Royal Swedish Air Force camouflage, serials and numbering - a quick run-through

Started by Pellson, June 30, 2022, 05:46:19 AM

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On request by Mr Longwings himself, please allow me to quickly run through the various serials and tactical numbering of the RSwAF from the WW2 up to now.

In effect, the Swedish introduction to WW2 came when our Scandinavian neighbours, Denmark and Norway, were attacked on the 8th of April, 1940. Up to then, the Swedish politics had kept a rather unanimous front of diplomacy and non-aggression towards any part, including Germany, despite its quite unprovoked attack on Poland the year before. Now, however, a rapid, if late started, build-up of the Swedish armed forces commenced, all while doing what could be done to maintain an active presence along our borders, on land, at sea as well as in the air.
As the war effectively prevented most foreign procurements, even leading to orders being cancelled on us, mainly American types, such as the Seversky EP-3 and Vultee 48C Vanguard, we bought what we could get our hands on, mainly italian designs, such as the Republic-influenced Reggiane Re2000 Falco and the oh so pretty, but oh so flammable Caproni Ca313. When these arrived, they were much needed in service why repainting as such was limited. In effect, Swedish national and tactical markings were applied on existing italian camouflage, and these types flew in this way throughout the war. The otherwise decided Swedish was rather one of a dark green over light blue undersides, and this was also used on other types that were deliveres unpainted, such as German He-115 torpedo bombers and the locally built licensed American Northrop Gamma divebombers, among others.

Anyway - the marking were initially solid sky blue roundels with the three Swedish crowns superimposed in yellow. These could be found on top of the wings, under the wings and on the fuselage sides. No fin flashes were used.On the sides, just behind the roundel, a wing no was placed, usually in black. On the fin, or even rudder, big white or later yellow tactical no's were painted, and the same again on the sides of the nose or engine cowling, as appropriate. Further, a three- to five-digit serial were painted in small, black numbers, just ahead of the stabilisator. I haven't been able to find out exactly what system was used to determine these numbers initially, but we'll return to them later. In some cases, the wing coat of arms were displayed on the side of the aircraft as well.

In 1944, the yellow ring around the blue roundels emerged, and in most cases, the wing no on the fuselage went from black to yellow. Also, starting with fighters just at the end of the War in Europe, the tactical numbers were replaced by letters in the same positions, these letters coming in different colours depending on squadron assignment. In some cases, propeller spinners could be painted in these cpolours as well, and also a nose band could be applied, many times featuring the tactical letter in a contrasting black or white, depending on background colour. When applied, these repaced the bigger tactical marking on the nose.
1st sqn - red
2nd sqn - blue
3rd sqn - yellow
4th sqn - green (rarely used, afaik actually only by some wing staff assigned a/c of the 16th wing in Uppsala)
5th sqn - black (I've never sen it applied)
Air staff etc - white

In the 1950's, things changed again. Most of the new jets, Vampires and in time domestic SAAB 29 and 32, reverted to an overall unpainted aluminium look, a trend actually started by the surplus P-51D's bought from the USAAF in 1945. The markings on these, however, stayed along previously described lines. Somewhat later however, while most strike sqns continued as before, fighters began to revert to tactical numbers rather than letters. Ony a few SAAB J32 Lansen allweather interceptors but no SAAB J35 Drakens ever wore letters. In time, the strike and reconnaissance wings followed suit.

Also, in the 1960's, camouflage was reintroduced. First, the old scheme of dark green over light bluegrey or even over unpainted aluminium (Lansens) but later, an allgreen livery was applied to the AW interception J32B Lansens. It was soon found that starter fluid leaks stripped the paint of the bellies , so the rear half of the underside of the Lansens reverted to unpainted aluminium. Later again, around 1961, starting with the J35 Draken, an irregular scheme of the old green interspersed with a dark, almost blueish grey over light grey became standard. You've all seen it on photos. With the Lansens, the habit of duplicating the tactical designation on the nose began to disappear. While Drakens and the SAAB 105 trainer, in RSwAF terms Sk60, all got the green/dark blue camouflage, as did eventually some remaining J32 Lansens in ECM and target roles, the strike and recce Lansens stayed green over unpainted aluminium throughout their careers.

