Air Force Symbols and Meaning

Three airfare planes flying through the sky.
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The United States Air Force (USAF) symbol has become like many other logos – a representation of its brand to the world. The USAF symbol was thoughtfully crafted to represent the Air Force’s history as well as the promise of the future of the armed forces branch. Each piece of the symbol was designed with a meaning of the core elements of the USAF. The symbol has strict publishing and copyright guidelines to protect its integrity.

1 History of Symbol

The U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff declared the symbol as the official symbol of the United States Air Force in 2004. The process, however, started back in the late 1990s when senior leadership established a need for one. They felt the symbol would retain more airmen, encourage more people to enlist and help build an understanding of the branch. A private-sector branding company was hired to research and design the symbol. The company interviewed members of the USAF and people in major cities to find out what the military branch meant to people. The symbol’s sleek new design grew out of the World War II “Hap” Arnold wings. The stylized wings are of the present but they point to the proud history of the Air Force. The symbol can take on two different forms depending on how you choose to see it: a medal of valor in service or our nation’s emblem of freedom, an eagle.

2 Upper Section Meaning

The upper half of the symbol consists of six sections that form the shape of wings. They are meant to represent the strength of the enlisted men and women. The wings are at a severe angle to call attention to the Air Force’s power and swiftness. The six sections that make up the wings are representative of the USAF marked capabilities of “air and space superiority, rapid global military, precision engagement, global attack, information superiority and agile combat support."

3 Lower Section Meaning

Three diamonds, a sphere and a star make up the lower section of the Air Force symbol. The three diamonds represent the branch’s core values of “integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do.” The sphere is a globe that represents the USAF’s responsibility to secure the country’s freedom with “Global Vigilance, Reach and Power.” The sphere also is indicative of the Air Force’s accountability when it comes to rapidly responding to crises worldwide. The blank section around the sphere and diamonds makes a star shape, which has many meanings. The star is a symbol of space as the high ground of the nation’s air and space force. The five points of the star represent the five components of the Air Force’s “Total Force and Family -- active duty, civilians and Guard.” Finally, the star stands for the officer corps, who are vital to leadership.

4 Trademark Information

The symbol's trademark was registered in 2003. Any commercial use of the symbol, free of paid, must be approved by the U.S. Air Force. The logo has a set of style guidelines. For example, the symbol often is shown with the words “U.S. Air Force” below it, but it is not required; if the words are included, they only can be directly below the symbol, never above. The correct font for the USAF symbol is Berthold Akzidenz Grotesk bold extended. The symbol is used in blue (Pantone 287), black, gray (Pantone Cool Grey 7), chrome silver (Pantone Silver 877c), chrome blue and white versions.

Caroline Baldwin, a corporate communications director located in South Carolina, began writing in 1998. Her work has been published in publications across the United States and Canada including Rolling Stone, Boating Life, Waterski and Wakeboarding magazines. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in communication studies from The College of Charleston.