Tactical Markings for French Units operating with NATO forces

NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, is known as OTAN in French ( Organisation du Traité de l'Atantique Nord )

Each of the French Army Corps is made up of regiments with a range of specialisms. For example, the Armoured Corps contains Infantry, Artillery, and Engineer regiments as well Armoured, the Marines include Infantry, Armour, Artillery, Paratroops and Signals regiments. Together, the Airborne Regiments of each Corps also form the 11th Airborne Division.

Further flexibility is achieved in being able to assemble rapid response forces that draw on regiments from across the Corps and Services. An example of this is the FAR (Force d'Action Rapide) which existed from 1983 to 1998. It has now been replaced with the IRF (Immediate Response Force) as part of NATO re-structuring.

All of this gets pretty confusing, particularly when you also have regiments from different countries serving alongside each other under Nato command. A system of standardised tactical markings on vehicles was therefore introduced. The central symbol indicates the nature of the Corps and Regiment. These symbols are basically the same as those used by NATO on tactical maps for land operations. To the left of this are details of the Company and Regiment, to the right, details of the Corps or Division of command.

(as defined in 'Mémento sur les déplacements par voie routière')

The Companies / Squadrons / Batteries of most Regiments serving as part of NATO would have used jeeps at some time since the marking system was introduced. The table below includes real examples where I have been able to locate them. If you have any other examples please do let me know and send a photo so that I can include them.

SIGN ARME Description Marking Interpretation
RECONNAISSANCE Reconnaissance Company or Regiment. Certainly used in combination with other symbols. (see Hussar Parachutistes below) This Foreign Legion 2REP jeep is covered in mud but the sign is just visible.
Light Infantry Regiment using soft skinned tactical vehicles only. Recce & Support Co. of the 51st Reg. serving with the 12th Infantry Div. (DI)
Airborne Company or Regiment attached to Infantry Division. It will also form part of the 11th Airborne Division and other special forces. Recce & Support Co. of the 11th Airborne Regiment, serving with GAP Parachute Div. (DP)
'Chasseurs Alpins'
Alpine Light Infantry Company or Regiment - specialising in high altitude / adverse weather operations. Recce & Support Co. of the 159th Infantry Regiment serving with the 27th Alpine Division. (DA)
Mechanised Infantry Company or Regiment - equipped with light armoured vehicles. Infantry regiment of the Armoured division. The jeep shown is a MILAN missile launcher.
Engineer Regiment or Company specialising in construction and demolition. 2nd Company of the10th Engineer Regiment serving with the
2nd Corps d'Armée
Engineer Regiment or Company attached to Armoured Division - Sappers, specialising in front line construction & demolition. Assault Engineer Co. of the 34th Engineer Regiment serving with 2nd Armoured Div (2/DB)
Armoured Regiment or Company forming part of the Armoured Division. Anyone got a better photo?

'Hussar Parachutistes'
Airborn Reconnaisance Regiment or Company attached to the Armoured Division. All paras also form part of the 11th Airborne Div. 3rd Company of the 1st Hussars serving with 11th Parachute Division (DP)
ARTILLERIE Artillery Regiment equipped with self-propelled guns, Multiple Rocket / Anti- Tank Missile Launchers etc. 1st battery of the 403rd Artillery Regiment serving with the 1st Corps d'Armée (1/CA)
Maintenance Engineer Company or Regiment responsible for vehicles and equipment. Part of the Logistics Corps. DAI maintenence squardron serving with the 21st Division Militaire (DM)
Army Transport Corps responsible for all logistics operations. 1st transport squadron (Escadron du Train) of the 121st Reg. circonscription militaire de Défense (CMD).
As above but the illustration is of an earlier style of the 'wheel' Transport Squadron of a regiment serving with the 3rd Army Corps
TRANSMISSIONS Signals Company or Combat Support Regiment providing battlefield radio, computer & satellite communications.  
Services de Santé
Army Medical Corps responsible for the evacuation and treatment of wounded personnel.  
622ème régiment de circulation routière (RCR) is based in Arras (Pas de Calais). It is the only regiment of its this kind in the Transport Corps. 2nd command squadron of the 622nd regiment de Circulation Routière (RCR).
Anti-aircraft defence company or regiment. I have seen this on a french SUMB 4x4 truck but no jeep examples. Can you help?  

The Gendarmerie is not strictly speaking an army corps which is possibly why it is represented by GND rather than a symbol. Unspecified Gendarmerie unit operating under the command of the 2nd Corps d'Armée (2/CA)
Ecole Nationale
des Sous-Officiers
d'Active (SOA)
The National training establisment (ECO) based at Saint-Maixent. Compagnie Ecole (CE) of the SOA school (ECO) in the 2nd Division Militaire (DM) of the 5th Region.
(Troupes de Marine)
The Marine Corps serve mainly overseas and consist of regiments specialising in all aspects of warfare from armour to airborne infantry. 1st company of the 1st Marine Infantry Regiment serving with the 11th Parachute Division.
  Photographed on a SUMB 4x4 truck.  

