Anti-flash white

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British Avro Vulcans with dark roundels in 1957

Anti-flash white is a white colour commonly seen on British, Soviet, and U.S. nuclear bombers.[1] The purpose of the colour was to reflect some of the thermal radiation from a nuclear explosion, protecting the aircraft and its occupants.[citation needed]


Some variants of the Xian H-6 had the underside of the fuselage painted anti-flash white.

Soviet Union/Russia/Ukraine[edit]

A Tupolev Tu-22M with anti-flash white on the underside
Ukrainian Tupolev Tu-160 in all-over anti-flash white with pale fin flash

Some nuclear bombers had the underside of the fuselage painted anti-flash white with the upper surfaces painted light silver-gray. This was true for the specially fitted, single Soviet Tu-95V bomber that test-deployed the most powerful bomb of any kind – the 50+ MT-rating Tsar Bomba on 30 October 1961 – as it had the anti-flash white on all its undersurfaces and sides.[2] The Tupolev Tu-160 of the 1980s was the first series-built Soviet/Russian bomber aircraft to be painted anti-flash white all over, leading to its Beliy Lebed ("White Swan") Russian nickname.[3]

An RAF Victor bomber circa 1961 in anti-flash white with pale roundels and fin flash

United Kingdom[edit]

A Blackburn Buccaneer at the 1962 Farnborough Airshow in anti-flash white with pale roundels
A BAC TSR-2 in anti-flash white with pale roundels

Anti-flash white was used on the Royal Air Force V bombers force and the Royal Navy Blackburn Buccaneer when used in the nuclear strike role. Nuclear bombers were given – though not at first, until the problem was considered – salmon pink and baby blue roundels and fin flash rather than the traditional dark red, white and blue.

Anti-flash white was applied to several prototype aircraft, including the British Aircraft Corporation TSR-2. Paint used on the Avro Vulcan was manufactured by Cellon, and that on the Handley Page Victor by Titanine Ltd.[4]

United States[edit]

An E-6 Mercury airborne, painted in anti-flash white
A B-52D with anti-flash white on the underside
Underside of a B-1A Lancer Prototype 4

Many Strategic Air Command nuclear bombers carried anti-flash white without insignia on the underside of the fuselage with light silver-gray or natural metal (later light camouflage) on the upper surfaces.[citation needed]

The United States Navy A-5 Vigilante carried anti-flash white without insignia on the underside of the fuselage.[citation needed]

The Boeing E-6 in TACAMO role was painted anti-flash white but its roundels were not subdued.[citation needed]


In addition to these military aircraft, Concorde was painted white to reduce the additional heating effect on the aluminium skin caused by the sun whilst the aircraft was flying at high altitudes, the skin temperature already being raised to over 90 °C (194 °F) at Mach 2 by aerodynamic heating.

Aircraft with at least part of the fuselage painted anti-flash white on nuclear delivery variants:



 Soviet Union/ Russia/ Ukraine

 United Kingdom

 United States

See also[edit]


  • Gunston, Bill (March 1981). "The V-Bombers - The Handley Page Victor - part 3". Aeroplane Monthly.
  1. ^ "B36 in "anti-atom" finish over Kent" (PDF). Flight: 741. 11 November 1955.
  2. ^ "RDS 202: Tsar Bomb, The Biggest Bomb Ever". Youtube. 17 July 2009. Event occurs at 1:15 to 1:50. Retrieved 20 November 2015.
  3. ^ "'White swan' – Russian supersonic aircraft". Moscow Top News. 2009. Archived from the original on 2 June 2009. Retrieved 19 July 2009.
  4. ^ "Titanine aircraft finishes are used on the Handley-Page Victor". Flight: 1. 1 January 1954.
  5. ^ Philip J. R. Moyes (1964). Bomber Squadrons of the R.A.F. And Their Aircraft. MacDonald. p. 98.