Colours of the Dutch Air Force (Part 1)

Camouflage & Markings

Part 1: Aircraft of the Koninklijke Luchtmacht (KLu) – Royal Air Force

by Bouko de Groot

This is the first part of the three-part feature covering the finishes and colours used throughout the history of Dutch military aviation. This part covers early and air force aircraft used in the Netherlands. – Ed.

Dutch military aviation dates back to 1911.

During the First World War, the Netherlands stayed neutral and consequently was unable to obtain a large amount of aircraft. Impressing interned foreign types which landed on Dutch soil resulted in a miscellany of 71 aircraft, all of different types by 1919.

In the inter-war period, domestic aircraft production started which proved to be successful internationally, with such companies as Fokker, Spijker and Koolhoven.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, the Air Force had a total of 125 combat aircraft in the Netherlands. Most of this force was destroyed during the short but desperate defence in May 1940, in return managing to destroy almost twice as many Luftwaffe planes. Many aircraft personnel and a few training aircraft managed to escape to England, and then moved on to support the air force of the Netherlands East Indies. Those those that did not leave for the colonies eventually formed no. 322 Squadron with Dutch personnel.

After the war, the Air Force was rebuilt with the arrival of the jet era. The first jet fighters, Gloster Meteors, were take into service in 1948, soon followed by F-86K Sabres, F-84 Thunderjets and RF-84 Thunderflash. The next generation of aircraft was introduced in the sixties with F-104G Starfighter followed by F-5 in the seventies. Also in this period, all liaison airplanes were replaced by helicopters. Finally, 1980s saw replacement of the Starfighters by F-16s.

This page is intended as a guide to clarify and interpret photos and other sources about manned aircraft operated by The Netherlands’ military.

The name Koninklijke Luchtmacht – Royal Netherlands Air Force was firmly established only by the early 1950s. Before that, the Air Force was initially referred to as Luchtvaartafdeling (LVA) and then Luchtstrijdkrachten (LSK).

Conventions used
Colour reference information in this article is organised by period. If certain aircraft type was operational during one of the periods described, but hasn’t been explicitly mentioned in the corresponding table, it still carried the colours of the previous period.For reasons of space, the Aircraft type column in colour reference uses numbers to refer to particular types of aircraft. These numbers are explained in the Aircraft types legend immediately below the table.To avoid confusion, upper surfaces are called upper, lower surfaces are lower, fuselages also have side(s) and biplanes have a top and a bottom wing. If a number is mentioned more than once for the same surface (e.g. upper), all those colours were used in a camouflage pattern.British equivalentcolours are given in tables where appropriate for colours originating from British specifications. In case the English name of a colour differs from the translation of the Dutch name, the translation is put between parentheses behind the Dutch name.Parentheses around reference to Federal Standard codes mean an approximate match of an actual colour. Where a * is used instead of the first digit in the five-digit FS code, it is either unknown whether the colour was gloss, satin / semi-gloss or matt, or the original sheen could fade to one of the other.The term natural metal is used liberally, also to describe aircraft covered with aluminium coatings for metal and non-metal surfaces.Special schemes of demo team aircraft and all special unit markings are – for now – not mentioned.


Early Period, All Services

After a demonstration in 1911 by Mr. De Brouckere, the Ministry of Colonies decided to order two of his planes plus a Deperdussin: Dutch military aviation had begun.

The Aviation Department – Luchtvaartafdeling (LVA) was officially established on July 7, 1913 and initially included naval aviation. This was followed on May 30, 1914 by the establishment of Militaire Luchtvaart van het Koninklijk Nederlands-Indisch Leger (ML-KNIL) – Military Aviation of the Royal Netherlands-Indies Army.

The Naval Aviation Service – Marine Luchtvaart Dienst (MLD) emerged as an independent organisation on August 18, 1917.

Considering the variety of types impressed into service during these years and lack of standardisation, very little can be said with certainty about colour schemes of these machines. There was no common or special scheme for the Dutch military, the aircraft carried mostly factory finish. Interned planes were not re-painted, but were given new nationality markings and codes.

