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US Navy Aircraft Designations
Part Two - 1962 to Today

by Stephane Wrobel


I n t r o d u c t i o n


In Part One of "US Navy Aircraft Designations" we examined how the US Navy designated its aircraft from the birth of US Naval aviation in 1911, until 1961.

In 1962, a fundamental change was made. This was due the need for a universal designation for all US military aircraft. The common use of several aircraft by the US Air Force, US Army, US Navy, US Marines and US Coast Guards was the catalyst for this change.

A common regulation was issued on 18th September 1962.

With this new system all existing Naval aircraft were redesignated using a letter, dash, number, and letter to indicate (in this order)

    • First Letter - the basic mission or type of air-craft,
    • Number - its place in the series of that type, and
    • Second Letter - its place in the series of changes in its basic design.

In Part One I promised to explain why the Skyraider could be called AD-6 or A-1H. I trust that now it is starting to become clearer!

Tthe old and new deisgnations were kept as close as possible to avoid confusion. For instance, the F8U became F-8 and the F9F became F-9. Existing Air Force designations remained unchanged. That’s why the F-5 designation was not to replace an old Navy deisgnation.

This designation system is still in use today.


N a v a l    A i r c r a f t   D e s i g n a t i o n   L i s t


A list of these new designations is probably the most effective explanation. This is not a totally comprehensive list, but most major types are covered.

The list below covers both old and new designations:







AD-5 A-1E Skyraider
AD-5Q EA-1F Skyraider
AD-6 A-1H Skyraider
AJ-1 A-2A Savage
A3D-1 A-3A Skywarrior
A3D-1Q EA-3A Skywarrior
A3D-2P RA-3B Skywarrior
A4D-1 A-4A Skyhawk
A4D-5 A-4E Skyhawk
A3J-1 A-5A Vigilante
A2F-1 A-6A Intruder
FJ-3 F-1C Fury
FJ-4 F-1E Fury
FJ-4B AF-1E Fury
F2H-3 F-2C Banshee
F3H-2 F-3B Demon
F4H-1 F-4B Phantom II
F4H-1P RF-4B Phantom II
F4D-1 F-6A Skyray
F8U-1P RF-8A Crusader
F8U-2N F-8D Crusader
F9F-6 F-9F Cougar
F9F-8P RF-9J Cougar
F9F-8T TF-9J Cougar
F3D-1 F-10A Sky Knight
F3D-2Q EF-10B Sky Knight
F11F-1 F-11A Tiger






P2V-6F P-2G Neptune
P3V-1 P-3A Orion
P4Y-2K QP-4B Privateer
P5M-2S SP-5B Marlin
S2F-3S S-2E Tracker
Airborne Early Warning
WF-2 E-1B Tracer
W2F-1 E-2A Hawkeye
OE-1 O-1B Bird Dog
HU-1E UH-1E Iroquois
HU2K-1 UH-2A Seasprite
HSS-2 SH-3A Sea King
HTL-4 TH-13L Sioux
HUL-1M UH-13R Sioux
HRS-3 CH-19E  
HO4S-3 UH-19F  
HUP-2 UH-25B Retriever
HSS-1N SH-34J Seahorse
HR2S-1 CH-37C Mojave
HUK-1 UH-43C  
HRB-1 CH-46A Sea Knight
JD-1 UB-26J Invader
UC-1 U-1B Otter
L-20A U-6A Beaver
UO-1 U-11A Aztec
UF-2 HU-16D Albatross
TF-1 C-1A Trader
SNB-5P RC-45J  
R4D-5 C-47H Skytrain
R5D-3 C-54Q Skymaster
R4D-8 C-117D Skytrain
R6D-1 C-118B Liftmaster
R4Q-2 C-119F Packet
R7V-1 C-121J Constellation
WV-2Q EC-121M Warning Star
GV-1U C-130F Hercules
R4Y-1 C-131F Convair Liner
UV-1 C-140C Jet Star
T2V-1 T-1A Sea Star
T2J-1 T-2A Buckeye
TV-2 T-33B Shooting Star
T3J-1 T-39D Sabreliner
ZPG-2W EZ-1B Reliance
ZPG-3W EZ-1C  


I n t e r p r e t i n g   t h e   N e w   S y s t e m


The new designation for US military aircraft was passed by Congress in 1962. While the US Navy DOD worked well from 1922, now every military plane, regardless of the operating branch of US Defense Force, will have the same designation. The manufacturer is no longer identified. Maybe it’s better for us as many of them have since dissapeared!

The new designation consists of a "Basic Mission" letter, a "Design Number", a "Modified Mission" letter (if needed), a "Series Letter" and a "Type Symbol" letter.



Under the old US Navy designation this was YF9F-8T, but is now YTF-9J under the new DOD system.


Status Prefix Symbols

G Permanently Grounded

J Special Test, Temporary

N Special Test, Permanent

X Experimental

Y Prototype

Z Planning

Modified Mission Symbols

A Attack

C Cargo/Transport

D Director

E Special Electronic Installation

H Search/Rescue

K Tanker

L Cold Weather

M Missile Carrier

Q Drone

R Reconnaissance

S Antisubmarine

T Trainer

U Utility

V Staff

W Weather

Basic Mission Symbols

A Attack

B Bomber

C Cargo/Transport

E Special Electronic Installation

F Fighter

H Helicopter

K Tanker

O Observation

P Patrol

S Antisubmarine

T Trainer

U Utility


X Research

Z Airship



P o p u l a r    N a m e s


In conclusion, I would like to point out that US Navy did not officially use popular names such as Corsair, Tomcat or Catalina before 1941.

The first reference to these popular names was in an April 1942 Bauer publication.

So do not expect the Curtiss F9C SparrowHawk to be an official name. Those names were nominated by manufacturers. For example, "Corsair" was used by Vought for numerous planes as was "Helldiver" by Curtiss.

Although the Navy and Air Force coordinbated designations from 1943, they continued to operate their own systems.

When the US Navy used Air Force planes, they used the original name but Navy’s designation. Thus Liberators were B-24 on Air Force hands and PB4Y in the Navy’s.

In 1952, a commission decided to avoid multiple designatons between Navy and Air Force. This was 10 years before the new DOD. Thus "T-28 Trojan" was used both by the Navy and Air Force.

While Navy redesignated all its aircrafts fleet in 1962, it retains all the designations and names used from 1942.

I hope that these two articles have lightened some dark parts of your US Navy designation knowledge.

These articles has been based on a CD Rom issued by the Naval Historical Center, written by Roy A. Grossnick.

For those who want to know more about US Navy Aviation history, I highly recommend the pruchase of this CD Rom which is not at all expensive (less than some kits’ price).

You can order it at : http://www.hystory.navy.mil

Happy modeling!

Article Text Copyright 1998 by Stephane Wrobel
Page Created 07 December, 1998.
Last updated 18 May, 2001.

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