Rules of Military Heraldry

Official military patches must adhere to strict guidelines set by TIOH (The Institute Of Heraldry) and for USAF patches, AFHRA (Air Force Historical Research Agency). These guidelines apply to official squadron, group, and wing emblems. Your Aviator Gear wingman is an expert on these rules and regulations and will ensure your patch is manufactured within heraldry standards. When official military emblems are initially created and approved, a manufacturer’s diagram is produced. This diagram is a blueprint that details the shape, images, and specific thread colors. Your base historian will be able to provide a copy of this manufacturer's diagram.

The Basics of Military Heraldry

Heraldry as we know it today, began in the early 12th century as a way for knights and soldiers to distinguish the good guys from the bad guys. Emblems of the sovereign were painted on the shields of these knights so they didn’t go around clubbing the wrong guy on the head with a mace. While the suits of armor and shields have evolved to flight suits and MultiCam uniforms, the purpose of military heraldry remains constant. The Institute of Heraldry and AFHRA govern the standards for official unit emblems. Here are some of the basics of military heraldry to help you ensure that your patches are in compliance.


There are two colors that are mandatory on an official patch. Ultramarine Blue and Air Force Yellow. ( Please see our TIOH color chart for other TIOH colors ) The color of the main text and the color of the border of the patch should match.


Most official patches will have one or two scrolls for text, usually the unit designation and the squadron motto. The unit designation should always appear on the bottom scroll (AFI 84-105, paragraphs 3.4.1 and 3.4.2) and both scrolls must be the same size. The number of characters and spaces must not exceed 30 and the arc of the scroll may extend up to 90, 120, or 150 degrees.

Additional Resources

U.S. Air Force

U.S. Army

U.S. Marine Corps

U.S. Coast Guard

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