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United States of America military aircraft designation systems

Historical note on Designation Systems

From 1920 to 1947 the US Army Air Service[?]/US Army Air Corps/US Army Air Force used a designation system based on mission category, with each model in a category numbered in turn.

From 1922 to 1962 the US Navy (including US Marine Corps) used a completely separate designation system, based on both mission and manufacturer.

From 1947 to 1962 the US Air Force used a mission-based system different to, but derived from, the 1920-1947 system. For instance, the Lockheed P-80 `Shooting Star' (Pursuit) was re-designated as F-80 (Fighter), but the Convair B-36 bomber kept its previous designation.

From 1962 to now a joint system of mission-based designations was used, with most of these re-starting from 1. Various previously-designated models (such as the F-111) were not re-designated, however.

A comprehensive explanation can be found at [1] (http://www.driko.org/usdes2) (as at 2002-08-21).

Intention is to split into 3/4 sets of lists, headed by explanatory table, one for each of US Army, US Navy, and US Air Force. Plus maybe another for WW1 aircraft.

  • A Attack
  • B Bomber
  • C Cargo
  • E Electronic installation
  • F Fighter (was Foto Reconnaissance)
  • H Helicopter
  • K Tanker
  • O Observation
  • P Patrol (was Pursuit = Fighter)
  • R Reconnaisance
  • Q Drone
  • S Anti-submarine
  • T Trainer
  • U Utility
  • V Vtol or Stol
  • X Experimental

Other external links: http://www.csd.uwo.ca/~pettypi/elevon/gustin_military/usdes

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