In 2018, President Donald Trump first floated the idea of a new branch of the U.S. military known as Space Force, and since then the department has been defined by its branding as much as by its actual functions. When Trump personally unveiled the service’s logo in 2020, it immediately inspired derisory comparisons with the star trek logo. Likewise, an early reveal of Space Force uniforms reminded many costume watchers worn on the TV show Battlestar Galactica.
But for better or worse, Space Force is just the latest branch of service to contribute to a long tradition of military branding. We are, of course, talking about the use of deranged emblems to identify individual units.
I became fascinated with insignia used on military crests after reading Trevor Paglen’s book I could tell you but then you would have to be destroyed by me, a collection of ‘dark world’ patch designs from the Pentagon’s classified projects. Paglen used government records, FOIA requests, and crowdsourcing to acquire these artifacts from units that aren’t officially recognized but crave identification through encrypted images. Sometimes these emblems tend towards the boring iconography of guns and eagles that you expect from the military. But in many other cases, their designs go in psychedelic directions that could be called “weird” or “metal as fuck.” Designs like these:
These designs have always stuck with me, so when I saw people sharing notable emblems of Space Force units, I immediately wanted to see them all. Alas, creating a single repository for all of its new emblems doesn’t seem to be a priority for the USSF. A branch spokesperson told us that they do not maintain a complete list of logos and told us individual sites units. The Wikipedia Saints have done a good job of collecting many, but many are still missing and can only be found amidst a huge collection of other material. So I did my best to collect as many of these patches as I could find.
Are the Space Force emblems as crazy as the ranked ‘dark world’? Sometimes, yeah! Since the Space Force badges are official orders, they use a more uniform aesthetic approach, but still use lots of stunning iconography and inscrutable symbols.
When it launched, Trump’s fixation on Space Force meant that many people, myself included, seen as a punchline. For God’s sake, as sitting president, he started a crowdsourcing campaign what hypothetical Space Force logo should go on the merchandise that his political campaign was selling. MAGA fans may have thought they were voting on the official Space Force branding, but they were simply letting the design campaign know that they would be paying for a Trump tote bag.
I still don’t think Trump cares about this new branch of the military outside of the surface-level pizzazz that he has a hunch could lend his image. He called space “the world’s newest combat estate” and we laughed about it as another distraction. But in recent days, the service’s mission has become clearer.
Last year, General David Thompson, vice chief of space operations for the Space Force, told the Washington Post that Russia and China were using lasers, radio frequency jammers and cyberattacks to target US satellite systems “every day”. In early April, Thompson said BNC News that Russia could use jammers to prevent Ukrainians from using GPS signals as they defend against invasion. And after Russia claimed he had used a hypersonic Kinzhal missile to attack an underground weapons depot in Ukraine, Space Force has announced it develops new satellites to track hypersonic missiles. This threat of a hot war spillover caught the attention of President Biden, who added a $5 billion more at his administration’s request for funding for Space Force’s 2023 budget.
If this all sounds like more bluster of mighty men rattling lightsabers, the fact that Netflix just canceled his Steve Carrell sitcom space force must be some kind of sign that we don’t laugh so much at the USSF anymore.
But don’t worry, my friends. There are still plenty of Space Force emblems that will make you laugh or scratch your head. We categorize them in the upcoming slides, broken down by business unit. Because I wanted to highlight the best while collecting everything, we decided to distribute participation trophies. Each unit gets a winner and runners-up within that unit; we’ve also ranked each unit head-to-head in the overall standings.