In this answer to a question asking to identify an aircraft, we can see a picture of a Aero L-39 Albatros with some missiles hanging from the wings:

Aero L-39 Albatros with fake missiles
(flickr.com) N915WE.

Supposedly, this is a civilian airplane, and another user pointed out the oddity in a comment. The author of the answer then replied that [those missiles] "are as real as this being a USAF L-39 ;)". This second picture shows an airplane with "United States Air Force" painted on it. Does this mean that it is perfectly legal for a civilian aircraft to mount some fake missiles? And to write "USAF" on an airplane that doesn't belong to the USAF, even? Especially considering this airplane can really be configured as a military one, with real missiles!

To me this looks like going through security checks at the airport with a fake gun in your hands. Sure, it's fake and it can't harm anyone, but I'm not sure the police would appreciate my sense of humour.

Seriously, is this allowed? With all the attention to security (which often borders on paranoia), it is allowed to fly around with fake missiles? Won't this lead to unnecessary confusion, fear, and even false alarms?

  • $\begingroup$ Are you asking about US regulations? $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Commented May 15, 2018 at 11:31
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @Pondlife I actually thought there would be worldwide regulations about these matters, but your question makes me realise it's a naive expectation. If a single answer about all the world isn't possible, I'd stick with the US, since this is where the picture was taken. And if the question doesn't become too broad I'd also like to know something about Europe. $\endgroup$ Commented May 15, 2018 at 12:14
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ In the same vein, I wonder how NORAD and Slovakia feel about this plane pretending to be a member of the Slovak Air Force. I imagine that they would be pretty unnerved if a genuine armed L-39 landed at a US airport. Maybe you can get away with it by calling it a storage pod with stabilizing fins? I guess you could keep a couple of submarine sandwiches in there. $\endgroup$
    – user28387
    Commented May 15, 2018 at 13:32
  • $\begingroup$ The Textron LandAir Scorpion, built by Cessna, has performed test flights with "fake" armaments as well as demonstrated ability to fire live armaments. $\endgroup$ Commented May 15, 2018 at 15:16

1 Answer 1


Importing former military aircraft

Former military aircraft imported from ANY other country require an import permit issued by the Department of Treasury, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF). This is granted by ATF using an ATF Form 6, Application and Permit for Importation of Firearms, Ammunition and Implements of War. Additionally, these former military aircraft are required to be demilitarized in order to clear U.S. Customs (FAA).

Getting a certification

Unless the aircraft are used for an approved civil research and development (R&D) project, former military aircraft owners/operators must permanently demilitarize their aircraft before FAA certification (FAA).

So those aircraft are permanently demilitarized and cannot release ordnance or fire bullets. Since there are multiple examples, it is legal (in the US at least), and with the demilitarization there is no worry such aircraft would be able to release live ordnance if the owner somehow was able to obtain some.

Inert missile

I wasn't able to find text regarding mounting fake missiles, but a line from Dr. Strangelove came in handy:

Air Force Base Guard
You sure gotta hand it to those Commies -- Gee, those trucks sure look like the real thing, don't they? -- I wonder where they got 'em from? -- Probably bought them from the Army as war surplus...

enter image description here

I found inert ordnance for purchase, like the one above. And the blue line on the missile on the L-39 indicates it "does not contain a live rocket motor".


In AC 45-2E I did not find anything about using USAF or foreign military markings, but most probably that falls under freedom of speech in the US.

Related: Why can civilians not fly demilitarized US fighter jets?


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