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Hamsterman

1re escadrille du GR 2/33, F-5 lightning colors?

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And the dance continues.....

The other day I posted a picture of the cover of Aero Album 6 from, quite literally, the summer of '69 (cue Bryan Adams).  I was able to get a hold of the section dealing with the French Lightnings and Mustangs thanks to Randall Smith from the Warbird Information Exchange forum and I thought I'd pass along to you all what the article said about the camo patterns on French F-4 and F-5 Lightnings.

 

"Camouflage and Markings

 

 In early 1943, Lockheed F-4A Lightnings received French style camouflage, being painted in French North African workshops. This consisted of olive green and medium brown upper-surfaces (no standard scheme being used so that each plane differed from the others) and undersurfaces of light green that was very similar

to the British Navy's "duck-egg" Light Blue. Spinners were red and white. National markings consisted of Frenchm roundels with a thin yellow outline and tricolor striped rudders. At least one plane had its U.S. serial (41-2365) painted in yellow on the tail.

 

Lockheed F-5A Lightnings, in late 1943, received the same markings and camouflage except lhat the light green of the undersurfaces was extended well upon the sides. No U.S. serials were applied. Two digit numbers, possibly applied by an unknown U.S. unit that previously operated the planes, appeared in white on both sides of the nose. They were 80, 90, 91, etc.

 

Most commonly illustrated French Lightning of this period was "Jeanne", the name appearing on the right side of the fuselage pod only. This aircraft was flown by Cdt. de SaintExupery, at least during training missions, and a number of

photos of him were taken with this plane. It was not the F-5B in which he met his death.

 

Lockheed F-5B Lightnings, 1944, were painted P.R.U. Blue overall. There was no yellow outline for the roundels which were painted over the original location of the U.S. national insignia, the white bars remaining apparent. Small tricolor flashes were painted on the outer sides of the vertical fins. U.S. serials were stencilled in black on the vertical tail with the last three digits being repeated on either side of the nose, serials being in the 42-68192/301 range. Lockheed F-5F and F 5G Lightnings, 1944-45, were in natural metal finish but for anti-glare surfaces on nose and engine nacelles. Insignias were applied in the same way as on the F-5B's, and serials remained in use but now the last four digits appeared on either side of the nose. GR 1/33 carried the squadron code letters, W4, on a black rectangle aft of the radiator, and an aircraft letter on a black square on the radiator. After the end of the war, the squadron code disappeared but the aircraft letters remained. (Squadron codes were not used by all French Air Force units but did appear on planes of these two recon units and on the P-47s and B-26s of several squadrons.

 

Postwar F-5s carried full rudder tricolor national stripes, and the inherited, U.S. national insignia white bars were removed. Roundels received the standard F.A.F. thin yellow outline, and the squadron (battle-axe) insignia appeared on both sides of the nose."

 

I also get the impression from the article that the F-4 and F-5As were hand-me-downs from the USAAF which were previously painted in the haze scheme.  The F-5Bs onward were less clear.

Cheers!

 

 

 

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Good evening all,

 

when I built my first "Saint-Ex Lightning" with very limited info (I only had a poor quality print of that front view photo I found in a Finnish aviation magazine) I ended up with almost the same conclusion as Jim: I used Olive Drab and light gray. Seeing the colour photo posted above I was convinced that I was close to the real thing. Only then I became aware about "Haze" and "Synthetic Haze" paint schemes.

 

As Hamsterman notes above, Saint-Ex. belly landed Lightning #80 in February 1944. This may have been the incident that denied further flights from him as some high ranking French officers were envious and thought that Saint-Ex was too old, too much an artist and so on. Saint-Exupery retreated to Algiers and spent time there alone and simply waiting. He was well connected and he managed to get a permission for further four missions when he personally pleaded to an American commander. When he disappeared over the Bay of Angels he was already on his ninth mission.

 

I don't recall where I got the USAF serial 41-2363 for this Lightning (#80) and the name "Peggy Back". Hamsterman has found another one that may be the correct one. Can you verify that this aircraft was indeed a F-5 not F-4 as I thought?

 

A photo (not seen here on BM) was published in La Croix du Nord on 31.10.1964 showing Saint-Exupery standing under the wing of a French Lightning carrying a serial 12363 on the tail. It is possible that this not #80 as the wing under surface is light colored from the leading edge; not dark. Heavy paint chipping is visible on the leading edge.

