List of military aircraft of the United States

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This list of military aircraft of the United States includes prototype, pre-production, and operational types. For aircraft in service, see the List of active United States military aircraft. Prototypes are normally prefixed with "X" and are often unnamed (note that these are not the same as the experimental X-planes, which are not generally expected to go into production), while pre-production models are usually prefixed with "Y".

The United States military employs a designation and naming system to provide identifications to all aircraft types. Until 1962, the United States Army, United States Air Force (formerly Army Air Force), and United States Navy all maintained separate systems. In September 1962,[1] these were unified into a single system heavily reflecting the Air Force method. For more complete information on the workings of this system, refer to United States Department of Defense Aerospace Vehicle Designations.

This list does not include aircraft used by the U.S. military services prior to the establishment of a numerical designation system. For these aircraft, see List of military aircraft of the United States (1909–1919). It also does not include aircraft designated under the pre-1962 United States Navy designation system. For these aircraft, see List of military aircraft of the United States (naval).

A collection of NASA experimental aircraft, including (clockwise from left) the X-31, F-15 ACTIVE, SR-71, F-106, F-16XL, X-38, Radio Controlled Mothership, and X-36.

Contents

Prior to 1919[edit]

Prior to 1919, all planes flown by the Army Air Service and the Navy were referred to by the designation given to them by their manufacturer. A variety of both domestic and foreign types were operated, with the latter being the primary front-line types during the First World War.

Army Air Service, 1919–1924[edit]

Curtiss PW-8

In September 1919, the Army Air Service decided that it needed an organized designation sequence, and adopted fifteen classifications, designated by Roman numerals. Several other unnumbered designations were added later. Each designation was assigned an abbreviation, and each design a number within that abbreviation. Variants were designated by alphabetically appending letters to the design number.

Type O: Foreign-Built Pursuit Aircraft[edit]

Type I: Pursuit, water-cooled[edit]

Type II: Pursuit, night[edit]

Type III: Pursuit, air-cooled[edit]

Type IV: Pursuit, ground attack, 1922[edit]

Type V: Two-seat pursuit[edit]

  • TP-1 – Engineering Division

Type VI: Ground attack, 1920–1922[edit]

Type VII: Infantry liaison[edit]

Type VIII: Night observation[edit]

Type IX: Artillery observation[edit]

Type X: Corps observation[edit]

  • CO-1 – Engineering Division
  • CO-2 – Engineering Division
  • CO-3 – Engineering Division
  • CO-4 – Atlantic
  • CO-5 – Engineering Division
  • CO-6 – Engineering Division
  • CO-7 – Boeing
  • CO-8 – Atlantic

Type XI: Day bombardment[edit]

  • DB-1 – Gallaudet

Type XII: Night bombardment, short range[edit]

Type XIII: Night bombardment, long range[edit]

Type XIV: Trainer, air-cooled[edit]

Type XV: Trainer, water-cooled[edit]

Ambulance, 1919–1924[edit]

  • A-1 – Cox-Klemin
  • A-2 – Fokker

Messenger[edit]

Pursuit, special[edit]

  • PS-1 – Dayton-Wright

Racer[edit]

Verville-Sperry R-3

Seaplane[edit]

  • S-1 – Loening

Transport[edit]

Army Air Corps/Army Air Forces/Air Force 1924–1962[edit]

A-3 Falcon

Attack, 1924–1948[edit]

Bomber[edit]

Huff-Daland LB-1

Until 1926, the Army Air Service had three sequences for bombers. Light bombers were indicated by the LB- prefix, medium bombers by the B- prefix, and heavy bombers by the HB- prefix. In 1926, the three-category system was scrapped and all bombers subsequently built were placed in the B- sequence.

Light Bomber, 1924–1926[edit]

Medium Bomber, 1924–1926[edit]

Heavy Bomber, 1924–1926[edit]

  • HB-1 – Huff-Daland
  • HB-2 – Atlantic/Fokker
  • HB-3 – Huff-Daland

Unified bomber sequence, 1926–1962[edit]

Martin B-10B
Beginning with #69, the "M-" (missile) and "B-" (bomber) series diverged. The missiles designated M-69 to M-92, some of which are incorrectly labeled as "formerly designated B-xx" in some sources, never used a "B-" series designation.

Bomber, long range, 1935–1936[edit]

A short-lived designation used from 1935–1936 to refer to three long-range bomber projects commissioned by the Army Air Corps. Most of the bombers were night bombers.

