When I worked at AirLalt a couple of decades ago, the CVNs would get a brand new non-skid deck - 100%, from the pointy end to the round end, right before deployment, i.e. on pre-deployment stand-down.
Upon return from deployment, when they were being used for surge, training, and work-ups, they would get new non-skid ONLY ON THE LANDING Area (i.e. between the foul lines) and get a spot treatment where necessary otherwise.
As a result, they would have a nice, even black 'skid landing area, while the rest of the flight deck was a patchwork quilt of various shades of dark or light grey or even rusty shades (rust seeping up through cracks in the non-skid).
They would even leave the yard (think NNSY, up the Elizabeth River from Norfolk), with a crappy-looking deck, with contracts in place to re-do the landing area for workups while pierside once they got back to "NOB" Norfolk.
I'm guessing it's a similar paradigm even today, 100% new deck pre-deployment, and a half-assed job (i.e., landing area only), to support carrier quals/work ups.
I'm neutral in this debate, but I've discussed this with Ray in the past.
The issue is this, Ray is of the opinion that the tan color appears too uniform and too light in color to be rusted metal.
I used to argue with him, taking your point of view.
Ray found a shipyard worker many years ago that claimed there was at one point tan coloured non skid that was tested on forrestal and enterprise, I think.
Unless proven otherwise, it's impossible to say one way or the other if tan non skid was ever used.
The points I see that support this theory are,
Only two carriers have photos that look this way.
Other photos of rusty decks look different in color and uniformity.
I highly doubt a carrier would be on sea trials with an unpainted deck.
There is more than one type of nonskid and carriers used to use different ones for the landing area vs the rest of the deck.
I've personnaly seen many tests and experiments of different colours of anti fouling paint that aren't well documented.
So basically, I feel its possible that tan non skid existed for a short period.
One other thing, when you say the landing area is painted, I hope you mean the markings only, because if the whole area were painted grey, it would lose its flight certification.
I hope that helps a bit to understand why Ray is so convinced of the tan nonskid, and I hope Ray doesn't mind me summarizing for him.
I dont know where posters are going with this. Rays model based on NG photos is accurate. BUT it represents big E in transition from full non-skid. The TAN Brown etc is rusted steel decks which are ground flat in prep for nonskid application. Every carrier I saw in over 20+ years at some time appeared like this. Note the angle deck is nonskidded and painted! This is where heavy traffic is. Funding and scheduling all contribute to carrier deck non-skid app. Since Ray indicates Big E photo is at Gtmo then she going going through normal work up and training cycle. I did this many times. Again note the important part of flight deck is covered in nonskid and has painted landing guide lines, the remaining deck space is awaiting nonskid application.
So my point is this is normal in the life of any carrier but is not an official paint scheme at all.