U.S. Navy Aircraft Designation System

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by ccheese, Jul 26, 2007.

  1. ccheese

    ccheese Member In Perpetuity
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    Up until 1962, you could always (well, almost) tell the manufacturer
    of U.S. Navy planes by the last letter of their designation. It was
    changed in 1962 so that all services used the same designation for
    the same aircraft. The Navy also designated the mission of the
    aircraft by the first letters A-Attack, F -Fighter, R-Transport, S-Scout,
    SB-Scout Bomber, P-Patrol, PB-Patrol Bomber, O-Observation, etc.

    Here‘s a breakdown:

    Last Manufacturer Aircraft
    Letter


    A……. Brewster…………F2A (Buffalo), SB2A (Buccaneer)
    B……..Boeing……………PB-1W (B-17), B2B-1S, (B-29)
    C……..Curtiss……………NC-1, NC-4
    D……..Douglas…………..R4D, (C-47), R5D (C-54), JD-1, AD, SBD, A3D (B-66)
    F……..Grumman…………F3F, F4F, F6F, F7F, F8F, F9F, TF, S2F, TBF
    G……..Goodyear…………FG-1 (Goodyear built Corsair)
    H……..McDonnell………..F2H, FH-1 (Phantom)
    J………North American….SNJ (AT-6) FJ-3 (Fury) PBJ-1 (B-25)
    L………Bell………………FL-1 (P-39)
    M……..Glenn L. Martin…..PBM, P5M, P6M, JM-1 (B-26)
    N………Naval Acft Factory..N3N-1, N3N-2, N3N-3
    Q………Fairchild…………..R4Q (C-119)
    S……….Stearman………….N2S
    U……….Chance-Vought…..F4U, OS2U,
    Y………Consolidated………PBY, PB4Y-1 (B-24), PB4Y-2 (Privateer)
    V………Lockheed…………PV-1 (Hudson) PV-2 (Ventura), P2V, P2V-2,
    TV-2 (P-80), R7V-1 (Connie), P3V (Orion)


    C was also used to designate Cessna : UC-35D Encore
    B was also used to designate Beechcraft: SNB (C-45)
    M was also used to designate General Motors. Their Eastern Aircraft
    Division built some of the TBM’s. Martin also built some.

    Stearman, Boeing and the Naval Aircraft Factory all made the Kaydet.

    There were others: General Aviation, Budd, Hiller, Stinson, Piasecki,
    Ryan, Waco, and the list goes from A to Z. I’ve tried to hit the most
    popular, and the one’s most aviation buffs would recognize. A complete
    list can be found at:

    1922 United States Navy aircraft designation system - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Charles
     
  2. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    Nice post Charles - I know we had several people asking about this over the years - here it is all spelled out!
     
  3. Maharg

    Maharg Member

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    Great post Charles thanks M8. :thumbup:
     
  4. maxs75

    maxs75 Member

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    It's curious that Imperial Japanese Navy used a similar way of designation:
    A: Aichi D3A, E13A
    K: Kawanishi H6K, H8K
    M: Mitsubishi A5M, A6M, F1M
    N: Nakajima B5N, B6N
    and so on.
    The difference is that for the first model of the role IJN uses 1, while USN put nothing:
    Grumman FF, then F2F, F3F
    Curtiss SBC, then SB2C
    but
    Yokosuka P1Y,
    Mitsubishi F1M.
    Also, IJN numbers follows role, USN numbers follow builders.
    So if you A6M zero/zeke, it is not possible to have A6N, While USN had F4F, F4U, F4B....

    Max
     
  5. ccheese

    ccheese Member In Perpetuity
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    Perhaps I should have taken this a little further.

    Maxs75: for you: There were additions to the designations for instance:
    F4U-1A referred to the first modification (A) to the first major subtype (1)
    of a Chance-Vought (U) fourth (4) fighter (F) design.

    It went like this:
    (Mission)(Design Number)(Manufacturer)-(Subtype)(Minor Modification)
    F 4 U - 1 A

    Charles
     
  6. evangilder

    evangilder "Shooter"
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    Good info. I knew the designation had some meaning as it was described to me once. I just didn't know all of the manufacturer codes.
     
  7. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

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    Another good post Charles.
     
  8. ccheese

    ccheese Member In Perpetuity
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    When I started this post about US Navy aircraft designations, I started out
    right from memory. And..... I did remember most of them. Then I got to
    checking and.....egad..... there were 105 manufacturers of aircraft for
    the US Navy. Some I've never heard of.....Canadian Car Foundry, for
    instance. Ford, Thomas Morse, Wilford (who's he ?), Cox-Klemin....
    and the list goes on. And they literally went from A: Brewster, General
    Aviation, Allied, Aeromarine to Z: Wilford and Pennsylvania. I thought I
    had really opened up a pandora's box, but Joe egged me on, and there-in
    lies the tale. I hope it was informative to our friends in other countries
    who always wanted to know what an F4U-1A was.

