Aircraft Recce


Does nayone know where to get good ideas and fun ways to teach Aircraft Recognition? I’m new to the squadron and noticed none of cadets don’t even know what a typhoon is!! So i am after ideas and maybe if someone has a PDF or Powerpoint they could send my way? I tried a search on here but couldn’t find anything.

This is my first post, but you gotta start somewhere.

Thanks Guys/Gals



i have a .ppt somewhere although i can’t find it at the moment

but basically it is a general knowledge quiz, the twist being all answers are an aircraft name

for example

  1. Which Greek God is the son of Zeus?

  2. What animal is known as the “Donkey of the desert”?

  3. Katrina was a type of what that destroys New Orleans?

  4. Who were the Norse Explorers warriors, merchants, and pirates who raided, traded, explored and settled in wide areas of Europe?

1 - Hercules
2 - Camel
3 - Hurricane
4 - Viking

for Round 1 - the Question is at the top of the slide with a photo of the aircraft in the centre

the hope being the Cadet will know the answer to the question and thus identify the aircraft

in Round 2 - i then show the same aircraft (different order and photos) but no question in the hope their knowledge from round 1 will help them identify the aircraft.

i found it best to put all the aircraft geeks together, as they know the answers they’ll answer for everyone else in the team making it easy for some team members not join in - it is obvious they will win, but it isnt about the winning, it is about getting the same number of answers correct in round 2 as they did in round 1

it is a very basic memory game more than a quiz, but if that is the start or AirRec, memorising what is what.

i do tend to have a “lesson” prior to the above introducing the basic features of aircraft to use to identify aircraft :-

number of engines and type
wing position, size and shape
landing gear
tail shape

showing examples of each and making comparisons based on this criteria, for exg the difference between a VC10 and Nimrod - tail shape, engine position are two features to consider differientiating between
C17 Vs C130
Squirell Vs Griffen
etc etc


Thanks Steve, I will pm you my email address. If you have anything else that will help me along my route this also would be appreciated.

We are trying to increase Cadet numbers but also make the ones we got more knowledgable.


First up, there’s an old copy of Janes’ Aircraft Recognition Guide which has some excellent ideas about delivering aircraft recce in it - it’s from around 1994-1996 and the cover shot is of an F117A on it. It’s first chapter is all about delivering recce to noobies and gives some good practical ideas… unfortunately, my copy got robbed, but, if you can get a copy, it makes a good starting point!

My advice would be to start simple. Really simple. Don’t go comparing Squirels & Griffins yet. Compare Squirels and Typhoons and Hercules. Make them all really obvious differences to start with. It will give you the interest to start building knowledge when they get more confident - no “i’m no good at this” but more “these differences are quite easy”.

Start with a syllabus of 10 aircraft. Easy ones which they are likely to come across regularly. What flies from your local station or AEF? What’s was at the last airshow you went to? Do you have a local airport? Include a Lancaster in your mix. And a hawk (red arrow or otherwise). Include a Chinook and a Squirrel. Then start to drip feed additional aircraft in over time. Don’t let their knowledge of your original 10 fade, just top it up. Some will pick it up quicker than others - but they do all still pick it up following this method.

I quite often run an idiots guide to aircraft recognition over one parade night. The first half of the night we don’t even talk about aircraft at all. I talk about the principles behind marketting, recognition and how/why things are familiar. I use some marketting gimmicks to reinforce the point - if you take a tesco’s carrier bag, a box from a BigMac, a twix and some other well known brands in the kids will pick up straight away that they recognise this stuff because they recognise the brand/logo etc. Use car recognition as a tool to get them to understand and realise that they already know the principles behind recce - they just need a new subject! We talk about the left and right side of the brain - bringing words and pictures together and use a couple of exercises to bring together this thinking. The second half we look at all the differences which can occur with aircraft - which is loosely based around this website. And talk about breaking down aircraft into WEFT components.

Also talk about naming conventions - whilst it’s less straight forward with no soviet block, I still refer to F’s, H’s, B’s, M’s for Russian aircraft. And getting them used to understanding how the RAF & US name their aircraft is useful in bringing the pictures and words together.

