Games played with military aircraft designations


Sep 23, 2022
This was brought up by queries as to why the leap from B-2 to B-21 skipping over a bunch of numbers.

Number systems have been played with through the years, usually to try to fool the public/congress that something is not a new project.

XP-52 and XP-59 were Bell pusher, twin boom, swept wing (long before Me262!) fighter programs intended for stillborn Continental V12 XIV-1430 and R-2800. First USAAF jet P-59A was given designation for secrecy and disinformation.
FJ Fury was straight wing, FJ-2 entirely new swept wing based on F-86, FJ-4 was total redesign w/new engine.
F-86D bore no relation to other Sabres with completely different mission. Later versions were designated F-95 when a new designation fit better in new procurement procedures
U-2 was purposely given designation of light liaison aircraft to help escape notice
P-75 was designated out of order as the publicists of the heavily promoted super fighter thought it was a more catchy number. Some source claim Preston Tucker was involved with promoting this.
F9F-5 straight wing Panther morphed into swept wing F9F-6 Cougar as a contract extension, not requiring new approval
F4H/F-4 Phantom started as AH-1, single seat attack bomber, and evolved into two seat multi role fighter
F-84 went through pretty much same process to emerge as entirely new bent wing F-84F
XF-106 was originally based on F-84F bits with XT-40 turboprop squeezed in (Thunderscreech) but then back-designated to become XF-84H. Convair picked up the designation for their Delta Dart
F-86C was developed for long range escort role, and went through many changes to emerge as YF-93
F-98 Falcon and F-99 Bomarc were guided missiles given fighter designations to ease contracting. Also B-61 Matador/Mace and B-62 Snark IRBM/ICBM missiles.
B-36G mounted a swept back wing with 8 jet engines on the piston engine bomber, also sweeping the empennage. Wound up being designated YB-60

many more can be listed such as Grumman Super Tiger, and Vought Super Crusader and XF-88B Voodoo w/turboprop


Sep 23, 2022
As I said 33K, many more could be listed. I thought the list had gone on long enough.

Also remember that the C-47 kept the same designation despite significant changes when equipped with either the Wright R1820 or the P&W R2000, yet when they changed the cargo door, they renumbered it as the C-53.
The C-48 through C-52s were all civilian DC-3 airliners conscripted by the military. The highly modified C-47B became the C-117 Super DC-3, which when further modified, became the YC-129. One was tested without engines as the XCG-17 heavy troop glider, but afterward, returned to C-47 configuration.

In addition, the predecessor DC-2 Douglas transport was designated C-32, C-33 and C-34 with only minor changes. When a longer DC-3 wing was mated to a DC-2, it became a C-39, which again with minor changes was designated as C-41 and C-42.


Sep 23, 2022
The P-400 was not a US Military designation but applied to a version of the P-39 intended to be sold to other countries. A few of them were not delivered and saw duty as P-39s.

Grumman could not produce aircraft quickly enough for the Navy, so GM not only manufactured the TBF as the TBM, but the F4F as the FM and the F6F was planned as the F2M. FV-1 was the proposed designation for Hellcats to be built by Canadian Vickers.
The Chance Vought F4U Corsair was in great demand, so additional production contracts were given to
Goodyear, whose Corsairs were designated FG, and Brewster, designated F3A.
However, the USAAC stuck with the same designation for B-29s, whether built by Boeing, Bell or Martin. Enola Gay is a Martin built B-29. Vega also built a lot of B-17s.


Generalfeldmarschall zur Luftschiff Abteilung
The USAAF did have manufacturer differences in their type's nomenclature, it just wasn't used in common conversation.
The B-24, for example, could be B-24E-FO (manufactured by Ford, Willow Run) or B-24G-NT (manufactured by North American, Dallas) and B-24J-CO (manufactured by Consolidated, San Diego).
Same for the P-51, like P-51D-NA or P-51D-NT (NA for Inglewood and NT for Dallas).

Typically, between the Variant letter and manufacturer, there will be a numeral denoting that variant's subtype, example:
P-47D-26-RA was the first "bubbletop" P-47D manufactured at the Evansville plant.
Evansville was RA, Farmingdale was RE and Curtiss built Thunderbolts were P-47G-CU.

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