Home  |  What's New  |  Features  |  Gallery  |  Reviews  |  Reference  |  Forum  |  Search

Green Fighters of the Eastern Front
JG 54 Colors in Russia

by Michael Ullmann 



HyperScale is proudly supported by Squadron.com


JG 54 "Dark" Camouflage Colors


The actual colors of the dark camouflaged JG 54 aircraft on the Eastern Front remain a matter of controversy. In an attempt to shine some light into this darkness I have written this treatise.

The Facts

  • The standardized camouflage for fighter aircraft during this period was RLM 74/75/76. This lighter camouflage was optimized for medium and high altitude fighter operations. It might be claimed that this style of camouflage is still in use today as "Air-Superiority" finishes on modern Combat Aircraft.

  • JG 54 was then in action over a forest covered landscape in northern Russia.

  • The "dark" camouflage of the JG 54 was a typical example of camouflage altered at unit level to make the finish more appropriate to the environment. Therefore no official orders would have been issued.

  • Air combat on the Eastern Front was typically undertaken at very low levels. Only a very few encounters would have taken place at medium or high level. The reason for this was that the absolute priority of the Soviet air force (VVS) was to support the troops on the ground.

  • Every Luftwaffe unit had its own paint shop (surface protection and maintenance group). Usually these people were very skilled and had years in this trade

These are the facts. Now we head into speculation! Even so, my assumptions are based on facts and therefore I am sure that my hypothesis is not too far from the truth.

The Mystery

Shortly after arriving in the area, JG 54 realized that the relatively light RLM 74/75/76 grey camouflage was ineffective low on the deck over dark green Russian forests. When the pilots of JG 54 quickly made this discovered, they very likely went to their paint shop and ordered: "Paint my aircraft green!".

I am sure that many pilots remembered the early war RLM 70 Black Green / RLM 71 Dark Green combination for fighters. Even at this stage of the war, the green camouflage finish was still specified for bombers and transports.

Every paint shop stocked extra paint for field camouflage and markings. But a fighter unit paint shop does not stock green camouflage paints. However, green camouflage paints were available in the paint shops of Bomber or Transport units. In Russia it was not unusual for different units to share one airfield or the next airfield with bomber. Therefore I am sure that RLM 70 and 71 was used for the JG 54 fighters.



Brown Colours on JG 54 Fighters


But what was with the brownish colors?

Color photos seem to show different shades from dark greenish brown to a sandy brown. Some sources claim that these paints were captured from the Soviets; or that this was the Desert color RLM 79; or that the paint was an early ancestor of RLM 83. I would suggest that most of these assertions are possible, except RLM 83, because it was simply too early in 1943. RLM 83 appeared first in Autumn 1944.

Let us look at these options more closely:

Captured Soviet Paints

For the brown camouflage parts on a Fw 190, roughly 10 kg paint would be needed. This means when you want to paint 10 aircraft you must have 100 kg of captured paint, or an even greater quantity if you would like to paint more. I can’t imagine that the Soviets left such a large amount of usable goods for the Germans! I have heard nothing from the use of captured Russian fuel, food or paint.

German Desert Colors

Desert paints were, by definition, used in North Africa. From northern Russia the nearest location to pick up these paints was Germany. Every item had to be transported via ship, train, truck and transportation aircraft to JG 54, and was very time consuming. Can you imagine how long it would take to deliver paint from Germany to JG 54 in northern Russia? It could need weeks, maybe months!

The need to change camouflage would have been immediate, due to the change of environment, and urgent to counter the disadvantage of the light camouflaged aircrafts. There would have been no time to wait for the ordered paints to arrive at unit level. Furthermore, I am certain that other goods, like food or fuel, had a much higher transportation priority than a can of paint

The Solution

So, what is the solution for this problem? Elsewhere in this article I noted that that every unit had his own paint shop; that the staff was very skilled; and that they stored paints, including marking colors, like RLM 04 Yellow, RLM 23 Red, RLM 24 Blue and RLM 25 Green.

Mixing RLM 23 Red and RLM 25 Green would result in a medium brown color. Adding RLM 04 Yellow results in a sandy brown. Using RLM 70 instead of RLM 25 leads to a dark brownish green.

This seems to be the most likely explanation to me. The paint shop mixed RLM marking paints to achieve the required colors. The following points also work in favour of this argument:

  • RLM marking paints were available immediately and in large amounts

  • RLM marking paints would not effect the existing finish on the aircraft (the impact of Soviet paints would have been unknown)

  • The paint shop staff was skilled and had experience with the RLM marking colour

So, what was the pattern of the green camouflage? No one knows this pattern, because no photo or instructions exist. I am sure that every aircraft had a unique pattern. Maybe the paint shop use the patterns of the grey camouflage, but this is unknown.




The use of Russian or Desert camouflage paints by JG 54 was, in my opinion, unlikely. Much more likely was the use of RLM 70 and 71 with self mixed colors over the existing RLM 74/75/76 grey camouflage.

Still unanswered are the questions about the camouflage pattern and the exact colors of the field mixed paints. These questions will never be answered. I couldn't give an exact color. Therefore, we as modelers must take the most likely scenario into account with a liberal dose of artistic license.

Personally, I use the standard RLM 70/71 from my favorite model paint brand. For the Brown and brownish dark Green I use whatever usable color from my favorite model paint brand.

A Model Example

I have supplied a few photos of an exemplary representation of camouflage altered at unit level.

I use one of my favorite models, a Hasegawa Bf-109 G-6, to show the effects of altered camouflage. I built the kit as Erich Hartmann’s Yellow “1” (see photo at top of page).

The aircraft’s camouflage was altered moderately, simply by replacing the RLM 75 on the wings and stabilisators with RLM 70 Black Green. Compare the photo and you will see that the propeller blades seem to be the same shade as the darker camouflage colour. Therefore guessing the correct color was easy: every German metal propeller blade was painted in RLM 70 as an anti-glare measure. Also visible on the photo is that RLM 75 appearing very bright, peeking through a hole in the camouflage.


Replacing RLM 75 with RLM 70 would result in a much more appropriate darker finish.

I am sure that every one can imagine the effect of the bright camouflage in comparison with the altered dark camouflage.

I hope that this discussion will help, and provide readers with some food for thought and inspiration for modelling colour schemes!

Happy Modeling from Germany

Text & Images Copyright © 2005 by Michael Ullmann
Page Created 01 March, 2005
Last Updated 01 March, 2005

Back to HyperScale Main Page

Back to Reference Library