This paper presents the main results obtained through a study on aircraft identification and attitude estimation conducted by Thomson TRT Defense for the French Ministry of Defense/Direction Generale de l'Armement/Direction des Constructions Aeronautiques. The purpose of this study was automatic assistance to aircraft identification. Indeed, modern fight airplanes are equipped with optronic systems capable of detecting and tracking enemy aircraft. In order to react quickly, the pilot must know at least the target type and possibly its identity. Recognition of the target type and attitude is obtained by matching the observed image with patterns belonging to a database. Two matching algorithms, which have been tested, are presented. The first one, based on the contour Fourier transform, needs the complete target silhouette extraction. The second one, belonging to the class of prediction and verification algorithms, compares the individual parts of the target to the database and is able to recognize the target, even when it is partially occluded or ill-segmented due to the lack of contrast between the target and its environment. An original feature of the algorithm stays in a validation process which increases the reliability of transmitted answers. In case of low confidence, no answer is provided. In addition, successive answers are consolidated. This strategy is interesting especially for image sequences where the tracked airplane achieves attitude evolution or even simply flies over various backgrounds. The main output of this study is the parametric analysis of various factors which influence performance such as contrast, background complexity, distance, attitude and type. The evaluation method, largely based on image synthesis (including image sequences), allows fine interpretation of statistical results. Misclassification errors occur when resolution is not sufficient or when complex backgrounds cause erroneous segmentation. Best results are obtained when the object image is large enough and presents good contrast with its background. The results confirm the major interest for range information in order to discriminate big transport aircraft from fighters. Finally, image sequences show answer quality increases along with the time, in attitude as well as in type.