    Charles
     
  9. Micdrow

    Micdrow “Archive”
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    Very cool, thanks ccheese
     
  10. Gnomey

    Gnomey World Travelling Doctor
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    Good post Charles, thanks!
     
  11. Mike64

    Mike64 New Member

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    A nice summary, ccheese.

    One anecdote: it wasn't the Navy who made a decision, or agreed to, the present common system with the other services.

    It was directed by the then-new Secretary of Defense (SecDef) Robert S. McNamara. It is reported that he really got P.O.d when the USAF started to talk about their plans for a new fighter, the F-110. Then the Navy started to talk about THEIR plans for THEIR new fighter, the F4J. Both of these were really the early designs for the Phantom II.

    McNamara went nuts after figuring out there were two different systems and issued a DoD directive to "Fix It!"

    For our foreign friends, "Mac the Knife" was the new SecDef under JFK. After JFK was assassinated, he stayed on through the Lyndon Johnson administration. He directed the management of the TFX (F-111) program, which eventually became the F-111, and a baseline for the F-14; both pretty good designs in the end, but TERRIBLE overruns in cost and time.

    He was regarded as an efficiency expert; he applied statistical logic to WWII strategic bombing plans (he was then a USAAC officer), and was as later President of Ford Motors.

    In the end, most civilians (AND military personnel), considered him an A-Hole who couldn't make up his mind when under pressure – especially Vietnam.

    Again, a nice summary

    Mike64
    USN Retired
     
  12. Mike64

    Mike64 New Member

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    OOPS! the early design for the Navy Phantom II was of course, the F4H. I am getting too old!

    Also, you will note the the ultimate name Phantom II, came from the original NAVY name, for followup on the early FH-1, which got overtaken by the Banshee and was really only a prototype program.
     
  13. Mike64

    Mike64 New Member

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    A nice summary, ccheese.

    One anecdote: it wasn't the Navy who made a decision, or agreed to, the present common system with the other services.

    It was directed by the then-new Secretary of Defense (SecDef) Robert S. McNamara. It is reported that he really got P.O.d when the USAF started to talk about their plans for a new fighter, the F-110. Then the Navy started to talk about THEIR plans for THEIR new fighter, the F4J. Both of these were really the early designs for the Phantom II.

    McNamara went nuts after figuring out there were two different systems and issued a DoD directive to "Fix It!"

    For our foreign friends, "Mac the Knife" was the new SecDef under JFK. After JFK was assassinated, he stayed on through the Lyndon Johnson administration. He directed the management of the TFX (F-111) program, which eventually became the F-111, and a baseline for the F-14; both pretty good designs in the end, but TERRIBLE overruns in cost and time.

    He was regarded as an efficiency expert; he applied statistical logic to WWII strategic bombing plans (he was then a USAAC officer), and was as later President of Ford Motors.

    In the end, most civilians (AND military personnel), considered him an A-Hole who couldn't make up his mind when under pressure – especially Vietnam.

    Again, a nice summary

    Mike64
    USN Retired
     
  14. ccheese

    ccheese Member In Perpetuity
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    You are correct, Mike, it was changed by Mack The Knife. The paperwork I
    got most of my information from starts out, "As is well known, the DOD
    unified all military aircraft designations in 1962 under a common designation
    system, based on the USAF's". The Navy (USCG and USMC) did not have a
    choice in the matter.

    One thing I meant to say in my post; I know for a fact that the Navy had
    P-38's. Albeit, they were highly modified for photo-recon, but I am unable
    to find any "unit" that flew them, or what the Navy called them. They
    had a V in their designation, being made by Lockheed, but by 1962 they
    were not flying them so it didn't matter.

    Charles
     
  15. Cub Driver

    Cub Driver New Member

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    Well, the JNAF pretty much adapted that particular nomenclature from the USN's.

    What's always baffled me about the JNAF and JAAF formal nomenclature is that it was (and is) almost never used. A Japanese writer almost never says "A6M" or "Ki-43" but instead Type Zero or Type One, sometimes but by no means always followed by the type of aircraft. This can get excruciatingly difficult when a text involves a raid involving Ki-23s (Type 97), Ki-30s (Type 97), and Ki-21s (Type 97!).

    Funnily enough, the Type This version is often called the "short" system. So Type Zero Carrier Fighter is short, while A6M is long.

    Blue skies! -- Dan Ford

    Coming in September: Flying Tigers: Claire Chennault and His American Volunteers, 1941-1942
     
  16. Mike64

    Mike64 New Member

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    Charles -

    I found your answer:

    The Navy P-38 version was the Lockheed FO-1.

