I am trying to understand more of the gestures fighter jet pilot use. I have seen this gesture many times:

Fighter pilot making a hand gesture

Does anyone know what this gesture mean? Are there any good resources about the gestures used by fighter jets? I can't find information about this.

  • $\begingroup$ It is interesting that we have a tag for "radio-communications", but not one for other forms of communications. $\endgroup$
    – chicks
    Jun 22 at 20:36

1 Answer 1


It is the signal to perform a fuel check. (Actually: "How much fuel have you?")

The hand mimics drinking from a bottle, and when given by a formation flight lead it is intended to prompt the wingman to respond with a number of fingers to indicate fuel remaining in hundreds of pounds.

There are several pages of inter-flight signals in table form found in the NAVAIR 00-80T-113, "AIRCRAFT SIGNALS NATOPS MANUAL". (For US Navy, the USAF likely has a similar document...) A copy can be found here: SIGNALS NATOPS

This particular signal is found on page 1-8 and is reproduced below. (Note - the pinky seen in the photo isn't specified, but is generally used to ensure that the signal isn't confused with a closed fist) enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ I see that the NATOPS literally writes it that way, but how is "How much fuel have you?" not incorrect grammar? Is that some phraseology quirk I'm unaware of? $\endgroup$ Jun 21 at 10:26
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    $\begingroup$ @MrArsGravis it's not incorrect but sort of old fashioned. see also ell.stackexchange.com/questions/101667/… $\endgroup$
    – Ivo
    Jun 21 at 13:34
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    $\begingroup$ I'd looked it up in a the Oxford Reference Grammar in the meantime and it also concurred that it is still a somewhat accepted form in BrE. If this Ngram is to be believed, it actually seems to have been the dominant form, at least in written English, up to the mid-20th century (I was expecting it to have died out a century earlier): books.google.com/ngrams/… $\endgroup$ Jun 21 at 15:59
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    $\begingroup$ It sounds better if you ask in a Yoda voice... $\endgroup$ Jun 21 at 16:03
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    $\begingroup$ With the pinkie out, it means "Is it time for tea?" Used by British armed forces. $\endgroup$ Jun 21 at 23:27

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