Canadian Colour & Marking Standards

Colour Standards:

The Canadian Forces, air element, have used four main colour definition systems. Post WW2 colours were from the British Standard BS.381 and were used on early camouflaged types, such as those employed on the RCAF NATO bases in Europe. The first Canadian standard used was "Standard Paint Colours - Part 1, Colour Identification and Selection 1-GP-12b", released in 1957. It was an illustrated list of colours and remained current until just after unification. Colours listed in 1-GP-12b and used by the Royal Canadian Air Force would be in Canadian Armed Forces use for only a short period between February 1, 1968 and when drawings were converted, universally in March 1968. (webmaster's note: When developing this site, in response to requests, I've included the 1-GP-12b numbers, when applicable)

1-GP-12c: The Canadian Standards 1-GP-12c was printed in 1965 but adopted by the Canadian Armed Forces in 1968, shortly after uninfication. The first digit refered to which of the six sections within the 1-GP-12c binder the colour sample could be found. The second and third digit were a colour grouping code. The following were used by the Canadian Armed Forces:

Grey (01), Blue (02), Green (03), Brown (04), Yellow (05), Red (09), Black (12), White (13) and Aluminum (15)

The first digit after the 'grouping code' was "1" for Gloss, "2" for semi-gloss or "3" for flat. The last two digits were the actual colour. The Canadian system did not use descriptive names, like the American (ie: FS595 36375 - Light Compass Ghost Grey) and the British (BS. 381C - No.640 Extra Dark Sea Grey systems. In 1989 the Canadian government discontinued production of 1-GP-12c hence a new colour system was needed for standards.

FS595: The colour standard FS595 was first issued from the United States government, in 1956 and continuously updated by adding letter extensions (FS595a 1968 and FS595b 1989) when full reprints with all additions were done. In this well-though-out system, the first digit 1,2 or 3 refers to (in American terminology) gloss, semi-gloss and lusterless. The second digit referred to basic colour groups, as follows:

Brown (0), Red (1), Orange (2), Yellow (3), Green (4), Blue (5), Grey (6), Misc. (7) and Flourescent (8)

The 1-GP-12c colours were gradually replaced by the FS595, starting with the Buffalo three-colour wrap-around scheme, in November 1983. A conversion list was made but there were only two exact matches within 1-GP-12c colours, as they were intended to match Hornet FS595 colours. The list uses the words "we can live with"in referance to the conversion equivalents. Cosmopolitian, Labrador, Tutor, Buffalo, CF-5, Tracker, Sea King, Hercules, CT-133 Silver Star, Boeing 707, Twin Otter, Jetranger, Aurora, Dash 7, Challenger and Hornet, were converted to FS595 standards, by November 1993. The Musketeer and Chinook had paint spec drawings made up, but not painted. The Twin Huey was only partially converted and the Labrador was the last to convert. The marking drawing colours started switching in March 1991 with the new Signature. The Griffon and the Polaris were noted only with FS595 specs from the outset.

The above excerpt taken from Patrick Martin's Canadian Armed Forces: Aircraft Finish & Markings, 1968-1997)

A Modeller's Summary of the Evolution of Post-War Canadian Military Aircraft Schemes:

In the beginning, there was the Pre-unification period, where the three services (RCAF, Cdn Army & the RCN) had their own air element and as such, their own distinct marking standard. Unification of the Forces, occured in 1968 and as such, all the aircraft of the three former services, now came under the 'ownership' of the "Air Element" of the Canadian Armed Forces (formerly known as the Royal Canadian Air Force). Following unification, to-date, the CAF has officially gone through three 'eras' (marking changes), known as the "CAF" , "Symetrical" and the "Federal Identification Program" or "FIP", eras. The modeller may well simplify this by changing the era names slightly, to be a bit more discriptive of the period or markings.... "Pre-Uninfication","Post-Unification", "CANADA" and "FIP".

Pre-Unification: The three services were still separate with their own distinctive schemes on their aircraft. The RCAF used the 'Silver Maple' leaf in it's roundel, while the other two services had their own leaf styles. Fin identification had evolved from the fin flash (similar to a late-WW2 RAF fin flash), to the Canadian Flag of the day - the Red Ensign. RCN aircraft sported the RCN flag, during this period.

Post-Unification: Usually referred to as the 'asymetrical CAF scheme' and generally considered as 1968-1973. "Royal Canadian Air Force", "CDN ARMY" and "NAVY" fuselage titles were replaced by "CANADIAN ARMED FORCES" (port) and "FORCES ARMEE CANADIENNES" (starboard), plus CAF replaced RCAF underwing and fuselage service titles. During the weeks immediately following the unification of the services, there were seemingly, several variations of the basic scheme until the final version could finally be worked out. For a short time, the large day-glo 'RESCUE" on SAR aircraft, was (almost totally) replaced on the starboard side, with the french 'SAUVETAGE", Aircraft serial numbers were changed to a six digit format, with the 'first three', denoting the aircraft type designation and the 'last three; denoting the individual aircraft number. The CC-129 Dakota, the CP-121 Tracker and the CH-124 Sea King, retained the older five digit serial format.The roundel's 'leaf' became the now familiar stylized leaf in the (then reletively new) Canadian Flag, which also became a standard fin marking. Initially, the leaf was the same size of the fin flag, in the normal-proportioned RCAF roundel, giving the appearence of a small leaf in a large roundel. There was even a trial period , that saw an all-red roundel carried on several aircraft The reasoning behind this move, was that blue was no longer a national colour, since it was no longer carried in the flag.

CANADA: Generally considered to be 1973-1983. The obvious change was that the CAF titles of the Post-Unification era, had been shortened to "CANADA" (capitalised) and the bilingual roundel ident (ARMED FORCES -roundel- FORCES ARMEE), was introduced on both sides of the fuselage. During this time, aircraft started to acquire low-visabilty markings. The first version of 'low-viz' markings was basically reduced-sized, full-colur markings, with the white removed, allowing the underlying camouflage colour to be visible. The next step was the all-black national markings. Once the aircraft started going 'Grey', the markings began appearing as a contrasting shade of grey.

FIP: The Canadian government adopted this scheme as part of their corporate "Federal Identity Progam" plan, June 1983. Begun in 1970, all gov't departments adopted a common marking policy for their equipment. The obvious changes included "CANADA" being replaced with "Canada" and a small Canadian flag appearing over the last "a", sometimes referred to as 'Canada Wordmark'. The fuselage roundel ident was also dropped and the roundel once again stood alone. The bilingual fuselage ident was now relaced by the 'Armed Forces signature' - a two-tier, bilingual title (CANADIAN FORCES/FORCES CANADIENNE), fronted by a partial or full Canadian flag. Like the ident, this appeared on the fuselage.

One final note to the sometimes confusing world of CAF markings. During the change over in the 'era type' markings, it wasn't uncommon to observe aircraft, in the 'old scheme', for some time after the 'newer scheme' had taken effect.