Insignia of the Hungarian AF: from the WWI until the present

http version of a paper published in Small Air Forces Observer, No 77

Insignia of the Hungarian AF changed frequently, following the complicated politics of Central Europe. Particularly interesting was the period between the wars when the officially banned AF was secretly developed.

Austria-Hungary period:

During the WWI a/c wore the black Cross Patee (later Balkan Cross) on white and red-white-red strips on the wing tips and the tail (on tail with the coat of arms for the Navy). No particular official Hungarian insignia was used in that time. The only exception was a proposed new Navy ensign, with an old Hungarian coat of arms added to the Austrian shield on the mid white strip on the tail (1915). Never made official, it appeared however on some of the large flying boats (1). Considering personal markings, Béla Macourek, CO of Flik 17, had red-white- green strips on the fuselage of his Aviatik DI, nr 338.02.

Hungarian Soviet Republic, 1918-1919:

By the decree (March 24, 1919) a/c of the Red AF were marked with red-white-green arrows of equal sides, painted on the fuselage and the wings. Red stars appeared on Apr 25, 1919. First as the well known red star in a white square, on wings, fuselage and rudder. Later on camou-flage squares were deleted and stars got thin outlines (2)(5)(6).

The beginning of the clandestine AF, 1919-1923:

AF units remained overt until Feb 1920, when the victorious powers banned all military flying. After the defeat of the Soviet Republic the Aviation Command of the Hungarian National Army had been reorganized as the Air Transport Dept of the Ministry of Commerce. The first director became col. Istvan Petróczy, ret., a former chief of Austria-Hungary AF training and supplies. AF had been concealed as MAEFORT (Magyar Aeroforgalmi Rt, Hungarian Aerotransport Holding Co.), with recon and bomber a/c classified as civil transport. The markings of that period (decree of Jan 20, 1920) became a H letter and a code (letters for a/c type and a serial number) in black on a white rectangle painted over the stars on fuselage and wings (3)(4).

By June 4, 1920 Peace Treaty had been signed in Trianon. Any kind of military flying and a/c manufacturing was banned. The full ban, planned for 6 months and many times prolonged, remained in force until the end of 1921. In the meantime the whole a/c industry and all found a/c had been destroyed.

AF in the hiding, 1923-1927:

The total ban had been relaxed in 1923, when sport aviation and transport a/c production began (supervised and limited to 60 HP/ person, 600 kg load, speed 170 km/h, level 4000 m and 4 hour of fuel).

On Apr 28, 1923 Secretary of Commerce issued the first regulation (nr. 45.340) concerning the a/c markings. All a/c were to wear registration in the form of 'H-Mxxx'. It was painted in black on a white background, on the lower surfaces of the lower wings and on the upper surfaces of the upper wings for biplanes, on both sides for the monoplanes (H-M on the one side, 3 letters on the other), and on the fuselage. The height of the letters (h) on wings was 4/5th of the wing's chord, on the fuselage 4/5th of its thinnest cross section. The letters were 2h/3 wide, h/6 thick and spaced half letter wide. The hyphen's width was maximized in a single letter's width. The registration of all of the a/c beside the government owned and those of the transport companies was underlined (line h/6 thick and in h/6 distance from the letters). It was also possible to paint the letters in white on black on the lower surfaces. The new registration had been issued also for the secret military trainers, flying until that time without any markings (8)(9).

To evade the supervision Air Transport Dept (secret AF Command) was reorganized by Apr 5, 1924 (decree nr 45.179/1924) as the Aerial Office of the Ministry of Commerce (KM Légügyi Hivatala - LÜH). For secret military trainers Air Office introduced separate serials. Col. Petróczy, author of the Austria- Hungary's 4 digit serials (factory, a/c type, place of serial production and in-series digit) adopted a similar scheme for the LÜH. Secret manufacturing planes foresaw thee factory's codes as follows: 1-MÁG (Mátyásföld), 2-Weiss Manfréd Fact. (Csepel), 3-ReGJÜ (Sóstó, Székes-fehérvár).

