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Color photograph Walter Oesau Bf 109E4 JG3 Wilhelm Balthasar 1940
The Colors Change
The fighting in Poland made it clear that while the standard 70/71 Bf 109 camouflage scheme at the outbreak of war was more than adequate for ground concealment, the same did not apply to aerial combat. As a result of these findings, numerous field trials to find a suitable replacement were undertaken during the winter of 1939-40 utilizing various combinations of the colors Grungrau (aka RLM) 02, 70 and 71. The successful outcome of these trials resulted in a new camouflage pattern of 02 and 71 that was considered more practical for air-to-air combat than the earlier scheme. Accordingly, an order was issued dictating that 02 would replace Black-Green 70 in the pattern. Concurrently, the demarcation for the undersurface Blue 65 was increased in height to cover approximately three-quarters of the fuselage sides, including the entire vertical tail surfaces. Although this change effectively restricted the upper colors to the strict plan view of the aircraft, the actual height of the demarcation varied considerably between aircraft, most prominently on the rear fuselage between the rear of the cockpit canopy and base of the fin.
RLM Colors L.Dv. 521/1 (November 1941)
The colors used by the Luftwaffe were defined by the State Ministry of Aviation (Reichsluftfahrt Ministerium), which established a standard for color shades, their production and application. These directives were promulgated through a series of service regulations (Luftwaffen Dienstvorschriften) designated L.Dv. 521. The earliest edition to survive (L.Dv. 521/1) is dated March 1938 and included a color table (Farbtontafel) that was to be matched by manufacturers, aircraft repair depots, and front-line units. Other regulations, some of which had been established before the formation of the RLM itself in 1933, limited the number of colors and encouraged production from pigments that could be obtained in Germany. At a time of limited hard currency, such policies simplified purchase and storage, and minimized dependence on imported raw materials. Paints were supplied by different companies and, although aircraft manufacturers could choose which commercial products to purchase, they all were to adhere to these uniform standards, as represented by the Farbtontafel and later by individual paint chips.
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