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United States military aircraft designation systems: Wikis


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The United States Military Aircraft Designation System was first designed in 1919 when the US Army's Aeronautical Division became the United States Army Air Service. Before this aircraft were put into service under their manufacturers designation.[1]




Army Air Force 1919 to 1924

During this period Type Designations were allotted, using two or three letters, which were an abbreviation of the aircraft's purpose. Examples include GA for Ground Attack aircraft; NO for Night Observation aircraft and NBS for Night Bombardment, Short Distance aircraft.[2]

Army Air Force 1924 to 1947

From 1924 to 1947 the United States Army Air Service, United States Army Air Corps, and United States Army Air Forces used a designation system based on mission category, with each model in a category numbered sequentially.[1]

US Air Force 1947 to 1962

From 1947 to 1962 the United States Air Force used a mission-based system closely based on the 1920-1947 system.[3] For instance, the Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star (Pursuit) was redesignated as F-80 (Fighter), but the Convair B-36 bomber kept its previous designation.[4]

US Navy system 1922 to 1962

From 29 March 1922 to 18 September 1962 the United States Navy (including United States Marine Corps and United States Coast Guard) used a completely separate designation system, based on both mission and manufacturer.[4]

Tri-service system (Air Force/Navy/Army) 1962 to date

Since 18 September 1962 a joint system of mission-based designations has been used, with most of these restarting from 1.[5] Various previously-designated models from the pre-1962 Army-Air Force system (such as the F-111) were not redesignated.[6]

All in-use USN/USMC aircraft from the pre-1962 system were redesignated within the new system. An attempt was made to retain the original Type Sequence numbers for as many aircraft as possible. Thus, the F2H Banshee became the F-2, the F4H Phantom II became the F-4 and the F8U Crusader became the F-8.[6]

Individual system pages

See also


  1. ^ a b Angelucci, 1987. p. 9.
  2. ^ Danby 1977, pp. 10-11
  3. ^ Danby 1977, pp. 9-10
  4. ^ a b Angelucci, 1987. p. 10.
  5. ^ Angelucci, 1987. p. 11.
  6. ^ a b Danby 1976, p. 9


  • Angelucci, Enzo (1987). The American Fighter from 1917 to the present. New York: Orion Books.  
  • Danby, Peter A. (1976). United States Navy Serials 1941 to 1976. Merseyside Aviation Society. ISBN 0-902420-17-8.  
  • Danby, Peter A. (1977). United States Air Force Serials 1946 to 1977. Merseyside Aviation Society. ISBN 0-902420-22-4.  

External links

A comprehensive explanation can be found at Systems of Designation.


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