Cargo, 1924–1962[edit]

Douglas C-1 refueling Fokker C-2

Drone[edit]

Culver PQ-8A

Aerial Target[edit]

1922–1935[edit]
1940–1941[edit]
1942–1948[edit]

Aerial Target (Model Airplane), 1942–1948[edit]

Radioplane OQ-2A

Controllable bomb, 1942–1945[edit]

Target Control, 1942–1948[edit]

Unified sequence, 1948–1962[edit]

Glider[edit]

Assault Glider, 1942–1944[edit]

Bomb Glider, 1942–1944[edit]

Cargo Glider, 1941–1948[edit]

Waco CG-4A

Fuel Glider, 1930–1948[edit]

  • FG-1 – Cornelius

Powered Glider, 1943–1948[edit]

Training Glider, 1941–1948[edit]

Schweitzer TG-3A

Unified sequence, 1948–1955[edit]

Sailplane, 1960–1962[edit]

Gyroplane, 1935–1939[edit]

Liaison, 1942–1962[edit]

Pursuit, 1924-1948/Fighter, 1948–1962[edit]

P-3 Hawk

Designated P- for "pursuit" until 1948, when the United States Air Force was founded. After this, all P- designations were changed to F- ("fighter"), but the original numbers were retained.

Fighter, Multiplace[edit]

Pursuit, Biplace[edit]

  • PB-1 – Berliner-Joyce
  • PB-2 – Consolidated
  • PB-3 – Lockheed

Observation[edit]

Observation, 1924–1942[edit]

Observation amphibian, 1925–1948[edit]

Reconnaissance[edit]

Photographic reconnaissance, 1930–1948 / Reconnaissance, 1948–1962[edit]

Reconnaissance-strike, 1960–1962[edit]

Both of the following aircraft are numbered in the B- (bomber) sequence.

Rotary wing 1941–1948 and helicopter 1948–present[edit]

In 1941, the category letter R- was allotted for "rotary wing" aircraft, and this designation was used until the founding of the United States Air Force in 1947, at which point the category letter was changed to H-, for "helicopter". However, the original numbering sequence was retained.

In 1962 when the Unified Designation System was adopted, six former Navy and Army types received new designations in the H-1 to H-6 series, which can be found here. However, the original sequence was also continued, and remains in use to the present, with the next designation available being H-73.

Lockheed XH-51

Supersonic/special test, 1946–1948[edit]

Trainer[edit]

Advanced Trainer, 1925–1948[edit]

Basic Combat, 1936–1940[edit]

  • BC-1 – North American
  • BC-2 – North American
  • BC-3 – Vultee

Basic Trainer, 1930–1948[edit]

Primary Trainer, 1925–1948[edit]

Unified sequence, 1948–present[edit]

The AT-6 Texan, AT-7 Navigator, and AT-11 Kansan, were retroactively given T- designations. The new sequence began at 28, continuing the "PT-" numbering sequence.

Convertiplane, 1952–1962[edit]

Army, 1956–1962[edit]

AO-1 Mohawk

In 1956, the U.S. Army adopted a new, and relatively simple, designation system for its aviation assets. Aircraft were divided into three different types – 'A' for fixed-wing aircraft, 'H' for helicopters, or 'V' for V/STOL aircraft, and then were given a mission modifier, which, unlike the USAF system, came after the type code: 'C' for transports, 'O' for observation and reconnaissance aircraft, 'U' for utility types, and 'Z' for experimental aircraft. Aircraft types designated in this system were numbered sequentially.[8]

Airplane, Cargo, 1956–1962[edit]

Airplane, Observation, 1956–1962[edit]

Flying Platform, 1955–1956[edit]

Helicopter, Cargo, 1956–1962[edit]

Helicopter, Observation, 1956–1962[edit]

Helicopter, Utility, 1956–1962[edit]

Helicopter, Experimental, 1956–1962[edit]

Vertical Takeoff and Landing Research, 1956–1962[edit]

VZ-9 Avrocar

Unified System, 1962–present[edit]

Airborne Laser[edit]

Airship[edit]

Anti-Submarine Warfare[edit]

Attack[edit]

Bomber[edit]

Cargo[edit]

Drone[edit]

Non-sequential designations

Electronic Warfare[edit]

Fighter[edit]

Note: Designations YF-110, YF-112 through YF-116, and YF-118 were captured foreign aircraft used for evaluation and aggressor training. They were given designations in sequence—based on chronology—with "black" project aircraft, continuing the pre-1962 F series.[12][13]

Other Designations

  • YF-24 – (fictional?) Classified project[12][14]
  • YF-113G – possible USAF "black project"[12]
  • YF-121 – Rumored "black project"[12]

Glider[edit]

Helicopter[edit]

Unlike most other categories of aircraft, the introduction of the tri-service designation system in 1962 did not result in a wholesale redesignation of helicopters. While six types received new designations in the unified, "re-started" sequence, the original "H-" series of designations that started in 1948 was also continued, and no further types of rotorcraft have been designated in the "post-1962" system.

