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Luftwaffe Symbols and Codes:

 Introduction: This is a basic introduction to what is an intricate subject. As such, it is intended to complement the pages dealing with RAF and USAAF codes. For specific information on Luftwaffe makings I would recommend Ruy Horta's Luftwaffe Page for precise details. While the system at first sight seems over elaborate it did provide a means for extremely accurate identification.

As the system for marking Luftwaffe aircraft was unique, it is necessary to describe a generalised command hierarchy. There were, of course many exceptions to the general rule, particularly late in the war.

 A Geschwader comprised 100-160 aircraft and was divided into 3-4 Gruppen each of approximately 30-40 aircraft. In turn each Gruppe was made up of 3 Staffeln, these having 12-16 aircraft. Gruppen and Staffeln were indicated by Roman and Arabic numerals respectively. Thus III./KG 26 indicates the third Gruppe of Kampfgeschwader 26, while 3./KG 26 denotes the third Staffel of the Geschwader.

 All aircraft, with the exception of Jagdgeschwader, which will be dealt with separately, normally displayed a four digit code, two forward and two aft of the Balkankreuz. The first two digits indicated the Geschwader. The third, usually colour coded, indicated the individual aircraft within the Staffel and the fourth denoted which Staffel and Gruppe within the Geschwader.

 The colour codes used were as follows: For simplicity these are roughly matched to RAF units of equivalent status.

 

3rd Digit

Blue Geschwader Stab (Group HQ )

Green Gruppe Stab (Wing HQ)

White 1,4,7,10, 13 Staffeln (Sqn)

Red 2,5,8,11,14 Staffeln (Sqn)

Yellow 3,6,9,12,15 Staffeln (Sqn)

    4th digit

Geschwader Stab

 Gruppe Stab

 Staffel

 Staffel

Staffel

Geschwader

A

Gruppe I

B

H (1)

K (2)

L (3)

Gruppe II

C

M (4)

N (5)

P (6)

Gruppe III

D

R (7)

S (8)

T (9)

Gruppe VI

E

U (10)

V (11)

W(12)

Gruppe V

F

X (13)

Y (14)

Z (15)

  Thus A1 KS indicates aircraft "K" of 8 Staffel III./KG 53

 

Geschwader Codes (not Jagdgeschwader)

Kampfgeschwader
(Bomber Units)

Kampfgruppen

Zerstörergeshwader
(Heavy Fighter Units)

Nachtjagdgeschwader
(Night Fighter Units)

KG 1

V4

KGr zbV 1

1Z

ZG1

2J

NJG 1 (Transient)

G9

H1

II./KG 1

3X

KG zbV 6

G6

ZG 1

6U

NJG 2 partial

4R

6M

KG 2

U5

KGr zbV 9

9P

ZG 2

2S

NJG 2

R4

4E

KG 3

5K

KGr zbV 108

I./ZG 2

3M

NJG 3

B4

5F

KG 4

5J

KGr zvV 126

1T

I./ZG 26

U8

NJG 3

D5

P2

KG 6

3E

KGr zbV 172

N3

II./ZG 26

3U

NJG 3

3J

4N

KG 27

1G

KGr zbV 172

L5

IV./ZG 26

4A

NJG 4

3C

5D

KG 27

1H

KGr zbV 172

4V

ZG 76

2N

NJG 5

C9

V7

KG 30

4D

KGr zbV 700

7V

I/ZG 52, II./ZG2

A2

NJG 6

2Z

8H

KG 51

9K

KGr zbV 800

8T

ZStaffel 210

2H

NJG 11

3W

H8

KG 53

A1

KGr 100

6N

Stukageschwader
(Stuka Units)

NJG 100

W7

6K

KG 54

B3

KGr 606

7T

I./St TrG 126

J9

NJG 101

9W

C2

KG 54

2F

I./StG 1

A5

NJG 102

7J

A6

KG 55

F8

StG 2

S1

NJG 200

8V

C6

KG 60

P1

KFGr 106

M2

StG 3

S7

NJGr 10 and NJ Stfl
Finland/ Norway

D9

7A

KG 66

Z6

I./KFGr 806,
II./KflGr 806

M8

II./StG 51

6G

NJStfl/KG 40
Kdo Kunkel

4C

E6

KG 76

F1

KFGr 406

K6

III./StG 51

6G

Nachtschlachtgruppe
(Night Ground Attack)

T6

KG 77

3Z

KFGr 506

S4

StG 77, SG 77

S2

NSGr 1

V8

F6

KG 100

6N

KFGr 706

61

LG 1

L1

NSGr 4

1K

4U

KG 101

5T

KFGr 806

M7

LG 2

L2

Transportgeschwader
Transport Units

G2

KG 200

A3

KFGr 906

8L

TG 1

1Z

SKG210

S9

LLG 1

H4

TG 2

8T

7R

Miscellaneous Units

Minesweeper Units

TG 4

4V

D1

Wetterstaffel 5

1B

Minensuchgruppe der Luftwaffe

3K

TG 5

J4

6R

Stabsschwarm Luftflotte 6

K1

TG 8

C8

6W

Non-operational

W1

TG 30

S3

X4

X Fliegerdivision Command

2P

Non-operational

W6

TG 290

J4

F7

X Fliegerkorps Command

P4

Non-operational

W8

TGr Herzog

6Z

K7

Non-operational

W9

TG zbV 600

6M

Sonderstaffel Tranzozean

P5

Bordfliegergruppe 196

T3

 

