Old 4th May 2021, 17:37
  #8 (permalink)  
Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: Starring at an Airfield Near you
Posts: 296
One of the ‘counter intuitive’ things to come out of WWII camouflage research was the effectiveness of the ‘Matt Black’ (R4MD??? or something like that!) overall night fighter and lower surface night bomber finish.

Initially it seems perfectly sensible that a matt black finish is the way to go for night operations. However, research revealed that, when caught in a searchlight, the matt black finish glowed white in the searchlight beam as the light was refracted between the extremely ‘rough’ molecular surface finish required to achieve the matt effect, thereby achieving exactly the opposite effect desired!

Using a high-gloss black finish, perversely, did achieve the desired effect; I recall reading that a trial using the high-gloss finish on a Lancaster (?) - whereby the pilot was instructed to fly through London’s searchlight belt and deliberately attempt to get the aircraft coned – resulted in the searchlight batteries reporting that they failed to find the target aircraft, whereas the pilot reported that he had flown through numerous searchlight beams and tried to stay in them, but that the searchlights simply did not retain contact.

Added to the significant loss of speed attributable to the matt finish (16 mph for the Mosquito NFII) resulted in the adoption of gloss-black for new production night-fighters (see P-61 Black Widows and P-38M Lightnings) and late production heavy bombers. It probably also explains why RAF C-130Ks were originally finished with a high-gloss black under surface.
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