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Military aircraft insignia are insignia applied to
military aircraft A military aircraft is any Fixed-wing aircraft, fixed-wing or rotorcraft, rotary-wing aircraft that is operated by a legal or insurrectionary armed service of any type. Military aircraft can be either combat or non-combat: * Combat aircraft are ...
to identify the
nation A nation is a community A community is a social unitThe term "level of analysis" is used in the social sciences to point to the location, size, or scale of a research target. "Level of analysis" is distinct from the term " unit of observation ...

nation
or branch of military service to which the aircraft belongs. Many insignia are in the form of a circular
roundel A roundel is a circular disc used as a symbol. The term is used in heraldry, but also commonly used to refer to a type of national insignia used on military aircraft, generally circular in shape and usually comprising concentric rings of differe ...
or modified roundel; other shapes such as stars, crosses, squares, or triangles are also used. Insignia are often displayed on the sides of the
fuselage In aeronautics Aeronautics is the science or art involved with the study, design, and manufacturing of air flight Flight or flying is the process by which an object (physics), object motion (physics), moves through a space without contact ...

fuselage
, the upper and lower surfaces of the
wing A wing is a type of fin A fin is a thin component or appendage attached to a larger body or structure. Fins typically function as foils that produce lift or thrust Thrust is a reaction (physics), reaction force (physics), force describe ...

wing
s, as well as on the
fin A fin is a thin component or appendage attached to a larger body or structure. Fins typically function as foils that produce lift or thrust Thrust is a reaction (physics), reaction force (physics), force described quantitatively by Newton' ...
or
rudder A rudder is a primary control surface used to steer a ship A ship is a large watercraft that travels the world's oceans and other sufficiently deep Sea lane, waterways, carrying goods or passengers, or in support of specialized missions, su ...
of an aircraft, although considerable variation can be found amongst different air arms and within specific air arms over time.


History


France

The first use of national insignia on military aircraft was before the
First World War World War I, often abbreviated as WWI or WW1, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a that began on 28 July 1914 and ended on 11 November 1918. It involved much of , as well as , the and , and was also fought ...
by the French ''Aéronautique Militaire'' which mandated the application of
roundel A roundel is a circular disc used as a symbol. The term is used in heraldry, but also commonly used to refer to a type of national insignia used on military aircraft, generally circular in shape and usually comprising concentric rings of differe ...
s in 1912.Kershaw, Andrew: ''The First War Planes, Friend Or Foe, National Aircraft Markings'', pages 41–44. BCP Publishing, 1971. The chosen design was the French national
cockade File:William Mosman - Prince Charles Edward Stuart, 1720 - 1788. Eldest son of Prince James Francis Edward Stuart - Google Art Project.jpg, Hat with a white cockade (Prince Charles Edward Stuart) A cockade is a knot of ribbons, or other circular- o ...
, which consisted of a blue-white-red emblem, going outwards from center to rim, mirroring the colours of the
flag of France A flag is a piece of fabric A textile is a flexible material made by creating an interlocking network of yarn Yarn is a long continuous length of interlocked fibres, suitable for use in the production of textiles, sewing, crocheting ...

flag of France
. In addition, the rudders of the aircraft were painted the same colours in vertical stripes, with the blue vertical stripe of the tricolors forwardmost. Similar national cockades were designed and adopted for use as aircraft roundels by the air forces of other countries, including the U.S. Army Air Service.


