The E-8’s paint scheme is pretty simple: they’re grey. There’s some markings and a couple of other bits and pieces, but grey is the definite theme going on with this one. Now I have some grey primer lying around that I could use, but that just seemed too easy. It also doesn’t feel like the right grey: it seems a bit neutral. The grey I’ve got in mind has a slightly brown tint to it.
I’ve never seen one of these in real life, and the pictures all have different hues depending on the light conditions (and how the photographer has their white balance setup). So I’d like to see if I can determine what the US Air Force are using. The size of this beast means it doesn’t feature on a lot of miniature wargaming tables, so I’m not going to have much luck with any of my usual sites. However, fortunately there are a number of sites dedicated to model kit building, and if you’ve ever wandered into a hobby store that stocks these kits you will know these guys like their planes. After a bit of web searching I had two options, but they aren’t the paints I normally use. The kit guys tend to use Humbrol and Testor model paints which have their own assortment of colours and personalities.
Fortunately the US government has something called the ‘Federal Standard’ colours that they use when describing what colour to paint things. Fortunately the model kit chaps (as well as the manufacturers) talk in this language. Every colour in the Federal standard has a 5 digit number and people normally add ‘FS’ to the front.
How this relates to the above is that I had two colours that were recommended FS16440 and FS26496. Now my preferred paint is Vallejo and fortunately their colour equivalency charts have good reference to the above brands and the Federal Standard. Unfortunately they don’t match every colour and neither of the above is referenced.
A bit more digging around did eventually lead to a Vallejo colour that might be a match: Deck Tan 70.986. Fortunately Vallejo state this is FS36440. So now I’ve got 3 potential colours, do I mix, go for Humbrol/Testors or just say stuff it?
Well, there’s another fantastic resource out there and this one lets you compare FS colours side by side. So I did this for my 3 contenders and found they are pretty much indistinguishable.
With hindsight I could have probably just looked at my Deck Tan bottle and said yeah it’s good enough. However, I would not have know that the first digit of the FS is just the finish so 16440 and 36440 are identical save for how gloss they are. However, I’m now happy about using this colour and I’ve also cut my teeth on how to sort out the more complex schemes and found a couple of great resources.