Each color indicates the function of that sailor on the ship's flight deck

The meaning of the different colors of the flight personnel on warships

If you have ever seen images of the flight decks of an aircraft carrier or other warships you will have noticed that there are sailors wearing vests of different colors.

The colorful Spanish detail of the caps of the destroyer USS Carney of the US Navy
NAVSTA Norfolk: a reportage on the world’s largest warship base

Each of those colors explains the role of the member in question of the ship’s flight personnel. This is a color code known as “Rainbow Wardrobe” by the US Navy, and also used by other NATO navy, including the Spanish Navy, with the same meanings. Below you can see what each color means.

Blue

Movement team. They are in charge of the chocks and the chains that serve to immobilize the aircraft on the flight deck. They are also responsible for the movement of aircraft on the flight deck, elevators and hangar deck, as well as cargo operations with aircraft. In the image, two members of the USS Chancellorsville (CG 62) missile cruiser movement crew of the US Navy carrying an Mk-105 lifting sling, which serves for helicopters to lift loads with their ventral hook, on July 15 2019 during a deployment on the north coast of Australia (Photo: US Navy).

White

Security and flight control team. This team includes the flight safety officer and non-commissioned officer, including the LSO (Landing Signal Officer), the aircraft inspectors of each embarked air unit, the quality control personnel of the aircraft and the personnel in charge of liquid oxygen. They also wear white vests, the toilets and all the officers or non-commissioned officers who do not have an assigned mission while they are on the flight deck. In the image, Captain Nicholas Dienna, of the USS aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) flight safety crew, greets Admiral John Richardson upon his arrival on the ship on November 22, 2018 (Photo: US Navy).

Yellow

Directors of aircraft movement on the flight deck. This team includes the non-commissioned movement officers and the directors of landings, also known as LSE (by Landing Signal Enlisted), which direct pilots on take-off, approaches, landings and stops. In the image, two movement directors of the USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) amphibious assault ship of the US Navy direct the landing of an MV-22 Osprey of the Marines on September 18, 2017 in the Caribbean Sea (Photo: US Navy).

Red

Armament, EOD and damage control team. It is the flight deck team that has the most dangerous job. They are responsible for the storage, maintenance, assembly, movement and docking of weapons in aircraft, and also to munition both aircraft with helicopters that have cannons and machine guns. For the movement of the arms the aircraft carriers have small elevators that lead to the flight deck. Red also identifies EOD personnel (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) and damage control personnel, responsible for fire and rescue work in the event of a fire being declared on the flight deck. In the photo, two gunsmiths of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) of the US Navy dock an inert version (the blue strip identifies the practice weaponry) of the AGM-65 Maverick laser-guided air-surface missile on the pillar of a F/A-18A Hornet fighter bomber in the Atlantic Ocean on August 15, 2013 (Photo: US Navy).

Purple

Fuel supply team. They are responsible for carrying out and controlling fuel mixtures and also for fueling in aircraft and also in special vehicles used in hangar and flight decks to tow on aircraft. In the US Navy they are known as the “Grapes”. In the photo, a “Grape” of the USS Barry destroyer (DDG 52) shows the fuel mixture to the crew of a Sea Hawk MH-60R helicopter before proceeding to supply the fuel to the aircraft. This visual inspection is always carried out before refueling. The photo was taken during a deployment in the Philippine Sea on September 21, 2016 (Photo: US Navy).

Green

Maintenance, electronics and electricity, cargo handling, catapults, storing cables and photography team. It is undoubtedly one of the teams with the most varied tasks. In the US aircraft carriers, this personnel is responsible for maintaining and operating the steam catapults (and in the future, the magnetic ones) with which the fixed-wing airplanes are launched, and also deal with the four cables that stop the planes on deck when landing. The green staff also has the mission of discharging static electricity from the helicopters before depositing a load, using a pole (if it did not, the static generated by the helicopter’s rotors could cause an electrocution). In the US Navy, the LSEs in charge of helicopters also wear green vests. In the image, USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) aircraft carrier maintenance personnel unload mail packages from a Sea Dragon MH-53E helicopter during a deployment in the Persian Gulf on August 13, 2015.

Brown

Aircraft captains. They are officers and non-commissioned officers who are in charge of checking and preparing the aircraft for the flight and checking them when they return to the ship. This equipment also includes aircraft servants, maintenance and repair officers of aircraft and helicopters on the flight line. This personnel belongs to each embarked air unit. In the US Navy the name of the captain of each aircraft even appears on the gates of the front train of the aircraft, to indicate the aircraft assigned. In the photo, an aircraft pattern next to a F/A-18E Super Hornet fighter bomber aboard the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) aircraft carrier of the US Navy (Photo: US Navy).

Main photo: US Navy. US Navy aircraft carrier personnel Carl Vinson (CVN 70) of the US Navy honors Japanese Rear Admiral Kajimoto Daisuke during a visit to that ship on March 27, 2017.

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