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

Late-War RLM 76

By Michael Ullmann 




Late-War RLM 76


The late war appearance of Luftwaffe colour RLM 76 is a hot topic for discussion. There are many opinions about this subject. A few touch reality, while some are nothing short of science fiction!

Before I start, it is essential to outline some basic information for a common understanding.


Aviation Lacquers for Metal Surfaces - the Basics

First we will discuss Aviation lacquers for all-metal aircraft.

The RLM attempted to find a single coat paint for painting their all-metal aircraft. This means that a single coat covers the aircraft surface, with no need for a primer.

We are not discussing fabric over wood - that topic is for another day.

Aviation lacquer 7122 was developed for metal surfaces. This lacquer was available in all camouflage shades. The thinner 7200.00 was explicitly specified for this lacquer. No other thinner was allowed, because other thinning agents would destroy the special capabilities of the lacquer. In particular, fuel was forbidden to be used as a thinner as it would degrade the pigmentation of the paint.

The latest RLM documents in my possession dealing with Luftwaffe aircraft camouflage are dated January 1945. These document always specify RLM 76. The documents are also too late to offer an explanation for the appearance of the greenish variation of RLM 76 noted in colour photos from 1944. I am sure that every one will agree with me that, in these final months of the war, the collapsing Luftwaffe was unable to introduce a new bright camouflage colour and start a massive substitution programme. Therefore, no evidence exists for an official “new” bright camouflage colour.

Early in the war the German lacquer industry was able to create lacquers that contained 30% or 40% of pigment. This meant that Aviation Lacquer 7122 delivered excellent coverage over the metal skin of aircraft even for light, bright colours such as RLM 65 or 76.

Later in the war the percentage of the pigments was decreased in an attempt to save raw materials.

The best surface protection for aluminium is still zinc chromate. I was very surprised when I learnt that German Aviation lacquer also contains zinc chromate.

Early in the war, bright coloured Aviation lacquers did not contain zinc chromate for effective surface protection of aluminium. However, later in the war, the German lacquer industry could produce bright coloured Aviation lacquers that also contained zinc chromate.

Zinc chromate is well known for its yellow colour. Even so, the high percentage of pigment in German lacquers effectively overpowered the colour of the yellow zinc chromate.

The Explanation

Later in the war the percentage of pigments was decreased, as mentioned above. Now the brighter pigments were no longer able to cover the yellow zinc chromate. The colour of the lacquer in the colour RLM 76 turned from bright blue grey into a bright green grey.

This is the reason why you find so many late war colour photos with that greenish colour. Because the German lacquer industry produced the new formula in massive amounts - mostly for fighter production - this caused the widespread use of the greenish RLM 76 in the final months of the war.

For Modellers

I used these assumptions for the painting of my models.

Included in this article you will see two photos of my interpretation Erich Hartmann's Messerschmitt Bf 109K-4*, used in combat during the final days of WWII over the Czech town Brno. No photographic evidence exists of this aircraft, therefore my model is a kind of “What if”.

I mixed XtraColor RLM 76 with a yellow paint. I mix 1 part RLM 76 and 1 part XtraColor “X613 East German MiG 29 tan” to achieve the greenish colour.

You can see that my Bf 109K-4 had the typical “German late-war patchwork” appearance.



My model is finished in day fighter camouflage colours 75/83/76 and unpainted undersides. I painted the fuselage with my colour mix RLM 76. You can see the different in colour of the tail. This part was made from wood and fabric, and was manufactured by sub-contractors using a completely different multicoat RLM-aviation lacquer. This resulted in a different shade of RLM 76 compared to the rest of the airframe. However, the multicoat RLM-aviation lacquer is not the topic of this article.

For painting your late war Luftwaffe aircraft you can use your own mix of RLM 76. You can also use RAF “Sky type S” as a substitute. No one in the world is today able to give you an exact match of RLM 76 (or the other colours either) because of the multiple tones of the different colours available from the different lacquer manufacturers.




All the well known factors including shortage of raw materials, improper use of the aviation lacquer, using unsuitable thinners like fuel (as described recently elsewhere on HyperScale, fuel was not a suitable thinner, the pigments were not fuel resistant and therefore the colour of the zinc chromate emerged), the use of substitutes and replacements for raw material and not talking about the influence of the several paint manufacturers in Germany giving a part of the solution. But the explanation was still undiscovered.

I hope that my dissertation is not too “technical”. The model seemed to offer the best opportunity to demonstrate the reality. My special thanks goes to Jürgen Kiroff for sharing his information with me.


* some sources suggest that this aircraft may have been a Bf 109G-10, Erla production - ed.

Text & Images Copyright © 2004 by Michael Ullmann
Page Created 15 December, 2004
Last Updated 15 December, 2004

Back to HyperScale Main Page

Back to Reference Library