Thursday, March 4, 2010

Airplane Camouflage

In a post-World War I article on "Aeronautical Camouflage" (Aerial Age Weekly, May 10, 1920, pp. 288-289ff), its author William R. Weigler (who was in charge of camouflage at McCook Field, now Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton OH) contends that "The design of aircraft camouflage closely follows…[the] color schemes of the snake or fish. Both are round in form and in general have two distinct systems of coloration, one on the top, a mottled colored pattern and the other on the underside, a light tone of color, blending on the sides so as to eliminate all shadow effects." In one of the photographs accompanying the article (above left), there are four model airplanes, three of which are painted in monochrome khaki, black and clear varnish, while a fourth (to the left of the orange dot) has been disruptively painted with six colors, ranging "from light tan to dark blue green." In another experiment (above top right), the undersides of a model have been painted in a lozenge pattern which, viewed from a sufficient distance, merges into a continuous tone that simulates "a sky color." Below that is a more or less similar scheme against a sky background.

Above is another photograph from the same article. It shows six disruptively painted airplanes, each of which has been camouflaged with varying degrees of success. In particular, there is an effectively disrupted plane near the bottom left of the photograph, slightly left of center. Despite its camouflage, it can be easily located because of the target-like bull's-eye insignias on its wings.