At latest at this time, the serial, still applied on the rear fuselage sides, became standardised. It was now always five digits, the two first giving the type, i.e 29 for the SAAB 29 Tunnan, 32 for the Lansesns and 35 for the Drakens. It should be noted that foreign types getting Swedish designations, as f.i the Swedish Hunters, in RSwAF designated J34, consequently also got numbered along the same system, the Hunter carrying "34" as the two first digits in the serial.
The following three digits were denominating the individual aircraft, starting with 001 and running to whatever number built. Some versions started anew on even 100 serials, f.i did the attack Lansens, the A32A start with 32001, running up to 32287 (last strike Lansen built) whereas the interceptor variant started with 32501 running to 32620. These numbers were never changed and followed the aircraft in question throughout its life, much as the British XX000-system, the difference being the inclusion of the type in the serial.

The next big change came in 1972 when, again, newly delivered aircraft were kept in bare metal with black numbers. These were of course the SAAB AJ37 Viggen fighterbombers, but starting in 1976, these began to revert to the famous fields-and-meadows scheme you're all so familiar with. Testing was made on two J35B Drakens of the 18th wing at Tullinge, in the southern suburbs of Stockholm. Interestingly, tactical numbers worn of the fin were initially red, but on reconnaissance Viggens, they stayed yellow. Later, as the JA37 interceptor variant came along, they also got yellow tac no's.

In the late 1980's, the JA37s were again repainted, this time in the nowadays ubiquitous light grey over lighter grey. Wing numbers and serials then became contrasting black while the tactical no's often were dayglo orange for increased visibility in peacetime. Should war commence, they would have been repainted black or dark grey.

As the JAS39 Gripens then finally came on line in the mid 90's, the wing no's disappeared. The tac no's now for the first time reflected the serial, not anymore being the number on the woing roster but rather the last three serial digits. They also became dark grey rather than black and low visibility national markings in equally dark grey replaced the bright blue and yellow ones. And that's where we are today.

Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!

Old Wombat

Has a life outside of What-If & wishes it would stop interfering!

"The purpose of all War is Peace" - St. Augustine

veritas ad mortus veritas est


Good stuff, Mr P, many thanks.

Now then, exactly what is the shade of grey on the undersides of J21s, Lansens, etc?
What If? & Secret Project SIG member.
On the go: Beaumaris/Battle/Bronco/Barracuda/Corsair GA.1/Flatning/Hellcat IV/Hunter PR11/Hurricane IIb/Ice Cream Tank/JP T4/Jumo MiG-15/P1103 (early)/P1154-ish/Phantom FG1/I-153/Sea Hawk T7/Spitfire XII/Spitfire Tr18/Twin Otter/FrankenCOIN/Frankenfighter


