Aviator badge

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 of AmericaEdit

A Military Aviator badge existed from 1912-17 before being replaced by the predecessor of the "wings" badge.

United States Aviator Badge
Awarded by United States Armed Forces
StatusCurrently awarded
EstablishedSecond World War
First awardedSecond World War
Last awardedOn going
Army Precedence
Next (higher)Military Free Fall Parachutist Badge
Next (lower)Astronaut Device[1]

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.

Air Force and Army Aviator Badges are issued in three ratings: Basic, Senior, and Command (Air Force)/Master (Army). 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 Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard aviators.

United States Air ForceEdit

World War IEdit

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.[2] The recruiting and training of enlisted Aviators ended in 1933.

World War IIEdit

Command Pilot Badge, World War II U.S. Army Air Forces design and current U.S. Air Force regulation insignia.
Senior Pilot Badge, World War II U.S. Army Air Forces and U.S. Air Force sample image.

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 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. The qualifying requirements for the Senior Pilot Wings are: Seven (7) years as rated pilot and permanent award of pilot rating. Plus 2000 total hours or 1300 hours primary and instructor flight (refer to U.S. Air Force aeronautical rating for details).

Independent Air ForceEdit

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 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.

United States ArmyEdit

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).[3] The Aviator and Senior Aviator Badges were approved on 27 July 1950 and the Master Aviator Badge was approved on 12 February 1957.

United States Navy, Marine Corps and Coast GuardEdit

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.

NOAA Commissioned Officer CorpsEdit

NOAA Aviator insignia

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.


Astronaut Device worn on aviation badges of the United States Military

With the dawn of the Space Age, all of the United States Aviator badges are upgradable to the Astronaut Badge, for those military members who become astronauts.

United KingdomEdit

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 Weapon System Officers (WSOs) and Weapon System Operators (WSOps) as well as various airborne roles such as Airborne Technician.

Royal Air ForceEdit

Royal Air Force Pilot Flying Badge

In the RAF, the Flying Badge (colloquially referred to as wings or a brevet), is awarded upon the completion of a significant stage of flying training. Aircrew first undertake Elementary Flying Training, and are then streamed to either fast jet, helicopter, RPAS or multi-engine pipelines. The award of wings usually occurs upon completion of the secondary phase of training; for example, in the fast jet stream, wings are awarded upon completion of the Basic Fast Jet Course (BJFT), currently at RAF Linton-on-Ouse; for helicopter pilots, wings are awarded after they complete helicopter training at RAF Shawbury pre-OCU; for RPAS post-FTU (Formal Training Unit)[4] and on the attainment of 'Limited Combat Ready' status, and for multi-engine aircrew, wings are awarded upon completion of their Multi-Engine Advanced Flying Training (MEAFT) training at RAF Cranwell. Aircrew, other than RPAS pilots, are then posted to their Operational Conversion Units having gained their wings, but still have a good deal of training and type familiarisation to complete before they are considered operational or front-line aircrew.

Current Flying Badges/BrevetsEdit

  • pilots wear the letters "RAF" in a brown laurel wreath, surmounted by a crown, with a swift's wing on each side.
  • weapons systems officers/operators (rear aircrew) wear the letters "RAF" in a brown laurel wreath, surmounted by a crown, with a single swift's wing on one side.

Legacy Rear Aircrew who qualified prior to April 2003, wear a single wing with no crown and a letter or letters (denoting speciality) in a brown laurel wreath, however, they may choose to wear the new WSO/WSOP brevet. Legacy brevets still in use in the RAF include:

  • "N" for Navigator
  • "AE" for Air Electronics Officer/Operator
  • "LM" for Air Loadmaster
  • "E" for Air Engineer
  • "S" for Air Signaller (Airborne Linguist)

For operational flying crew, who are not de facto Aircrew (also known as non-traditional aircrew) who come from ground trades/branches but are assigned to flying duties, they are awarded an airborne specialist brevet upon completion of a bespoke flying training course, which is a half wing, without crown and 2 letters in the centre. This includes:

  • "FC" (fighter controller) brevet – Air Battle Managers assigned to fly on Sentry AEW.1.
  • "AT" (airborne technician) brevet – Ground Engineers assigned to fly on Sentry AEW.1 and RC-135W Rivet Joint platforms as in-flight technicians.
  • "IA" (imagery analyst) brevet – Intelligence Analysts assigned to fly on Sentinel R.1 in an Airborne Imagery Analyst role .

