19 Codes That Only Fighter Jet Pilots Know About

In a way, fighter pilots are legends. After all, they get to do a lot of cool things while serving and defending an entire country. Imagine being tasked to zoom into the sky and conduct air reconnaissance missions that make you feel like you’re in a James Bond movie. And then, imagine being asked to shoot some missiles at enemy aircraft, enemy warships or just general bad guys.

Yes, all of these activities are part of a fighter pilot’s regular task. However, as an article from fighter pilot Nate S. Jaros reveals on FighterSweep.com, their lives are not as glamorous as we civilians might imagine.

For starters, Jaros admits that there is a lot of planning involved. As he explained, “When you find yourself scheduled to fly, you need to begin mission planning. Depending on what kind of mission you are on, and your position in the two-ship or four-ship you will get in touch with the other members of your flight (and possibly any adversaries too) and begin planning.” From here, the pilots would also undergo flight briefing. As Jaros has pointed out, this is “the most important part of the mission, even more so than the in-flight execution to a degree.”

As you can see, getting a mission right is something that Jaros and other fighter pilots take seriously. Something else that they would never take for granted is their codes. After all, this allows them to understand each other completely while executing an objective.

Curious to know a bit more about these codes? Well, lucky for you, we have compiled some that you would find quite interesting.

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19 RTB

via pinterest

RTB is simply code for the instruction return to base. During a mission or deployment, fighter pilots can spend a good deal of time in the air. They can be tasked to perform reconnaissance missions or provide fire support to an ongoing operation in the field. On the other hand, fighter jets may also be asked to take part in an ongoing series of exercises.

Once a pilot has already done his job, they usually asked to make a return to their base as soon as possible.

On the other hand, there may also be other situations that would require a fighter pilot to return to its base as urgently as they can. For starters, it is possible for a fighter jet to experience certain problems while in the air. In which case, it would be best to put the jet down and have the problem fixed urgently before it gets any worse. In other cases too, the fighter jet could have suffered a hit and must return to base immediately before it no longer becomes flyable.

18 Punch Out

via shutterstock

Punch out is a code that refers to a fighter pilot ejecting from his or her plane. As you might have guessed, this is the last thing that any fighter pilot would want to do. Nonetheless, they may be faced with certain critical situations where this is the only viable course of action that they can take.

According to a report from Popular Mechanics, a pilot can eject from his or her fighter jet by pulling on one or both of the two levers that are positioned on the sides of the seat. As they do this, “charges fire to blow the aircraft canopy and then rocket boosters under your *** take the whole seat, with you in it, up and out of the jet.” Once out of the jet, the pilot would rely on the parachute he or she is wearing to float to safety.

17 Texaco

via youtube.com

The code Texaco can mean two things. First, it can be referring to a label for the tanker. In which case, the pilot may receive a communication that sounds like, “Starsky, your signal is Texaco.”

On the other hand, this code might also refer to a direction for the pilot to go over to the tanker. If this is the case, the communication would be something like, “Starsky, Texaco is at your three o’clock for three miles, level.”

Typically, fighter jets refuel in the air to be able to extend the range of the aircraft. This can be urgently needed if the fighter jets are still involved in an urgent mission and asking them to return to base would just compromise the tactical advantage or objective.

16 Vapes

via theaviationist.com

The code vapes refers to the condensation cloud that a jet fighter creates when it pulls out a significant amount of G-forces. According to a report from New Scientist, a fighter jet can typically pull up to 9 g vertically. And while this might be good news as far as jet fighter capability is concerned, it is worth noting that all the G-force is not good for the pilot.

As New Scientist has explained, “Our tolerance of g-forces depends not only on the magnitude and duration of the acceleration or deceleration but also on the orientation of our body.” The body is most vulnerable to a force that is acting towards the feet since this tends to send the blood away from the brain. If you experience five to 10 seconds of 4 to 5 g vertically, you can end up with tunnel vision and loss of consciousness soon after.

Essentially, the more G-force a pilot can take without blacking, the better chances they stand in dogfights.

15 Nose Hot/Cold

via huskit.net

Nose hot/cold is a code that is “usually used around the tanker pattern, an indication that the radar is or isn’t transmitting.” It’s safe to say the radar is the primary sensor of any fighter aircraft.

Hence, if it is not transmitting, it can mean some serious problems for a fighter pilot. This is especially true if the pilot is currently engaged in a mission or even a tactical exercise.

