The official unofficial nicknames of 5 modern military aircraft

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The official language of the US military is English. But, to civilians, the military may appear to speak a completely foreign language. I’m not just talking about acronyms either. Words like woobie or gedunk will give you weird looks outside of the military (or even their specific department). This unique naming convention applies particularly to aircraft. The DoD might have a cool name for a fighter jet when it buys it, but whatever pilots and ground crew call it, it stays. While some of these nicknames may be familiar to civilians with a moderate interest in modern military aviation, a few are more obscure and more exclusive to service circles.

1. A-10 Thunderbolt II (warthog)

An A-10 with an appropriate Warthog face (US Air Force)

Thanks to the widespread Internet fame of the A-10, it is fairly universally known. Although officially named as the successor to the WWII fighter jet that excelled in the close air support role, the Thunderbolt II is most often referred to as Warthog or simply Hog. The nickname is derived from the animal roar that the Hog’s iconic 30mm GAU-8 Avenger gun emits when firing, as well as his ugly appearance and preference for flying low in the dirt and mud where the Hog takes place. ‘action. The gun also protrudes prominently under the nose of the aircraft. This lends itself well to one of the A-10’s nose art designs resembling the face of a warthog, with tusks.

2. F-16 Fighting Falcon (Viper)

The official unofficial nicknames of 5 modern military aircraft
Viper sounds cooler than Fighting Falcon (US Air Force)

The F-16 gained cultural notoriety after being featured in the 1986 classic Iron eagle. Although he was not as successful as Top Gun, which was released later that same year, Iron eagle introduced the agile and adaptable Fighting Falcon to many civilians. Of course, pilots call it the Viper. The nickname comes from the sharp appearance of the plane which resembles both a viper snake and Colonial Viper Mk 2 Starfighter from Battlestar Galactica. In addition, the Japanese version of the F-16 also carries the nickname of Viper. Derived from the F-16, the Mitsubishi F-2 is nicknamed the Viper Zero in reference to the F-16 Viper and the Mitsubishi A6M Zero dating from World War II.

3. F-35 Lightning II (Panther)

The official unofficial nicknames of 5 modern military aircraft
The F-35 is flown by the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps (US Air Force)

Like the A-10, the F-35 is a junior named after a WWII fighter jet. Likewise, Lightning II just doesn’t play on the tongue. In fact, most people call the airplane the F-35 or the JSF, in reference to the Joint Strike Fighter program from which the F-35 originated. Rather than using any of these names, Air Force pilots named the F-35 with the unofficial official nickname Panther. The nickname spread throughout the Air Force and the service’s elite weapons school. Students of the 6th Weapons Squadron now wear badges featuring the F-35 and the words “Panther Tamer”. Panther’s nickname has also spread to the Navy and Marine Corps, whose pilots also fly the F-35; appropriate given that the Navy and Marines previously flew the F9F Panther jet fighter during the Korean War.

4. C-17 Globemaster III (Moose)

The official unofficial nicknames of 5 modern military aircraft
Yes, that’s really why Airmen call it Moose (US Air Force)

The C-17 is the workhorse of Air Mobility Command. True to its official name, the Globemaster III is capable of transporting troops, equipment and even an M1 Abrams tank around the world. The C-17 gained immense notoriety after an Air Force crew transported more than 800 refugees, well beyond the official passenger capacity of 134 paratroopers, out of Afghanistan. His nickname, Moose, is apparently in reference to the size and strength of the C-17. In fact, the moniker has nothing to do with the appearance or performance of the C-17. During ground refueling, the C-17 releases excess pressure in the system through relief vents. The sound obtained is similar to that of a moose call. But not just any moose call; the call of a cow moose in heat. In the wild, the wailing howl is responded to by the heavy growl of a male in anticipation of mating. On the runway, the sound is probably greeted by sneers from knowledgeable airmen.

5. F / A-18 Super Hornet (Rhinoceros)

The official unofficial nicknames of 5 modern military aircraft
The nose of the Super Hornet gave it its nickname (US Navy)

The history of the F / A-18 is interesting because the alphanumeric designation applies to two different aircraft. The original F / A-18 Hornet includes Models A, B, C and D. Serving as a benchmark, the Hornet has since been developed into the Super Hornet with Models E and F, and even the EA-18G Growler. The Super Hornet is more advanced and noticeably larger than its predecessor, resulting in a more pronounced nose. Given this characteristic, pilots began to call the Super Hornet the rhino, drawing parallels with the animal’s iconic horn. This served to distinguish between Legacy and the Super Hornets. It is also a tribute to the F-4 Phantom II which was also nicknamed Rhino for the same reason.


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