Forgive my ignorance in my wording of this question.

I assume the weapons control in a military aircraft cockpit are colored differently from other instruments the pilots has to look at considering U.S. military pilots are not allowed to be colorblind, Why do some Air Forces not allow Color Blind Pilots?

If that is correct, what color are the weapons controls?

Please add any appropriate tags I missed.

  • $\begingroup$ No pilots are allowed to be colorblind, it does not apply only to military pilots. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 27, 2020 at 8:34
  • $\begingroup$ @J.Hougaard Colorblindness is not a either or proposition, there is a range of colorblindness. Some people with mild colorblindness are allowed to be pilots. That fact is recognized, §67.303 Eye. "Eye standards for a third-class airman medical certificate are: (c) Ability to perceive those colors necessary for the safe performance of airman duties." ecfr.io/Title-14/pt14.2.67#se14.2.67_1303 $\endgroup$
    – Bob516
    Commented Jan 27, 2020 at 13:00
  • $\begingroup$ Reasons for limiting colorblindness go way beyond military weapons system switches. Lights of all sorts, both internal and external, are colored. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 27, 2020 at 17:23

1 Answer 1


Depends what you define as a bonafide control? Lets look at the F/A-18C

Releasing a weapon from the aircraft is not just a case of pushing the red weapons release button or trigger. A MASTER ARM switch is included to prevent the accidental discharge of weapons, (and in some other aircraft countermeasures and stores jettison functionality). The MASTER ARM switch is not painted.

However this is still not enough, as the systems of the aircraft have to be programmed to release the selected weapon, perhaps by selecting the relevant weapon as configured in the STORES MFD page. In (most?) Hornet (blocks?), the MFD symbology is monochrome green regardless of the page selected.

There are shortcuts into weapons master modes though: The lowest hat switch on the stick is a shortcut into A/A master mode, with each direction selecting a different A/A weapon and the MFDs being changed to relevant pre-set pages. This switch is black, much like the other stick controls.

So, the pilot, colour-blind or not, has to be able to locate multiple controls in order to release anything from the aircraft, which are neither painted bright red, the same colour or any differentiating colour from their surroundings, except for the weapons release itself.

There are enhanced answers to be provided regarding workflows, muscle memory, the actual shape of the controls, training and the priorities of selection. There are much better qualified people here to talk about those.

P.S. I would provide an image to show where these controls are, but I'm not able to currently.

  • $\begingroup$ This gives me so much more than what I was asking for, and answers questions I didn't even think to ask. $\endgroup$
    – Bob516
    Commented Jan 27, 2020 at 12:19
  • $\begingroup$ … in a good way I hope? $\endgroup$
    – user44968
    Commented Jan 27, 2020 at 12:23
  • $\begingroup$ Better than good. I'm writing a novel and information including "lowest hat switch on the stick" and "the shape of the controls" are great details to add to the scene. $\endgroup$
    – Bob516
    Commented Jan 27, 2020 at 12:40
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I'd definitely continue your research journey. I trust the information I've given you is accurate from a lay person's perspective, but I'm sure there are real pilots out there (including on here) who can give you the exact procedure (and stories) from their first-hand experience operating the aircraft you are trying to write about. $\endgroup$
    – user44968
    Commented Jan 27, 2020 at 13:59
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Bob516 - not sure you're still interested, but the switch on the F-18 stick to select a weapon is called the "weapon select switch". Typically, once airborne pilots will select AIM-120 (by default) to enter A/A mode. From there, all that's required is to arm up the jet with the Master Arm switch and pull the trigger. For A/A weapons, pilots typically don't reference the 'stores' format, since selecting a type of weapon is accomplished by pushing the weapon select switch in one of four directions. $\endgroup$
    – Tyler
    Commented Aug 14, 2020 at 2:57

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