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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.


Prior to 1919[edit | edit source]

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 | edit source]

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 | edit source]

Type I: Pursuit, water-cooled[edit | edit source]

Type II: Pursuit, night[edit | edit source]

Type III: Pursuit, air-cooled[edit | edit source]

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

Type V: Two-seat pursuit[edit | edit source]

  • TP-1 – Engineering Division

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

Type VII: Infantry liaison[edit | edit source]

Type VIII: Night observation[edit | edit source]

Type IX: Artillery observation[edit | edit source]

Type X: Corps observation[edit | edit source]

  • 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 | edit source]

Type XII: Night bombardment, short range[edit | edit source]

Type XIII: Night bombardment, long range[edit | edit source]

Type XIV: Trainer, air-cooled[edit | edit source]

Type XV: Trainer, water-cooled[edit | edit source]

  • TW-1 – Engineering Division
  • TW-2 – Cox-Klemin
  • TW-3 – Dayton-Wright Aircraft
  • TW-4 – Fokker
  • TW-5 – Huff-Daland

Ambulance, 1919–1924[edit | edit source]

  • A-1 – Cox-Klemin
  • A-2 – Fokker

Messenger[edit | edit source]

  • M-1 – Engineering Division/Sperry

Pursuit, special[edit | edit source]

  • PS-1 – Dayton-Wright

Racer[edit | edit source]

Verville-Sperry R-3

Seaplane[edit | edit source]

  • S-1 – Loening

Transport[edit | edit source]

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

A-3 Falcon

Attack, 1924–1948[edit | edit source]

Bomber[edit | edit source]

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 | edit source]

Medium Bomber, 1924–1926[edit | edit source]

Heavy Bomber, 1924–1926[edit | edit source]

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

Unified bomber sequence, 1926–1962[edit | edit source]

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 | edit source]

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.

  • BLR-1 – Boeing (redesignated as XB-15)
  • BLR-2 – Douglas (redesignated as XB-19)
  • BLR-3 – Sikorsky

Cargo, 1924–1962[edit | edit source]

Douglas C-1 refueling Fokker C-2

Drone[edit | edit source]

File:Culver PQ-8a.jpg

Culver PQ-8A

Aerial Target[edit | edit source]

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

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

Radioplane OQ-2A

Controllable bomb, 1942–1945[edit | edit source]

Target Control, 1942–1948[edit | edit source]

Unified sequence, 1948–1962[edit | edit source]

Glider[edit | edit source]

Assault Glider, 1942–1944[edit | edit source]

Bomb Glider, 1942–1944[edit | edit source]

Cargo Glider, 1941–1948[edit | edit source]

Waco CG-4A

Fuel Glider, 1930–1948[edit | edit source]

Powered Glider, 1943–1948[edit | edit source]

Training Glider, 1941–1948[edit | edit source]

Schweitzer TG-3A

Unified sequence, 1948–1955[edit | edit source]

Sailplane, 1960–1962[edit | edit source]

Gyroplane, 1935–1939[edit | edit source]

Liaison, 1942–1962[edit | edit source]

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

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 | edit source]

Pursuit, Biplace[edit | edit source]

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

Observation[edit | edit source]

Observation, 1924–1942[edit | edit source]

Observation amphibian, 1925–1948[edit | edit source]

Reconnaissance[edit | edit source]

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

Reconnaissance-strike, 1960–1962[edit | edit source]

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

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

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 | edit source]

Trainer[edit | edit source]

Advanced Trainer, 1925–1948[edit | edit source]

Basic Combat, 1936–1940[edit | edit source]

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

Basic Trainer, 1930–1948[edit | edit source]

Primary Trainer, 1925–1948[edit | edit source]

Unified sequence, 1948–present[edit | edit source]

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 | edit source]

Sequence Name Manufacturer Image First flight Notes/notable variants
V-1   McDonnell Aircraft McDonnell XV-1 NASA.jpg 14 July 1954 Formerly XL-25
Formerly XH-35
V-2   Sikorsky Aircraft   project cancelled before prototype built
V-3   Bell Helicopter Bell Xv-3.jpg 11 August 1955 Formerly H-33

