Recognition Lights

How to make recognition lights on aircraft

By David Kopielski

Many World War II U.S. Aircraft had three colored lights on the underside of the aircraft. The location of these was typically on the bottom center line of the fuselage or near the edge of the starboard wing tip. The purpose of these lights was a visual “Identification Friend or Foe” (IFF) system. At night you could not tell if an aircraft is friendly or the enemy. The U.S. came up with these downward looking lights to keep from being shot down by friendly fire. The colored lights are red, green, and amber.

Aircraft models today tend to mark these lights. Some kits provide clear lens for them but many do not. Typically the instructions have you paint the red, green and amber lights with gloss paint. This tutorial will allow you to replicate them on models that just have them marked and add a depth of realism.

The tools required are a drill, a jar of acrylic gel, toothpick and paints in the following colors: Chrome Silver, Clear Red, Clear Green, and Clear Yellow.  Start by drilling into the plastic with a bit the same diameter as marked on the model to create a concave divot about half way down the thickened of the plastic.

Paint the inside of the divot with chrome silver paint to simulate the mirror reflector of the lamp. This is what will give the lamp depth after painting.

After the paint has dried, fill the divots with the acrylic gel using a toothpick. The gel is a milky white and dries clear after about 10 minutes.

Once the acrylic gel has cured and clear. Paint the lights with red clear on the first light towards the front of the aircraft. Clear green on the middle light and clear yellow on the last light.

The recognition lamps will have a look of depth and reflect light to highlight their color. This adds a level of realism to the lamps and accents the area very well.


You can buy the Acrylic Gel Medium from:

Liquitex Professional Gloss Gel, Medium, 8 Ounce

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