LÜH serials were painted in a 50 cm x 20 cm rectangle, in the middle of both sides of the tail (12), (14)(15). The first covert AF units have been created in 1926-1927, and were equipped uniformly with Lóczy Hungária a/c (with parame-ters acc. to the limitations). AF sqns were organized under cover of the Government Pilot School (REGVI) in Szombathely, Debrecen Aero Club (DAC) in Debrecen, Mátravidéki Aero Club (MAC) in Miskolc, Somogymegyei Aero Club (SAC), and in addition under the cover of Sport Flying Assoc. of the Tech. Univ. of Budapest (MSrE) and Budapest Sport Assoc. in Mátyásföld (BSE). From 1925 in the school in Szombathely 5 Udet 12a and 5 Bristol School a/c were used without any registration, only small 'a-e' gotic letters were painted on the Udet tails (10), and capital 'A-E' letters on the tails of the Bristol a/c.

Development after relaxation of control, 1928-1938:

The limitations were relaxed by 1927. From the beginning of 1928 Weiss Manfréd A/c and Motor Factory (Weiss Manfréd Repülôgép és Motorgyár) started production of various Fokker and Heinkel types, Jupiter motors, etc. The first Weiss Manfréd (WM) Heinkel HD-22 left factory on May 1, 1928. The number of the staff of the secret AF increased to 1174 (3 recon sqns (Fokker C.V.), 1 experimental fighter sqn (Fokker DVI, DVII, DXVI), 1 experimental transport (bomber) sqn (Fokker FVII, FXI, FVIII), 2 school sqns (Hungária, Udet, HD-22). In 1929 first Italian bombers and fighters arrived (Caproni Ca-101, Fiat Cr-20) and from 1930 LÜH staff got military-like uniforms. LÜH serials became standard from 1927 and until 1932 they were always painted beside the civil registration.

During secret exercises in summer 1931 (crypt. "Csaba"), as a temporary military insignia a double (St Stephen's) cross was adopted, painted on the tricolor (7). Next year in the autumn, during another exercise (crypt. "Sólyom" - "Hawk"), a roundel was used, with green double cross on a white background in red outer ring, painted on wings and fuselage. The tail wore the Hungarian tricolor (13). It was also planned for "Alert" mobilization, actually it was later never used.

The LÜH serials were important for a/c used entirely within the borders (secret AF). The tails were already painted in tricolor, the civil markings however were painted small under the LÜH serials, which made the a/c difficult to be recognized. The usage of the tricolor on the a/c flying abroad, due to the protests of the neighboring countries, was prohibited. Those a/c had a large H letter on the rudder (LÜH decree from 1932) (9). Regulation from May 5, 1933 changed the form of the civil registration to 'HA-xxx'. The painting of the large H on the tail and the underlining of the registration had been cancelled.

Due to the volumenous Italian import in 1934, and due to the difficulty with reading LÜH serials from a distance, large digits were used on the sides and the top of the fuselage (Ca.101/3m, Cr-20, Cr-32), acc. to the place in the formation. This formation numbers were totally unrelated to the LÜH, or civil registration (12)(65). Limited home production and an increased import led to the redefinition of the LÜH serials acc. to the source of the a/c and its task. Development a/c got the source & task digits increased by 100. Transport and military a/c wore thus 4 digits, the development types 5 digits and the school a/c only 3.

Decree of the Secretary of Commerce from 1937 (nr 70.200/1937) declared the return of the tricolor on the tail of all civil a/c. A/c belonging to the secret AF wore similar colors, they had however no large civil registration. On those a/c civil registration was painted, as before, under the LÜH serials (14)(15). Military a/c were thus difficult to distinguish. Units started to identify them with squadron codes painted behind the cabin on the fuselage (e.g. 1/5 for the 5th sqn of the 1st Fighter Group). Also in that time squadrons developed their own colorful squadron markings (12). That system remained until the creation of an overt AF in 1938. In 1937 (Munich crisis) some military a/c were camouflaged (Ju 86, WM 21), others remained in silver finish.

Overt AF, 1938-1939:

On Apr 22, 1936 Hungarian Secretary of State announced the country's demand for the equal rights to the arms. Later, on Aug 20-23, 1938, the Small Entente (Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and Rumania) signed an agreement with Hungary approving the equal rights to the arms and renouncing the mutual violence. Hungary was entitled among others to an overt AF, which by Jan 1, 1939 - as the Royal Hungarian Air Force (Honvéd Légierő - became an independent branch of the Armed Forces (Honvédség).

As the first insignia red-white-green chevron was chosen (red outermost), with standard proportions (heigth:base=2:1), painted on wings and tail (decree of the Secretary of Defence, Aug 23, 1938, nr 30.418/1938) (16)(17)(18)(19). Measured along the chevron base (b), the width of the red strip was b/8, and the base of the green triangle b/4. On the lower/ upper surfaces its place was in the distance 1/7th of the wing's span from the wingtip, on the tail at the mid height over the tail planes, with vertex in the direction of flight. On a/c with multiple tails the chevron was painted on the external surfaces of the outermost rudders.