Germany

Of all the early operators of military aircraft, Germany was unusual in not using "round" roundels, but after evaluating several possible markings, including a black, red and white checkerboard, and a similarly coloured roundel, and black stripes, a black "iron" cross on a square white field was chosen as it was already in use on various flags, and to reflect Germany's heritage as the
Holy Roman Empire The Holy Roman Empire ( la, Sacrum Romanum Imperium; german: Heiliges Römisches Reich) was a multi-ethnic complex of territories in Western Europe, Western, Central Europe, Central and Southern Europe that developed during the Early Middle Age ...
. The
Imperial German Army The Imperial German Army (1871–1919), officially referred to as the German Army (german: Deutsches Heer), was the unified ground and air force of the German Empire. It was established in 1871 with the political unification of Germany under the l ...
's mobilization led to orders in September 1914 to paint all-black ''Eisernes Kreuz'' (iron cross) insignia with wide-flared arms over a white field — usually square in shape — on the wings and tails of all aircraft flown by its air arm, then known as the ''Fliegertruppe des Deutschen Kaiserreiches''. The fuselage was also usually marked with a cross on each side but this was optional. The form and location of the initial cross was largely up to the painter, which led to considerable variation, and even the white being omitted. An iron cross with explicit proportions superseded it in July 1916, whose initial form was also painted on a white field, although this would be reduced to a 5 cm border completely around the cross in October of the same year — the month of the formation of the Army's ''Deutsche
Luftstreitkräfte The ''Deutsche Luftstreitkräfte'' (, German Air Force)—known before October 1916 as (Imperial German Flying Corps) abbreviated to —was the air arm of the Imperial German Army The Imperial German Army (1871–1919), officially referred t ...

Luftstreitkräfte
'' in name — even bordering the ends of the flared arms' ends. In March 1918, a straight black cross with narrow white borders on all sides of the cross was ordered, but proportions were not set until April, resulting in many of those repainted in the field having non-standard proportions. This was then replaced by in May that extended the full chord of wings, with the white border restricted to the sides of the cross's bars. In June, it ceased to be used full chord, with the bars all being the same length. The white on any of these could be omitted when used on a white background, such as was used sometimes for the rudder, and was sometimes omitted on night bombers. With the dissolution of the German Army's Luftstreitkräfte in May 1920, military insignia would disappear until the rise of the
Nazi Party The Nazi Party, officially the National Socialist German Workers' Party (german: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei or NSDAP), was a political party in Germany active between 1920 and 1945, that created and supported the ideolog ...
, which imposed new rules on aircraft in 1937, starting with the use of the German red/white/black flag on the tails' starboard side of all aircraft, with the port side showing a Nazi Party flag. When the
Luftwaffe The ''Luftwaffe'' () was the aerial-warfare branch of the German ''Wehrmacht The ''Wehrmacht'' (, ) was the unified armed forces A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force ...
's re-establishment was made official, these markings were used by military aircraft, while the 1918 ''Balkenkreuz'' crosses were reintroduced, which expanded in their specification to two standardized proportions by July 1939, with differing widths for the quartet of white "flanks" on each insignia. When camouflage was introduced prior to invading
Poland Poland, officially the Republic of Poland, is a country located in . It is divided into 16 , covering an area of , and has a largely climate. Poland has a population of nearly 38.5 million people, and is the fifth-most populous . ...

Poland
, the flags were dispensed with, replacing them with a black and white swastika on both sides. During the Second World War, the crosses would be further simplified, leaving only the borders in a contrasting colour. Much like the French roundel, variations would be used on countries allied with Germany, including the Austro-Hungarian Empire (combined it with red-white-red stripes on the wings until 1916), Bulgaria, Croatia (stylized as a leaf), Hungary (reversed colors), Romania (a blue-rimmed yellow cross with the tricolor roundel in the middle; the shape was also the stylized monogram of the monarch), and Slovakia (blue cross with a red dot in the middle). After the Second World War was over,
West Germany ) , capital = Bonnf , largest_city = Hamburg en, Hamburgian(s) , timezone1 = Central European Time, CET , utc_offset1 = +1 , timezone1_DST = Central Eu ...
reverted to using a variation of the 1916 iron cross, using the white "flanks" of the ''Balkenkreuz'' following the now-curved sides of each arm, while
East Germany East Germany, officially the German Democratic Republic (GDR; german: Deutsche Demokratische Republik, , DDR, ), was a state that existed from 1949 to 1990 in eastern Eastern may refer to: Transportation *China Eastern Airlines, a current ...

