An escadrille (literal translations: "squad" or "small squadron") is a type of military unit, most often found in the air forces and navy of some French speaking countries. While the term is frequently translated into English as "squadron", an ''escadrille'' was originally a smaller unit (whereas the French ''escadron'', in the context of aviation is a much larger unit, comparable in status to a naval squadron). In Polish, the name of a similar unit is eskadra.

Air Force

The first air ''escadrilles'' were formed in France before World War I, in 1912. They were initially a loosely defined group of aircraft capable of similar tasks, in most cases not more than six aeroplanes in each. During the war, the ''escadrille'' became the basic independent unit of aviation within the French armed forces. An escadrille was a homogeneous unit, armed with a single type of aeroplane, with permanent flying and ground personnel attached, motorised transport and tent hangars. By mid-1915, the ''Armee de l'Air'' had grown to 119 ''escadrilles'' of 10 aircraft each: 14 of fighters, 50 of bombers and the rest reconnaissance, spotter and communications units. While ''escadrilles'' initially operated independently, during the Battle of Verdun (1916), ''chasseur'' (fighter) ''escadrilles'' were formed into larger formations, for easier coordination. During World War II, French ''escadrilles'' usually fielded between 10 and 12 aircraft. Hence they were roughly equivalent to a German ''staffel'', Italian ''gruppo'' or Polish ''eskadra'' (10 aircraft in 1939). This was in contrast to air squadrons of the British Commonwealth or United States, which usually had 12–18 aircraft, divided into two to four flights. Until 1949, between one and four French ''escadrilles'' formed a ''groupe''. Since then, however, ''escadrilles'' have been subordinate to ''escadrons''. As such, ''groupes'' and ''escadrons'' are the equivalent of the German language terms ''gruppe'' and ''geschwader''; and the English language terms "wing" and "group" (the definitions of which also vary from one nation to another).


Within the French Navy, the escadrille is a unit of the Naval Aviation or submarine force. In naval aviation, the escadrille is an aerial formation in the same way as the flotilla, but the navy uses the name of escadrille for support formations and that of flotilla for combat units. For ships, the term escadrille designates a formation of submarines, while that of flotilla is used for a formation of surface ships (note that these are administrative formations).


Category:Air force units and formations {{Europe-mil-stub