In addition, a modified version of LÜH serials was introduced, consisting of a letter and 3 digits. The letter designated the purpose (V-Vadász (fighter), B-Bombázó (bomber), F-Felderítő (recon), G-Gyakorló (trainer), I-Iskola (school), K-Kikepzo (basic trainer), etc.), the digits meant the order in which various types (1st digit) and particular a/c (remainig digits) had been put into service. The dimensions of the serials and their placement varied acc. to the a/c type. Silver finish disappeared finally in Oct, 1938, when the occupation of the Slovak territory began. Camouflage was applied accordingly to the local means and likes, and brought a diversity of patterns and colors.

WWII, 1939-1945:

When Hungary joined Germany against Yugoslavia (Apr 6, 1941), Hungarian a/c serving in the conflict got so called unified Axis anti-aircraft markings (yellow motor cowling, tail and under wingtips (from the wing tip to the chevron), and also a 50 cm wide band on the fuselage just behind the cabin (order nr 108.888)). The reason was quit a number of modern German-made a/c in active service in the RYAF. In a matter of weeks the chevron was reinstalled on the tail, leaving only the fuselage band and the yellow cowling. After June 19, 1941 yellow band was moved to the leading edge of the tail planes. Order (nr 56097) regulated the painting of the serials disturbed by the ring.

After the declaration of war against Soviet Union it turned out that visibility of chevron was poor and many times German pilots shot at the Hungarian. In addition, the German pressed for the unified insignia for all of the Axis powers. For Hungary they even proposed to reintroduce the Cross Patee. General Staff of the RHAF, on the other hand, proposed insignia (20) (white cross framed in black in a green square framed red, decree nr 59.120/ 1941). Experi-ments shown that in this form colors are difficult to be recognized. Insignia in (21) had been proposed by the AF Command. It differed from the German ones at least in the inversion of colors. As the purposeful emphasis of the nationality both the General Staff and the AF Command proposed the tricolor on the tail planes (22). The dimensions were only approximate, and had to be defined for each a/c type.

The new insignia had been finaly approved by Mar 12, 1942 as a white cross on a black square, on wings and fuselage, and a tricolor on the tail with the red innermost on tail planes (decree nr 142.415/1942) (24). Units markings remained as they were. The decree did not regulate the differences in dimensions due to the a/c type. The outer border of the insignia was at the 1/7th of the wing span, measured from the wingtip. Symmetry line of the cross was the longitudinal bisecting line of the wing. For monoplanes the upper and lower insignia matched each other. For biplanes they were in 1/7th-1/7th on the upper and the lower wing span, respectively. On the fuselage the insignia were in the midpoint between the trailing edge of the wing and the entering edge of the tail planes. The national colors were parallel to the longitudinal axis of the a/c (23). The width of the strips was 1/3rd of the vertical cord of the tail (the 1/3rd division of colors was kept also on the tail planes), but for larger a/c it was maximized in 40 cm (28)(29). On a/c with double tails tricolor was painted only on the external surfaces. If the insignia on the fuselage coincided with the serials, the digits had to be moved forward inbetween the insignia and the nose of the a/c (27).

Decree regulated the order of the national colors with figures. There were squadrons, however, which did not obtain the full decree directly, or had been notified about the change only verbally. It happened thus that the tricolor had been painted inverted on the tail planes, (25, right). It was used in this form on Héja a/c of the "Humble-bee" 1/5 sqn on the Eastern Front. Not proved, but probable, that this arrangement had been used during the first training on Bf-109F-4B-s on the Eastern Front (Nov 1942 - Feb 1943). On those a/c all other insignia remained German, only tricolor indicated Hungarian sovereignty (39).

Two versions of the cross (larger: 104 cm x 104 cm, 30 cm wide in a 120 cm x 120 cm black square and smaller: 68 cm x 68 cm, 20 cm wide, in a 80 cm x 80 cm square) were pain-ted in 3 configurations on wings and fuselage (decree nr 53.547/ 1942).

Both crosses were small on: Ar-96, Bü-131, He-112, Fw-56, Me- 108, Fi-156, Fokker C.V.D., Solyóm, He-46, Bp9, Bp14, Cr-42, Cr-32, Cr-30, Ro-41, Ro-37, Br-25 and HD-22.

