F-35 public relations disaster. Or not.

This is a bit bizarre. Seems that the website defense-aerospace.com thinks they caught Lockheed Martin in a screw up:


They lead their “article”, merely a reposting of the official press release on the first test flight, with the following:

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Unfortunately for what Lockheed calls “the world standard-bearer of fighter aircraft,” the F-35 made its first flight with partner-nation flags back-to-front)

And the link from the Defense-Aerospace homepage reads: F-35 JSF Makes First Flight – With Wrong Flags.

The “backwards flag” practice has been noted on MO back in the days of yore, here and here. This crops up every once in a while, and I usually just hold my tongue. But to see this on a site like Defense-Aerospace is a bit disappointing.

Interestingly, a commenter on one of those posts has a theory about the practice, and it begins like this:

The “backwards flag” is no silly affectation. It is part of a well-planned and coordinated effort to subvert our national sovereignty.

Read more if interested. (And a major Sunday evening hat tip to the reader who sent in the link!)

UPDATE: An update to the Defense-Aerospace post:

(EDITOR’S NOTE 2: Some readers have pointed out that the flags are, in fact, displayed correctly, i.e. as they would appear if hung from a mast at the nose of the aircraft.

We beg to differ.

These readers would be right if the flags were used to identify the aircraft’s nationality. Here, however, they are used as national logos, and so should be displayed in normal reading order (left-to-right) like other logos and non-national markings such as aircraft tail or nose codes.)

Give them credit for sticking to their story. It’s unclear to Murdoc what, exactly, Defense-Aerospace thinks happened. Was it an accident (i.e., a decal applied backwards) or was it intentional (because Lockheed Martin is stupid)? And, in either case, what would the big deal be if it is, in fact, some sort of international faux pas? Is this insulting to the co-op nations?


  1. It seems to me the flags are meant to look like they’re blowing in the direction that the wind passes while the plane is flying. I would guess that if there are flags painted on the other side of the plane, they’re the ‘right’ way around.

  2. You are correct, Nicholas. The U.S. flag is always painted as if the object (soldier, vehicle, etc.) were bearing the U.S. flag as a battle standard forward. If the flag were painted the ‘right’ way on the starboard (right) side of the plane/sodier/etc., it would be as if the plane/soldier/etc. were retreating.

  3. I’d like to also point out that it seems the U.S. and G.B. flags are on the right, leading me to believe that the order of precedence is right to left in this instance. Buttressing the claim that the flags are flying representations and not simply ‘national logos’ on a wall or piece of stationary. Kalroy

  4. Everyone is on the right track here. Flags on moving vehicles (and Marines, who ALWAYS are moving forward) are placed as if they were streaming back in the wind. Following the same logic, the precedence of position would be front-to-back, irrespective of right-left. I guarantee that the flags are in the reverse order on the other side of the aircraft.