Many more examples are possible given that complex symbols can be built up from the basic elements. For example, using the above information you should be able to work out the symbol for an Artillery Regiment attached to the Armoured Division.

Key to some abbreviations used with French tactical markings
B (division) blindée - armoured division
BR brigade - brigade
BRG brigade - brigade
CA corps d'armée - army corps
CCA compagnie de commandement et d'appui - command & support company
CCL compagnie de commandement et de logistique - command and logistics company
CCS compagnie de commandement et de et de service - command and services company
CE compagnie d'eclairage - reconnaissance company
CE compagnie d'ecole - training company
CEA compagnie d'eclairage et d'appui - reconnaissance & support company
CMD circonscription militaire de Défense - (an administrative zone)
CMT compagnie du matériel des transmissions - communications engineer company
DA division alpine - mountain division
DAM division aeromobile - airmobile division
DB division blindée - armoured division
DI division d'infanterie - infantry division
DL division légère - light division
DLB division légère blindée - light armoured division
DLC division légère de cavalerie - light mechanised division
DM division militaire - (an administrative zone)
DP division parachutiste - airborne division
DMA détachement motorisé autonome - independent motorised detachment
EC escadron de commandement - command squadron
EAT école d'application du train - applied transportation school
EAT école d'application des transmissions - applied communications school
ECO école - training establishment
ERM Etablissement régional du Matériel - regional ordnance
ET escadron du train - transport squadron
FA forces armées - Army force (overseas) - see below
FAG forces armées en Guyane - Army force in Guyana - see below
FAR force d'action rapide - Rapid Reaction Force
GAP groupement autonome des parachutistes - independent airborne group
GCP groupement de commandos parachutistes - commando parachute group
GSA groupement special autonome - special independant group
GY Guyane - Guyana (location) - see below
LB (division) légère blindée - light armoured division
RECAMP Renforcement des capacités africaines de maintien de la paix - African peace keeping force - see below
SOA Ecole Nationale des Sous-Officiers d'Active - national training school

Forces in former French colonies

Compagnie de commandement et de logistique; 9ème RIMa; FA: Forces armées; GY: Guyane.
(photo - Jean-Marc COQUIO (M201 22065)
Compagnie de commandement et de logistique; 3ème étranger d'infanterie; KR: Kourou; FAG: forces armées en Guyane (photo - Jean-Marc COQUIO (M201 22065) Renforcement des capacités africaines de maintien de la paix. One of a number of jeeps sent to Senegal along with other vehicles and equipment in January 1998. (photo - Denis Jolas in Senegal)

The following section has been included to help with understanding the structure of the French Army in respect to the above markings. Links to other websites will open in a new browser window.

In common with all NATO countries, the French Army has been restructured several times over the past 40 years. Some of the Corps, Divisions, Forces and Regiments under their command that used jeeps during the 60's, 70's and 80's no longer exist in the much smaller armée de Terre of today.

The following table provides further information about the structure during periods of M201 service. Click on the links at the top for further detailed information.

armée de Terre 1977 armée de Terre 1984

1st Army Corps

Corps units + 4th, 6th, 7th & 10th Armoured Divisions

1st Army Corps

Corps units + 7th & 10th Armoured Divisions + 15th Infantry Division.

2nd Army Corps (Germany)

Corps units + 1st, 3rd & 5th Armoured Divisions

2nd Army Corps (Germany)

Corps units + 1st, 3rd & 5th Armoured Divisions

3rd Army Corps

Corps units + 2nd Armoured Division

3rd Army Corps

Corps units + 2nd Armoured Division + 8th Infantry Division

Territorial Forces

8th, 12th 14th & 15th Infantry Divisions

Force d’Action Rapide

4th Airmobile, 6th Light Armoured, 9th Marines, 11th Parachute & 27th Alpine Divisions

27th Mountain Infantry Division


Rapid Deployment Forces

9th Marine & 11th Airborne Divisions


By the mid '90s most of the remaining M201s were in reserve storage with only a very few still in active service. The later (1995) organisation of the French Army is therefore of passing interest only but can be looked at by clicking here. The best document I have manage to find so far concerning NATO symbols is Canadian Army ref B-GL-331-003/FP-002 (959KB pdf file).

This section has proved difficult to research and is still under construction. Any further information, photographic examples, or corrections where I have got it wrong, would be appreciated. Thanks go to all who have helped so far.


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