Friday, July 11, 2014

West German Luftwaffe camouflage 1981

This weekend, I'm working on the Tumbling Dice Alpha Jets I received (see my July 3rd post). I've started off doing two West German aircraft and I've already put them on wires, based them, primed everything, and textured the bases.

So the first question has to be, "what color are these things supposed to be?" Like everything about the German armed forces (the Bundeswehr) in the early 1980's, Luftwaffe camouflage schemes are a bit complicated. Not necessarily the patterns, but rather what schemes were used when and on which types of aircraft. I'll try to give you the simplest explanation possible. 

The Luftwaffe, in theory, used one scheme on all it's aircraft. Not necessarily the exact same pattern, but the same general scheme in the same colors. The overall scheme was called a "Norm", followed by the two digit year it was to be adopted. By way of example, Norm 72 was predictably introduced in 1972:
It was a simple angled geometric or "wedge" pattern of Gelboliv (RAL 6014 - the same color as army vehicles) and Basaltgrau (RAL 7012) on the upper surfaces and Silbergrau (RAL 7001 - a light grey) on the lower surfaces. 

When a new Norm was introduced, the Luftwaffe, like any military, didn't get everything repainted overnight. It took them a year or more and the interceptor aircraft were always done first, then all the attack, cargo, liaison, etc types came afterwards. Norm 72 lasted throughout the 1970's. However, when the Tornado aircraft began entering Luftwaffe service, a new Norm was introduced just for them, Norm 76, which added in patches of black and abandoned the wedge shapes for large irregular "blotches":

The Luftwaffe planned on changing the Norm in 1981 and so, in late 1980, a variation of Norm 72 was tried out on a few interceptors (known as Norm 72/81), which only added a patch or two of Stone Grey (RAL 7030):
(Sorry, I couldn't find a good photo of the real thing) However, 
it wasn't found to be any better than its predecessor, so a completely new approach was taken, which was accepted for service as Norm 81:
The basic difference is that "waves" were introduced on upper AND lower surfaces, still in Gelboliv and Basalt Grey, but with the addition of Quartz Grey (RAL 7039 - a brownish grey), while most vertical surfaces were in Stone Grey (RAL 7030). 

Norm 81 last only about 2 years, as it was found to be ineffective and it was replaced with Norm 83, which returned to the irregular blotch pattern, but in three colors: Olivgrün (RAL 6003 - the same color as East German army vehicles), a very dark grey (the best match seems to be Vallejo 862 Black Grey or 995 German Grey) and a dark green (a good match is Vallejo 893 US Dark Green). This was on all surfaces, upper and lower:

So where does that leave me for March 1981? Norm 81 had only just been accepted, so it's unlikely any aircraft would've yet been repainted. If any were, it would have been a precious few interceptors only. Likewise, a few interceptors would've still had their Norm 72/81 scheme. The vast majority of aircraft would've still been wearing Norm 72, except the Tornados, which would've been in Norm 76. So my Alpha Jets will soon appear resplendent in Norm 72. 

Oh, I should point out that the West German Navy (the Bundesmarine or just Marine) had its own aircraft and they used an entirely different camouflage scheme. More on that another time. 

Stand by for a couple of Alpha Jets....

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