One evening (which sounds quite lame, but the cadets loved it!) we just looked at roundells and got them learning why they are used, spending some time researching them, then identifying aircraft nationalities. It helped support and promote interest in aviation, has proved very useful for poorly labelled static displays at airshows, it also helps them home in on certain aircraft based on where they are from. Again, it’s a useful tool which helps them eleminate things from the syllabus.

If you can, use events like airshows to try and drive home recce skills.

Run an “aircraft of the week” thing on final parade. Get the cadets to try and memorise different facts about an aircraft and/or recognise photos of it.

I’ve seen a few squadrons use their Facebook pages to promote aircraft recognition - giving flight points or prizes to the first person who guesses the aircraft. Interflight competitions are an excellent motivator.

Use the Leading syllabuses Airmanship II as a starting point too - it’s always worthwhile getting them used to seeing RAF aircraft.

Embed things around the squadron - have you got a noticeboard? If so, write to aircraft manufacturers as they are generally quite good at sending Air Cadet squadrons a poster tube packed full of prints, posters & publicity material. Squadron prints and aviation art also helps jazz up the squadron and make it more “aircrafty” and is a much more softly softly approach. If you can, get the cadets to make a poster themselves… although generally the results are a bit poorer than a bought one, it does aid learning.

If you go down an aviation art route, get them to do research into the painting/aircraft - even aeromodelling can be used as it gets the cadets up close and personal with some of the aircraft’s attributes.

An excellent - and often underused - resource for aircraft recognition is the caricature. There’s a brilliant poster done by which features lots of RAF aircraft. The exaggerations of various features of the aircraft can really help the cadets learn them.

Beg the Squadron CivCom for a subscription to an aviation periodical or two - Air Forces Monthly is a good starting point. Alternative, jump on ebay and buy a second hand copy of somethign like “Take Off” which was one of those “collect in a trillion parts over the next 3 years” magazines. It’s slightly dated now, but gives you quick and ready access to lots of aircraft information, cutaways, different shots of aircraft.

Beg CivCom for some copies of Jane’s Aircraft Recognition guide. Don’t buy them new; amazon marketplace and ebay generally have 1 year out of date ones for around £3 each. Even ones that are three or four years old will be current with regards the ACO syllabus (which takes 10-15 years to change the actual content of the aircraft on it!).

Vary how you deliver the training - don’t always use photos. Some times use cutaways. Some times silohettes. Some times models. Some times posters. Get the cadets to justify there answers. They might recognise an aircraft for a different reason you do - and may be able to relate this to the cadets in a different way than you can vocalise it.

If you run it as a project, get each cadet to rn a specific night - one night focus on helos, one night fast jets, one night RAF aircraft, another night the French. By delivering the training themselves, they will learn.

Once they get more confident, use powerpoints but, rather than hunt of pictures of aircraft at certain angles, just turn the pictures upside down, or up end them. Shrink the picture size. Crop the picture so it only shows the front/back/side/key features. It confuses the brain a little - but helps reinforce their learning. Just the tail of a Boeing 707 is a give away. Likewise, the clamshell tail of a BAe 146 is often enough to identify it.

Again, once they are confident, start throwing in red herrings. I often use old pictures of Snoopy, some F16/FA18’s from “Top Gun” schools in the USA to remind them to go with their instincts, not what it’s painted up like.

Setup an inter squadron competition with your neighbouring unit. Enter a team for a Wing competition. Embed some aircraft recognition into a fieldcraft exercise (we regularly have a “go to this location and recce the airfield” - when they get there there’s a simulated airfield made up of airfix kits or laminated photos laid out on the ground.

Once they get really good, use google earth images and start IDing the aircraft from overhead shots. There are some great places around the world to do this.

Steve’s quizzes are also a great idea. We have a couple where the cadets link aircraft to RAF stations and similar things. Again, these need not be standalone evenings, but sit embedded within other things like interflight quizzes or general service knowledge.

There are some great web resources you can use:

  • - a massive picture gallery of loads and loads of aircraft (inc a recce test)
  • youtube clips & channels
  • there’s an Air Forces Monthly forum somewhere
  • FighterControl
  • there’s probably more!

Hopefully that’s enough to get you started! Sorry for the lengthly post… and I’m not a true recce geek… I’m married*.

Any questions, please feel free to ask!

    • although my wife describes me as a “reformed geek”


Batfink, what an excellent + detailed answer, some great ideas.

