How to use a VS-17 Panel

What is a VS-17 Panel?

The VS-17 Panel is a high vis panel used by the US military to be properly identified by adjacent units and overhead flying aircraft.  VS-17 Panels come in a number of sizes and configurations, however, in general, they come with two high vis colors and tie down points.

History of the VS-17 Panel

The VS-17 Panel was first used during the Gulf War to help reduce the number of friendly fire incidents.  Since the Gulf war, the VS-17 Panel has become a regular part of troop issue and is used heavily around the world as a unit level SOP for identifying troops.

VS-17 Colors

The VS-17 Panel typically comes in two colors.  These colors are easily seen from afar and are usually a combination of orange, yellow and purple.

VS-17 Panel Code

The VS-17 Panel is specifically designed to come in two different colors to allow for visual codes.  Essentially the user can fold the panel in a number of different configurations.  The different color on the front and back allow for the panel to make specific patterns that have different meanings.  Below is the code guide from the US Army’s Survival Field manual FM 21-76.  The dotted and solid lines show how to fold a VS-17 panel to create different patterns that can be seen from afar.  These patterns are key in a survival situation.

What makes our VS-17 Panel Unique?

RE Factor Tactical set out to make the VS-17 panel more user-friendly.  We started by printing a large US Flag on the panel that allows US personnel to be identified as friendlies in a hostile environment.

On the opposite side, we attached a velcro panel that allows the user to adhere to an IR strip for marking during night operations.  In each corner, we included a rare earth magnet that allows the panel to adhere to a car or metal surface that can sustain wind speeds up to 55mph.   We tested the flag in a number of environment and it managed to stay adhered to a vehicle as a CH-47 Chinook landed close by!


In addition to the magnets, we include buckles with attached bungee that allows the flag to adhere to a number of different surfaces and attachment points.  Finally, we include a small stuff sack to help keep the panel nice and compact when not in use.

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