    As you likely know, the letter "O" was also used for some miscellaneous aircraft -

    Lockheed
    Piper
    Viking


    "The US Navy acquired four F-5Bs from the AAF in North Africa and redesignated them FO-1 [01209/01212]. They were operated exclusively as land-based aircraft and never from carriers.

    Lockheed had proposed a carrier-based version of the Lightning (Model 822) with folding wings, arrester hooks, and a strengthened airframe. However, the Navy looked askance at such a large aircraft on its carrier decks, and they disliked liquid-cooled engines for carrier-based planes. Consequently, the project never got past the paper stage. "

    I would also add, the Navy was skeptical about turbochargers (vice mechanical superchargers) because of reliability and shipboard maintenance support.

    I hoped this helped, shipmate

    Also, forgive my previous "double post" above. I am new and still trying to get a handle on the posting process!



    Mike
     
  17. ccheese

    ccheese Member In Perpetuity
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    Thanks, Mike.....

    I didn't know someone had suggested a P-38 for carrier use. My old ship
    USS Conyngham (DDG-17) was in company with the USS Forrestal when
    they were doing landings (trapped touch go) with the C-130. We
    were in her wake for plane guard duties. I never thought that big thing
    would be able to take a trap, or an un-assisted take off, but it did.

    FWIW, that particular C-130 is in the inventory at Pensacola.

    Charles
     
  18. Graeme

    Graeme Well-Known Member

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    Some sources indicate that the Lockheed FO-1's were used for photographic work in North Africa. Another more likely use was as twin-engined trainers for experience in preparation for the F7F Tigercat. One source reports that they were based at Hawaii for a time, were left in bare metal, and carried their Bureau Numbers on the tail in the Air Corps manner.

    At one time the U.S. Navy possessed Lockheed P-80A's, also designated FO-1. This strange duplication of designation seems to be due to the fact that the Navy obtained their Lightnings directly from the Army. Apparently Lockheed was unaware that the FO-1 classification had already been assigned and, in company, records, lists three P-80A's as FO-1's. However these planes are listed under their Air force designations as P-80A's. Number 29668 was outfitted with catapult hooks and arresting gear for carrier trials aboard the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt. Although fifty of the single-seat Shooting Stars were ordered by the Navy, they were of the F-80C types and classed as T0-1 trainers. As mentioned Lockheed became "V" and the planes were relabeled TV-1's.
    In 1948 Marine Squadron VMF-311 received 16 TO-1's and operated them as fighters, but no carrier equipment was installed.

    The Navy also purchased two Bell P-39Q Airacobras. These were classed as F2L-1K's and used as unarmed drones. In 1946, one was fitted with swept wings for evaluation of their use on future high performance fighters.

    Also purchased were twelve Northrop P-61A's, designated F2T-1. They were used for radar operator training in the use of the SCR-720 airborne intercept radar-the type used in the F7F Tigercat. In 1946, four of these planes were assigned to Headquarters Squadron MAG-31, Marine Corps at NAS Miramar. They remained on the Navy roster until 1948. The F2T-1's retained their distinctive all-black colour scheme throughout their Naval service.
     
  19. Mike64

    Mike64 New Member

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    Charles -
    And I thought I was an old timer!

    The C-130 was flown by Jim Flatley, son of the WWII Flatley. The tests were done by Naval Air Test Center at Patuxent River. They were trying to find a way to bring as many supplies / people as they could to a Carrier in a crunch situation. The only other option was to keep using the little Grumman C-1 "Trader". They has practiced the approach and takeoff profiles for months before they actually did it. It was also an obvious PAO victory ,drawing positive attention to the capabilities of the new Super Carriers.

    The C-130 didn't have a hook to actually "trap" - they went to BETA pitch (flat pitch) on the props as they crossed the round down, on the LSO's signal. Once they touched down, they went to full reverse to stop. He was flying the C-130 about as slow as he could safely get it, and the "Forest Fire" was about to be lifting the safeties on the boilers to get as much wind over the deck as she could. I imagine you guys on Plane Guard were turnin' and burnin' to keep up!

    The C-130 is still a great airplane, and has always been a great performer from small or unprepared airstrips.

    Mike
     
  20. Mike64

    Mike64 New Member

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    Graeme -

    Nice rundown of some "also ran"s.

    The FO-1s were definitely used for recon - to support US/RN surface combatants in keeping tabs on German ship action. There was little Navy shipboard recon capability from US or RN Carriers at the time, and the German withdrawal to Sicily / Italy was a good Allied opportunity to catch them in vulnerable situations.

    You bring up some good points about the USMC; our motto in Carrier Aviation was typically "..if it sucks for Carrier ops, just give it to the Marines .." The F7F was an excellent example.

    Even the F4U was that way - it never was well thought of on a Carrier - terrible arrestment problems. Most of its deserved reputation in combat was in the hands of land-based Marine squadrons.

    Mike
     
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