Observation[edit]

Patrol[edit]

Reconnaissance[edit]

Spaceplane[edit]

The only designation in the "Spaceplane" series, the MS-1A shares a designation letter with the anti-submarine warfare category, and is perhaps unique among MDS identifiers as being assigned to a future, and currently not wholly defined, concept, as opposed to a specific project.[3][16]

Tanker[edit]

No specialised types have been acquired to receive a stand-alone 'K for Tanker' designation; for aircraft modified for use as tankers, see the parent aircraft in the proper sequence.

Trainer, 1962, 1990–present[edit]

Despite the adoption of the unified Mission Designation System in 1962, only two aircraft were designated in the new series, both former Navy types. The old series continued in use until 1990, at which point a new series was started over at T-1, with the previous T-2 still being in use. However, the old series has still seen new designations being assigned. The next designation available in the 'T' series is T-52 or T-7, depending on which series is continued.

1962 Sequence

1990 Sequence

Utility, 1955–present[edit]

Vertical and Short Take-off and Landing Aircraft[edit]

Experimental, 1948–present[edit]

Main article: List of X-planes

In addition to aircraft intended to support military operations, the unified system includes experimental craft designed to push the boundaries of aeronautical and aerospace knowledge. These aircraft are designated in the "X-series", which led them to become known as "X-planes". Only those with military sponsors are listed here.

Un-designated foreign aircraft operated by the United States[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ AFR 66-11, AR 700-26, BUWEPSINST 13100.7, "Designating, Redesignating, and Naming of Military Aircraft", 18 September 1962
  2. ^ "Lockheed B-71 (SR-71)". National Museum of the United States Air Force. October 29, 2009. Retrieved 2013-10-02. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w Parsch 2009, "DOD 4120.15-L"
  4. ^ Andrade 1979, page 60
  5. ^ "HazeGray.org". rec.aviation.military FAQ, Part 4. Retrieved 2007-01-13. 
  6. ^ Andrade 1979, p. 162
  7. ^ "Photo essay: Flight of a T-52A" U.S. Air Force.
  8. ^ Chorney, Andrew. Systems of Designation, U.S. Army Aircraft, 1956–1962 System. U.S. Military Aircraft Designations 1911–2004
  9. ^ a b DOD 4120.15-L: Model Designation of Military Aerospace Vehicles, Department of Defense, Office of the Undersecretary of Defense (AT&L) (Defense Systems), May 12, 2004. Retrieved April 7, 2010.
  10. ^ a b Officially, the F/A-18 is designated in both the A-for-attack and F-for-fighter series.
  11. ^ U.S. Military Aircraft Designations 1911–2004
  12. ^ a b c d Parsch, Andreas (2006-11-27). "Cover Designations for Classified USAF Aircraft". Designation-Systems.Net. Retrieved 2006-12-29. 
  13. ^ Fulghum, David A., "MiGs in Nevada", Aviation Week & Space Technology, November 27, 2006
  14. ^ "Edwards AFB website". Col. Joseph A. Lanni, USAF biography. Archived from the original on 2005-03-18. Retrieved 2007-01-07. 
  15. ^ a b c d e f 94th Flying Training Squadron aircraft
  16. ^ MS-1A, GlobalSecurity.org. Retrieved 2010-04-08.
  17. ^ a b c d Parsch, Andreas. ""Missing" USAF/DOD Aircraft Designations". Designation-Systems.Net. Retrieved 2010-04-13. 
  18. ^ Jenkins, Landis and Miller 2003, p. 17.
  19. ^ Jenkins, Landis and Miller 2003, p. 18.
  20. ^ a b Parsch 2009, "Missing Designations"
  21. ^ a b c d e f g Office of History, Headquarters Third Air Force, United States Air Forces in Europe: Installations and USAAF Combat Units in the United Kingdom 1942–1945, Revised and Expanded Edition. October 1980; reprinted February 1985
  22. ^ Baugher, Joseph F. 1930–1937 USAAS Serial Numbers

Sources[edit]

Books
  • Andrade, John M. (1979). U.S. Military Aircraft Designations and Serials Since 1909. Midland Counties Publications. ISBN 978-0-904597-22-6. 
  • Fahey, James C. (1946). U.S. Army Aircraft 1908–1946. 
  • Michael J.H. Taylor, ed. (1991). Jane's American Fighting Aircraft of the 20th Century. New York, NY: Mallard Press. ISBN 978-0-7924-5627-8. 

External links[edit]