East Germany
used a diamond marking based on their flag, with the coat of arms from the flag. The
reunification of Germany German reunification (german: link=no, Deutsche Wiedervereinigung) was the process in 1990 in which the German Democratic Republic German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany ) , image_map = , map_caption = , ...
in 1990 resulted in the West German iron cross replacing the East German insignia for
German military aircraft German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For citizens of Germany, see also German nationality law * German language * Germanic peoples * Ger ...
.


United Kingdom and British Commonwealth nations

The British
Royal Flying Corps "Through Adversity to the Stars" , colors= , colours_label= , march= , mascot= , anniversaries= , decorations= , battle_honours= , battles_label=Wars , battles=First World War , disbanded=merged with RNAS The Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) ...
(RFC) abandoned their original painted
Union Flag The Union Jack, or Union Flag, is the de facto national flag of the United Kingdom. Though no law has been passed officially making the Union Jack the national flag of the United Kingdom, it has effectively become the national flag through prec ...

Union Flag
s because, from a distance, they looked too much like the ''Eisernes Kreuz'' (
Iron Cross Reverse side of the above cross showing eight metal loops for stitching the award to the left side of the uniform breast. The Iron Cross (german: Eisernes Kreuz, , abbreviated EK) was a military decoration Military awards and decoratio ...

Iron Cross
) used on German aircraft. The
Royal Naval Air Service The Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) was the air arm of the Royal Navy The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's naval warfare Naval warfare is human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most populous and widespread species of prim ...
used either a plain red ring (with the clear-doped linen covering forming the light coloured centre), or a red-rimmed white circle on their wings for a short period — almost exactly resembling those in simultaneous use by the neutral predecessors of today's
Royal Danish Air Force The Royal Danish Air Force ( da, Flyvevåbnet, lit=The Flying weapon) (RDAF) is the aerial warfare force of The Kingdom of Denmark and one of the four branches of the Danish Defence. Initially being components of the Army and the Navy, it was ...
— before both British air arms adopted a roundel resembling the French one, but with the colours reversed, (red-white-blue from centre to rim), before the two separate air arms joined to form the
Royal Air Force The Royal Air Force (RAF) is the United Kingdom's Air force, air and space force. It was formed towards the end of the World War I, First World War on 1 April 1918, becoming the first independent air force in the world, by regrouping the Royal ...
on April 1, 1918. This basic design with variations in proportions and shades has existed in one form or another to this very day. with
RCAF The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF; french: Aviation royale canadienne, ARC) is the air File:Atmosphere gas proportions.svg, Composition of Earth's atmosphere by volume, excluding water vapor. Lower pie represents trace gases that together ...
roundel which was based on the RAF roundel used previously on Canadian military aircraft. From WW1 onwards, a variant of the British red-white-blue roundel with the white omitted has been used on
camouflage Camouflage is the use of any combination of materials, coloration, or illumination for concealment, either by making animals or objects hard to see, or by disguising them as something else. Examples include the leopard The leopard (''Pan ...

camouflage
d aircraft, which between the wars meant night bombers. During the
Second World War World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved —including all of the great powers—forming two opposing s: the and the . In a total war directly involving m ...
, the colours were toned down and the proportions adjusted to reduce the brightness of the roundel, with the white being reduced to a thin line, or eliminated. In the Asia-Pacific region the red inner circle of roundels was painted white or light blue, so they would not be confused with the ''
Hinomaru The National Flag, national flag of Japan is a rectangular white banner bearing a crimson-red circle at its center. This flag is officially called , but is more commonly known in Japan as . It embodies the country's sobriquet: Land of the Rising S ...

Hinomaru
'' markings on
Japan Japan ( ja, 日本, or , and formally ) is an in . It is situated in the northwest , and is bordered on the west by the , while extending from the in the north toward the and in the south. Japan is a part of the , and spans of coveri ...