Army, 1956–1962[edit | edit source]

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 | edit source]

Airplane, Observation, 1956–1962[edit | edit source]

Airplane, Research, 1956–1962[edit | edit source]

Sequence Name Manufacturer Image First flight Notes/notable variants
AZ-1 Marvelette Mississippi State University AZ-1 Marvelette.jpg 16 November 1962  

Flying Platform, 1955–1956[edit | edit source]

Helicopter, Cargo, 1956–1962[edit | edit source]

Helicopter, Observation, 1956–1962[edit | edit source]

Helicopter, Utility, 1956–1962[edit | edit source]

Helicopter, Experimental, 1956–1962[edit | edit source]

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

VZ-9 Avrocar

Unified System, 1962–present[edit | edit source]

Airborne Laser[edit | edit source]

Sequence Name Manufacturer Image Notes/Notable Variants
AL-1   Boeing ABLHistory-2.jpg [9]
Airborne Laser Testbed

Airship[edit | edit source]

Sequence Name Manufacturer Image Notes/Notable Variants
Z-1   Goodyear [9]
Z-2 Sentinel Westinghouse Airships
Z-3   American Blimp [3]

Anti-Submarine Warfare[edit | edit source]

Sequence Name Manufacturer Image Notes/Notable Variants
S-1 Skipped
S-2 Tracker Grumman Aircraft S-2A VS-29 CVS-33.jpg Formerly S2F
S-3 Viking
Lockheed Corporation S-3 001.jpg  

Attack[edit | edit source]

Sequence Name Manufacturer Image Notes/notable variants
A-1 Skyraider Douglas Ad-6 skyraider 1959 USN.jpg (formerly designated AD)
A-2 Savage North American AJ-2P Savage in flight colour.jpg (formerly designated AJ)
A-3 Skywarrior Douglas EA-3B VQ-2 CV-63 1987.JPEG (formerly designated A3D)
A-4 Skyhawk Douglas A-4C VA-192 CVW-19 display.jpg (formerly designated A4D)
A-5 Vigilante North American A-5 Vigilante ECN-231.jpg (formerly designated A3J)
A-6 Intruder Grumman A-6A VA-165 CVA-61 1967.jpeg (formerly designated A2F)
A-7 Corsair II Ling-Temco-Vought A-7A VA-203 1970s NAS Jaxi.jpg
A-9 Northrop Northrop YA-9 prototype.jpg Losing contender for the AX competition
A-10 Thunderbolt II Fairchild Republic A10Thunderbolt2 990422-F-7910D-517.jpg Winning contender for the AX competition
A-12 Avenger II McDonnell Douglas / General Dynamics A-12 Avenger in flight NAN11-90.jpg cancelled
F/A-18C/D Hornet McDonnell Douglas FA-18-NAVY-Blue-Diamond.jpg [10]
F/A-18E/F Super Hornet Boeing Boeing FA-18F Super Hornet at RIAT.jpg [10]
A-26 Invader Douglas A-26A 609SOS near NKP 1969.jpg (redesignated from B-26 in 1966)
A-29 Super Tucano Embraer A-29 SuperTucano.JPG
A-37 Dragonfly Cessna OA-37B-2.jpg (originally designated AT-37)

Bomber[edit | edit source]

Sequence Name Manufacturer Image Notes/Notable Variants
B-1 Lancer Rockwell International B-1 High Speed.jpg  
B-2 Spirit
"Stealth Bomber"
Northrop Grumman B2PlanView.jpg  

Cargo[edit | edit source]