Are you familiar at all with the WW2 aircraft charactures? Or the truly-bizarre ‘hidden silhouette’ cartoons, which if they could be updated to showing modern types, could be an excellent ‘hook’ for initially getting Cadets into recognition mode.

Your ideas about crop/ rotate/ shrink have really got me thinking.

And of course (and this is why I’m never going to make a million, giving away all my IPR)… this must be a classic ‘app gap’. Come on, all you budding ACO developers, be it Android Market or AppleStore…are you up for this?



Aircraft Recognition always irritates me; in my experience, it’s generally been a bit of a DIY job on Sqns. I agree, Batfink’s idea is superb, it needs to be interesting for the cadets, don’t just show them a series of pictures of aircraft and expect them to learn what they are.

I know that the Army and therefore I guess the other services, used to have properly structured Recognition lessons. Those of you who get Recognition Journal still will know how they build up a lesson on a particular aircraft; Introduction, Recognition Features and Don’t Confuse With sections if I recall.


There’s a specific Recognition course at Larkhill that you can do (if you really want). There certainly used to be a “proper”, progressive training syllabus available; although it was quite limited in it’s coverage - I’m not sure if this is still available, or whether it’s even delivered outside “specialist” trades. Recce Journal was axed a few years ago :frowning: Shame as it was a reasonable publication.


[quote=“wilf_san” post=3189]
And of course (and this is why I’m never going to make a million, giving away all my IPR)… this must be a classic ‘app gap’. Come on, all you budding ACO developers, be it Android Market or AppleStore…are you up for this?


I’ll have a play around and see what I can come up with (if anything).


Look forward to testing it for you Kiwi


No promises, my skill level is still fairly low. I’ll be trying to make this thing in Java so if anyone else is doing it, I’d love to work with you.


I have he job of delivering aircraft recce at our squadron. I’m a Service Instructor, and my job is actually incorporates aircraft recce, so I’m the obvious choice!! I’m an Intelligence Analyst, and we have a syllabus of around 650 pieces of military equipment that we have to learn. We learn stuff like Armour, and SAMs as well as aircraft. We have to score 80% every week.
The trick is to foster an interest. Most cadets are turned off my civilian aircraft, so focus on exciting aircraft like Fast Jets, other types can be incorporated later. Although lessons can be given, I’ve found at work that more learning takes place when random images are shown, and answers given. Move around the room, and ensure EVERY cadet is asked at some point. If they can’t answer then get them to point out distinguishing features, and try to get the to identify the ROLE of the aircraft. If they DO know the answer, the get them to say HOW they recognise it. They may have a useful way of remembering that aircraft that others haven’t thought of and may find useful. The other key is repetition. You can’t teach this every 6 months and expect it to sink in. We do it EVERY DAY at work!! I would suggest at least once a month if you want to see results.


In addition to the above from rafdaz, I try to get our cadets using the ‘WEFT’ principle to help out with aircraft that they don’t know in addition to the role that they carry out.

WEFT is a way of classifying and identifying aircraft by considering the Wings, Engines, Fuselage and Tail. For each element we consider the shape/style, mounting position, unusual features etc.


I have a copy of the entire WEFT brief as taught on the UKIAC (UK Imagery Analysis Course). I delivered the brief to our cadets and while it teaches how to DESCRIBE an aircraft that you don’t know, you are no closer to remembering the name!! WEFT is a tool used by the RAF to describe an unknown aircraft. It teaches the different types of wings etc, but doesn’t help put a name to an aircraft. Experience shows that most cadets can recognise aircraft, but can’t match the name to the shape.


"That’s an aircraft!

TBH, I’m not so sure about my lot :slight_smile:


If you show cadets 20 images, they will match aircraft that are the same (even if they are different shots), they just can’t recall what the name you told them was!


rafdaz, as you’ve been to Medmenham Wing, I guess that you’ll be familiar with mash etc :wink:

As I said, WEFT is just a tool, not the cure all.


MASH is for describing ships and WHAT is for armoured vehicles.




The powerpoint is the brief that is delivered to all military Imagery Analysts, and the Word doc is the accompanying handout.


An aside:

‘Recce’ is the British military abbreviation for ‘Reconnaissance’ not ‘Recognition’.