What is the dark spot visible below the cockpit on A-10s?
On most A-10s I have seen, the area under the cockpit is darker than the rest of the plane. Is there a reason for this?
Does it have anything to do with the cylindrical device extending down on a vane also painted the same color? I'll throw in a WAG that the cylindrical device is a camera or other sensing device, and that the color has to do with aiding whatever that device does?
@Terry, no, they're not related. That's a Pave Penny laser spot tracker, which allows the use of precision guided munitions.
It's a false cockpit, a type of camouflage patented in 1980 by Keith Ferris, a US artist and camouflage designer. From some angles, it makes it difficult to determine the orientation of the aircraft. The Canadians were the first to apply it; pictured is a CF-18 Hornet with one:
Notice how at a glance, it takes a second to realize the Hornet is inverted and pulling towards the ground. During dogfights this can be enough to make opposing pilots think the aircraft is going a different direction. It might not seem like much in a photo, or if you're watching an aircraft fly past at an air show or airport. In the stress of combat while pulling extra Gs it's more than enough to confuse or delay a reaction.
For the air to ground mission, this is particularly important. If an A-10 encountered antiaircraft fire or an enemy aircraft it would have to rely on its own agility to escape or gain the upper hand. Other nations have adopted this technique — I've seen French and Russian types, and possibly Gripens of some air force. As far as I know, the A-10 is the only US aircraft regularly camouflaged in this way.
Interesting. I'm surprised that USAF and USN haven't adopted this more generally.
The USN also implemented it on their F/A-18s for a while. AFAIK it wasn't adopted in part for cost reasons, it's cheaper to just spray the entire aircraft in a single colour... Ferris advocated a lot more, including spraying the aircraft in geometric patterns in many shades to break up its outline. Worked well, but was too cumbersome and expensive for large scale adoption. The Canadians have far fewer aircraft, so total cost of adoption is quite a bit lower than it'd be for the US.
You would think the cost of paint would be far less than even the slightest risk of losing a plane and a trained pilot.
Given that the last aerial dogfight was in about 1986 and even that was in the film/fiasco Top Gun it's all probably a bit moot.
@davey : don't forget that there wasn't a single air battle between fighters ever since, as there wasn't any war in the last few decades between countries which could both field fighters, so there was no opportunity to any fight, either distant or dogfight.
@davey There were plenty of dogfights in the 1991 Gulf War, according to Wikipedia; there were also air-to-air kills in the Kosovo conflict.
@jwenting "Ferris advocated a lot more, including spraying the aircraft in geometric patterns in many shades to break up its outline." That sounds a lot like the dazzle camouflage used by the British and other navies during WWI and a little later.
`"Notice how at a glance, it takes a second to realize the Hornet is inverted and pulling towards the ground."` And perhaps even more scary... imagine it comes up on you from above and behind... and looks like it's diving inverted into your flight path.