War Paint: The Art of Camouflage

Military aircraft camouflage has evolved with the help of science and developed to meet operational conditions. Tim Ripley looks back at its history and the reasons for adopting new schemes.

Colours and markings on Sea Harriers were quickly toned down in 1982 for operations in the South Atlantic, and for many years afterwards the aircraft were Extra Dark Sea Grey overall with low-visibility roundels. Key Collection

When Germany’s Baron Manfred von Richthofen took to the skies over the trenches of the Western Front in his famous red-painted Albatros D.III biplanes and Fokker Dr.1 triplanes he was aiming to get noticed.

The famous ‘Red Baron’ was hoping to intimidate his opponents and boost the morale of his own pilots by dramatically announcing his presence over the field of battle. He wrote in his autobiography, published after his death, “For whatever reasons, one fine day I came upon the idea of having my crate painted glaring red. The result was that absolutely everyone could not help but notice my red bird”.

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