Japan
ese aircraft (still used by the
Japan Self-Defense Forces The Japan Self-Defense Forces ( ja, 自衛隊, Jieitai; abbreviated JSDF), also known as the Japanese Armed Forces, are the unified Armed forces, military forces of Japan established in 1954. The self-defence forces consists of the Japan Ground ...
to this day), much as the United States roundel omitted the red for the same reason. After the
Second World War World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved —including all of the great powers—forming two opposing s: the and the . In a total war directly involving m ...
, the
RAF "Through Adversity to the Stars" , colours = , colours_label = , march = Royal Air Force March Past , mascot = , anniversaries = , e ...

RAF
roundel design was modified by
Commonwealth A commonwealth is a traditional English term for a political community founded for the common good In philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, existenc ...

Commonwealth
air forces, with the central red disc replaced with a red
maple leaf The maple leaf is the characteristic leaf A leaf (plural leaves) is the principal lateral appendage of the vascular plant plant stem, stem, usually borne above ground and specialized for photosynthesis. The leaves and stem together form ...

maple leaf
(
Royal Canadian Air Force The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF; french: Aviation royale canadienne, ARC) is the air File:Atmosphere gas proportions.svg, Composition of Earth's atmosphere by volume, excluding water vapor. Lower pie represents trace gases that together ...

Royal Canadian Air Force
), red
kangaroo The kangaroo is a marsupial Marsupials are any members of the mammalian Class (biology), infraclass Marsupialia. All extant marsupials are endemic to Australasia, Wallacea and the Americas. A distinctive characteristic common to most of t ...

kangaroo
(
Royal Australian Air Force "Through Adversity to the Stars" , colours = , colours_label = , march = Royal Australian Air Force March Past (Eagles of Australia) , mascot = , anni ...
), red
kiwi KIWI (102.9 FM, "Radio Lobo") is a commercial radio station , Sweden , Norway Radio broadcasting is transmission of audio signal, audio (sound), sometimes with related metadata, by radio waves intended to reach a wide audience. In terrestria ...
(
Royal New Zealand Air Force The Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) ( mi, Te Tauaarangi o Aotearoa, "New Zealand Warriors of the Sky"; previously ', "War Party of the Blue") is the aerial warfare, aerial military service, service branch of the New Zealand Defence Force. It ...
), and an orange
Springbok The springbok (''Antidorcas marsupialis'') is a medium-sized antelope The term antelope is used to refer to many species of even-toed ruminant Ruminants are herbivorous mammals of the suborder Ruminantia that are able to acquire nutrient ...
(
South African Air Force "Through hardships to the stars" , colours = , colours_label = , march = , mascot = , anniversaries = , equipment ...
), with the South African version of the RAF roundel existing until 1958.


United States


Low-visibility insignia

In the later stages of the World War I, the British
Royal Flying Corps "Through Adversity to the Stars" , colors= , colours_label= , march= , mascot= , anniversaries= , decorations= , battle_honours= , battles_label=Wars , battles=First World War , disbanded=merged with RNAS The Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) ...
started to use roundels without the conspicuous white circles on night-flying aircraft, such as
Handley Page O/400 The Handley Page Type O was a biplane A biplane is a fixed-wing aircraft with two main wing A wing is a type of fin that produces lift while moving through air or some other fluid. Accordingly, wings have streamlined Cross section ( ...
. As early as 1942-43, and again in recent decades, "low-visibility" insignia have increasingly been used on
camouflage Camouflage is the use of any combination of materials, coloration, or illumination for concealment, either by making animals or objects hard to see, or by disguising them as something else. Examples include the leopard The leopard (''Pan ...

