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In 1924 problems with the previous designation system led to a general revamping of the designation system used by the United States Army Air Corps which was to remain in effect with some minor changes until 1962 when a unified tri-service designation system for all services came into effect.

1924-1962 Designation SystemEdit

The designation given to a particular aircraft can be broken down to provide information about that specific aircraft. A hypothetical example shows a typical designation, and what each section is. Tables below indicate possible codes used for each section, what their meanings were, and the time period in which they were used - not all codes were in use at the same time, and some codes, such as P for pursuit were changed to F for fighter for a given aircraft while they were in service, so that the Lockheed P-80 was redesignated as the Lockheed F-80. The portion of the designation after the subtype may be omitted in normal use. The hyphen before the block number may be replaced with the word "block", and in some cases the block number may be omitted. This information, along with the name of the service (USAAC, USAAF, USAF), the base (if permanently assigned) and the serial number was painted on the forward fuselage side under the cockpit.

StatusMission-ModifierMission-ModelSubtype-Block Number-Production Facility Code
XWB-29A-10 or  Block 10-BO

Status PrefixEdit

(generally applied only to specific aircraft)

Code MeaningPeriod
EExempt from modification orders (loaned to outside organizations)1946–1955
GGrounded permanently (for groundcrew instruction)1924–1962
JTemporarily modified for Special Tests (i.e.: NACA)1956–1962
NPermanently modified for Special Tests (i.e.: NACA)1956–1962
RRestricted (i.e. no aerobatics, no passengers or similar)1943–1947
XExperimental pre-production development aircraft1925–1962
YService test pending production orders1928–1962
Y1Funding from outside normal fiscal year procurement1931–1936
ZObsolete - limits maintenance and repairs1928–1962

Mission Modifier prefixEdit

Used when an aircraft has been modified for a different role from originally designed.

Code MeaningPeriod
CCargo Transport1943–1962
DDirector (Drone Controller)1948–1962
GCarrier (parasite aircraft mothership)1948
KFerret (electronic intelligence)1944–1947
PPassenger Transport (Only)1948–1962
QRadio Controlled Drone1948–1962
RReconnaissance (Photographic)1948–1962
SSearch and Rescue1948–1962
UUtility (light transport)1943–1962
VVIP Transport1945–1962

Mission LetterEdit

Code MeaningPeriod
AAerial Target1940–1941
AGAssault Glider1942–1944
ATAdvanced Trainer1925–1947
BCBasic Combat1936–1940
BGBomb Glider1942–1944
BLRBomber, Long Range1935–1936
BQBomb, Controllable (glide bombs & cruise missiles)1942–1945
BTBasic Trainer1930–1947
CGCargo Glider1941–1947
CQTarget Control1942–1947
FGFuel Glider1930–1947
FMFighter, Multiplace1936–1941
GBGlide Bomb1942–1947
GTGlide Torpedo1942–1947
HBHeavy Bomber1925–1927
JBJet-Propelled Bomb1943–1947
LBLight Bomber1924–1932
OAObservation Amphibian1925–1947
OQAerial Target (Model Airplane)1942–1947
PBPursuit, Biplace1935–1941
PGPowered Glider1943–1947
PQAerial Target (Man Carrying)1942–1947
PTPrimary Trainer1925–1947
QAerial Target1948–1962
RRotary Wing1941–1947
SSupersonic/Special Test1946–1947
TGTraining Glider1941–1947
VVTOL or STOL1954–1962
XSpecial Research1941–1947

Model NumberEdit

In theory each new design in a specific Mission category is numbered in sequence starting at 1, so that succeeding designs are numbered 2,3,4 etc. however numbers were occasionally skipped.


Minor modifications to a basic design are usually given a sequentially assigned letter denoting the particular subtype, starting with A and continuing with B, C, D, etc. In general, no additional meaning can be deduced from the sub-type letter.

Block NumberEdit

Analogous to the order number, these help not just to identify when an airframe was built, but in some types distinguish changes that occurred during production not identified by the sub-type letter, as between the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt razorback variant and the bubble canopy variant. Block numbers are unique to each type of aircraft.

Production facility codeEdit

Each factory producing aircraft for the USAAF was assigned a two letter code to distinguish between the product of one facility from another. This was important because parts were not always interchangeable between different plants, and the aircraft may have required different modifications during service.

info from:

