Aircrew brevet

An aircrew flying badge (unofficially and incorrectly known as an aircrew brevet - which is actually French for a diploma or certificate) is the badge worn on the left breast, above any medal ribbons, by qualified aircrew in the Royal Air Force, British Army, Indian Air Force, Pakistan Air Force, Royal Canadian Air Force, Australian Army, Royal Australian Air Force, Royal New Zealand Air Force, South African Air Force and Sri Lanka Air Force. An example of a real Pilot Brevet (ie. certificate) is as opposite:

United Kingdom

Royal Air Force

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-OCU 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 therefore posted to their Operational Conversion Units having gained their wings, but they still have a good deal of training and type familiarisation to complete before they are considered operational or front-line aircrew.

Current Flying Badges/Brevets

  • pilots wear the letters "RAF" in a brown Laural 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 Laural 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 chose 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/Brevets

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.

[[File:B half wing.jpg|thumb|right|upright=0.7|An obselete bomb aimer's flying badge.

Royal Navy

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 feature albatross wings, a crown and anchor, reflecting the naval aspect of the flying undertaken. They are worn on the sleeve of naval aviators, above the rank "rings" as opposed to on the left breast of RAF uniforms. Unlike the RAF and the Army Air Corps, Naval aircrew are awarded their wings after 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.

Naval Observers are awarded their own aircrew brevet, consisting of shorter wings either side of a fouled anchor surmounted by a Crown, upon completion of their Observer training at 750 NAS at RNAS Culdrose. Naval Aircrewmen are awarded a brevet similar in shape to the 'Cabin Crew' brevet of the RAF, with upturned wings and a similar Anchor, but with no crown, design to Observers. These badges are also worn on the sleeve of the Number 1 dress uniform jacket, above any rank insignia.

British Army

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. A small number of Army aircrew are streamed fixed wing to fly the Army's Islander/Defender reconnaissance aircraft, or to become instructors at the Defence Elementary Flying School on the Tutor training aircraft.

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 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;[1] 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.[2]

New Zealand

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.

See also


  1. "Brevets signal start". Air Force News. 48 (14). 10 August 2006. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 7 December 2015.
  2. "ID Badges Used in War History". 2015. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 7 December 2015.
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