camouflage
d aircraft. These have subdued, low-contrast colours (often shades of grey or black) and frequently take the form of stenciled outlines. Previously, low visibility markings were used to increase ambiguity as to whose aircraft it was, and to avoid compromising the camouflage, all while still complying with international norms governing recognition markings. The World War II German
Luftwaffe The ''Luftwaffe'' () was the aerial-warfare branch of the German ''Wehrmacht The ''Wehrmacht'' (, ) was the unified armed forces A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force ...
often used such "low-visibility" versions of their national ''
Balkenkreuz The ''Balkenkreuz'' () is a straight-armed cross that was first introduced in 1916–1918 and later became the emblem of the ''Wehrmacht The ''Wehrmacht'' (, ) was the unified armed forces A military, also known collectively as arme ...

Balkenkreuz
'' insignia from the mid-war period through to V-E Day, omitting the central black "core" cross and only using the "flanks" of the cross instead, in either black or white versions, which often was done (as an outline only) to the vertical fin or rudder's swastika as well.


Fin flashes

In addition to the insignia displayed on the wings and fuselage, usually in the form of roundels, a fin flash may also be displayed on the fin or rudder. A fin flash often takes the form of vertical, horizontal or slanted stripes in the same colours as the main insignia, and may be referred to as "rudder stripes" if they appear on the
rudder A rudder is a primary control surface used to steer a ship A ship is a large watercraft that travels the world's oceans and other sufficiently deep Sea lane, waterways, carrying goods or passengers, or in support of specialized missions, su ...

rudder
instead of the fin, as with the Armée de l'Air of France. Alternatively, a national flag or a roundel may be used. Images shown below are as they appear on the left side of the aircraft (i.e. with the left side of the fin flash leading). In cases where there are no asymmetrical details, such as coats of arms or text that cannot be reversed, the image may be reversed for the right side (such as with the Royal Air Force fin flash) to keep the same side forward much as with a flag. When a national flag is used, the left side of the aircraft is often the back side of the flag as it is normally flown. Exceptions include the German Third Reich's ostensibly "civilian" aircraft in the 1930s, which used the old black-white-red German flag on the right side of the fin and rudder and the
Nazi Party The Nazi Party, officially the National Socialist German Workers' Party (german: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei or NSDAP), was a political party in Germany active between 1920 and 1945, that created and supported the ideolog ...
flag on the left side. For some countries, a low visibility variant is also used to avoid compromising the aircraft's
camouflage Camouflage is the use of any combination of materials, coloration, or illumination for concealment, either by making animals or objects hard to see, or by disguising them as something else. Examples include the leopard The leopard (''Pan ...

camouflage
, and in some cases, to avoid producing a hot spot visible to
infrared sensor A thermographic camera (also called an infrared camera or thermal imaging camera or thermal imager) is a device that creates an image using infrared, infrared radiation, similar to a common camera that forms an image using optical spectrum, visibl ...
s, such as those used on
air-to-air missile file:Python5-missile001.jpg, The newest and the oldest member of Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, Rafael's Python (missile), Python family of AAM for comparisons, Python-5 (displayed lower-front) and Shafrir-1 (upper-back) An air-to-air missi ...
s.


Current insignia of national air forces


Government insignia


Former insignia of national air forces


See also

*
Aircraft recognition Image:Mirage III-5 Risszeichnung.png, Recognition line drawing for Dassault Mirage III. Aircraft recognition is a visual skill taught to military personnel and civilian auxiliaries since the introduction of military aircraft in World War I. It is i ...
*
Cockade File:William Mosman - Prince Charles Edward Stuart, 1720 - 1788. Eldest son of Prince James Francis Edward Stuart - Google Art Project.jpg, Hat with a white cockade (Prince Charles Edward Stuart) A cockade is a knot of ribbons, or other circular- o ...

Cockade
* List of air forces *Nose art


References

*


External links


Military Aircraft InsigniaHistory of the RAF roundel
{{DEFAULTSORT:Military Aircraft Insignia Military insignia Military aviation Aircraft markings