Todays, radars onboard a modern fighter jet have become more sophisticated and essential. Aside from using them for communication purposes, radars can also be utilized in a mission to jam the communication networks of the enemy or even collect critical information regarding both enemy sensors and communications.

As you can see, without a functioning radar, it would be hard for any fighter jet to maintain tactical advantage in the skies.

14 Bogey

via airforcesmonthly.keypublishing.com

Bogey is probably a code that you have heard several times in various action movies. However, you might still be surprised at what it really means. Bogey is a code that refers to “an unknown radar contact.” A bogey is something that the forces of the world take seriously because it can indicate the presence of a hostile aircraft. On the other hand, it is also possible that bogey is just a false blip on the radar display.

According to Tech Target, there are generally two types of bogies. The first one is the bogey that would occur due to a real irrelevant or identified object. These are known as real bogies. On the other hand, there is also a type of bogey that which occurred without any concrete external object. These are known as imaginary bogies.

13 Bandit

via pinterest.com

Now, bandit is one code that we feel you should have been familiar with this whole time. After all, this code simply refers to a known bad person or enemy. According to Christian Fighter Pilot, a jet pilot would use the term bandit to refer to an enemy aircraft or any other adversary in non-flying scenarios.

However, it is unclear if they use the code bandit to indicate that they have spotted a target during a training exercise or a real-life mission.

Regardless of the case, it is safe to assume that a fighter pilot would automatically become more vigilant in the presence of an enemy. This is especially true if the adversary has a known anti-aircraft device or if the known enemy is an aircraft within their vicinity. In the case of the latter, it is almost certain that a dogfight would break out.

12 Spiked

via wikimedia.org

For the record, the code spiked has nothing to do with volleyball. Instead, spiked is a code that services as “an indication of a missile threat on the radar warning receiver.” In this case, a communication may go something like, “Hutch has an SA-6 spike at two o’clock.”

Firing on another fighter jet in the air typically requires the utilization of the onboard radar. As a report from Gizmodo has explained, “Radar is just radio waves, and just as your FM radio converts radio waves into sound, so can an aircraft analyze incoming radio signals to figure out who's doing what.” This is known as a radar warning receiver or RWR and it has both audio and video components.

11 Delta

via wikimedia.org

Perhaps, delta is a code that would leave you slightly confused. This is because it refers to a “change to a later time, either minutes or hours depending on the context.” If it were to be used in a sentence, it would be like, “Delta 15 on your recovery time.” That would indicate that the fighter jet is now scheduled to land 15 minutes later.

The context of a change in time may well depend on the current situation that the fighter jet in question is facing. It can be due to an ongoing mission wherein a fighter jet and the rest of its squadron is being asked to extend their time in the skies.

On the other hand, a change in time may also occur in case a fighter jet is asked to conduct further reconnaissance in a given territory. Meanwhile, a delta code can also be raised while a fighter jet is in the middle of an exercise.

10 Blind

via tallyone.com

Blind is a worrisome code for any fighter pilot. According to a report, this indicates that the pilot’s wingman is currently not in sight.

A wingman refers to a pilot who is flying an aircraft that is positioned behind and outside the leading fighter jet in a formation. The purpose of a wingman is to provide the lead aircraft with protective support throughout a mission.

Should a fighter pilot’s wingman disappear while in the middle of a mission, it could be a serious cause for concern. This could indicate that the wingman has experienced problems with his or her own aircraft. Worse, it could also mean that the wingman has been shot down.

9 Firewall

via aviation.stackexchange.com

The code firewall has absolutely nothing to do with providing a home with some wall protection in case a fire breaks out in the neighborhood. On the other hand, this code also has nothing to do with the cyber protection that you might employ to protect your computer and other smart gadgets against malware, virus, hacking and other types of cybersecurity issues.

Instead, the code firewall refers to a fighter pilot pushing the throttles all the way to their forward limit. When used in a sentence, a fighter pilot might also opt to use the code in past tense especially if he was giving feedback after completing a mission. In this case, firewall would become firewalled.

8 Buster

via youtube.com

No, buster is certainly not a name of a mascot in the air force (although that certainly would be hilarious). Instead, buster serves for quite an important code among fighter pilots especially when they are in the middle of an important mission.

This is because buster is code for the direction you are instructed to fly to as fast as possible. Buster would be used in a sentence such as, “Starsky, your signal is buster to mother.”

