Spice Up Your Modern Jets

It is not an uncommon gripe among modelers and aviation enthusiasts that modern military aircraft have a tendency to be rather dull. The brunt of such complaints usually fall on the aspect of paint color and camouflage scheme, or more accurately, lack thereof. If you look at most of the jet aircraft in the inventory of Western powers, they are not adorned with multi-colored patterns of greens, browns, and blacks as they were in the good ol' days of Robin Olds and Chuck Yeager.
Instead, we can expect to see monochromatic schemes featuring gray over gray, broken up only by the subtle outlines of low-viz gray markings. To some, its gray overkill. However, I am here to tell you that there are other ways to add some flare to the otherwise humdrum appearance of your model...

To start off, if you want to build modern aircraft with a more brilliant personality, one can always turn to the Eastern Bloc powers for satisfaction. The Russians do not seem to believe in the benefits of low visibility and it shows on their aircraft which don bright blues, greens, and tans that put operational American fighters to shame.
Not every one is interested in building aircraft in Russian or Czech Republic markings though. So what options have you then to avoid, or at least improve the look of those boring rainy-day colored jets?
Well, I'm glad you asked...

The easiest response to such a troubling question is to avoid the color all together. Find yourself a marking option that does not require some undesirable shade of gray and use it. Almost every modern day jet aircraft has such an option...

While some of these schemes are not operational, or limited to training units or one time use, they are none the less an attractive alternative.
In some cases, turning to foreign air forces is another option. Often times, you can find modern aircraft in attractive colors flying under other flags. Greek F-16's come to mind, or even these Tornadoes flying for the Saudi Air Force...

If you're not interested in low use schemes or foreign markings, you can still add some variation in color depending on what aircraft you're building. Take for instance some Navy jets...

While not as flashy as camo, the yellow and black markings of the Jolly Rogers serves to break up the monochromatic scheme.
You can even be more subtle if need be. Adding appropriate weathering can improve the character to your modern jet and help make it less boring - in terms of color palette and story line.

The last three jets pictured above show different levels of weathering and use but would add much interest to the model if applied correctly.
If weathering isn't your thing, you can focus on even more subtle changes. Most modern fighters carry ordnance and stores, and these can easily be modified to give it a bit more flare.

Notice the dark gray radar absorbing paint on the fuel tank attached to this F-16 featuring the standard two-tone scheme....

Or check out these oddly colored laser guided munitions on this Eurofighter...

As long as we're talking bombs, you can hang several blue inert GBU's from the wings of your fighters. Not terribly attractive but it is a divergence from the standard OD green...

You can even hang different colored munitions of the same type. For instance, here you can see one OD AGM-65 along with two gray ones under an A-10...

And slightly more extreme is this AGM-65 featuring an OD body and a gray seeker head...

There is a similar two-tone quality to this F-16 fuel tank...

Of course, if you want to totally avoid any issues of paint color or weathering all together, just don't paint your model at all. This Typhoon is naked, save for RAF roundels...

That maybe a bit extreme, but you have to admit, it is different and eye catching.

So there you have it. While modern aircraft continue to follow a boring trend of 50 shades of gray, there are other options for you to explore. Explore your references, and think outside the box. I would like to hear your thoughts on this, sound off in the comments!
Thanks for reading!


  1. Great stuff Jon.

    There was a RAF Hawk painted in RAF Battle of Britian camouflage to commemorate the 70th anniversary.

    Those laser guided munitions on the German Eurofighter are training bombs.

    1. I figured they were either training or test munitions. Here in the States, training/inert munitions are blue, while test munitions are bright orange.

    2. As a modern jet junkie, I always try and find an aircraft with special markings, nose/tail art, or a cool camo. US Navy jets are a good sourest for that.

      And those laser guided bombs on the German Typhoon are test weapons. They're testing how they affect the jet. They're not meant to be dropped at all.


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