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Argentine Air Force A-4C
Colors and Markings

by Jorge Figari


A-4C Skyhawk
A very clear shot of C-302 during it's early days at El Plumerillo, with serials removed. Note the scheme and colors is the same as it appeared during the late 1980s in the photo later in this article.





The Argentine Air Force purchased 25 ex-USN Douglas A-4C Skyhawks to augment their existing 50 A-4Bs. The aircraft were restored to flying condition at the Rio Cuarto Air Material Area at the province of Córdoba from 1976 onwards.

The experience gained by maintaining the A-4Bs made Air Force technicians confident that the job could be done in Argentina and they were proven to be right.



Argentine A-4C Colors

As the aircraft were destined to the Fourth Air Brigade (IV Brigada Aérea) located near the Andes Mountains in the province of Mendoza, a very interesting camouflage of GREEN and OFF-WHITE was specified for the upper surfaces. It was considered that this scheme would be effective against the snow covered Andes. The lower surfaces were painted LIGHT GREY. It is very interesting to note that the wheel well interiors and legs were finished in LIGHT BLUE.

To understand this curious practice it should be taken into account that light blue was the undersurface color of the camouflage adopted for the A-4Bs and with which all landing gear components and interiors were also painted. It can then be assumed that for uniformity's sake in case components were changed from one model to the other, only one color was adopted, resulting in a very peculiar feature on the A-4Cs.



Argentine Green

Now exactly what was the shade of GREEN used and what do I mean by calling the other color OFF-WHITE?


Compare the shade of green on this A4C against the "Vietnam style" on the Daggers in the background


First of all one might think that, as the A-4Bs were now wearing green and brown colors, the same green was used on the A-4Cs. However, that was not the case.

compare the green on the A-4C with the green/brown on the A-4Bs. Also note light blue wheel well interiors.

I could not find an exact or approximate match in the Federal Standard chart to describe it but it has to be said that it is a dark green shade with some sort of brown pigment in it which would become more noticeable as the paint faded with the years, maybe getting closer to FS 34088. I have included two photos that show A-4Cs with IAI Daggers on one (above) and A-4Bs (below) on the other for comparison purposes.

Now the Daggers are painted in the standard USAF greens of FS 34079 and FS 34102 and it can be seen that the green on the A-4C has a distinct olive shade to it as compared to those "pure" greens. This A-4C is rather worn and faded and a touch-up with fresh new paint has been sprayed on the nose area, which looks darker and greener. The photo with the A-4Bs in the background is also interesting as it shows their green and brown color and can be used to compare the shade with the green on the C. Please note that the sun is directly reflecting on the A-4C and making it look a little browner, but more on that later.



Argentine Off-White

Compare the white present on the badges and upper antenna to see how little grey the "off white" has in it

As for the OFF-WHITE color I chose to call it that in the hope that many of you are familiar with the USN tri-color scheme of World War II. That name was used to describe the underside color which was an extremely light shade of grey or dirty white as I have also heard it being described, and it is exactly the same here with the A-4Cs. In essence the color is plain white with just a little touch of grey on it, which of course goes a little darker with dirt and fading over time, but carries no other pigment in it. There is not much to say about the lower surface color, except that it is a light grey, of course darker than the upper extremely-light-white.


Interpretation of Color Photos

And let us talk now about something that has had a lot to do with the misinterpretation of the upper shades by many people in the past, to include myself!

Comparison of a poorly copied with a somewhat corrected photo of A-4C landing somewhere in southern Argentina during 1982. How little is needed to change a hue is really alarming!

The A-4Cs and other Argentine Air Force aircraft caught the world attention because of the Malvinas/Falklands war. Previous to that time photos were very hard to come by and the aircraft were very hard to access, so first hand information was very difficult to obtain, but many photos started showing up then which came from many different sources and were of varying quality. Some of the photos I have seen were very poorly printed, were copies of the originals or even copies from slides and all of that combined to degrade color rendition to appalling levels. Most particularly, many of the photos I have seen were saturated with red, yellow or magenta and I have included one of such to the right for you to compare with a somewhat corrected original using the Adobe Photoshop, although it appears to look better than the original I have.

It is amazing just how little it took to improve it to acceptable levels by a kind friend of mine, but the original led me in the past to believe that the aircraft was actually painted BROWN/SAND!!! Nothing could be farther from the truth, and for what I see I was not the only one to be fooled by a poor picture because such a profile was painted by Mr. Caruana in the Sept. '99 issue on Scale Aviation Modeller International magazine based on the somewhat poor and misleading information provided to him. The reviewer of the Hobbycraft A-4C seems to be somewhat confused on the colors and also misled by the above mentioned article in SAMI. Please note I tried to include good quality photos from the early years and from after the war to show that the colors did not vary with time and that they were always simply speaking GREEN/WHITE.


