Historic Aircraft Profiles

Military Aircraft Fonts

On this page, I am making available some TrueType scaleable fonts that I have designed. The original purpose of these fonts was for use in drawing the profiles displayed on other pages of this web site. By using these fonts with the text tool in my graphics editor, I save the trouble of repeatedly altering the standard computer fonts or of using bitmapped graphic templates for lettering rather than the text tool. Because these are TrueType fonts they can be scaled to any size and may be useful to modelers who make their own decals using ALPS printers, or who have dry transfers custom-made.

These fonts were designed with reference to secondary research sources, examination of hundreds of photographs, and inspection of actual preserved aircraft. Although they were intended for use at the relatively low resolutions involved in designing my profiles, they are as accurate as I can make them with the information available to me, and I have tried to smooth them out so that they look good when printed at up to 72 points.

I offer two main caveats. First, standard military fonts have never been very highly standardized. In many cases they evolved over time, or were presented differently by different manufacturers or when used for different purposes. In the general (lower case) character sets, I have defined what appeared to be the most commonly used form of each character. Where a second style frequently occurred, I defined that as the upper case character. This applies to both letters and numerals (i.e. to see if there is an alternate style available of the numeral 8, type the [SHIFT]-8 or asterisk (*) key). In order to make it easy to determine whether a second style is included or not, I did not map a symbol to the upper-case character in cases where I did not define a second style. So if you press [SHIFT]-T and there is no second style of the letter T defined, only a blank will be typed. There are a few cases in which I found yet a third commonly occurring style of some letters, but have not yet implemented these because I haven't decided where to map them on the keyboard.

Second, these are not full-featured fonts. In fact, it is best not to think of them as fonts at all, but rather programs which take advantage of TrueType's scaling ability to create a particular type of scaleable marking. There are no punctuation characters, and the upper-case characters are not mapped the way they would be if these fonts were intended to be something in which you could actually type a document. They do not contain any "hints," instructions, or other TrueType features that are useful, especially for ensuring attractive rendition of the fonts in low-resolution output devices. As it happens, these simple, geometric characters have less need for such tricks than more ornate conventional fonts, so they don't suffer much at most any resolution.

Another issue is spacing and kerning. I have defined the characters in each font so that there is a one stem-width separation (i.e., a separation equal to the thickness of the lines of which the characters are composed) between each letter. This seems to be the most common spacing used by most air arms in most situations. I have also defined the blank (space) character as being one stem-width wide, so that additional increments of this size can be added between characters. However, some air arms use different spacing, or kerning, in which pairs of letters that "fit" next to each other are placed closer together; an example would be the A and V in the word "NAVY" as written on many aircraft. I have not defined such customized spacing because there is generally no consistency in how this is done, even within the same air arm at the same time, across different uses. Characters used to spell out a serial number, for example, are rarely kerned and are generally presented the way I have spaced these letters, but the legend, "ROYAL NAVY," on the very same aircraft may have a completely different spacing because it is prepared with a special stencil. If preparing decals using these fonts, therefore, it is advisable to check the spacing on the original aircraft and may be necessary to cut out and apply each letter decal separately.

All of the fonts below are copyrighted by myself, August T. Horvath. You may download and use them freely for non-profit use. If you are interested in commercial use of these fonts, please contact me. Their downloading and use is subject to the condition that you may not redistribute these fonts by any means, including but not limited to a web site, FTP site, or CD-ROM. They are to be distributed exclusively through this web site. If you would like to include a link to my web site on your web site, you may do so. Please make any link to the Contents page of this site, not to this font page.

Presently, the following fonts are available. Click their names to download them, and then copy the .ttf file into your fonts directory using the appropriate setup routine for your computer. Depending on your computer and browser, you may need to click the right mouse button to download; the left mouse button may just display a summary of the font. These fonts will be updated and improved, so you may want to note the version number and date, which will always be indicated below.

NOTES TO DOWNLOADERS: Now that these fonts have expanded into an entire family of fonts, I have had to change the font names in order to distinguish them. This means that if you downloaded the original versions of these fonts between November 11 and 22, 1999, you will have to select the new font name given in the links below.

On September 1, 2000, I replaced the two RCAF and one RCN fonts with new ones having slightly different font names. I recommend that before installing these, if you have downloaded these fonts in the past, you delete the old RCAF and RCN fonts from your fonts directory and replace them with these. You will have to re-select the font names in any documents that you had created using these fonts, but they should appear the same as before (with slight improvements in font shape) when you do this.