Aircraft types of the period were:

  • KLu
    AEG C.IV, Caudron C.IV, HF-16, HF-20, HF-22, Fokker D.III, M.VIII, Nieuport 11,21,23, Rumpler C.IV,VIII, Van Meel, Vreeburg
  • Interned KLu
    Albatross B.I,II,III, C.III,VII,X, D.III, Ansaldo SVA.10, Aviatik C.III, Avro 504-,A,B, Bristol F.2B, DFW C.V, DH-4, HF-40, Friedrichshafen G.III, Gotha C.IV, Halberstadt CL.II,IV, Handley Page 0/400, Hannover CL.II,IIIa, LVG B.I,II, C.VI, Morane Saulnier L, Nieuport 17C1,Pfalz D.IIIa, REP-2, RAF BE-2C, SE-5A, Rumpler C.I,Ia, Camel, Pup, Sopwith-Hanriot 1B1, Spad VII, Voisin LB.IV
  • MLD
    HF-22, Martin R,S, Spijker V.1, Thulin K/KA,LA
  • Interned MLD
    Felixstowe F-2A, Friedrichshafen FF-19,29,33 (not L),49, Hansa-Brandenburg W-12,19, Rumpler 6B-2, Short 184, 11/2 Strutter, Baby, White & Tompson No.3
    De Broeckere, Deperdussin, HF-20, Martin R,TA,TT

KLu 1919-1940, named LVA (Luchtvaartafdeling = Aviation Department)

Until the Second World War the Royal Air Force was (too) small. The handful of squadrons used mainly Dutch manufactured aircraft and tried their best against overwhelming odds in 1940. Ironically, the first victim of the LVA was a British airplane violating neutral airspace.

Whereas many other air forces choose various kinds of lively colours for their aircraft, the Dutch used a basic camouflage of green upper and blue lower surfaces. As a nice alternative to all those yellow trainers, the LVA painted its trainers blue overall.

Colour name British equivalent Aircraft type Federal Standard RAL Humbrol Xtracolour
LVA khaki Olive Drab / Khaki fuselage:3; upper:3,1,4; sides:1,4 (*4064) 6014 251
LVA blauw (= LVA Blue) lower: 1,4; overall: 2 (*5189)-(*5275) 5018 115 214
”Blanke lak” (= Clear varnish) clear doped linen lower (not fuselage): 3; wing: 4 (*3564) 121 604
Natural metal overall: 5 11

Aircraft types legend

  1. Fokker C.I,IV,V,VI,VIII,IX,X, D.VII,XVI,XVII, G.1 prototype, Koolhoven FK-49,51,52, 56

  2. Fokker S.II,IIa,IV,IX, FW-58, Jungmann.

  3. Spijker V.2.

  4. F.VIIa/3m.

  5. prototype of T.V, prototype of C.X Hispona (code X-1 and 750).

Additional colour notes

Plumbing on all aircraft types was colour-coded as follows: water – blue, oil – brown, fuel – yellow and fire extinguisher – red.

Markings were painted in white on LVA khaki and black on LVA blauw.

The Fokker C.IV had clear varnished metal parts (engine, cockpit) and clear varnished plywood centre section of the top wing. The C.VI had marbled engine plating, while the C.VIII had this area left in varnished natural metal.

Spijker V.2 had inner part of lower of bottom wing painted in LVA khaki.

Fokker F.VIIa/3m’s during the thirties had the top of the wing or only the fuselage segment of it painted aluminium.

Focke-Wulf Fw-58s were grey on delivery – probably RLM 02 Grau, (FS 26165) – with washable German markings covering the Dutch markings applied at the factory.

KLu 1938-1940, named LSK (Luchtstrijdkrachten = Air Combat Forces) from November 1, 1938

In the rush after Munich, several new and up-to-date aircraft entered service, using fashionable three-tone camouflage with illogical brown undersides.

Colour name British equivalent Aircraft type Federal Standard RAL Humbrol Xtracolour
Camouflagegroen (=C. Green) Green Grey upper & sides: 1; overall: 2 (*4077) 172 223
Camouflagebeige (=C. Beige) Light Sand upper & sides: 1 (*6360) 168 16
Camouflagebruin (=C. Brown) Dark Brown upper, sides & lower: 1 (*0059) 10* (lightened with about 10%)
Grijs (possibly Anodiseergrijs) Grey overall: 3 (16320) 7001 128 255

Aircraft types legend

  1. Fokker D.XXI,XXIII prototype, G.1, some later Wasp G-1s, T.V, Douglas DB -8A.
  2. Other Wasp G-1s, prototype T.IX (probably), prototype FK-52 (probably).
  3. Civilian planes with LVA from 1939: DH-85, DH-90, F.VIIIa, FK-43, prototype FK-49A (floats).

