No, A U.S. F-15E Pilot Did Not Wear A “Russian Patch”: It’s Only A 492nd Squadron’s “Red Air” Patch
The “incriminated” photo of an F-15E pilot with a “Russian Patch” was published by the RAF Lakenheath’s Facebook page in a post about the Exercise Point Blank currently in progress in the UK.
The U.S. Air Force 48th Fighter Wing posted on its official Facebook page an interesting photo, showing an F-15 pilot wearing what many have called a “Russian Air Force patch” on the flight suit. The photo is part of a post about the Exercise Point Blank currently in progress in the UK, a recurring large force exercise designed and cohosted by the Royal Air Force and the 48th Fighter Wing.
Many reacted strongly to the photos, even calling the pilot “a traitor” because he was wearing “enemy’s insignias”. Upon a closer look, though, the patch was found to be only a patch used by the F-15E Strike Eagle pilots of the 492nd Fighter Squadron “Bolars” when flying as the Aggressors in the Red Air role during complex training missions like the ones of Exercise Point Blank.
The shield-shaped patch shows a Russian-made Su-27 Flanker on a blue background with a Russian flag and the Cyrillic writing “Russia” on the top and the number “492” on the bottom, closely resembling the insignia of the now deactivated 611th Fighter Aviation Regiment of the Russian Aerospace Forces.
We did some further research about this patch and it looks like it has been around for at least three years, as some copies of the patch (including some early variants which were corrected before the final version) were found in auctions on Ebay and a couple of other websites in 2018. The auctions’ descriptions stated: “492nd FS “Red Air” Flanker Aggressor patch. The term “Red Air” is used to describe the opposing fighter in air-to-air combat training. This patch is worn by aircrew flying the aircraft while using adversary tactics.” Others say it’s an “Air Policing” patch. Whatever, it’s certainly not a Russian patch.
It is not uncommon for pilots who fly the enemy’s role during training exercises to wear patches and helmet covers inspired by the insignias of the adversaries that they are simulating, it is almost “a tradition” that is found not only in the United States, but also in the rest of the world.
Some specialized units even replicate the adversaries’ insignias and liveries on their aircraft, like the Aggressor squadrons of the U.S. Air Force and Navy. This is not done to mock the adversary which inspired the Aggressor pilots, but to help the visual identification during training.