Military Aviation

Here’s how the Israeli Air Force gets its squadron emblems

“For a long time, tail emblems were censored because of security concerns. Fictional ones were invented in order to confuse the enemy. The fictional emblems made sure that the enemy never knew exactly how many aircraft we had,” Raanan Weiss, Israeli Air Force graphic designer

The following article, titled The Meaning of an Emblem and written by Nuphar Blitt, explains how the Israeli Air Force squadrons get their emblems and tail designs.

Israeli Air Force (IAF) emblems, which are usually circular, imply the squadron’s name and contain elements indicating the squadron’s traits, capabilities and missions. Each one of the emblem’s details is significant.

The 210th (“White Eagle”) Squadron, which operates “Eitan” (Heron TP) RPAVs (Remotely Piloted Aerial Vehicles), has an emblem influenced by the aircraft’s photography capabilities. “I thought of something related to the eye”, explained Raanan Weiss, a graphic designer who has designed squadron emblems and aircraft tails for the IAF over the last 25 years. “At first sight, you can see the eye on the emblem. The pupil resembles a globe and the brow is actually the bird’s wings.”

Photography: Nir Ben-Yosef

In many squadron emblems, you may find aircraft, birds and other animals to which wings have been added. This can be seen in emblems belonging to the 102nd (“Flying Tiger”) Squadron, which operates “Lavi” (M346) aircraft, or to the 100th (“First”) Squadron, which operates “Tzofit” (King Air B-200) aircraft and whose emblem illustrates a winged camel.

Squadron emblems regularly contain a limited variety of colors. “When designing an emblem, you don’t make many color changes or include thin lines and intricate details”, explained Weiss. “This is done so that painting the emblems on the aircraft won’t be complicated.”

Photography: Nir Ben-Yosef

Many of the IAF’s squadrons are closed and reestablished after a few years, operating different aircraft. In this case, do they preserve their original emblem? “When I design a new emblem, I usually base it on the existing emblem. I think the emblem is part of a tradition which is important to preserve”, explained Weiss.

Weiss attempts to preserve certain elements of the original emblems in his renewed designs: “When I designed the emblem for the ‘Defenders of the South’ Squadron, which is meant to be reestablished as the second “Adir” (F-35I) squadron, I made adjustments to the original emblem. However, when you see the emblem from afar you recognize it immediately as the squadron’s emblem. You can’t get confused”. Weiss also redesigned the emblem for the first “Adir” squadron, the 140th (“Golden Eagle”) Squadron, which underwent numerous adjustments over the years.

The 140th (“Golden Eagle”) Squadron’s emblem over the years | Design: Raanan Weiss

Each squadron emblem has a special meaning or strange story behind it. One emblem changed four times throughout the years until it reached its current design. “The 107th Squadron was established as a squadron which operates ‘Spitfire’ aircraft. It was closed and reestablished as an ‘Ouragan’ squadron with a completely different emblem – a winged lion on a blue background. In the 70s, the squadron was reestablished as a ‘Phantom’ squadron and the emblem was changed yet again”, said Weiss. “I was approached when the squadron was reestablished as a ‘Sufa’. I stretched the wings and the head of the lion and changed the background so it looks like a whirlwind in orange, yellow and white.”

During the first decades of the IAF, aircraft were marked in order to differentiate between aircraft of identical types belonging to different squadrons operating from the same airbase. “The marks were either lines across the aircraft or a triangle on the tail”, said Weiss. The first interesting graphic design of a tail emblem was drawn up in 1986 for the 110th (“Knights of the North”) Squadron. It was designed by Arnon Kremer, a known IAF illustrator who is currently a pilot for El Al Israel Airlines. In the following years, the designs of tail emblems began spreading across the air force’s squadrons.

Photography: Nir Ben-Yosef

For a long time, tail emblems were censored because of security concerns. “Until the end of the 80s, emblems would be covered at every exhibition and ceremony”, Weiss recalled. A solution was then found – squadrons’ emblems were replaced and fictional ones were invented in order to confuse the enemy.

“We would take an aircraft from a certain squadron and paint it with the emblem of another”, said Weiss. “The emblems of closed-down squadrons as well as those of aviation and maintenance squadrons were painted on aircraft. This way, photos taken at public events would reach the enemy with unrecognizable emblems. The fictional emblems made sure that the enemy never knew exactly how many aircraft we had.”

Top Image: Major Ofer, Israeli Air Force

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Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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