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Jagdwaffe Single Engine Schemes 1938-1940

During the late thirties, the Jagdwaffe changed from their original RLM 02 (or 63, which is actually the same color with a different designation) Grey to a new and more defensively orientated camouflage scheme. The primary goal of this change was to be concealment on the ground, with Europe at the brink of war the Jagdwaffe realized it still wasn't ready to take up the combined air power of Britain and France, thus a dark green splinter pattern consisting of RLM 70/71, optimized to hide aircraft from attack from the air, was developed for the upper surfaces and fuselage, with a low demarcation line and a light blue RLM 65 underside.

109d_70_71_low.GIF (9129 bytes)

109d_1938.GIF (6613 bytes)

109d_belly_early.GIF (10524 bytes)

The feared Allied counterattack did not materialize, not even in the winter of 1939/40 after the campaign in Poland, negating the use of a defensive camouflage scheme. The dark green splinter pattern might have been efficient in concealing an a/c on the ground, it was counter productive in air combat.  The dark colors contrasted against the sky and made it easier for enemy a/c to spot and follow the movement of German fighters. First step in changing the situation was to heighten the demarcation line to the upper part of the fuselage, leaving much of fuselage in RLM 65 blue and thus making the side profile much lighter and less conspicuous in the air.

During the campaign against Poland it had become apparent that the Balkenkreuz was too small for quick identification, either in the air or from the ground, subsequently these were increased in size and those on the wings were moved to a different position, less on the outside as was their previous location. This early offensive scheme would dominate the Spring offensive of 1940, in particular the attack on the Low Countries and France.

109e3_70_71_highw.GIF (10704 bytes)

109e3_70_71_1940_op.GIF (7200 bytes)

109e_belly_mid.GIF (11890 bytes)

At the same time experimentation with RLM 02, a good air superiority color, to create an improved disruptive pattern, was being conducted in the field. Combinations of RLM 70/02/65, 71/02/65 and 70/71/02/65 were tried, finally resulting in the official adaptation of RLM 71/02/65 in a simplified splinter pattern.

While changes were being made to the camouflage, the Hakenkreuz was also repositioned, to make a rudder replacement a less demanding job for the painters, the previous position splitting it between fin and rudder.

109e4_02_71.GIF (12404 bytes)

109e4_02_71_1940.GIF (7296 bytes)

As the Battle of Britain heated up during the Summer of 1940, the need for still better identification made itself felt. The Messerschmitt Bf109E and its British counterparts, the Hawker Hurricane Mk.I and in particular the Supermarine Spitfire Mk. I, were too similar in basic contours for the fast, chaotic and extremely demanding job of aerial combat. Not only was there a danger of casualties from friendly fire, but more importantly, Jagdwaffe pilots needed to grasp the tactical situation in a quick glance, this often meant the difference between victory or defeat...between life or death. The current combat environment negated concealment, both in the air and on the ground, quite the opposite, it called for clear and easily identifiable recognition markings. After some initial experimentation the soon to be famous "Yellow Nose" and ubiquitous yellow rudder became the standard.

109e4_side_1.gif (6655 bytes)

During the fall of 1940 experimentation with completely new camouflage colors, better suited to the role of air superiority, was being conducted on the front, many reports and photographs of mixed/hybrid camouflaged a/c are reason for a lot of confusion and debate today, but the official changeover wasn't made until June 1941. The new colors for fighters were to be RLM 74, 75 and 76, respectively a dark grey/green, a light grey/violet and a lighter blue. This scheme was aimed at better concealment in the air and not on the ground.


109e7_top_0.gif (9120 bytes)

109e7_side_0.gif (6489 bytes)

This brings us to 1941, the next chapter, to be continued...


Ruy Horta 2000

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