Indeed, we can think of a number of plausible situations wherein a fighter pilot would be instructed to buster while it is still in flight. One of the most critical reasons is if the pilot’s jet fighter has sustained some major damage that could significantly cripple its functions. In this case, it would be best to have the fighter jet return to base before a pilot loses complete control over it.

7 Bug

via taufikwawan.blogspot.com

Believe it or not, a bug in fighter jet speak does not refer to any insect at all. Instead, it refers to a situation wherein a fighter pilot is to exit a dogfight as quickly as possible. The code word bug may be used in a sentence such as, “Hutch is on the bug.”

To a civilian, the thought of jet fighters dogfighting in the air might sound cool. However, as many fighter pilots know, this can also be seriously dangerous.

In a dogfight, pilots have to be able to survive crazy G-forces and avoid passing out. If they can do this, they have a better chance of surviving fire from enemy aircraft. They also stand a better chance of being able to pull away from the situation quickly.

6 Grape

via isanook.com

When a fighter pilot refers to grape, he or she is absolutely not requesting for food. Instead, grape is code for a pilot who happens to be an “easy win” in a dogfight.

Let’s face it, even among a squadron of fighter pilots, dogfighting is absolutely not for everyone. As we had just previously said, it takes a lot of skill and stamina to be able to survive the G-forces that your body would be subjected to when a jet fighter makes a series of steep vertical climbs.

At the moment, we are not clear as to how the term grape came about. However, we do know one thing for sure. The last thing you want to be called as a fighter pilot is a grape.

5 Naked

via defencetalk.com

For fighter pilots, hearing this code word is not at all casual or hilarious. In case, it can indicate that there is a possible threat to them at the moment. This is because, naked is code for a “radar warning gear without indication of a missile threat.”

True, a radar may have picked up a signal from something that is non-threatening.

However, it might be much safer for a fighter pilot to assume that the skies are no longer safe for him or her. Hence, he or she can possibly take some precautionary measures or decide to return to base altogether.

4 Bent

via pressherald.com

When a fighter pilot uses the code word bent, he or she is not trying to tell something that an object has become bent to the point that it is no longer usable. However, this is a code that fighter pilots use to let everyone know that a certain piece of gear has become inoperable.

Bent can be used in a sentence such as, “Starsky, be advised my radar is bent.” Sure, any armed forces often have several expert engineers and specialists who take pride in maintaining every part of a jet fighter well. However, all these parts are still subject to wear and tear over time. At the same time, a part of a fighter jet can also become crippled after completing a mission since it could have possibly been fired upon.

3 Bingo

via wikimedia.org

When you hear a fighter pilot use the word bingo, don’t immediately assume that they are off to play the game. Instead, the code word bingo can mean two things among fighter pilots. First, it can indicate a low fuel status. When used in a sentence, it would be like, “Lobo is bingo fuel.” This is critical since it might mean that the jet has to return to base or do a refuel.

On the other hand, bingo can also refer to a direction issued to a fighter pilot to head for a divert field. In which case, you might hear an instruction that goes like, “Hutch, your signal is bingo.”


via cnn.com

G-LOC is code word that is short for a G-induced loss of consciousness. When a fighter pilot is asked to fly at significantly high altitudes, they may reach a level wherein there is very little oxygen that is naturally available and where the outside temperature is critically low.

We are talking about around 40 to 60 degrees Celsius below zero. And under these conditions, the worst can occur.

Initially, the fighter pilot may suffer from severe motion sickness. And when he or she does not do anything immediately to bring the jet to a lower altitude, they can eventually lose consciousness. This, in turn, can cause them to crash into another jet or even crash into the terrain they are flying over.

1 Funky Chicken

via causticnews.com

To practically any civilian, the term funky chicken conjures images of something fun and even comical. However, to a fighter pilot, hearing funky chicken as a code word can be a serious cause for concern.

A funky chicken is code for “what aviators call the involuntary movements that happen during G-LOC." As we had explained earlier, certain maneuvers in the air can cause significant G-force exposure to a fighter pilot. Because of this, they have to fight loss of consciousness while still in a cockpit. Unfortunately, some pilots do faint, and this results in some dangerous movements of the fighter jet itself.

Sources: searchsecurity.techtarget.com, www.popularmechanics.com, airfactsjournal.com

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