Rufes had a grey paint coating on all surfaces, which was sprayed over a reddish-brown base paint. To prevent corrosion, the interior surfaces of the flap area were also painted aluminium instead of the Aotake paint that was common on A6M Zero fighters.
Due to the change in the name of the aircraft, the fuselage identification stencil changed in July or August 1942. It occurred between approximately the 30th and 50th Rufe produced. From October 1942, the manufacturer stopped putting the date of manufacture on the stencil.
At the end of August 1942, Nakajima introduced a yellow identification stripe on the leading edge of the wing on A6M2-N aircraft, and at the same time introduced a white outline of Hinomaru on the fuselage.
In February 1943, naval fighter units were instructed to spray the aircraft with dark green on the upper surfaces. Ground personnel usually made use of paint that was available for maintenance on aircraft of other categories that already had green paint. In the case of the seaplane units, these were the Aichi, Mitsubishi and Kawanishi aircraft. The shades of their camouflage paint varied slightly depending on the paint supplier. The use of war booty paints, for example in Rabaul, or the use of paint designed for warships cannot be ruled out. When this paint was applied, the white outline of fuselage Hinomaru was often thinned or completely repainted. However, some aircraft were left in grey paint on all surfaces and are documented from as late as 1944.
In the final months of production, the new A6M2-N aircraft received a standard coat of D1 dark green paint on the upper surfaces, a shade specific to the Nakajima paint supplier. This change was accompanied by the introduction of white outline on the Hinomaru on upper surfaces. With combat units this white part was often thinned or completely repainted, which could also be done on the fuselage Hinomaru.
The coloring of the transport cart is often given as black, but this does not match contemporary photographs. More likely is the dark grey-blue color used for naval vehicles and technical equipment. The dark blue color used by the Imperial Navy, for example for workshop equipment, cannot be ruled out either. The construction of the cart was composite, with the vertical stabilizing parts and the parts on which the float was mounted being made of wood. The whole cart was painted in one color, but in service the paint naturally showed signs of wear and tear, the grey paint from the main float sometimes had worn off and remained on parts of the cart.
Text: Jan Bobek
Unpublished photograph of Rufe NI-119 with a group of Kōkūtai 802 NCOs taken in early 1943 at Shortland Base. This is an aircraft that was finished with grey paint on all surfaces and the unit level received a coat of dark green paint on the upper surfaces. The rectangular field of grey paint on the fuselage is clearly visible, which the mechanics have retained for the machine's production stencil.
Photo: US Navy