RAF Catering Stewards assigned to fly as cabin crew on Voyager KC.1, BAe 146 and HS 125 are awarded the "CC" (cabin crew) badge. This badge is worn on the right sleeve in the same location as the parachute qualification, has two upturned wings (similar to Royal Navy ratings' aircrewman badges) and has cream stitching for the wings, lettering and laurels. Legacy Cabin Crew who qualified with the former "AS" (air steward) badge are still entitled to wear it.

Parachute Jumping Instructors (PJIs) are honorary aircrew and wear an open parachute instead of a letter on a half wing.

Obsolete Flying Badges/BrevetsEdit

An obselete bomb aimer's flying badge.

There are also a number of obsolete rear aircrew brevets that are no longer in use such as:

  • "AG" for Air Gunner
  • "B" for Air Bomber
  • "RO" for Radio Observer
  • "M" (meteorological observer)
  • "QM" (air quartermaster)
  • Observers wore a single wing attached directly to the letter "O", this was replaced by the Navigator's badge in 1942.
  • RPAS pilots initially had a separate flying badge, similar to traditional pilot wings excepting a light blue wreath, this was withdrawn on 1 April 2019.

Royal NavyEdit

The Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm has its own wings design, featuring albatross wings instead of the wings of a swift, as per the RAF design. The Fleet Air Arm wings badges also feature a crown and fouled anchor, reflecting the naval aspect of the flying undertaken. They are worn on the left sleeve of naval aviators, above the rank "rings" as opposed to on the left breast of uniforms, like the RAF and Army Air Corps. Unlike the RAF and the Army Air Corps, Naval aircrew are awarded their wings after Operational Conversion Unit (OCU), whereupon they are posted to a frontline squadron, the majority of their flying training complete. Therefore, while a Navy and RAF aircrew might take a similar amount of time to reach an operational squadron, the Naval officer has to wait until he has completed his conversion training to receive his wings.

Royal Naval Observers are awarded their own aircrew brevet, consisting of shorter wings either side of a fouled anchor surmounted by a Crown.

Royal Naval Aircrewmen are awarded a brevet similar in shape to the Observer wings, with slightly narrower wings and a similar anchor, but with no crown. Both observers and aircrewmen are also issued Wings upon completion of their OCU, like Royal Navy pilots.[5]

All Royal Navy aircrew wear their wings on the left sleeve of the Number 1 dress uniform jacket, above any rank insignia.[6]

British ArmyEdit

Army Air Corps Pilot Flying Badge

The Army Air Corps pilot wings are awarded upon completion of the basic helicopter course at RAF Shawbury and a subsequent Army course at Middle Wallop Airfield. Aircrew are then dispatched to their OCU to receive type training on either the Apache attack helicopter or the Wildcat battlefield support helicopter.[7]

The Army is unique in the British military in that both Officers and Non-Commissioned Officers can become aircrew and aircraft commanders. The wings are identical for both Officers and Other Ranks, and are worn on the left chest above any medals, similar to the RAF.

In all the services, award of wings does not confer any operational capability – this is declared by a front-line squadron once the student has reached satisfactory standard to allow them to be deployed operationally. This milestone, or 'Combat Ready Status', is the threshold necessary for the award of Flying Pay, a discretionary additional salary bonus for aircrew due to the nature of their work.


