An aviator badge is an insignia used in most of the world's militaries to designate those who have received training and qualification in military aviation. Also known as a Pilot’s Badge, or Pilot Wings, the Aviator Badge was first conceived to recognize the training that military aviators receive, as well as provide a means to outwardly differentiate between military pilots and the “foot soldiers” of the regular ground forces.
|United States Aviator Badge|
|Awarded by United States Armed Forces|
|Established||Second World War|
|First awarded||Second World War|
|Last awarded||On going|
|Next (higher)||Military Free Fall Parachutist Badge|
|Next (lower)||Astronaut Device|
A United States Aviator Badge refers to three types of aviation badges issued by the United States Armed Forces, those being for Air Force, Army, and Naval (to include Marine and Coast Guard) aviation.
In the modern military, Air Force and Army Aviator Badges are issued in three ratings: Basic, Senior, and Command/Master/Chief. The higher degrees are denoted by a star or star with wreath above the badge. Air Force regulations state that the basic rating denotes completion of specified training and that the advanced ratings denote experience levels. The Naval Aviator Badge is issued in a single rating for the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard aviators.
The first United States Aviator Badges were issued to members of the Air Service during World War I. The badges were issued in three degrees: Observer (a "US" shield and one left-side wing), Junior Aviator or Reserve Aviation Officer (a "US" shield between two wings), and Senior Aviator (a star over "US" shield between two wings). The Army Air Service also issued a badge for balloon pilots, known as the Aeronaut Badge.
Enlisted Aviators wore their regular rank insignia and the Observer's badge. There were 29 enlisted pilots before the American entry into World War I. The second enlisted aviator, William A. Lamkey, got a discharge and flew for Pancho Villa. The remaining enlisted pilots received commissions in 1917. There were 60 enlisted mechanics who were trained as pilots in France during the war, but they were used for ferrying duties and did not fly in combat. The recruiting and training of enlisted Aviators ended in 1933.
During World War II, with the rise of the Army Air Forces, a second series of aviator badges were issued to include a design that has survived to the modern day. The Army Air Corps Pilot Badge was issued in three degrees, including Pilot, Senior Pilot, and Command Pilot. A polished silver colored version of these badges is currently used as the United States Air Force Pilot Badges.
From August 1941 to November 1942, the Enlisted Aviator program was restarted. Candidates had to be at least 18, possess a high school diploma, and have graduated at the top of their High School class. Graduates were rated as Flight Staff Sergeants or Flight Technical Sergeants and wore the same pilot's wings as officers. They were usually assigned to pilots of transport and auxiliary aircraft to free officer pilots to pilot the more prestigious fighters and bombers. Auxiliary pilots received their own special wings to indicate their status and specialty. In November 1942 all enlisted pilots were promoted to Flight Officer rank and enlisted cadets were graded as Flight Officers or Second Lieutenants depending on merit.
In 1947, the U.S. Army Air Forces became its own separate service as the U.S. Air Force. The Air Force use the same pilot's badges as the earlier USAAC / USAAF design except that starting in the mid-1990s, they began to be made of chrome metal or sterling silver rather than the dull alloy wings used by the Army Air Forces and Air Force from 1947 to the mid-1990s. The U.S. Air Force currently issues several aviation badges including pilot, combat systems officer (formerly navigator), air battle manager, flight surgeon, flight nurse, non-rated officer aircrew, and enlisted aircrew. The requirements to earn these are listed here.
After the creation of the U.S. Air Force as a separate service in 1947, Army Aviation continued to a degree that warranted a new badge for Army Aviators. The result was the creation of the Army Aviator Badge, which is a modified version of the U.S. Air Force Pilot Badge. It comes in three grades: Basic, Senior (7 years service and 1,000 flight hours), and Master (15 years service and 2,000 flight hours). The Aviator and Senior Aviator Badges were approved on 27 July 1950 and the Master Aviator Badge was approved on 12 February 1957.
