The Great RLM 02 Debate

There isn’t one. A great RLM 02 debate. It doesn’t exist. What I’m trying to say here is that it’s “generally accepted” AKA “the common wisdom” AKA “widely known” that a slightly mysterious color called RLM 02 was used by the German Luftwaffe during World War II as both a “primer” and as an exterior color–particularly during the Battle of Britain, when all the Bf-109 fighter planes of the Nazi air arm were painted in a combination of pale blue, forest green and pale beige (RLM 02). This is the accepted and acceptable standard version of events. ANY deviation from this narrative will get you labeled as a nut-job.

I doubt that it’s true. I very much doubt it.

I’ve been thinking about this since I happened across a statement in a modeling magazine that really shook up my view of the world. In it, some expert guy was quoted as saying, back in the seventies, that he had never “seen any evidence that RLM 02 was used as an exterior color” on Luftwaffe airplanes.

Then I proceeded to misplace the magazine. In a blog, you can, pretty much, drop your trousers at any time and it’s par for the course. In a real, serious journal I wouldn’t even bring up that mysterious “expert.” I certainly wouldn’t bring him or her (sorry–it’s required) up on a forum in the middle of a fight.

But let’s face it–it just doesn’t matter. Nothing I say here is intended to be taken as gospel or peer-reviewed truth. All I’m saying is this: I clearly remember somebody saying that they never saw no evidence of the Luftwaffe using no 02 on the outside of airplanes. I’m not sure what this means, because I can pull up some images on Google that clearly show 02 on German 109’s. But it isn’t a primary camouflage color–and that’s what we’re talking about.

RLM 02 is thought to be have been used by the Luftwaffe fighter arm during the “lull” between the conquest of Poland and the invasion of France–to replace the black green color (RLM 70) with a lighter shade. When you do this, you get a model that looks like everyone else’s model and the shade of 02 required is a pale beige.

Got that?

I have always felt that this was a strange idea. I’ve been at this game for a long time, and when this whole thing “sprang” out into the collective consciousness in the 1970’s via some books from some experts, I expected to see a detailed analysis published in the various modeling magazines.

I’m still waiting. That analysis never appeared. I’m inclined to believe that it never appeared because the arguments supporting the “RLM 02 in the Battle of Britain” were specious. That is to say, malarkey. B.S. Not based upon facts, but upon speculation.

I’ve never seen anything to change my mind on this. I have built models with “02” but I always make the 02 into a pale green color to match my bilious nature.

But even as I’m painting these models, something nags at me. I can’t get the idea out of my head that it’s just not accurate.

Here’s the deal. We live in the age of Google and we can search HUGE databases for color images from World War II showing Luftwaffe aircraft. If JUST ONE of these images showed an airplane that looked like the “green and beige” airplane of myth, then I’d accept it.

But they don’t. They don’t show that at all. In fact, they don’t show anything other than two schemes which are dismissed as “wrong” by “experts.” They show a lot of Bf-109’s painted in black green and dark green, with light blue undersides, with the light blue painted up the sides of the fuselage. They also show a lot of Br-109’s painted in a factory paint job of green gray (dark gray) and gray violet (medium gray), with light blue undersides, with the light blue painted up the sides of the fuselage.

I know what the “arguments” to dispute my “facts” are and they are not valid. Saying that “color photos can’t be trusted” is the mating call of the expert who’s perfidy has been exposed.

All I am asking for is proof. It’s not that hard. Something to dispute the TONS of data indicating that Luftwaffe fighter aircraft were painted in dark green, black green and pale blue, and then very early on, while the “RLM 02” color was supposedly being used, the actual fact is that the airplanes came from the factory or paint barn in dark gray (gray green), medium gray (gray violet) and pale blue.

No RLM 02, except as a color used to create fanciful “mottling” on top of the pale blue as required, along the fuselage sides. The RLM 02 mottling is combined with dark green or medium gray to produce a hazy, brownish-greenish tint.

This isn’t new information (wait–maybe it is–call Osprey!).This was understood to be the case for years, until some sharpie decided to sell some books by changing the narrative. It worked–books were sold. Now, we have to put up with this type of thing over and over as new people show up and want to sell their books. It never ends.


Well look, I already told you! I deal with the customers so the engineers don't have to! I have people skills! I am good at dealing with people! Can't you understand that? What is wrong with you people?

4 thoughts on “The Great RLM 02 Debate

  • May 23, 2017 at 2:41 pm

    Dan, could you give some links to photos showing your colour scheme? I am finding it difficult to find good ones that show the correct 109 at the correct angle, in colour.

  • May 23, 2017 at 5:55 pm

    Here’s a link

    This is a link to a Google search that gives some “in color” images.

  • November 22, 2018 at 3:26 pm

    Maybe get in touch with Gosshawk Unlimited in AZ, they did a FW190-D13 and got the corect colors from a crashed 190. I’m pretty sure they have a list of RLM colors that were used and I think the light blue was one of them, I was the one that painted it to how you see it today, from bare metal up including hand cut german font stencils. I hope they can help you out.

  • November 25, 2018 at 9:33 am


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