Secrecy News

It’s a Plane: Visual Aircraft Recognition

The U.S. Army yesterday issued an updated manual to assist soldiers in identifying aircraft on the battlefield so as to determine whether they are friendly, hostile or something else.

“Soldiers must be knowledgeable in the identification of all types of aerial platforms ranging from fixed wing attack aircraft to unmanned aircraft (UA), in order to protect friendly forces and to prevent fratricide.”

The task is easier said than done, however, even for an experienced observer.

The new manual characterizes the wing, engine, fuselage, and tail (or WEFT) of “a multitude of both hostile and friendly aircraft platforms.”

But due to national security classification, the catalog of aircraft is incomplete.

“This publication, by nature, has a built-in time lag, and some aircraft may still be under development or classified at the time of writing, but may be fielded or unclassified at, or after, publication.”

See Visual Aircraft Recognition, TC 3-01.80, February 29, 2016.

The new edition of the manual was released by the Army for unlimited public distribution. The 2006 manual that it replaces (FM 3-01.80), by contrast, was intended only for U.S. government agencies and contractors.