The aviator badge currently used in the Navy has remained virtually unchanged since it was first issued on 13 November 1917. The Naval Aviator Badge is earned by all U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Coast Guard pilots upon graduation from advanced flight training. Additional aviator badges exist for Naval Flight Officers (USN & USMC), Naval Flight Surgeons, Naval Aviation Physiologists, Naval Flight Nurses, Naval Aviation Observers (USN & USMC) and enlisted Naval Aircrewman (USN, USMC & USCG). Naval Aviators' badges are gold in color. Unlike the Air Force and the Army, the naval services do not employ senior or command/master aeronautical ratings.
The NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps Aviator Insignia is a gold-colored pin, winged, with a central device consisting of a fouled anchor surcharged with a NOAA Corps device. NOAA Corps officer pilots and navigators may wear the NOAA aviator insignia after authorization by the Director of the NOAA Corps.
The current aviator badge of the Royal Air Force has been in use since the Second World War. The badge consists of a winged crown and wreath, beneath which are the letters "RAF". The Royal Air Force also uses a "half wing" version to denote Aviation Observers.
The current aviator badge of the Belgian Air Force is:
The aviator badge of the Royal Danish Air Force is:
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The Pilotenabzeichen (Pilot's Badge) of the former Luftwaffe had been instituted by Hermann Göring on 12 August 1935. It came in distinct types; nickel silver (changed to zinc during the war) and a variant made of gold. It depicts a silver eagle (Silberner Adler) perched atop a swastika (Hakenkreuz), wings open in a landing pose, and surrounded by a wreath with laurel (Lorbeer) on the right side and oak (Eichenlaub) branches on the left side, respectively. It was worn in the center of the left breast pocket of the service tunic, underneath the Iron Cross 1st Class if awarded. The badge was awarded after one completed flight training and the flying licence and citation were received.
In the Bundeswehr the aviation badge (Tätigkeitsabzeichen Militärluftfahrzeugführer) comes in three grades: bronze (Standard Pilot), silver (Senior Pilot) after 1200 flight hours and gold (Command Pilot) after 1800 flight hours. It depicts the Bundesadler surrounded by an oak leaf wreath between two wings. It is worn above the right breast pocket. A total of two Tätigkeitsabzeichen may be worn, one of which can be foreign in which case the foreign one would be worn below the German one.
Pilots and navigators of the Royal Hungarian Air Force wore their aviator rating badge sewn on their uniforms right breast above the pocketflap. The Observers Badge was the same, except without the Holy Crown of Hungary. A smaller version of the pilot’s badge which was worn on the lower left sleeve of the overcoat - observers also worn a small insignia without the crown on their sleeve. During World War II a goldified bronze pilot and observer badge was also introduced.
After the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Hungary a new Hungarian Air Force was created. It took on the tradititons of the Royal Hungarian Air Force. There are 4 classes of pilots badges. Gold laurel 1st class aviator; 1st class aviator, 2nd class aviator, and 3rd class aviator.
The current badge of a pilot in the Israeli defense forces is:
The aviator badge of the Namibian Air Force is:
The current aviator badge of the Polish Air Force has been in use since the 1920s. The badge is called gapa and represents silver eagle in flight with gold laurel wreath in the bill. Navigator/Observer badge (below) represents the same eagle, but in gold with added lightning bolts. It is unlike any other in the other air forces in the world. The gapa was worn in the usual place on the upper left breast above the pocket, but with a chain. It proudly adorned the uniform of Polish Air Force officers in the RAF during World War II along with their RAF wings. In combat badges (for at least 7 flights in combat conditions) the laurel wreath is green.
The current aviator badge of the South African Air Force has been in use since 2002, when South Africa adopted a new coat of arms. Like the RAF, the SAAF also has a half-wing version of the badge, in this case for navigators. The aviator and navigator badges comes in three grades: bronze, silver and gold. Reserve force aviator badges have a light blue inlay around the coat of arms as appose to the dark blue of permanent air force aviators.