The war is drawing to a close; we are already in 1945: the new Luftwaffe fighters definitely have the lower surfaces painted in RLM 76 … Or almost! There are in fact at least two issues that we must discuss in order to make plausible claims: what is the nuance of RLM 76 used and determine if portions of their undersides were unpainted and left in natural metal.
RLM 76: Yes, but which one?
Similarly to the case of the RLM 81, RLM 76 also existed in no less than three chromatic variations as described by Merrick and Hitchcock (1980). Hitchcock (1977) first identified these so-called “sky” colours and tentatively designated them as “RLM 84, Sky-blue”. Readers can find more information about it in this article. Consequently, even for the lower surfaces we will have to investigate further to find out which of the two was employed. Continuing the reading of The Airplane Spotter article we come across another descriptive observation regarding “Green 9”:
The whole of the underside of this particular machine, “Werke Nr.” 150168, is sky blue.
Great! It seems that the problem is solved: the shade of RLM 76 used was v.1, with a slight bluish nuance blue. Before reaching hasty conclusions, however, I advise readers to continue reading, to find out how the information contained in the quote is rather coarse or even incorrect.
This description is therefore not enough. Further clues need to be found that can confirm this assumption. A comparison could be made with the colours of “Green 4” (W.Nr. 150010), but this is currently still compromised and it is impossible to discern the original lower color beneath the several layers of post-war paint. It seems that we have come to a dead end: no detailed documents, no color photographs, no reliable artifacts. Or perhaps not?
Junkers Jumo 213 E of the Ta 152 H-1 W.Nr. 150167
We were lucky enough to still have one available Junkers Jumo 213 E (at least in photographic form) still equipped with radiator cowling. And it was not installed on just any Ta 152, but on W.Nr. 150167; or the one immediately preceding W.Nr.150168 “Green 9”. The close correlation between these two machines allows us to infer that the characteristics of one are rather similar to those of the other, at least as part of their appearance as soon as they leave the factory.
It just so happens that the only original portion of the aircraft that was not overpainted in the post-war period was the forward radiator cowling and cooling flaps. Here, a certain blue shade can be seen: a tangible sign of the effective use of the RLM 76 v.2.
While this detail is very important, we cannot draw unequivocal conclusions. However it is possible in any case, to infer with a good degree of certainty that in the case of W.Nr.150168 the same paint was used.
Between Blue and Aluminum
The second question arises because of a rather widespread tendency in German aircaft manufacturing. Indeed, in particular concerning fighters, several lower surfaces panel could be left unpainted. This feature appeared in late 1944 and became quite common during the last months of the war.
It is therefore necessary to ascertain whether or not this is the case of our fighter. First of all, we can use official information, at least concerning this aircraft. Looking at the already mentioned document 8-152.000-S.98 “Sichtschutzanstrich TA 152” you will notice the following wording in the legend (lower-right):
This is translated as “aircraft undersides to remain without camouflage”.
So it would seem that, even in the case of Ta 152, some panels (or perhaps all) were to be left in their metallic appearance. Unfortunately, the directive indication seems to conflict with the reality of the facts. It is indeed evidenced by several photographs depicting some Ta 152 Hs perfectly painted.
Nonetheless, some shots still leave hope for the possibility of having unpainted panels. There are in fact some Ta 152s, both C and H versions, with fuselage and wing undersides partially or totally devoid of coloring. In the specific case of the H version, it seems that the portion covered by RLM 76 includes approximately only the front part of the wing, in addition to the ailerons and flaps. The area between these two “stripes” appears of a rather dark metallic color.
It is important to point out that these metal surfaces were not chromed and sparkling like P-51s or B-17s panels: it all depends on the material with which the aircraft is manufactured.
Therefore, we have established through photographic evidence that there are actual cases in which the Ta 152 H had partially unpainted wings undersides. But is this the case of “Green 9”?
To find an answer, we can first check if this feature is also found on W.Nr. 150167. Indeed, the undersides of this aircraft present the partial painting just described. Nevertheless, the issue is far from being solved, since we have to determine if this fateure appeared on “Green 9” as well.
Observing with the naked eye the multiple photographs of “Green 9” in its “RAF livery” is difficult to determine if the wing undersides actually show two different colors. By increasing the overall contrast of the photographs, however, a rather clear demarcation between the front and rear of the wing appears.
Variations in Contrast and Brightness
That said, this interpretation could be argued, considering that it is based on a scan of the original film and not directly on the contrast of the real photograph. This is undoubtedly a critical point. However, we can still reflect on how it is possible that an almost flat surface, such as the wing undersides, can evidence a so net shadow effect (if it is actually shadow) in its middle. Since it seems to be unusual or even impossible, we could assume that this demarcation is not caused by light incidence, but rather by the presence of two different colours on the lower surfaces.
This is the first of two reasons that makes the accuracy of The Airplane Spotter description suspect of which, if the readers remember, is written a few lines above.
A Small Additional Detail: Flaps
Regardless of the aircraft type, visualization of the wing and fuselage undersides is often the least photographed features and if so usually in shadow. As described above, significant portions of the subject aircraft undersides were left in their natural metallic finish. This feature seems to exist for about half of the interior of the flap surfaces.
Currently, it is known that only another Ta 152 H, photographed near Leck at the end of the conflict presents this characteristic. This machine serial number is uncertain and the available sources identify it both as W.Nr. 150169 or as W.Nr.150004. It is rather unlikely, regardless, that this feature is due to repairs of damage suffered in combat, considering the very short operationla life of these aircraft.
On the contrary, the use of partially unpainted components can be traced back to the coarse late-war manufacturing. Indeed, the constant seeking of means to streamline and accelerate production greatly characterized the German war production of the last year of the war.
Conclusions Regarding the Aircraft’s Manufacturer-Applied Camouflage Scheme
To sum up, it is certain that the aircraft immediately preceding “Green 9” on the production line had partially unpainted lower surfaces. As for “Green 9”, it seems that this fighter also exhibits the same characteristic, although it is difficult to determine it with certainty.
In light of this information, the author believes that only the front undersides portion, along with ailerons and flaps, of the Ta 152 H-1 W.Nr. 150168 was actually painted in RLM 76 v.2; leaving the remaining paneling in bare metal. Obviously, this interpretation is arguable, since it is rather difficult to establish it with certainty. The author is sure the readers will have their own idea about it and, should they want to share it, they can freely write it in the comments. Each additional point of view is always useful!