222 Lufttransportstaffel

X4

Bordfliegergruppe 196

6W

Kommando der Erprobungsstell

E7

J2

Wekusta 1

D7

Erprobungsgruppe 210

S9

9V

Wekusta 26

5M

Versuchsverband ObdL

T9

F2

T5

Kurierstaffel Finland

1R

Aufklärungsgruppen
(Reconnaisance Units)

Aufklärungsgruppe 10

H1

Aufklärungsgruppe 11

6M

Aufklärungsgruppe 13

4E

Aufklärungsgruppe 14

5F

Aufklärungsgruppe 21

P2

Aufklärungsgruppe 22

4N

Aufklärungsgruppe 31

5D

Aufklärungsgruppe 32

V7

Aufklärungsgruppe 33

8H

Aufklärungsgruppe 33

H8

Aufklärungsgruppe 41

6K

Aufklärungsgruppe 41

C2

Aufklärungsgruppe 120

A6

Aufklärungsgruppe 121

C6

3./Aufklärungsgruppe 121

7A

Aufklärungsgruppe 122

E6

Aufklärungsgruppe 122

T6

Aufklärungsgruppe 122

F6

Aufklärungsgruppe 123

4U

Aufklärungsgruppe 124

G2

Seeaufklärungsgruppen
(Maritime Reconnaisance)

Seeaufklärungsgruppe 125

7R

Seeaufklärungsgruppe 126

D1

Seeaufklärungsgruppe 127

6R

Seeaufklärungsgruppe 128

6W

Seeaufklärungsgruppe 129

X4

Seeaufklärungsgruppe 130

F7

NachtSeeaufklärungsgruppe ObdL

K7

Nahaufklärungsgruppe 8

6M

Nahaufklärungsgruppe 33

J2

Long-Range
Reconnaisance Units

Fernaufklärungsgruppe

J2

1./Fernaufklärungsgruppe 100

9V

Erganzungs-Fernaufklärungsgruppe

F2

1&2/Aufklärungsgruppe ObdL

T5

 

In addition to this coding system there were "Honour Titles", or named Staffeln

Geschwader Honour Titles were insignia in the form of shields or emblems displayed below the cockpit or on the forward fuselage. Some examples are shown below.

Jagdgeschwader

Kampfgeschwader

Zerstörergeschwader

JG 1 Oesau

KG 1 Hindenberg

ZG 1 Wespen

JG 2 Richthofen

KG 2 Holzhammer

ZG 26 Horst Wesel

JG 3 Udet

KG 3 Blitz

Aufklärungsgruppe

JG 5 Eismeer

KG 4 General Wever

10 Tannenberg

JG 26 Schlageter

KG 26 Löwen

124 Richthofen

JG 27 Afrika

KG 27 Boelke

Stukageschwader

JG 51 Molders

KG 30 Adler

StG 2 Immelmann

JG 53 Pik As

KG 51 Edelweiss

Schnellkampfgeschwader

JG 54 Grünherz

KG 53 Legion Kondor

SKG 210 Wespen

JG 77 Herz As

KG 54 Totenkopf

KG 55 Griefen

Jagdgeschwader:
Rather than the two digit code the Geschwader was indicated by the Geschwaderzeichen, or unit emblem. (Note: a Geschwaderzeichen was not necessarily an "Honour Title". A number was then displayed forward of the Balkankreuz in the staffel colour, or in black and outlined in the staffel colour. The exception being aircraft of IV Gruppe with plain black numbers. Aft of the Balkankreuz the Gruppe was indicated by the symbols in the left column below.

Further symbols, as seen in the right column, indicated the rank or appointment of the pilot.

 

Fuselage Markings Jagdwaffe

 

The diagram below then gives a coding for a fictitional Fw190 of Gruppen Kommandeur of II./JG 4., the aircraft being "No 8" assigned to the eighth Staffel. In reality, as both the Green 8 and the bar aft of the Balkankreuz indicate the Gruppe, the bar would likely not have been painted.

JG 4 Fw19 Outline

NB:
1. Not all Jabo Units displayed the bomb emblem.

2. Prior to October 1943 SchG 1 SchG 2 displayed a black triangle on one side or other of the Balkankreuz plus a letter in the Staffel colour. After 1943 this was changed to a coloured letter forward of the Balkankreuz with all other marks similar to the parent Jagdgeschwader.

Reichsverteidigungbande:
From 20/2/45 coloured bands were applied to the aft fuselage to identify aircraft deployed for the defence of the Reich . I strongly suggest the link at the top of the page for full details.on these and other more specific markings and insignia.
Note that in many cases the underside of the fuselage was painted varying shades to alert Ack-Ack gunners to friendly aircraft.