United States military aircraft designation systems

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The United States Military Aircraft Designation System was first designed in 1919 when the US Army's Aeronautical Division became the United States Army Air Service. Before this aircraft were put into service under their manufacturers designation.[1]



United States Army Air Service 1919 to 1924

During this period Type Designations used by the United States Army Air Service were allotted, using two or three letters, which were an abbreviation of the aircraft's purpose. Examples include GA for Ground Attack aircraft; NO for Night Observation aircraft and NBS for Night Bombardment, Short Distance aircraft.[2]

Army aviation 1924 to 1947

From 1924 to 1947 the Air Service, United States Army Air Corps, and United States Army Air Forces used a designation system based on mission category, with each model in a category numbered sequentially.[1]

US Air Force 1947 to 1962

From 1947 to 1962 the United States Air Force used a mission-based system closely based on the 1920-1947 system.[3] For instance, the Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star (Pursuit) was redesignated as F-80 (Fighter), but the Convair B-36 bomber kept its previous designation.[4]

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