Royal Australian Air Force loadmaster flying badge

Royal Australian Air Force flying badges differ from those in the RAF mainly in having a crown on all Flying Badges (not just on pilot's wings) and in normally having blue wreaths. The pilot's flying badge has the letters "RAAF". A similar twin-wing badge, bearing the Southern Cross, was introduced for officer aircrew in 1998, replacing various single-wing flying badges previously worn by commissioned officers;[8] however NCO aircrew continue to wear the old single-wing badges.

Some RAAF pilots signed a petition in 1998/1999 in protest of non-pilot "officer aircrew" receiving a double wing. It was rumoured that some serving navigators and war veterans who had previously held the soon to be abolished 'half' wing agreed with the protest. The petition ultimately had over 10,000 signatures, but in the end the petition was unsuccessful.[9]

Australian Army flying badges

New ZealandEdit

New Zealand uses similar insignia to the United Kingdom, except the pilot's wings bear the letters "NZ" instead of "RAF" and the single wing of other aircrew still have the letters of the trade they represent. Currently these are air warfare officer and air warfare specialist (both wear AW), air engineer (E), air loadmaster (LM), helicopter loadmaster (HL), flight steward (FS), air ordnanceman (AO), and parachute jump instructor (a parachute). Air electronics operator (AE) and Helicopter crewman (HC) are obsolete.


The current aviator badge of the Belgian Air Force is:

Wing/Badge/Brevet of Belgian Air Force Pilot


The brevet badge for a Royal Canadian Air Force pilot is:

RCAF pilot wings


The aviator badge of the Royal Danish Air Force is:

Wing/Badge/Brevet of Royal Danish Air Force Pilot


The emblem of the People's Liberation Army Air Force is:

Emblem of Chinese People's Liberation Army Air Force since 2007


The aviator badges of the French Air Force/Armée de l'air française and French Navy/Force maritime de l'aéronautique navale are:



Several badges were donated to German aircrew prior, during or after the First World War. The most notable were:[10][11]

The military pilot badge (Abzeichen Militär-Flugzeugführer) was donated on January 27, 1913 by Emperor Wilhelm II. It could be awarded to officers, NCOs and crews who, after completing the two required tests for pilots and after completing their training at a military air base, acquired the certificate as a military pilot issued by the military air and land transportation inspection (Inspektion des Militär-Luft- und Kraft-Fahrtwesens). A similar badge for military pilots was donated on 4 February 1913 by Prince Ludwig from Bavaria.

The badge for navy pilots on seaplanes (Abzeichen für Marine Flugzeugführer auf Seeflugzeugen) was donated on 31 May 1913 by King and Emperor Wilhelm II, for all officers and soldiers, who successfully completed the training on a naval aircraft station and thus received a certificate of qualification as a naval pilot.

The badge for navy pilots on land planes (Abzeichen für Marine Flugzeugführer auf Landflugzeugen) was donated on 23 February 1915 by emperor Wilhelm II for pilots of the Navy, who completed their service in the war on land planes.

The badge for observation officers from airplanes (Abzeichen für Beobachtungsoffiziere aus Flugzeugen) was donated on January 27, 1914 by emperor Wilhelm II. Prerequisites for the award were: 1. a distance traveled of at least 1000 km in an aircraft, 2. a successfully completed technical assistance examination on an aircraft, 3. pass of at least one retake, 4. accomplished exploration missions, and 5. a certification as an observation officer. A similar badge was donated by King Ludwig III. on 3 March 1914 for the Bavarian army.

The airgunner badge (Abzeichen Flugzeug-Fliegerschützen) was founded on January 27, 1918 by emperor Wilhelm II. The soldiers had to demonstrate in-depth knowledge in engine construction and operation, in flight training, in map reading, in the tactics of aerial combat, in theory of bombing, and skills in the operation of machine guns on the ground and in aerial combat.

The commemorative badge for airship crews (Erinnerungsabzeichen für Besatzungen der Luftschiffe) was donated in 1920 by Reichswehr Minister Otto Gessler. There were two versions for Army and Navy airships. Upon request, it was awarded to officers, deck officers, NCOs and crews of former airship crews, who during the war had at least one year of activity on front aircraft.


