Air Force & Navy Roundel Insignia


I believe the photo you are referring to was of an A-7 Corsair II operated by Portugal. The photo appeared as a Picture of the Week during April 2006 and is also shown below.

Vought A-7 Corsair II
Vought A-7 Corsair II

The country operating a military aircraft can most often be identified by the national insignia painted on its wings or fuselage. This insignia or logo is usually referred to as a roundel since most countries use a circular shape for their symbol. In the A-7 photo shown above, one of these roundels can be seen on the aft fuselage just forward of the horizontal tail. Although the roundel is somewhat difficult to make out in this photo, a second clue to the plane's nation of origin can be seen near the center of the vertical tail. It is common for an additional colorful symbol referred to as a fin flash to be placed in this location. Most countries that employ a fin flash use a miniature version of the nation's flag. The flag of Portugal can be seen on the A-7's vertical tail helping to identify the military for which it serves.

Roundels first appeared during World War I when the new breed of combat pilots flying over European battlefields needed a means of differentiating friendly and enemy aircraft. The French were first to adopt a roundel using a series of blue, white, and red concentric circles reminiscent of the French flag. The British quickly followed suit with a similar design of blue, white, and red circles. This design has since been simplified to two colors with the elimination of the white circle. The Royal Air Force design was also modified for other countries within the British Empire by simply replacing the red circular center of the British roundel with a red shape symbolizing that nation. Examples include Australia with a red kangaroo, Canada with a red maple leaf, and New Zealand with a red kiwi bird.

Since so many modern countries were colonies of France and the United Kingdom during the early years of aviation, it is not surprising that most of these nations also adopted roundel designs for their air forces upon gaining independence. These designs range from the ultimate simplicity of Libya's solid green circle to the five concentric circles of Thailand and Kenya or the complex designs of the Dominican Republic and Mauritania. Some countries also have multiple versions of their roundel for different purposes. Both the United Kingdom and the United States, for example, have traditionally used very bright and colorful insignia with red, white, and blue but currently employ roundels with faded, pale colors or stenciled outlines to reduce visibility on combat aircraft.

Low-visibility roundels on the aft fuselage and right wing of the US F-22 Raptor
Low-visibility roundels on the aft fuselage and right wing of the US F-22 Raptor

To assist in identifying the origins of military aircraft, we have assembled the following list of roundel insignia currently in use. Bear in mind that some countries change their insignia fairly often as political powers shift, so some of those shown below may no longer be accurate.


Afghanistan

Albania

Algeria

Angola

Argentina

Australia

Austria

Bahrain

Bangladesh

Belgium

Benin

Bolivia

Bosnia

Botswana

Brazil

Brunei

Bulgaria

Burkina Faso

Burma
(Myanmar)

Burundi

Cambodia

Cameroon

Canada

Central African
Republic

Chad

Chile

China

Colombia

Congo

Costa Rica

Croatia

Cuba

Cyprus

Czech Republic

Dem. Republic
of Congo
(Zaire)

Denmark

Djibouti

Dominican
Republic

Ecuador

Egypt

El Salvador

Eritrea

Ethiopia

Finland

France

Gabon

Germany

Ghana

Greece

Guatemala

Guinea

Guinea Bissau

Guyana

Haiti

Honduras

Hungary

India

Indonesia

Iran

Iraq

Ireland

Israel

Italy

Ivory Coast

Jamaica

Japan

Jordan

Kenya

Kuwait

Laos

Latvia

Lebanon

Libya

Lithuania

Madagascar

Malawi

Malaysia

Mali

Malta

Mauritania

Mexico

Mongolia

Morocco

Mozambique

Nepal

Netherlands

New Zealand

Nicaragua

Niger

Nigeria

North Korea

Norway

Oman

Pakistan

Panama

Papua
New Guinea

Paraguay

Peru

Philippines

Poland

Portugal

Qatar

Romania

Russia

Rwanda

Saudi Arabia

Senegal

Serbia &
Montenegro
(Yugoslavia)

Singapore

Slovakia

Slovenia

Somalia

South Africa

South Korea

Spain

Sri Lanka

Sudan

Suriname

Sweden

Switzerland

Taiwan

Tanzania

Thailand

Togo

Trinidad
& Tobago

Tunisia

Turkey

Uganda

Ukraine

United Arab
Emirates

United Kingdom


United States

Uruguay

Venezuela

Vietnam


Yemen

Zambia

Zimbabwe

A good site to learn more about military roundels, flags in general, and the evolution of various national insignia is Flags of the World.
- answer by Jeff Scott, 9 April 2006

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