F-111 Experimental Camouflage Gallery
Unless stated otherwise, these camouflage patterns are not in use on RAAF F/RF-111C/G aircraft of 82 Strike Recce Wing. The purpose of this web page is to stimulate discussion on the subject of F-111 camouflage.
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USAF Air Combat Command Style Gunship Grey
Standard USAF Air Combat Command style gunship grey low visibility day/night ops. Used on F-111G aircraft and recently applied as an alternative to Vietnam era TAC camouflage on F/RF-111C.
USAF Air Combat Command Style Gunship Grey / AGM-142 Raptor
Standard USAF Air Combat Command style strategic grey low visibility day/night ops. Used on F-111G aircraft and recently applied as an alternative to Vietnam era TAC camouflage on F/RF-111C. Aircraft armed with a pair of Rafael/Lockheed-Martin AGM-142 Raptor standoff weapons. This is the expected strategic precision strike operational configuration and camouflage by the end of this decade.
USAF Air Combat Command Style Gunship Grey / Airhawk ALCM
Standard USAF Air Combat Command style gunship grey low visibility day/night ops. Used on F-111G aircraft and recently applied as an alternative to Vietnam era TAC camouflage on F/RF-111C. Aircraft depicted with a quartet of AGM-109 Airhawk Air Launched Cruise Missiles (not an operational configuration - the AGM-158 JASSM has since been selected for this role).
Wraparound Green (Daylight Low Level)
Intended for daylight use in the deep North and SEA, this camouflage is optimised to reduce visual detection at low altitudes. Conceptually similar to USAF European 1 but using colours optimised for tropics (Variants K-2, K-3 with original SAC FB-111A and alternate disruptive patterns).
Green/Grey (Daylight Low Level)
Intended for daylight use in the deep North and SEA, this camouflage is optimised to reduce visual detection at low altitudes over land and sea. Conceptually similar to USAF European 1 but using colours optimised for tropics.
Wraparound Three Tone Grey (Daylight)
Intended for daylight use at medium to high altitudes, this camouflage is conceptually similar to that used by the Have Blue prototypes. It is intended to defeat visual detection at altitude by fighters.
Wraparound Two Tone Grey (Daylight)
Intended for daylight use at medium to high altitudes, this camouflage is conceptually similar to that used by the USAF F-15C and F-22A. It is intended to defeat visual detection at altitude by fighters.
Split Four Tone Grey (Night)
Intended for use at medium to high altitudes, this camouflage is conceptually similar to that used by RAF night bombers after WWII. It is intended to defeat visual detection at altitude by fighters.
Split Three Tone Grey / Blue (Day/Night)
Intended for use at medium to high altitudes, this camouflage is conceptually similar to that used by RAF high altitude PRU aircraft after WWII. It is intended to defeat visual detection at altitude by fighters, day or night.
The basic idea behind the multitone wraparound camouflage patterns is to break up the outline of the aircraft when viewed against a similar background. One of the classical problems with split upper/lower colour camouflage patterns is that when the aircraft banks away from a threat it exposes its belly, if the lower surface colour contrasts significantly with the background, it may compromise the aircraft's position and manoeuvre to a sharp eyed fighter pilot. A classical example is the F-105G Weasel Thud in Vietnam period operations. Initially camouflaged with a two tone green and sand upper surface, and very light grey belly, the aircraft would "flash" the "white" belly when banking steeply at low level and thus give away their position. Later the green and sand camouflage was applied to the lower surfaces and the problem disappeared. Later F-4G Weasels and A-10s, both committed to low level ops, used wraparound multitone camouflage. As well, experimental air-air camouflage applied to USAF fighters and the Have Blue demonstrators during the seventies exploited this principle. Wherever the aircraft is expected to manoeuvre vigourously against a background, strong contrast between upper and lower surfaces is not a safe proposition.
The split upper grey and lower blue or black camouflages were used extensively by the RAF during the forties and fifties on a range of recce and strike aircraft. In both instances the basic idea of the camouflage is to reduce contrast when viewed against a background, assuming that the aircraft will not be aggressively manoeuvred other than in the endgame. The daylight PRU blue lower surface / medium sea grey upper surface camouflage was used extensively on the high altitude fighter Spitfire Mk VII and VIII, the Welkin, and the Hornet and early Vampire. A variant of this scheme, with additional slate grey disruptive pattern on the upper surfaces, was used on the Canberra B.2 and some fighters. Whilst it was planned for use on the V-bombers, this never occurred. The dark PRU blue was intended to reduce contrast against the background when seen by a fighter trying to engage from a lower altitude and looking up. The upper grey was intended to reduce contrast against an undercast when looking down.
The split upper grey and lower black camouflage was to have been the standard Bomber Command camouflage from mid 1945, but was not used due the cessation of hostilities in Europe. Many early production Canberras flew with this camouflage, as did Brigands and some Mosquitoes. A variant using an additional slate grey disruptive pattern on the upper surfaces was to have been used on V-bombers, but like its PRU blue contemporary, was supplanted by nuclear flash reflective white.
The issue of camouflage suitability is critically dependent upon the operating environment of the aircraft. The RAAF had good experience using the classical TAC two tone green and sand camouflage on the F-111 during low level daylight operations over land, but did eventually replace it with the USAF ACC standard "gunship grey" single colour camouflage. With the long term expectation that the F-111 will be increasingly used for loitering bombardment CAS/BAI, strategic maritime strike and strategic reconnaissance roles, a good case can be made for adopting a camouflage more suited to defeating air to air detection at altitude. The split grey and blue/black camouflages were specifically designed for such an environment and thus could be viable candidates.
Other aircraft could also benefit from role specific camouflage. A good example are tankers such as the B-707 and its AIR 5402 replacement. Should the RAAF eventually acquire a significant operational tanker force, then these would be a good candidate for the split grey and blue/black camouflages which were specifically designed to hide large aircraft flying at medium to high altitudes.
With the paradigm shift in current air warfare, where a premium is placed on stealth and the reduction of radar emissions, camouflage will become increasingly important again. During the period when radar was unchallenged, camouflage became less than critical. Where radar cannot be used effectively, camouflage becomes yet again a critical aspect of defending an aircraft.
Artwork and text (c) 2002, 2001, 1996 Carlo Kopp
Base Page Location: http://www.F-111.net/CarloKopp/gallery.htm
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