Additional notes

Propeller tips were usually red-white-blue. Back of propeller was black, front according to factory regulations.

In March 2005, White Ensign Models came out with these three colours for MW Models in the Netherlands. The colours are coded as follows: ACD 01 – Camouflagegroen, ACD 02 – Camouflagebruin, and ACD 03 – Camouflagebeige.

KLu 1942-1945, Dutch Squadrons With the RAF

After May 1940, many pilots went across the Channel to fight on during the Battle of Britain. After that many left for the Netherlands East Indies (NEI).

Because of this, it took another two years to finally establish some Dutch squadrons within the RAF: 322 (Dutch) Squadron on June 12, 1943 (code VL and 3W) and semi-independent 1316 (Dutch) Communication Flight in the autumn of 1944 (code WK, never used). No. 322 Squadron flew Spitfires, while the 1316 flight used a mix of transport aircraft.

Even so, many Dutchmen kept flying with other RAF units, from pathfinder Mosquito’s to train busting Typhoons, sometimes forming Dutch crewed Flights. Not surprisingly, Dutch squadrons in the RAF used British camouflage of the period.

Colour name British equivalent Aircraft type Federal Standard RAL Humbrol Xtracolour
Dark Green uppers & sides: 1,2; all: 3 (*4079) 163 1
Ocean Grey uppers & sides: 1 (*6187) 106 6
Medium Sea Grey lower: 1 *6270 126,165 3,133
Dark Earth upper & sides: 2; all: 3 (*0095) 29 2
Light Green upper bottom wing: 2 *4096/(*4172) 102 24
Light Earth upper bottom wing: 2 (*0257) 93 29
Yellow lower: 2 *3538 154 106

Aircraft types legend

  1. Spitfire V, (LF)IX, XIV, XVI.
  2. Anson, Dakota, Dominie, Hudson I, L-12A, Mitchell, Navigator D-18S, Oxford, Proctor.
  3. Auster

Additional notes

Props were factory finish and after maintenance black (’Night’) with a yellow tip.

KLu 1945-1953, Post War, named LSK

After the war a rapid buildup saw the LSK grow to a large number of squadrons, the whole country understanding that you can speak softly better when you carry a big stick.

The natural finish that started to prevail at the end of the war continued to grow in popularity. However, many planes had to be given a coat of aluminium paint to prevent corrosion, as the metal itself could not stand the wet sea climate of the country.

Colour name British equivalent Aircraft type Federal Standard RAL Humbrol Xtracolour
WW2 colours 1
Glanzend geel (= Glossy Yellow) Identification Yellow overall: 2,4; fuselage and tail: 3. 13538 154 106

Aircraft types legend

  1. Early period, using WW2 colours, see KLu 1942-1945 following these numbers: Auster 3; Anson, Dominie, Harvard, Oxford, Proctor, Tiger Moth 2; Spitfire LF.IX, Meteor 1. Dakota, see below.
  2. Anson, Harvard, Oxford, Proctor, (Super) Cub, Spitfire T.IX, Tiger Moth.
  3. Early S-11.
  4. Later S-11.
  5. FW-56: see below.

Additonal notes

Following types af aircraft in Dutch service carried natural metal finish: Dakota, Dominie, F-84E,G (see also 1953, Early Nato), L-12A, Meteor, Meteor T, Spitfire LF.IX, wings of early S-11.

World War II-vintage aircraft initially retained their original colours and insignia. New aircraft, and all those that had gone through maintenance units received natural metal finish (or yellow for trainers).

Early Dakotas had RAF camouflage finish of Dark Green, Dark Earth and Sky or US finish of Olive Drab and Neutral Grey. For these schemes, see MLD 1940-1945 6 and 10.

Aluminium transport aircraft could have white upper surfaces.

Natural metal and yellow aircraft had black markings.

The sole Focke Wulf FW-56A-1 Stoesser was given its own scheme, light grey (probably) overall with light blue arrows running along the fuselage sides.

