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[Magnifying glass icon] NATO camouflage

In the 1980s, the realisation dawned in NATO that, during war, enemy forces would be able to easily identify which NATO countries operated against them simply by looking at the camouflage patterns used on the NATO vehicles—this because almost every country developed and used its own, unique colours and patterns.

As a result, in the mid-1980s a standard NATO scheme was agreed upon, adopted (with minor variations) by countries such as Germany, France, the Netherlands, and the United States. In the USA, this camouflage is frequently known as CARC, for Chemical Agent Resistant Coating, after the paints used.

The camouflage patterns for the various vehicles are standardised, and since the vehicles are normally camouflaged in the factory, they are much more regular than the older American MERDC patterns. The edges are nominally soft (sprayed), but the overspray areas are very small, so that from some distance they usually look hard-edged.


Only three colours are used in these camouflage schemes: green, red-brown and black. They, and their corresponding US Federal Standard 595a numbers, are shown on the table below. This also has model paint references which more or less match the FS-595a colours.

The colours indicated are not necessarily also correct for other NATO countries using these, or similar, camouflage patterns. For example, in American service a colour called green 383 is used, which is decidedly darker than the German Bronzgrün (bronze green).

All the colours are flat, as indicated by the first digit of the FS595a-code (1 = gloss, 2 = satin, 3 = flat).

Colour1 FS-595a Number Gunze Sangyo Humbrol Tamiya Testors (Model Master)
[colour sample]Black 37030 or 37037 H12/343 33 XF-69 (or XF-1) 1749
[colour sample]Brown 383 30051 ? ? XF-68 (or XF-64) ?
[colour sample]Green 383 34094 H309 116 XF-67 (or XF-61) 1710

1 Perhaps unnecessarily, it should be noted that the colours of these samples are approximations. Match paint to the FS595a and/or model paint colour numbers quoted in the table, not to the colours you see on your screen.


Some small variations on these schemes exist, mostly in the colours applied—since the camouflage is applied to new vehicles in the factory, they usually conform closely to the standard patterns. However, in winter with snow on the ground, the black is sometimes overpainted with white. This is usually done roughly, leaving some black showing through and/or applying the white paint to outside the borders of the black patches.

A second variation is with vehicles deployed to the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California, USA. These frequently have the green oversprayed with a medium sand colour, again often going outside the green's original borders, but not showing the base colour underneath.

Modelling considerations

When modelling American vehicles, about the only reference you'll need is Department of the Army Technical Bulletin TB 43-0209: Color, Marking, and Camouflage Painting Of Military Vehicles, Construction Equipment and Materials Handling Equipment, the 31 October 1990 edition of which can be downloaded from the US Army's Electronic Technical Manuals site (see the links page).

This document has complete painting instructions for the real vehicles, including five-view drawings showing the exact, official patterns for literally a couple of hundred vehicles and other pieces of equipment, from tanks to scoop loaders and everything in between (the very latest equipment is not in it, however). Although most of the painting instructions are not relevant to model painting, things such as the rules that the patterns have to conform to, the placement of markings, and so on come very much in handy.

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