Iranian P-3 Colour Codes
by Dave Richardson
It is time for me to confess and air my mea culpa about an erroneous FS code for the Iranian P-3 Orion that I misread back in 1975.
This incorrect code has since been repeated in a number of publications since then, so it is time to set the record straight!
By way of background, I grew up in Kent in the UK and from 1969 until 1975 I regularly motorcycled to the biennial Paris air show with (in the later years) my trusty Zenith 35mm SLR camera. At the 1975 show, having already developed an early interest in the aircraft and camouflage schemes of the Imperial Iranian Air Force, I was delighted to be able to see first-hand one of the Iranian P-3F Orions which had stopped over during delivery to Iran and was on public show in the static display area. The aircraft was coded 5-261 and wore its Paris Air Show number 111 on the fuselage sides. I was able to walk around the aircraft and sketch out the four-tone blue camo scheme. I also took a few 35mm slide photos (which didn’t turn out very well – see attached!) which showed the very soft sprayed demarcation between the colours.
More significantly, but only with the use of binoculars, I noticed a small circular stencil on the rear fuselage, just ahead of the starboard tailplane, which identified the FS codes for the paints used on the airframe. I have subsequently found similarly-placed stencils on C-130s so I imagine this is (or was) a standard Lockheed practice.
The FS 595 codes as I read them in 1975 on the P-3F were:
- FS 35109 Dark Blue
- FS 35190 Medium Blue
- FS 35400 Light Blue, and
- FS 35550 Blue Mist (undersides only)
The September 1975 issue of AIR International included an article on the P-3 Orion which included a few more photos which gave me a clearer view of the upper surface camouflage pattern. After I migrated to Australia in 1977, I joined APMA in Sydney and they published a re-drawn version of my camouflage scheme with the FS codes in their APMA magazine for September 1979. This article was picked up by David Klaus and the details were published in his IPMS Color Cross-Reference Guide in 1988, though he did note that one of the quoted FS codes (FS 35400) did not appear in FS 595a itself. This was a surprise to me but, at the time, I didn't have a copy of the full FS 595 document and for a long time I assumed that ‘my’ FS 35400 must have been a new shade specifically for the Iranian maritime scheme.
Many years later, I was able to obtain a number of Iranian Aviation magazines (which have been kindly imported by Ley Reynolds of Platypus Publications), and in a recent issue on the Iranian P-3Fs I find that the FS 35400 number is still being quoted.
In the 1990s I was able to purchase a full set of the FS 595 cards and I looked for the ‘mystery’ 35400 which still wasn’t there. In later years I took up the issue of the ‘mystery’ FS 35400 again, and I looked through all the possible matt blues in the FS list. There is one shade of very light blue which is in FS 595a and which is just the right shade of blue in relation to the other three blues in the camo scheme. That colour is FS 35488.
I'm thinking now that it is most likely that I must have mistaken the two small stencilled 8s for zeros, thereby reading 35400 when in fact the stencilled code was probably 35488.
So, it's time for me to confess and air my mea culpa, given that the erroneous FS code has been published in several authoritative references, to whom I need to apologise.
I hope that the message comes across to the majority of interested folk plus, of course, David Klaus and the editorial staff of 'Iranian Aviation' live in the USA.
Text & Images Copyright © 2023 by Dave Richardson
16 November, 2023
16 November, 2023
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