RAF Fin Flashes

Profile picture for user victor tango

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5 years 6 months

Posts: 107

I was always a little bemused by the red white and blue fin flashes on spits/hurris etc in that on the port side they were red white and blue, fine, we read left to right, yes. But on the stbd side they are blue white and red ?????????? French??

Looked up the answer on Wiki and its there in 1 para about the middle of the article........sort of appeasing the French?

Fin flash[edit]

Avro Vulcan XM607 with the low-visibility fin flash

Handley Page Victor circa 1961 in anti-flash white with the pale fin flash.
All Royal Air Force aircraft carry a flash on the fin. This is either red/white/blue, or red/blue on camouflaged aircraft, with the red stripe nearest the leading edge. Aircraft painted anti-flash white in the nuclear strike role had a pale pink and blue flash, the same shades as the roundels, to reflect some of the thermal radiation from a nuclear explosion.

The Royal Navy and Army do not use the fin flash but have the words ROYAL NAVY or ARMY on the rear fuselage or fin instead. A current exception to this are the Harrier GR7s and GR9s of the Naval Strike Wing, which carry similar markings to RAF Harriers. The fin flash can be rectangular, slanted or tapered, depending on aircraft type.

In a situation similar to that of the roundels, the fin flash is also shared with the air forces of Australia and New Zealand.

The fin flash evolved from the rudder stripes painted on the rudders of early RFC and RAF aircraft during the First World War, the markings comprising blue, white and red vertical stripes doped on the rudder. However, with the performance of aircraft increasing considerably during the 1930s, the practice of applying painted markings onto the (then manually powered) control surfaces was discontinued because of the need to rebalance the controls - failure to do this could have adverse effects on the surface's aerodynamic balance, possibly leading to flutter of the control surface at high airspeeds. It was for this same reason that the positioning of the wing roundels was revised so that they no longer overlapped the ailerons.

In an attempt to conform to the appearance of French military aircraft, rudder stripes reappeared on aircraft (mainly Fairey Battles and Hawker Hurricanes) of the RAF based in France, starting in early September 1939. These stripes were painted in standard RAF colours in the order blue, white, red.

Fin flashes were officially adopted in June 1940. For the first six months there was no conformity in the width or height of the stripes and they were painted to cover as much of the fin area as possible. With one or two exceptions the order was red (leading edge), white, blue. In December 1940 type A fin flashes were standardised: height was 27 inches, width 24 inches, divided into three 8-inch-wide (200 mm) red, white and blue stripes (e.g.: photo six, the Sea Hurricanes show this standardised fin flash). On some aircraft, e.g.; photo reconnaissance Spitfires the fin flash was about half these dimensions.

In July 1942, with the adoption of the type C and C1 roundels the fin flash became 24 in square for RAF fighters, the stripe widths becoming 11 in red, 2 in white and 11 in blue.[15] There were some exceptions; RAF North American Mustangs all used fin flashes which were 27 in high by 24 in wide. In early 1944 some aircraft types were painted in a "High-altitude" camouflage scheme and adopted type B roundels and fin flashes.

The then-current RAF fin flashes were also adopted for USAAF aircraft operating alongside British and Commonwealth forces in the Mediterranean theatre in 1942, appearing on US Curtiss P-40 Warhawk fighters and North American B-25 Mitchell bombers.

Original post
Profile picture for user bazv

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15 years

Posts: 5,857

Keeps the markings symmetrical - That has always been my view of it right or wrong !

rgds baz

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11 years 2 months

Posts: 957

The logic is that of flying a flag - the same colour always leads (next to the pole) regardless of which side of the flag you look at.

The RFC tail stripes were the same as the French, perhaps the first common Allied identification scheme, with the RAF changing to the opposite order in 1930 (or closely thereabouts).

Only those aircraft in the Advanced Air Striking Force went to tail stripes, after some unfortunate incidents. Hence the Battles and two Hurricane squadrons. They were not carried on the Blenheims or the other Hurricane squadrons. The fin flash was introduced for all RAF units worldwide (except those of the AASF?) on May 1st 1940, as said above.

Profile picture for user Robert Whitton

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15 years 1 month

Posts: 1,314

Pre May 1940 Spitfire Squadrons had no fin flash