This 1987 upper view shows the upper camouflage scheme to advantage. The aircraft to the right sports a somewhat distorted pattern, only seen on the final airworthy examples

Also there is one point that I have to mention that you may wish to consider if going to paint a model of the Argentine A-4C: I have been lucky enough to have seen an photographed A-4Cs on several occasions and standing before them I must emphasize that the dark upper color I always saw was GREEN (with a brownish or olive hue) and that the lighter color was always VERY LIGHT GREY (almost white) and I mention this because I have noticed that when the aircraft were hit by strong direct sunlight they LOOKED lighter and browner from a distance.



Argentine A-4C Modifications


One of the very peculiar things to the Argentine A-4Cs is that they were modified with the external wing pylons which were only seen from the A-4E model on. The modification included the addition of what seems to be a reiforcing strip on top of the wing at the location where the pylon was below and which necessitated the removal of one of the vortex generators.



Argentine A-4C Markings

Argentine A-4C Skyhawks always wore the national flag on the tail and the roundel on the fuselage sides, but not on the wings to my knowledge.

The serials assigned were in the C-3xx range, from C-301 to C-325. They were originally painted on the nose, rear fuselage sides and I have seen photos with them on the upper right wing so I assume it was also on the lower left ones too. They were black in small characters and the ones on the nose sides were a little smaller than the rest and squarer in style.


In-flight refuelling from a KC-130H before 1982 war. Note serials and black painted nose cone


The words FUERZA AEREA were painted in white below the nose serial. After a period of tension with neighbouring Chile in 1978 the serials were removed leaving only the national colors and white FUERZA AEREA and the last two of the serial were painted under the nose in front of the nose landing gear nose wheel well. It is interesting to note that the nose cones had originally a large black area which was later consigned to the very tip, much as could be seen on USN A-4Es. The fourth Air Brigade badge was always carried on the left side of the nose.


Tactical Markings of the Falklands War

By the time of the war yellow tactical markings were added under the wing tanks, on the outer part of the wing pylons, as a band under the wings outside of the inner wing pylons (although I still have to be 100%
convinced about this), as a band above the wing excluding the leading edge slat and on the tail as a horizontal band without overpainting the flag (Mr. Caruana´s drawing on SAMI shows the marking for an A-4B, which is unfortunately not correct). These markings were overpainted with turquoise at some point during the war and sometimes the yellow underneath showed through.


Post-Falklands Markings

Shortly after the war the A-4Cs were transferred to the fifth Air Brigade at Coronel Pringles Air Base in the province of San Luis with the A-4Bs, and acquired the badge of Fifth Fighter Group too. As only a few A-4Cs were by then operational it was only every now and then that a "C" model was seen under inspection and what had been a very constant finishing standard suffered accordingly. One plane was seen and the end of their career with a medium grey instead of the off-white upper color and the last two "C" flying examples during the retirement ceremony were seen sporting plain and pure DARK GREEN and WHITE colors!



Conclusion and Acknowledgements

Hopefully this short article and photos will enlighten someone who would still think of a BROWN/SAND Argentine Air Force A-4C, but the decision will always be yours!

I have not included war photos here because I do not have any good originals at the time, but I hope to be coming back soon with them and also with some sort of argentine A-4C walkaround.

I want to thank my friends Javier Mosquera and Luis Maria Bonnani for their help in putting this article together. Some of the photos are mine, some are Argentine Air Force official and that of the A-4B/C line
was taken by Carlos Ay.



Additional Images


Click the thumbnails below to view the images full-sized:

Good upper view of one of the last A-4Cs with somewhat distorted camouflage and replacement ailerons from an A-4B. Very useful shot for the radome's shape.

Detail view of C-302 nose with two unit badges as used when moved to Villa Reynolds with the A-4Bs.

Note the uniformity of schemes during the early days at Mendoza, with the serials still painted. Also note the lack of VLF/Omega antenna under the tail. It was a late modification.

The use of Magic AAM was only limited to trial flight on behalf of French company. The same machine also tested the Belouga bomb. None of these weapons ever entered service with Argentine A-4s.

Very clear shot of C-302 in the late 80's.

Text & Images Copyright © 2001 by Jorge Figari
Page Created 19 October, 2001
Last Updated 19 April, 2004

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