Royal Canadian Air Force, Style 1 [RCAF_60O_ATH]. This is the unique font used by the RCAF from the 1950s through the 1960s, and for some purposes into the 1970s. Alternative styles are available for the letters C, G, P, R, and Z. Alternative numerals are available for 0, 2, 3, 5, 6, and 7. This RCAF lettering style was subject to extreme variation in practice, making this in some ways the least satisfactory of the fonts. In version 0.91, I have refined several of the characters and added an alternative set of rounded numerals not previously available. In version 0.92, I made the numerals compatible with printing in outline font style and added glyphs for the maple leaf in the center of RCAF roundels. The pre-1967 leaf is implemented as the Shift-1 key (as if you were typing an exclamation point); the current leaf style is Shift-4. Version 0.92, 9/1/00.

Royal Canadian Air Force, Style 2 [RCAF_60SQO_ATH]. This is the same font as above, but with different numerals. In later years the RCAF adopted a more square-like numeral style for use on some aircraft. If neither of the alternative numerals in the above font look like what you are looking for, try switching to this font. Like the font above, I have added maple leaf glyphs in the newest version. The pre-1967 leaf is Shift-1; the modern leaf is Shift-2. Version 0.92, 9/1/00.

Royal Air Force [RAF_PW_ATH]. This is probably the most widely useful font on this page. This geometic-based font first came into use on British and Commonwealth aircraft during or slightly before World War II, but attained wide use only after the war. From the late 1940s to the present day it has been the most widely used Royal Air Force and Royal Navy font for serials, squadron and aircraft ID codes, and legends identifying the air arm. Versions of it have been used by most of the Commonwealth air forces in the postwar period, including Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. It has also been used on UK-built aircraft supplied to other air forces around the world, and sometimes adopted by these forces for use on other types. Not surprisingly considering the longevity and wide use of this lettering, it has been subject to many variations, which the alternatives provided here capture only imperfectly. Alternative styles are available for the letters B, D, and G, and the numerals 3, 5 and 8. (The alternate 5 is a variation used particularly on de Havilland types, such as the Vampire.) Version 1.01, 11/22/99.

Royal Canadian Navy [RCN_8O_ATH]. The Royal Canadian Navy adopted a font based closely on the RAF/RN font offered above, but with wider letters. My best information indicates that the lettering on post-1952 RCN aircraft had a width equal to two-thirds of its height, rather than five-eighths which was the standard for the RAF font. Numerals, however, were narrower. This special font is intended for RCN aircraft used after the adoption of the large-leaf roundel in 1952. Prior to 1952, to the extent a standard font was used, it was the RAF font offered above. Alternatives are provided for the letters A, B, and S, and for the numeral 4. At present, no letter W is defined in this font, because I have not found an example of its use by this air arm. I have added RCN-style maple leaf glyphs to this font. The early leaf, for the period when the RCN was using a thin yellow surround with its roundels, is the Shift-2 key; the later leaf is the Shift-1 key. Version 0.92, 9/1/00.

Royal Air Force WW2, Style 1 [RAF_WW2_851ATH]. This font is designed to the specifications for most RAF and Royal Navy call letters during World War II. To some extent, this font was also used for serial numbers on the rear fuselages of these aircraft. Many variations existed in RAF/RN lettering during the war, so this font is barely more than a starting point, but the standards were adhered to somewhat more consistently in Bomber Command than Fighter Command. Alternatives are provided for the letters M, S, and W. Version 1.0, 11/22/99.

Royal Air Force WW2, Style 2 [RAF_WW2_841ATH]. This is a narrower version of the font above. It was thinner than the standard RAF/RN font, having a width-to-height ratio of 1:2 rather than 5:8. This font was specified for serial numbers on certain types of aircraft, and was also used for call letters on some types, such as the Wellington and Halifax. An alternative letter S is provided. Version 1.0, 11/22/99.

Royal Air Force WW2, 45-degree clipped [RAF_45D_851ATH]. This font is designed to the same proportions as RAF_WW2_851ATH above, but it has corners clipped at 45 degrees instead of rounded. This font was often used for serial numbers where RAF_WW2_851ATH was called for, especially by U.S. manufacturers of lend-lease aircraft, which seemed to be more comfortable with 45-degree clipped than rounded lettering. Alternatives are provided for the letter S and the numeral 5. Version 1.0, 11/22/99.

Royal Air Force WW2, Style 2, 45-degree clipped [RAF_45D_841ATH]. This is the narrow font RAF_WW2_841ATH above, but with clipped corners. It is not one of the more common RAF fonts, but was occasionally for both serials and call letters. Version 1.0, 11/23/99.

Royal Air Force WW2, Style 3 [RAF_WW2_641ATH]. This lettering was adopted, especially on single-engined fighters in the latter years of World War II, as a more visible alternative to the standard RAF styles for unit and individual aircraft call letters. The font was wider than standard RAF fonts and composed of thicker lines with rounder edges. An alternative numeral 5 is available. Version 1.0, 11/23/99.

Because of the enthusiastic response to my first few fonts, I am working on others. The existing fonts will be subject to continuing refinement based on new information or just better character design. I invite e-mail with comments.

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