Pilotenabzeichen - Luftwaffe Pilot's Badge

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.[12] 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.[13] It was worn in the center of the left breast pocket of the service tunic, underneath the Iron Cross 1st Class if awarded.[14] The badge was awarded after one completed flight training and the flying licence and citation were received.[13]

After 1955Edit

German Aviation Badge in Bronze

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.[15]



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.[16] During World War II a gilded bronze pilot and observer badge was also introduced.

Royal Hungarian Air Force Pilots Badge sewn version
Royal Hungarian Air Force Pilots Badge metal version
Royal Hungarian Air Force Observers Badge metal version

After 1990Edit

After the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Hungary a new Hungarian Air Force was created. It took on the traditions 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.

Gold laurel 1st class pilot badge
1st class aviator badge
2nd class aviator badge
3rd class aviator badge


The current badge of a pilot in the Israeli defense forces is:

Current badge "wings" of an Israeli Defense Forces pilot


The aviator badge of the Namibian Air Force is:

The NetherlandsEdit

The aviator badge of the Royal Netherlands Air Force and the Royal Netherlands Navy is:

Wing/Badge/Brevet of Royal Netherlands Air Force Pilot


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.

Badge Pilot Observer
Air Forces
Pilot Observer
Abbreviation pil. obs.

South AfricaEdit

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.


Army Aviator
Naval Aviator



  1. ^ "Army Regulation 600-8-22 Military Awards (24 June 2013). Table 8-1, U.S. Army Badges and Tabs: Orders of precedence. p. 120" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 October 2013. Retrieved 12 October 2013.
  2. ^ https://web.archive.org/web/20070707111442/http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=1427
  3. ^ "Army Aviation - Miscellaneous". Ljmilitaria.com. Retrieved 2018-07-20.
  4. ^ "RAF Recruitment | RPAS Pilot | Royal Air Force". www.raf.mod.uk. Retrieved 2020-04-17.
  5. ^ "Aviators get their Flying Wings | Royal Navy". www.royalnavy.mod.uk. Retrieved 2020-04-17.
  6. ^ "Royal Navy BR3 - Dress Regulations" (PDF).
  7. ^ "Janes | Latest defence and security news". Janes.com. Retrieved 2020-06-06.
  8. ^ "Brevets signal start". Air Force News. 48 (14). 10 August 2006. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 7 December 2015.
  9. ^ "ID Badges Used in War History". idcardkits.com. 2015. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 7 December 2015.
  10. ^ André Hüsken (2001). Katalog der Orden, Ehrenzeichen und Auszeichnungen des Kurfürstentums Brandenburg, der Markgrafschaften Brandenburg-Ansbach und Brandenburg-Bayreuth, des Königreiches Preußen, der Republik Preußen unter Berücksichtigung des Deutschen Reiches / 3, Ehrenzeichen, Auszeichnungen und Ehrengaben 1888-1935. Bremen: Hauschild. ISBN 3897571382. OCLC 314298345.
  11. ^ Nimmergut, Jörg. (2001). Deutsche Orden und Ehrenzeichen bis 1945 / 4 Württemberg II - Deutsches Reich. München: Zentralstelle für wiss. Ordenskunde. ISBN 3000013962. OCLC 163184635.
  12. ^ Ailsby 2003, pp. 59, 60.
  13. ^ a b Ailsby 2003, p. 59.
  14. ^ Angolia 1987, p. 162.
  15. ^ ZDv 37/10 Anzugordnung für die Bundeswehr
  16. ^ http://members.shaw.ca/czink/index_files/images/MARCH%20APRIL%202003.pdf


  • Ailsby, Christopher (2003) [1994]. A Collector's Guide To: World War 2 German Medals and Political Awards. Ian Allan Publishing, Inc. ISBN 9780711021464.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Angolia, John (1987). For Führer and Fatherland: Military Awards of the Third Reich. R. James Bender Publishing. ISBN 0912138149.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)