Painting the Northrop P- 61 Black Widow

The archetypal Black Widow was gloss black overall, with red numbering and lettering, and blue-and- white national insignia. But other paint schemes were tried. Prototypes flown for stateside tests often were natural metal, sometimes with yellow cowlings. Early night camouflage attempts included dull black paint, but the high-gloss paint was found, in tests, to reflect rather than disperse searchlight beams, making it difficult for ground observers to detect when the beam was on the glossy plane. Early P-61As were finished in olive drab upper surfaces with gray undersides before the characteristic gloss black was mandated.

From July to September 1943, the national insignia was outlined in red. This scheme showed up on some of the camouflaged olive and gray P-61As being built during the time period. After that time, the insignia was surrounded in the same dark blue as the field around the star.

The Erection and Maintenance tech order-- the "Dash Two" manual-- for early P-61A aircraft specifies the following painting requirements for olive and gray P-61s: "All aluminum and aluminum alloy surfaces shall be coated with two coats of zinc chromate primer, Spec. No. AN-TT-P-656, before receiving final paint finish, except when darkened zinc chromate primer is final finish, in which case darkened prime may be applied as a preliminary coat. No touch-up of primer is required prior to painting exterior finish."
"Insignias, numerals and markings shall conform to customer's requirements and engineering drawings. Diameter of all cocarde circles shall be 25 inches. Decalcomanias or rubber (insoluble ink) stamps may be used for markings."
"All lettering shall be in insignia dull red, including radio call letters, shade No. 45, AAF bulletin No. 41- A."
"Fabric covered surfaces shall be doped with clear nitrate dope and camouflage dope until desired tautness is obtained. The following doping procedure shall be followed for all fabric surfaces: Three or more coats of clear nitrate dope by hand brush, Spec. No. AN-TT-D-514, and three or more coats by spray. One or more coats of pigmented dope, AAF Spec. No. 14106, No. 41 or 43 camouflaged dope to match surfaces as per AAF bulletin No. 41-A."
"All upper surfaces shall be camouflaged with one coat of dark olive enamel, AAF Spec. No. 14109 and all under surfaces shall be camouflaged with one coat of neutral gray, shade 43 (AAF 14109)."
"Insignia colors shall be dull finish and equivalent to the following shades: Insignia White AAF 14109-A No. 46; Insignia Blue AAF 14109-A No. 47."
"Landing gear assemblies shall be left unpainted. No camouflage finish is required on the interior surfaces of the wheel wells."
"Insignia markings to be painted on metal surfaces only."
"Radio call letters to be insignia red, shade No. 45, AAF bulletin No. 41-A. Radio call numbers shall be 12 inches high, 8 inches wide, 2 inch brush stroke. Location should be on aft outboard portion of nacelle boom and may extend on to movable vertical surfaces."
"All exposed interior surfaces of the gunner's, pilot's and radio operator's compartments shall be finished with Northrop Cockpit Green (12 oz. of black camouflage enamel AAF 14109 to one gallon of zinc chromate primer Spec. No. AN-TT-P-656). This includes the seats and all other interior parts and surfaces except the instrument panels which will be dull black."
"Interior surfaces visible from the exterior shall be finished with one coat of dull enamel, AAF Spec. No. 14109, to match exterior surfaces."
"All unexposed interior surfaces of the gunner's, pilot's and radio operator's compartments, as between the flooring and the crew nacelle bottom, shall be coated with zinc chromate primer only, Spec. No. AN-TT- P-656."
"All exposed interior surfaces and parts of the turret compartment shall be finished with two coats of darkened (yellow-green) primer, Spec. No. 3-100-I. Unexposed interior surfaces of the turret compartment shall be finished with zinc chromate primer, Spec. No. AN-TT-P-656."
"All interior surfaces of the cannon compartment shall be finished with two coats of darkened primer (yellow-green), Spec. No. 3-100-I."
"All levers or handles, fuel and oil tank filler caps, and lubricating fittings shall have an identifying color corresponding to the particular marking color assigned to liquids or gases that they may control."
"The emergency latch and emergency enclosure release latch shall be given two coats of insignia dull red lacquer."
"Steel armor shall be given one coat of zinc chromate primer, and finished to match the surrounding surfaces."
"The interior surface of aluminum cowling shall not be painted."
"Do not apply a paint coating to either side of the firewall..."
"The propeller(s) shall be sprayed with one coat of zinc chromate primer and finished with one coat of dull black lacquer, AAF Spec. No. 14105-B. The tips for a distance of 4 inches from the ends shall be painted with yellow lacquer, AAF Spec. 14105-B, in accordance with shade No. 48, AAF Bulletin No. 41-A."

Webmaster's note: I got this from the Hyperscale Discussion Board but have lost the writer's name. My thanks to you anyway.