Large crosses on wings, small ones on fuselage were on: He-70, Fw-58, Héja and Ca-135.

Both crosses were large on: He-111, Ju-86, Ju-87, Ju-52 and Ca-101.

As the dimensions of the crosses were fixed, on many a/c the yellow ring had to be moved and touched the cross side-by-side (30)(31).

Toward the end of the war insignia differed in form and dimensions from those regulated by the decree. In Aug 1944, when Rumania left the Axis powers, the German and the Hungarian a/c in the front service got on the lower left wing an inverted white or yellow 'V' letter pointed backward (31)(34)(36). From Oct 1944 RHAF got more German a/c. The German cross was usually overpainted and the white cross made gray for lower visibility (38)(40). (Note a very thin black border of the cross on the wings (63). Occasionally also the white in the tail tricolor was tonned down (64). Later German insignia was often left untouched (36). From winter 1944 the tricolor on the tail was usually reduced or entirely disappeared (33)(35)(38). E.g. on Fw-190 red-white-green strips were only on 1/3rd of the rudder, with the German swastika stil on the tail (26)(31)(34). By that time the colors were not painted any more on the tail planes. By the end of the war the 102. Fighter Bomber Group received Fw-190F-8 bombers. The first 18 a/c were received in Oct 1944 by 102/1 "Pavian" sqn, the following 18 in Dec 1944 - Jan 1945, by 102/2 "Puli" sqn (W.501- W.572). Serials were painted black only on the first 18 a/c (31). On the second batch of 18 a/c the last two digits of the serials were painted white on the motor cowling (31)(34). To paint over the 36 a/c received after Jan 1945 was not possible. They flew partly with German markings, with only white serials (from 37 to 72) on the cowling (36).

From the end of 1944 a/c were marked only by small serials painted behind the pilot's cabin, e.g. the last Bf-109 a/c manufactured in Győr (MWG) wore only those markings. At the end of the war, due to a number of a/c got from the German, the factory issued serial system collapsed, and the choice of the serials was left to the units. Also due to the cold and the lack of materials, German markings on the received aircraft were left as they were. The swastika was occasionally painted over with lime.

Additional notes:

Postwar period, 1948-1951:

The flight ban for Hungary had been lifted by the Allied Control Committee in June 1947, however only 7 motor a/c had been put together from wrecks. The first AF sqn (5 Bü-131) had been organized by Oct 1, 1947. The first official markings (of the Hungarian People's Army) were described by a decree (Apr 14, 1948, Honvédségi Közlöny, 1948, nr 12) as a red roundel with a white triangle inscribed, and a green circle inscribed into the triangle, and tricolor on the tail planes (41)(42)(43). The roundel was painted on upper and lower wings, its center in 1/6th of the wing span, measured from the wingtip. Diameter of the roundel was half of the wing chord in that place.

Registration was painted on both sides of the fuselage, starting from the trailing edge of the wing. It consisted of a capital letter stating the purpose of the a/c, a hyphen and a serial number of the a/c (3 digits) (I-Iskola (school), G-Gyakorló (trainer), S-Szállító (transport), etc.). Letters and digits were painted for small a/c within an area of 20 cm x 30 cm, for larger ones within a 35 cm x 50 cm rectangle. The size of the letters and the spacing were 5 cm and 8 cm respectively.

Various numbers had been reserved for the particular a/c types: from 001 on were used on special purpose a/c or for a/c manufactured in a single exemplar. EM 29 "Csoka" (Jackdaw) has been restored in Sept 1948 in the Aero Ever factory in Esztergom. It appeared for the first time with the I-001 registration in documents dated Nov 11, 1948. R-18A "Kánya" (Kite), registration I-002, has been manufactured in the Aero Ever factory for military order (first flown on March 18, 1949). 003 registration was not used, probably reserved for the SG-2 prototype, ordered from the Dunai a/c factory on June 25, 1948. 009 was neither used, possibly reserved for the ordered second (this time metal wing) exemplar of SG-2. From the 35 UT-2 type soviet trainers, received on Sept 10, 1948 at Mátyásföld 2 a/c could have been used only on the ground, as ground trainers (I-010, I-011). In the first independent a/c workshop and in Dunai a/c factory, between 1948-1949, more Arado Ar-.96A "Varjú" (Crow) and Arado Ar-96B "Holló" (Raven) trainers had been restored from the wartime scraps. Those a/c got G-301-306, and G-361 registration. 20 Avia C-2 (Ar-96B) got registration from G-351 on and from G-362 on.

