I recall seeing a Huey and a HueyCobra at an airshow in 1973 and the
color was definitely a brownish, almost a very dark tan, shade, not
green. These seemed to be well maintained machines with fresh paint.
The color seemed to be something called "Field Drab" FS30118 which is
available in Testors Model Master Enamels. I don't know if this was
really faded OD or a "real" color like Field Drab. The color photos
from Vietnam seem to indicate that a darker shade, the "Olive Drab",
was used. But like the previous post indicated - Olive Drab is a
pretty general term.
As others have noted...the color varied *greatly*,
anywhere from a very dark "black-green-ish" shade
to a faded, bleached, brownish khaki-ish shade
(to make it even more confusing..."khaki" is just
as varied as "olive drab"). Personally, I tend to
prefer the faded, khaki-ish side of the spectrum.
Plus, it can be fun to mix up this color, instead of
trying to match it from a bottle.
Try this: Mix (pure) black with orange. Believe it or
not, this gives you a very nice, brownish khaki.
Spray this as a highlight color, over a base coat
of dark green...with more highlighting, of course,
on the upper surfaces; and other areas exposed to
It was called helicopter drab or OD but there are degrees of OD. If it
was crewed by a perfectionist and was rubbed with Johnsons floor wax,
it was dark and shiney. If it was a B/C Model it was generally darker
than a D/H. Those out in the sun for a time were faded. I suggest you
pick a specific ship and work toward that color. Is there a specific
ship you are thinking of? You can also consider camo as several were
so painted. Which model kit are you working with?
scout pilot 69-72
I have a -C gunship. I was looking for the base colors. I have a bottle
of "helo drab" but it's almost black. Works well enough for apaches and
blackhawks, too dark for a vietnam huey I suspect. I wanted to make this
pretty much a "generic" gunship til I could figure out how I wanted to
mark it, and was going to weather it to match. Just getting my base coat
of paint on before I put it all together.
Up through 1964, helicopters were dark, semigloss Olive Drab (start
with the Tamiya color), with full color, high visibility markings.
After 1965, a new, lighter, flat OD was introduced, and markings were
toned down. Testors Model Master FS34087 is a dead on match, as they
used the FS595 color chip as a reference (ironically, helicopters are
the only subject for which this shade is correct). It could fade in
service, so some aircraft might be browner than others, and of course a
waxed aircraft would appear darker and shinier than a flat finished
aircraft. The current Helo Drab (also available from Testors Model
Master) is a different color.
Hi Mr. Mills,
Great to see you posting online! I'm currently working on an old Tamiya
OH-6 and doing markings of your fameous Miss Clawd IV. Any tips from you as
to the correct color for the OD would be great. Also I'm trying to find
information on the minigun. I have the Squadron Gunslingers book, but have
no good photos of the minigun and ammo feed. Do you know anyplace on the
web that shows this information?
Thanks for the help,
The Vietnam-era gloss OD was FS 14087. There were actually two flat
34087s - the first was FS X34087, later suceeded by FS 34087.
Gloss-painted aircraft persisted well past 1965. The markings were
glossy at first, then went through a period where there was a mix of
high-viz and toned-down markings, and eventually all standard markings
went to flat black to go with the flat OD. Appearance of the OD could
be anywhere from full-out flat to gloss - many units waxed their
aircraft. There were also many operational variations, including gloss
green and black, non-standard greens, etc.
In the very early '70s the Army started painting some aircraft in a
slightly darker shade which was an early Aircraft Green. This color
was darker than the FS 34087 OD, and didn't fade as much - 34087 was
very prone to fading and staining, leading to anything from
pinkish-brown to brownish-violet shades. Around 1987/88 the Army went
with the current Aircraft Green which is very, very dark. In the
1987-199X period you could see Army aircraft in Vietnam-era paint,
early '70s green, or the new dark Aircraft Green, all on the same
airfield, and many times on the same aircraft.
The short answer is that for most Army helicopters in the later
non-gloss period in Vietnam the paint to go with is FS 34087.
John Hairell ( email@example.com)
FS X34087 was actually the second version of OD, and was renumbered FS
34087 in the 1967 and later editions of the FS-595 color book, a
decision which has led to endless confusion when model paint
manufacturers tried to duplicate US Army Olive Drab. The final edition
of the color book deleted the chip altogether, which is one way of
sidestepping a controversy. The revised chip did not adhere to the
standard method of determining color and saturation and simply should
not have been given that numerical designation. The original FS 34087,
which corresponded with standard vehicle Olive Drab, was considerably
darker and greener than the 1965 helicopter shade, and the flat or
semigloss (24087) versions continued to be used on ground vehicles
through 1974, when the four-shade MERDC camouflage patterns were
introduced. I have a 1971 edition of FS-595a, and it had both chips
(the newer FS 34087 chip was pasted on top of the original--I separated
them for future reference). Gloss painted helicopters may well have
persisted past 1965 (it takes a lot of time and money to repaint
aircraft), but the flat paint was introduced at that point.