So a colour without colour (colour - colour = nothing)

we could argue about this all night its a bit like marmite

But think about this one how does white paper appear to your eyes under ultraviolet light? Is it still white
 
Why painting planes with camo. You paint them with euro camo, your next war will be in the desert and vice versa.
 
Pastel colors are perfect for stealth, gray the perfect camo in the air due to haze, clouds etc often makes it hard for that color to standout. A white A320 in day time painted white and yellow will really be visual at 10 miles or lower. Imagine a fighter jet in haze gray. attack planes tend to be painted the ground camo above, to help elude the fighter above looking down.
 
Pastel colors are perfect for stealth, gray the perfect camo in the air due to haze, clouds etc often makes it hard for that color to standout. A white A320 in day time painted white and yellow will really be visual at 10 miles or lower. Imagine a fighter jet in haze gray. attack planes tend to be painted the ground camo above, to help elude the fighter above looking down.
That's true but i think that it is a conservative old habit when visual identification was the rule before engaging
Nowadays with radars and F&F IDs there is no use for camo pattern for A2A combat except if the RoE are restricted to "visual ID before shot"
That's also somewhat true for A2G operations. The only use for a ground camo is to hinder the BDA post raid, not the raid itself led today through radars and computer assisted optics
The only remaining use of camo for a plane would be against opticaly (mark I eyeball style) led ground fire (which is still used largely)
From that pov, the blue sky paint underbelly of russian planes makes sense. But i think it's pretty much all in a modern warfare situation.
 
Components that distract reflection of radar waves and reduce infrared signatures can be added to any paint color - the differences in parameters will not be large. In my opinion, changing the character of the aviation opponent is crucial here. In recent years, it was not an opponent who had access to satellite photos or the possibility of making an air retaliation attack, so it was pointless to cover in advance with deformative painting. But painting hiding in the shades of sky (in shades of gray) prevented easy targeting by an opponent equipped with light anti-aircraft equipment, without a developed anti-aircraft "umbrella" operating at all levels as in a full-scale conflict.
Sorry for my English.
 
I see! Thanks for the input, guys.
Besides that I don't think that washed out paint jobs have something to do with an airforce not being interested to renew them but rather that this happens due to time or financial constraints.
Not necessarily, by the way. I know for a fact (a pilot told me at ILA 2016) that the Tornados the German Air Force inherited from the Navy in 2005 were deliberately not repainted. These planes were still designated for anti-ship-warfare roles, but mostly to be used above land now, and after a few year's worth of sun-bleaching they realized they'd received a camouflage they deemed suitable for both environments.

Can't have been a matter of financial constraints either, as the other Tornados had their old paint jobs changed or renewed at the time. Those designated to carry nuclear bombs (Strike Fighter Wing 33) continued with a Cold War-style pattern of green, olive and black, whereas the others received grey paintjob with a black radome.
 
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once plane based lasers become the norm everything will get either a reflective coating or move to the greyer/whiter end of the spectrum
 
By the way, as an aside to the earlier dispute: I was intrigued to learn jet black is the one color that stands out the most against the sky. That's why the RAF painted all its trainers black in 1998.
 
By the way, as an aside to the earlier dispute: I was intrigued to learn jet black is the one color that stands out the most against the sky. That's why the RAF painted all its trainers black in 1998.
Painting them black also makes them look bigger;)

C o l o u r ,-uk
 
More current examples (random pics from Wikicommons):

01_blue_3372967451uckyg.jpg

A Russian "Flanker".

1024px-casa_c-295_917wxkn1.jpg

A Polish C-295M. Their newer aircraft fly uni-grey though, I think.

A thought that'd completely eluded me is the fact that mission patterns have changed since the end of the Cold War. Today's combat aircraft are mostly multi-role, and the previously seen myriads of ground-hugging strike fighters and recce aircraft have passed into the realm of history.

Still, at a first glance that doesn't seem to explain the abscence of camouflage on modern transport aircraft and the likes. I mean, just some twenty years ago our tactical transports on the Balkans flew camouflaged to protect them from Serbian ground fire – and a despite a mission profile that had them come in high and fast for a steep landing (the infamous Sarejevo approach). In other words, the short time span between coming in and touching down was long enough to warrant proper camouflage.
 
I keep forgetting where it was but a few years ago when the A400M was introduced I read that the common uniform grey for modern transport aircraft was basically a financial decision: Keep it simple, buy large quantities of paint for several NATO partners and aircraft types at once -> save €€€.
 

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