KLu 1947-1950, Netherlands-Indies, named LSK

To help the marines and the army in their ’Dutch Vietnam’ (not really: there were 200,000 Dutch civilians living in the NEI), the LSK sent a small contingent to support the squadrons of the MLD and the ML-KNIL. Their NEI experience made the Dutch army soldiers ’jungle veterans’, which by the way accounted for their later reputation as tough fighters in the Korean conflict.

Colour name British equivalent Aircraft type Federal Standard RAL Humbrol Xtracolour
Jungle Green ?: a mix made in the Indies upper & sides: 1 (*4056) 75 223
Lichtblauw Light Blue lower: 1 *5109 190 123, 124

Aircraft types legend

  1. Spitfire LF.IX from summer 1948 (aircraft being gradually repainted)

Additional notes

Dutch Austers gradually adopted a silver-dope finish similar to natural metal starting with summer 1947.

Planes arrived in the NEI in their European colours (see KLu 1945-1953), originally with small black markings. Those were changed to larger white markings. Natural metal and aluminium-painted airframes had black markings. Some Spitfires and Austers had an anti glare panel, probably Olive Drab.

Spitfire H-60 (and possibly H-50) had a pattern of Lichtgrijs (Light Grey) on the Jungle Green. The H-35 had a non-regulation pattern of (probably) Medium Sea Grey and Dark Green. All had white markings. H-64 was painted Lichtblauw overall for a show, with black markings and (probably) black anti glare panel.

KLu 1953 to 1960’s, Early Nato (STANAGs, Standardization Agreements), named KLu from March 27, 1953

The Cold War buildup continued, growing to 20 squadrons, now with many US aircraft on duty. The Americans supplied the KLu with many relatively cheap and good planes, but also effectively killed the domestic military aircraft industry.

As the Cold War became hotter, NATO decided to introduce camouflage again.

Colour name British equivalent Aircraft type Federal Standard RAL Humbrol Xtracolour
Donkergroen Dark Green upper & sides: 1,2,3,4 (*4079) 163 1
Zeegrijs, donker Dark Sea Grey upper & sides: 1,2,3 *6118 125, 164 4, 130
Extra donkergrijs (= Extra Dark Grey) Extra Dark Sea Grey * upper & sides: 4 *6099 123 5, 376
Grijsblauw (= Grey Blue) PRU Blue lower: 3,4 (*5109) 124 8
Donkergroen, mat Brown-green, Dark Green upper: 4; all: 6; overall: 7 (34079) 116 110
Khaki, mat Dark Earth, matt all: 6 (30095) 29 2
Olive Drab same overall: 5 34088 66 111, 112, 113
Wit White upper: VIP transports *7875 9010, 9016 22, 34, 130 141, 405
Anodiseergrijs (= Anodize Grey) Light Grey lower: 2 (*6320) 7001 128 255
Aluminium (coated) same lower: 1 17178 11, 191 216, 252, 501
Lesvliegtuiggeel, mat Trainer Yellow, matt (?) overall: 8; striping: 9 (33637) 24 11

Aircraft types legend

  1. Hunter till mid 60s.
  2. Hunter from mid 60s.
  3. Meteor, some Dakota.
  4. some Harvard, late: F-84F, RF-84F and RT-33A.
  5. Beaver and Hiller till late 50s.
  6. Super Cub, Beaver from late 50s, some Hillers from late 50s.
  7. Alouette II, other Hillers from late 50s .
  8. Harvard, S-11, Tiger Moth.
  9. Hunter T, Meteor T, Navigator (except initially), S-14, T-33A.

Additonal notes

Following aircraft retained their natural metal finish during the period: F-84E,G and F-86K, Hunter T, Meteor T, Navigator T-7, S-13,14, T-33A. Up to late fifties, natural metal could still be seen on F-84F, RF-84F and RT-33A. Most of these aircraft had aluminium painted lower surfaces to prevent corrosion.

Anti glare panel on American planes was Olive Drab, matt black on others. On F-84E and G the anti-glare extended also behind the canopy along the fuselage spine. Also Beavers had black anti glare panel, even though they were camouflaged.

Contrary to Nato regulations, Extra Dark Sea Grey was used instead of Dark Sea Grey during the late 1950s.

At least one F-84K (Q-273) had Anti Search Light Glossy Black lower surfaces (Hoogglanzend anti Zoeklicht zwart).