Insignia and markings introduced in 1948 have been changed by the Army Command on Nov 15, 1949. The insignia were almost the same as that of Lebanon, on the other hand, the Command wanted to express the shift in political power by introduction of the red star. The modifying decree appeared in the Honvédségi Közlöny 1949, nr 34. The new insignia were a red star inscribed into a ring of national tricolor, painted on upper and lower wings, fuselage and tail (44)(45)(46). The outer diameter of the ring, for small a/c, was 60 cm, for medium ones 80 cm and for large ones 100 cm (with the inner diameter of the ring 40-60-80 cm respectively). The 20 cm ring was divided into equally wide red-white-green strips, red the outermost. Register numbers were painted 10 cm under the tail planes, ending with its starting edge, within a 10 cm x 31 cm rectangle.

The insignia were changed shortly thereafter. On Jan 5, 1950 it was ordered that insignia should not be painted on the upper wings. The regulation wasn't however always kept. On the tail insignia moved approximately to the center. On some a/c insignia on the fuselage were smaller, than those on the wings and the tail. They were painted however on all a/c.

It turned out that the register number is too small to identify a particular a/c. Due to this reason 2 larger identification digits were painted on the fuselage by the units. Their placement varied, they were painted just after the insignia, more often in the midpoint between the insignia and the starting edge of the tail planes. The size of the digits was generally by 20- 30% larger than the diameter of the insignia (47). On most a/c that number was not related to the register number (it served only the identification within the unit).

Register number, which had lost its original function, was finally deleted. Order (nr. 012, Apr 24, 1950) regulated, that a/c should be identified by its manufacturing number. Its last 2, 3, even 4 digits were painted with rounded or squared numerals in red, with white border, on the fuselage.

In summer 1950 the Anti-aircraft Command signaled, that the insignia, over certain distance, are difficult to be distinguished from the Yugoslavian ones. On a meeting held on July 6, 1950 it was decided, that due to the economic reason, the form of the insignia will be kept, only star will be enlarged with points sticking out of the tricolor ring. It was painted for trials on a single a/c, but proved not suitable for the purpose.

Star period, 1951-1990:

The final version of the star was decided on June 16, 1951, when the red star was introduced, with an inscribed white and green circle (50),(48). shows an early or mispainted (?) form of this insignia. The dimensions of the star were the same as those of the ring insignia (diameter of 60-80-100 cm). The diameter of the inscribed white circle was 20-27-33 cm, that of the green circle 10-14-17 cm respectively. The star had 1 cm wide white border and was painted on the wings, fuselage and tail.

Revolution of 1956:

During the Hungarian Revolution in the Oct-Nov 1956 a temporary insignia in the form of a rectangle with the national tricolor were painted on some a/c in place of the stars (51)(52)(49). There are also known photos of the a/c bearing national tricolor in a triangular shape (Jak-11 trainer) (55), or even chevron-like insignia (53)(54).

The present, 1990-:

During the visit of the papal legate in the autumn 1990 the formation of 3 Mi-8S helicopters was detached for his use. A temporary chevron-like roundel was painted on these a/c, in the normal positions on back fuselage and belly (56)(58). These helicopters were also used for liaison purposes in time of the first independent elections. In the newspapers the return of the chevron was officially announced, however nothing more did appeared on the a/c. Those helicopters were also visible during the taxi drivers' blockade, in 1990, and temporary insignia were visible also on the tail on MiG-21 PFM, photographed in the Pápa AB (57).

The long due break with the red star and the reinstallation of a more national insignia had happened finally in the beginning of 1991 (master patterns prepared by Jan 31, 1991, painting work to be finished by Mar 31, 1991). The form and the position of the new insignia were regulated by the Chief AF Commander's order (no 12/1991). The new insignia are in the form of triangle, containing the national tricolor and with a 1 cm white border. The height of the triangle is two times the triangle base. Along its sides there are red and white strips, of the width of 1/6th of the triangle base. The remaining area of the triangle is green. The height of the triangle (without white border) is 800 mm. The insignia are painted on the particular a/c types in places specified by the decree, in such a way, that the vertex of the triangle points toward the direction of flight, the axis of the triangle is parallel to the longitudinal axis of the a/c. Insignia are painted on the upper and lower surfaces of the wings. On the a/c with adjustable wing angle the insignia are painted in 45o wing position in case of Mig-23 and in 63o wing position in case of Su-22.