ADAero Design & Engineering Co.Bethany, OK
AEAeroncaMiddletown, OH
AGAir GliderAkron, OH
AHAmerican HelicopterManhattan Beach, CA
AVAvro CanadaMontreal, QC, Canada
BABellAtlanta, GA
BBBabcock AircraftDeland, FL
BCBell AerosystemsBuffalo, NY
BEBellBuffalo, NT
BFBellFort Worth, TX
BHBeechWichita, KS
BLBellancaNew Castle, DE
BNBoeingRenton, WA
BOBoeingSeattle, WA
BRBriegleb SailplaneBeverley Hills, CA
BSBowlusSan Francisco, CA
BUBuddPhiladelphia, PA
BVBoeing-VertolMorton, PA
BWBoeingWichita, KS
CAChase AircraftWest Trenton, NJ
CCCanadian Commercial Corp.Toronto, ON, Canada
CECessnaWichita, KS
CFConvair/Consolidated-VulteeFort Worth, TX
CHChristopher AircraftSt. Louis, MO
CKCurtiss-WrightLouisville, KY
CLCulverWichita, KS
CMCommonwealth AircraftKansas City, MO
CNChase AircraftWillow Run, MI
COConvair/Consolidated-VulteeSan Diego, CA
CRCorneliusDayton, OH
CSCurtiss-WrightSt. Louis, MO
CUCurtiss-WrightBuffalo, NY
CVChance Vought, VoughtDallas, TX
DADoak AircraftTorrance, CA
DCDouglasChicago, IL
DEDouglasEl Segundo, CA
DHDe Havilland CanadaToronto, ON, Canada
DJSNCA Sud-OuestMarignane, France
DKDouglasOklahoma City, OK
DLDouglasLong Beach, CA
DMDoman HelicopterDanbury, CT
DODouglasSanta Monica, CA
DTDouglasTulsa, OK
FAFairchildHagerstown, MD
FBFairchildBurlington, NC
FEFleetFort Erie, ON, Canada
FLFleetwingsBristol, PA
FOFordWillow Run, MI
FRFrankfortJoliet, IL
FSFirestoneLos Angeles, CA
FTFletcher AviationPasadena, CA
GAG & A AircraftWillow Grove, PA
GCGeneral Motors (Fisher)Cleveland, OH
GEGeneral AircraftAstoria, Long Island, NY
GFGlobeFort Worth, TX
GKGeneral MotorsKansas City, KS
GMGeneral Motors (Fisher)Detroit, MI
GNGibson RefrigeratorGreenville, MI
GOGoodyear AircraftAkron, OH
GRGrummanBethpage, Long Island, NY
GTGrand Central Aircraft Eng.Tucson, AZ
GYGyrodyne Co., of AmericaSt. James, Long Island, NY
HEHelioNorwood, MA
HIHiggins AircraftNew Orleans, LA
HIHillerPalo Alto, CA
HOHoward AircraftChicago, IL
HPHandey PageRadlett, Herts, UK
HSHawker Siddeley AviationKingston, Surrey, UK
HUHughes AircraftCulver City & San Diego CA
INInterstate A. & Eng.El Segundo, CA
KAKamanWindsor Locks, CT
KEKelletPhiladelphia, PA
KMKaiser ManufacturingWillow Run, MI
LKLaister-KauffmanSt. Louis, MO
LMLockheed AircraftMarietta, GA
LOLockheed AircraftBurbank, CA
MAMartinBaltimore, MD
MCMcDonnellSt. Louis, MO
MDMartinBaltimore, MD
MFMartinOrlando, FL
MHMcCulloch MotorsLos Angeles, CA
MMMcDonnellMemphis, TN
MOMartinOmaha, NE
NANorth AmericanInglewood, CA
NCNorth AmericanKansas City, KS
NDNoorduyn AviationMontreal, QC, Canada
NFNorth AmericanFresno, CA
NHNorth AmericanColumbus, OH
NINorth AmericanDowney, CA
NKNash-KelvinatorDetroit, MI
NONorthropHawthorne, CA
NTNorth AmericanDallas, TX
NWNorthwestern Aeronautical Co.St. Paul, MN
OMOn Mark EngineeringVan Nuys, CA
PAPiperLock Haven, PA
PHPiaseckiMorton, PA
PIPiperLockhaven, PA
PIPiaseckiPhiladelphia, PA
PLPlatt-LePageEddystone, PA
PRPratt, Read & Co.Deep River, CT
RARepublicEvansville, IN
RDRead-YorkKenosha, WI
RERepublicFarmingdale, Long Island, NY
RIRidgefield Mfg.Ridgeville, NJ
RORobertson AircraftSt. Louis, MO
RPThe Radioplane Co.Van Nuys, CA
RYRyan AeronauticalSan Diego, CA
SAStroukoffWest Trenton, NJ
SESeibel HelicopterWichita, KS
SISikorsky AircraftStratford, CT
SLSt. Louis AircraftSt. Louis, MO
SPSpartanTulsa, OK
SWSchweizerElmira, NY
TATaylorcraftAlliance, OH
TETemcoDallas, TX
TGTexas Engineering & ManufacturingGreenville, TX
TITimmVan Nuys, CA
TPTexas Engineering & ManufacturingGrand Prairie, TX
UHUnited HelicopterPalto Alto, CA
UNUniversal Molded ProductsBristol, VA
VEVega Aircraft Corp.Burbank, CA
VICanadian VickersMontreal, Canada
VLVertol AircraftMorton, PA
VNVulteeNashvillee, TN
VOChance VoughtDallas, TX
VUVulteeDowney, CA
VWVulteeWayne, MI
WAWard Furniture Co.Fort Smith, AK
WIWichita EngineeringWichita Falls, TX
WOWacoTroy, OH


Aircraft ordered by foreign governments but taken over by the US Government often used the manufacturer's internal designations rather than the designation used for similar aircraft ordered by the US Government, so that the Consolidated LB-30 was a B-24 ordered by the British but not delivered, and the Vultee V.77 was similarly an AT-19.






  • Fahey, James C. (1946). U.S. Army Aircraft (Heavier-Than-Air) 1908-1946. 
  • Swanborough, Gordon; Bowers, Peter M.. United States Military Aircraft Since 1909. Putnam. 

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