Squadron (aviation)

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A United States Air Force F-86 Sabre squadron during the Korean War, 1951

A squadron in air force, army aviation, or naval aviation is a unit comprising a number of military aircraft and their aircrews, usually of the same type, typically with 12 to 24 aircraft, sometimes divided into three or four flights, depending on aircraft type and air force. Land based squadrons equipped with heavier type aircraft such as long-range bombers, or cargo aircraft, or air refueling tankers have around 12 aircraft as a typical authorization, while most land-based fighter equipped units have an authorized number of 18 to 24 aircraft.

In naval aviation, sea based squadrons will typically have smaller numbers of aircraft, ranging from as low as 4 for early warning to as high as 12 for fighter/attack.

In most armed forces, two or more squadrons will form a group or a wing. Some air forces (including the Royal Air Force, Royal Netherlands Air Force, Belgian Air Component, German Air Force, Republic of Singapore Air Force, and United States Air Force) also use the term "squadron" for non-flying ground units (e.g., radar squadrons, missile squadrons, aircraft maintenance squadrons, security forces squadrons, civil engineering squadrons, operations management squadron, medical squadrons, etc.).

United States military air services[edit]

In contrast to United States Air Force units where flying squadrons are separate from supporting administrative and aircraft maintenance squadrons, flying squadrons in U.S. Naval Aviation (United States Navy and United States Marine Corps) typically contain both embedded administrative support functions and organizational level aircraft maintenance functions, plus all their associated personnel as part of the total squadron manning.

In United States Marine Corps Aviation the nomenclature "squadron" is also used to designate all battalion-equivalent, aviation support organizations. These squadrons include: wing headquarters, tactical air command, air control, air support, aviation logistics, wing support, and wing communications squadrons.

Also in contrast to USAF flying squadrons, most tactical sea-based and land-based U.S. Naval Aviation squadrons (USN and USMC), vice training squadrons and test and evaluation squadrons, usually do not have more than 12 aircraft authorized/assigned at any one time. Exceptions are USN helicopter mine countrmeasures squadrons (17 MH-53), USMC composite medium tilt-rotor squadrons (12 MV-22s, 6 AH-1s, 4 CH-53s, 3 UH-1s, and 6 AV-8s), heavy helicopter (16 CH-53s) and light/attack helicopter (18 AH-1s and 9 UH-1s) squadrons, and Marine attack squadrons (16 AV-8s).

Although part of U.S. naval aviation, United States Coast Guard aviation units are centered on an air station versus a squadron or group/wing organizational structure. The one exception to this is the Coast Guard's Helicopter Interdiction Squadron (HITRON), which is engaged primarily in counter-narcotics (CN) interdiction operations.

In U.S. Army Aviation, flying units may be organized in battalions or squadrons (air cavalry only) reporting to an aviation brigade.

Pattern in some NATO countries Rank level of
general or
commanding officer
British and
USAF and
Canadian German Air Force
Group Wing Air division no equivalent OF-6 or OF-7
Wing Group Wing Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader
(en: Operational AF-Wing)
OF-4 or OF-5
Squadron Staffel OF-3 or OF-4
Flight Schwarm / Kette OF-2


An escadron is the equivalent unit in France's Armée de l'Air. It is normally subdivided into escadrilles of eight aircraft.

In the Air Training Corps of the United Kingdom and many Commonwealth nations, a Squadron is a group of cadets who parade regularly.

In the U.S. Civil Air Patrol, a squadron is the basic administrative unit.

In the Swedish Air Force a helicopter squadron (helikopterskvadron) is a detachment from the "Helicopter Wing" (Helikopterflottiljen).[1] The Swedish Air Force in general is organised around two basic units, squadrons (referred to as "divisions" in Swedish) and wings (referred to as "flotillas"). Unlike the US Air Force, where the name of the base and the units stationed at that base are not related to each other, the name of the wing (flotilla) is in general considered synonymous with the air base where the unit is stationed. For example the air base where the F10 wing is stationed (in Ängelholm) is commonly referred to as F10 even though it is the name of the tactical unit. In general, this only applies as long as a wing is stationed at the base. Case in point is Uppsala-Ärna air base, an active military airport but since the tactical unit located there has been disbanded it is no longer referred to as F16. These naming conventions have been inherited from the navy where Swedish military aviation has its roots.


  1. ^ Helikopterflottiljen (in Swedish)