Wing no:
1 Vasteras, west of Stockholm. Bomber wing until 1947, then night fighters to closure in the late seventies
2 Hagernas on Stockholms seashore to the NE. Maritime recce. Disestablished in the 50's when amphibious aircraft got out of fashion
3 Linkoping, southeastern Sweden. Originally reconnaissance, but from the early 50's a day fighter wing. Disbanded 1973
4 Ostersund, northern Sweden. Light attack wing. Reverted to day fighters in the early 50's, then allweather in the late 60's. Closed around 1990
5 Ljungbyhed, southernmost Sweden. Central Flying School. Responsible for all pilot training up to disbandment in 2005, ca
6 Karlsborg. Colocated with the Army Rangers and started as a light bomber wing. Continued as one of two always a bomber units, disbanding in 1994 on AJ37 Viggens.
7 Satenas, in western Sweden. The other alwas a bomber wing. Still active, flying JAS39 Gripens. Was Gripen OCE for a number of years but reverted to active status (2 sqns) the other year while still keeping the OCU sqn as well. Also home to the transport unit flying Hercules
8 Barkarby, north western Stockholm. Always a fighter unit, disbanding on Hunters  in the late 60s due to noise
9 Save, just north of Gothenburg. As 8 above, always a fighter unit, disbanding at the same time as her sister unit in Stockholm.
10 Originally at Bulltofta, just on the outskirts of Malmo in southernmost Sweden. later relocated to Angelhom, some 100 km to the NW. Always a fighter unit. Disbanded in 1998 (I think) when preparing to receive her first Gripens, instead closing Swedish Draken operations. All grey Draken fighters were based here.
11 Nykoping, 150 km S of Stockholm. Always a reconnaissance unit. Disbanded on S32C Lansen maritime recce and S35E Draken tactical recce aircraft. Two sqns each. These were amalgamated into toally three sqns, one each to 13th, 17th and 21st wing, but then reverting to SF/SH37 Viggens.
12 Kalmar, on the souteast coast. best weather in Sweden - whicg obviously is why all Swedish air force meteorologits were trained here.. Started as a lifht attack unit, then going allweather fighter and disbanding in the mid-70's
13 Norrkoping, and my home wing. Always a fighter unit, premiering the Swedish jet era (Vampires)but also every SAAB single seat fighter, such as J29, J35 and JA37 Viggen. Flew 3 sqns of Draken when I was a kid, but in 1980, 132 sqn transferred to JA37 while 131 sqn became a recce sqn, inheriting personnell and pilots rom nearby Nykoping (11th). 313 sqn disbanded. The wing itself disbanded in 1994, decision taken four months beofre the rebuild of the underground hangars for the Gripen system was completed. The hangars still sit there..
14 Halmstad, southwest Sweden. Attack wing, and a short lived such. Started in the late 40's on SAAB B18, replacing them with A32 Lansens in 1957. However, the nearby hospital complained enough over the noise to close the base in 1961.
15 Soderhamn, mid Sweden. Originally a fighter wing, but reverted to A32 Lansen as a strike wing to replace 14th at its disbandment. Disbanded itself on AJ37 Viggen in the early nineties
16 Uppsala, 100 km N Stockholm. Fighters from the start, setting up on P-51 Mustangs. Disnanded in 1998 on JA37 Viggen, but recently resurrected on Gripens. First reestablished wing we've seen! I would expect the current situation to trigger at least one more, though.
17 Kallinge, southeasternmost Sweden. Started as a strike wing, reverting to fighters in the mid 70's. Still active
18 Tullinge, southern Stockholm. Always fighters and disbanded of J35B Drakens in the mid 70's. Airfield nowadays residential area, which is a shame due to the extensive bedrock underground hangars once at the site.
19 Northern Finland. Temporary and voluntary wing equipped with Swedish Gladiators and Hawker Harts during the Finnish Winter war. Disbanded when that war ended in 1940.
20 Uppsala. Colocated with 16th. TWU and staff officer flying club. Disbanded in the 80s
21 Lulea, northernmost Sweden. Originally a recce sqn, but gained wing status as another two fighter sqns were set up. Still active on Gripens.
22 DR Congo. UN mandate. Swedish UN support wing with one recce group an a full fighterbomber sqn, both flying SAAB 29 Tunnans in the alry 1960's. The fighterbombers flew in bare metal, and the recces in a very special "Africa camo". White tac letters on the fins.
Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!


Quote from: kitbasher on June 30, 2022, 06:20:49 AM
Good stuff, Mr P, many thanks.

Now then, exactly what is the shade of grey on the undersides of J21s, Lansens, etc?

Well, while I could do a half-arsed write-up myself, someone else has done it better, and here are ALL shades you'll need for the lead post above:
Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!


What a wonderful reply, thanks so much!  :thumbsup:

That answers all the questions I had, and lots more that I'd never even thought of!  :o
Kit's Rule 1 ) Any aircraft can be improved by fitting longer wings, and/or a longer fuselage
Kit's Rule 2) The backstory can always be changed to suit the model

...and I'm not a closeted 'Take That' fan, I'm a REAL fan! :)



Quote from: Pellson on June 30, 2022, 06:42:34 AM
Quote from: kitbasher on June 30, 2022, 06:20:49 AM
Good stuff, Mr P, many thanks.

Now then, exactly what is the shade of grey on the undersides of J21s, Lansens, etc?

Well, while I could do a half-arsed write-up myself, someone else has done it better, and here are ALL shades you'll need for the lead post above:

Thankee kindly, sirr
What If? & Secret Project SIG member.
On the go: Beaumaris/Battle/Bronco/Barracuda/Corsair GA.1/Flatning/Hellcat IV/Hunter PR11/Hurricane IIb/Ice Cream Tank/JP T4/Jumo MiG-15/P1103 (early)/P1154-ish/Phantom FG1/I-153/Sea Hawk T7/Spitfire XII/Spitfire Tr18/Twin Otter/FrankenCOIN/Frankenfighter


"If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you....."
It  means that you read  the instruction sheet


IMO you can't go past Fields and Meadows.  Anything looks good in it.

- Can't be bothered to do the proper research and get it right.

Another ill conceived, lazily thought out, crudely executed and badly painted piece of half arsed what-if modelling muppetry from zenrat industries.

zenrat industries:  We're everywhere...for your convenience..


The "Swedish XXX Colours" books by Mikael Forslund also contain a lot of VERY useful und detailed information concerning paint schemes, colors an markings for specific aircraft in Swedish air force service aircraft of all eras.


Do not condemn the judgement of another because it differs from your own. You may both be wrong.