Home | What's New | Features | Gallery | Reviews | Reference | Forum | Search
Navy Aircraft Designations
by Stephane Wrobel
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)
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. Thats why the F-5 designation was not to replace an old Navy deisgnation.
This designation system is still in use today.
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:
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 its 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.
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 Navys designation. Thus Liberators were B-24 on Air Force hands and PB4Y in the Navys.
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
Article Text Copyright © 1998 by Stephane Wrobel