 

Cheers,

Antti

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I found this photo on my computer. Note how different these new(ish) F-4s look when compared with each other.

 

76aec585-7c6d-4744-8149-62fa645ec618.jpg

 

The closest aircraft possibly carries serial 13079 on it's tail.

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It is possible that the French colors Hamsterman posted about above were painted on the black haze base and due to the different formula of the two paints just didn't adhere well.

That would explain the extensive chipping ...

 

It would imply the upper blue haze layer (which supposedly was applied thinner on the top than on the undersides) was almost gone when the repaint happened

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A couple of notes on recon Lightnings and their colors...

 

The early Lightnings with square camera windows are F-4s and F-4As; the others are F-5As.  In the 4-plane lineup above, the 1st and 4th aircraft are F-5As; the 2nd and 3rd are F-4As.

 

Remember that before 1979 Haze Paint and Synthetic Haze Paint were completely unknown in modeling and aviation publications.  (There wasn't much on the internet either!)  Anyhow, any earlier attempt to describe the recon camouflage has to be suspect - and the Aero Album book was before 1979.

 

Cheers,

 

 

Dana

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Great info Dana! So far I have been looking only at the engines not the camera windows.

 

Last night I found a good quality print of one the photos John Phillips took of #80 in May 1944. It looks like some white paint has been applied high on the sides of the nose (possibly an attempt to fix the original paint).

 

Thank You🙂

 

Antti

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15 hours ago, Dana Bell said:

A couple of notes on recon Lightnings and their colors...

 

The early Lightnings with square camera windows are F-4s and F-4As; the others are F-5As.  In the 4-plane lineup above, the 1st and 4th aircraft are F-5As; the 2nd and 3rd are F-4As.

 

Remember that before 1979 Haze Paint and Synthetic Haze Paint were completely unknown in modeling and aviation publications.  (There wasn't much on the internet either!)  Anyhow, any earlier attempt to describe the recon camouflage has to be suspect - and the Aero Album book was before 1979.

 

Cheers,

 

 

Dana

Hi all,

 

Dana, I  agree with your statement.  I view the Aero Album piece as one piece of a puzzle.  I was not implying that it, by itself, was proof that #80 had a French camo scheme.  That article was for me, the first written account supporting the olive drab/brown/light blue camo scheme seen in some profiles, decals and model box art.  The Icare article/book Jim mentioned being the second source.  But, as Dana has mentioned, that article, and the conclusions therein, probably needs to be taken with a grain of salt.  That said, I'm still left asking where did the idea that the French F-4s and F-5As were repainted using a French camo scheme originate.  If that idea began by interpreting b/w photos then we should absolutely treat the Aero Album article as suspect.  It's certainly possible that every article and book describing French F-4/5s as being painted with a French camo scheme are all referencing the same original claim, and if that claim was based on misinterpretation of a b/w photo, then all the subsequent articles and books are perpetuating a myth.   However, if the original claim was based on first hand accounts from people that flew or painted the planes or from technical reports written by the French Air Force or GR II/33, then those claims probably need to be taken more seriously.  Would a person need prior knowledge of haze paint application to describe what they saw as green or brown?  Therein lies the current problem.  How do we verify the veracity of the initial claim?   For it's part, the article also has a picture of a F-4A that does show a wrap around camo scheme on the tail boom that would tend to fit the description of the camo scheme described by Cuny.  The caveat is that it's a poor quality picture but I'm trying to find the original.  The other assumption is that all French F-4s/5s, including #80, were repainted. 

 

By the way, the article was written by Jean M. Cuny.  I don't know if that means anything to anyone but he appears to have written numerous articles.  Dana, are you familiar with the name or his work?  As I'm only familiar with Dana's work, I weight his opinion more heavily.  

 

Antti, as for 42-13080 being a F-5A and not an F-4, 42-13080 was within the 42-13127/13266 block of Lockheed P-38G-10-LO Lightnings which would make it an F-5A as the F-4/F-4A were based on the P-38E/F airframe.  The only other tidbit of information I've been able to find on 42-13080 is  a reference to it being delivered to GR II/33 on 3 August 1943. 

 

I love that picture you posted.  It's amazing how one scheme can look so different on different planes. 

 

Just more food for thought I guess.

Cheers!

 

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