Zeegrijs, donkeron Hawker Hunters faded to a lighter shade. One Hunter T was camouflaged.

Target tug aircraft had yellow striping on natural metal upper surfaces and sides plus black striping on yellow lower surfaces.

The white markings of the Super Cub were changed to black in the late 1970s.

Camouflaged Dakotas had white markings, but the Koninklijke Luchtmacht inscription above the windows was yellow.

For test purposes, two F-84F’s (code P-108 and P-124) were coated Anodiseergrijs overall in 1961.

KLu 1960’s and 1970’s, Cold War

Like other air forces, the Dutch also went supersonic. Luckily there were almost no combat operations recorded during that period, apart from Hunters and Dakotas in New Guinea – which similarly to Indonesia was lost due to betrayal by former allies, regular hunting for Soviet Bears over the North Sea and a highly unusual mock air attack of a Starfighter to end the hijack of a commuter train.

This period sees the start of differentiating between high flyers (grey coloured) and low flyers (green coloured).

Colour name British equivalent Aircraft type Federal Standard RAL Humbrol Xtracolour
Camouflagegrijs IR Camouflage Grey / Dark Grey upper & sides: 2, 3, 5 (*6152) 7012 79 254
Camouflagegroen IR Camouflage Green / Olive Drab upper & sides: 2, 3, 5, overall: 7 (*4064) 6014 251
Anodiseergrijs* (= Anodize Grey) Light Grey lower: 2, 4, 5; all: 1 (*6320) 7001 128 255
Donkergroen, mat* Brown-green overall: 6 (34079) 116 110
Wit White upper: 4 *7875 9010, 9016 22, 34, 130 141, 405
Rood-oranje fluoriscerend Fluorescent Red-Orange trainers and tugs, see below (28913)
Grijs, mat (Grey, matt) Dark Gull Grey cockpit of F-104G 36231 140 131, 403
Mat groen (matt Green) Dark Green anti glare of part of the F-104Gs (*4079) 163 1
Aluminium (coated) same lower: 3 17178 11, 191 216, 252, 501

Aircraft types legend

  1. Early F-104G.
  2. Late F-104G and early NF-5.
  3. NF-5 from late 70’s.
  4. F-27 up to 1971and VIP transports.
  5. F-27 1971-1988.
  6. Early Alouette III.
  7. Alouette III from early 80’s and all Bo-105c.

Additonal notes

The Starfighter was the only type featuring angular camouflage pattern.

Some colours changed their name during the period. Thus, Anodiseergrijs was also called Nevelgrijs (Fog Grey) or Lichtgrijs (Light Grey). Donkergroen, mat was later called Bruingroen(Brown-green).

A few notes on the F-104G:

  • From the mid sixties on, the F-104G’s were camouflaged over a prolonged period.
  • Nevelgrijs (Anodiseergrijs) airframes supplied by Fokker featured black anti glare panels. All other F-104s had this area painted Mat groen.
  • 3 German F-104G in natural-metal finish flew with Dutch markings in June and July 1963: D-8054, KG-114 and KG-125.
  • The landing gear and inside of the wheel wells was painted aluminium
  • Cockpits were finished in black and Grijs, mat.

Alouette III had white markings until late 1970s, when these were changed to black.

Bo-105c had a white interior.

KLu 1980’s to Today, Low Visibility

With functional IFF and anti-aircraft weapons apparently getting smarter, the rationale for highly visible nationality markings seems to be gone. Low visibility has been the new trend, as was independent rapid deployment forces, for which tanker aircraft and attack- and big transport helicopters were needed.

With NATO Dutch F-16s fired in anger over Yugoslavia (downing a Mig-29 head-on), and with the US Dutch Apaches were stationed in Iraq. All just in time before the later budget cuts, downsizing the air force to dangerously low levels, just as before WW2.

Apart from some early F-27s and NF-5s, camouflage schemes are based on greens for helicopters and on greys for high flyers.

Colour name British equivalent Aircraft type Federal Standard RAL Humbrol Xtracolour
Camouflagegrijs IR Camouglage Grey / Dark Grey upper & sides: 2 (*6152) 7012 79 254
Camouflagegroen IR Camouflage Green / Olive Drab upper & sides: 1,2; overall: 4 (*4064) 6014 251
Grafietgrijs (= Graphite Grey) Engine Grey / Black Grey upper & sides: 1 (*6008) 7024 67 203
Anodiseergrijs (= Anodize Grey) Light Grey lower: 1 (*6320) 7001 128 255
Donkergrijs, mat Dark Grey / Gunship Grey upper, sides: 3, 8. all: 7 36118 ** 125, 164 4, 130
Middengrijs, mat Medium (Sea) Grey / Dark Compass Ghost Grey upper & sides: 3; lower: very early 10 36270 126, 165 3, 133
Lichtgrijs, mat Light (Compass Ghost) Grey lower: 2,3,8; all: 7, 8 36375 ** 127 136
Zwart, mat Black, matt overall: 4 37038 9005 21, 33 12
Bronsgroen Bronze Green / US Aircraft Green all: 5; overall: 6a 34094 6031 117 116
US Army Green same overall: 6b 34031 153
Lederbruin Leather Brown all: 5 30051 8027 170 22
Teerzwart Tar Black all: 5 *7030 9021 182 262
Wit White upper: 9, 10; all: 11; overall: 13 *7875 9010, 9016 22, 34, 130 141, 405
Agaatgrijs (= Agate Grey) Light Gull Grey lower: 9 36440 129 137
Grijs (= Grey) Dark Gull Grey lower: other 10 36231 140 131, 403
Oranje-rood (= Orange Red) ? fuselage band: very early 10
Reflex oranje Reflex orange fuselage band: other 10 3024
Verkeersrood (= Traffic Red) ? all: 11; striping: 12 3020 174 14
Verkeersgeel (= Traffic Yellow) ? all: 11; overall: 12 (*3655) 1023 69 108

Aircraft types legend

  1. Fokker F-27 from 1988 to mid 90’s.
  2. NF-5 from early 80’s.
  3. F-16 and air defence NF-5’s from mid 80’s.
  4. mid 80’s-mid 90’s: Alouette III and Bo-105c.
  5. mid 90’s-today: Bo-105c, Cougar.
  6. a: Chinook, b: Apache, but colours are very similar.
  7. Hercules and F-50.
  8. F-27 from mid 90’s & F-60.
  9. KDC-10 and VIP F-27.
  10. F-27 Maritime.
  11. PC-7 trainer.
  12. AB 412 SAR.
  13. VIP- Gulfstream and – F-50.

Additional notes

Camouflagegroen is also known as Legergroen(Army Green).

The camouflage finish was delivered semi-gloss rather than matt on Hercules and F-60, although dirt and weathering made it look matt quite rapidly.

When used on the F-27 Maritime, Middengrijs is also called Lichtblauwgrijs (Light Blue Grey). Also, the border between the upper and lower colour on this type was marked with a 5 cm black stripe. Similar striping on other aircraft was blue.

Bo-105c interiors are now: Legergroen (camouflagegroen) with mat Grafietgrijs console, Nevelgrijs (anodiseergrijs) controls and dark grey rear cabin wall.

Since 1990 KLu F-16s are stationed with the Arizona Air National Guard for advanced training. These have US markings, with a very small Dutch roundel on the air intake.

Between 1960 an 1994, notn-combatant aircraft such as VIP transports, trainers, target tugs and SAR carried additional Rood-oranje fluoriscerend striping on top of the original finish. SAR aircraft still carry these markings today.

KLu 2004+, Current Changes

Colour name British equivalent Aircraft type Federal Standard RAL Humbrol Xtracolour
Dark Grey Dark Grey upper fuselage: 1 26173 156
Cobalt Blue Cobalt Blue overall: 2 1???? 5013 198

Aircraft types legend

  1. (K)DC-10.
  2. Alouette III (VIP transport).

Additional notes

All aircraft of the above types will be gradually given the new colours.

The dark grey on the (K)DC-10 replaces the earlier white colour.

Most colour data from Camouflage en Kentekens, J.H.N. Greuter, Bonneville, Bergen The Netherlands, 1997, ISBN 90 73304 57 1 (out of print).
Data on aircraft types from several sources

Continue to Colours of the Dutch Air Force – Part 2: Aviation of the Dutch Navy and the Colonies

This article was originally published in IPMS Stockholms Magazine in June 2005.