Sequence Name Manufacturer Image Notes/Notable Variants
C-1 Trader Grumman Grumman C-1 flying side view.jpg (formerly designated TF)
C-2 Greyhound Grumman C-2A NP VRC-40 lands on USS Bush (CVN-77) 2010.jpg
C-3 Martin 4-0-4 Martin Martin 404 USCG.jpg (formerly designated RM-1Z) Martin 4-0-4 airliners for use by the US Marine Corps and US Coast Guard
C-4 Academe Gulfstream TC-4C VMAT(AW)-202 at MCAS Cherry Point 1978.JPEG Used for training A-6 Intruder Naval Flight Officers.
C-5 Galaxy Lockheed Galaxy 01.jpg
C-6 Ute Beechcraft Beechcraft U-21 Ute US Army.jpg Beechcraft 90 King Air, re-designated U-21 Ute
C-7 Caribou de Havilland Canada C-7 Caribou.jpg
C-8 Buffalo de Havilland Canada Mexican Navy DHC-5D Buffalo.jpg
C-9 Nightingale McDonnell-Douglas C-9 Nightingale.jpg
C-10 Jetstream Handley Page RAF Museum Cosford - DSC08568.JPG USAF 68-10378/10388 (were to be offset purchase for RAF F-111K – both cancelled)
C-10 McDonnell-Douglas KC-10 Extender (2151957820).jpg Winner of the KC-X competition (after cancellation of C-10 Jetstream, C-10 designation re-used)
C-11 Gulfstream II Gulfstream USCG VC 11A 2 1969.jpg
C-12 Beechcraft Beechcraft RC-12N Huron in flight.jpg
C-14 Boeing Yc14-1 072.jpg AMST contender
C-15 McDonnell-Douglas McDonnell Douglas YC-15 takeoff.jpg AMST contender
C-17 Globemaster III Boeing C-17 Mt Rainier.jpg
C-18 Boeing 707–320 Boeing DF-SC-86-12927.jpg
C-19 Boeing 747–100 Boeing Pan Am Boeing 747 at Zurich Airport in May 1985.jpg
C-20 Gulfstream III Gulfstream USAF C-20.JPG C-20A / B / C / D / E
C-20 Gulfstream IV Gulfstream USAF C-20.JPG C-20F / G / H / J
C-21 Learjet 35 Learjet Air Force C-21.jpg
C-22 Boeing 727 Boeing US Air Force C-22B (727-100).jpg Air National Guard and National Guard Bureau personnel transports
C-23 Sherpa Shorts C-23B-1.jpg Military logistics transports for use in Europe and the US by the US Air Force and US Army
C-24 DC-8F-54 Douglas EC24ABuNo163050.JPG A single DC-8-54F used for avionic trials as the EC-24A
C-25 Boeing VC-25(040616-F-5677R-002).jpg Presidential VVIP transport
C-26 Fairchild Metroliner C-26.jpg
C-27 Spartan Alenia HAF C-27j Spartan.jpg
C-28 Titan Cessna
C-29 B Ae 125-800 British Aerospace Airways and navaid checker
C-32 Boeing USAF C-32A.jpg VIP transport
C-35 Cessna
C-37 Gulfstream V Gulfstream And-c-37a-89aw.jpg
C-38 Gulfstream G100 Gulfstream (formerly IAI Astra SPX)
C-40 Boeing 737-700c Boeing C-40C DC ANG in flight 2008.jpg (replacement for the C-9A Nightingale in USAF and C-9B Skytrain II in USN)
C-41 C-212 series 200 Aviocar Construcciones Aeronáuticas SA C-212 USAF.JPEG [3]
C-45 EADS Losing K-X contender[3]
C-46 Boeing BOEING KC767 McConnellAFB.JPG Winner of the K-X competition over the EADS KC-45
KC-767 Boeing KC-767 Aeronautica Militare tanker refueler 2007.jpg Out of sequence designation used for foreign military sales and trials aircraft:- Multi-Role Tanker Transports exported to Japan and Italy[3]
UC-880 Convair DN-ST-92-10041.jpg Out of sequence designation used for foreign military sales and trials aircraft:- A single Convair 880 converted to tanker to support trials from the NATC at Patuxent River[11]

Drone[edit | edit source]

Sequence Name Manufacturer Image Notes/Notable Variants
Q-1 Predator
General Atomics RQ-1 Predator in flight near USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) 951205-N-3149J-006.jpg [3]
MQ-1C Warrior
Q-2 Pioneer AAI Corporation
Israel Aircraft Industries
RQ-2 Pioneer launched by rocket assist 1.JPEG  
Q-3 Dark Star Lockheed Martin
Dark Star USAF.jpg  
Q-4 Global Hawk Northrop Grumman Global Hawk 1.jpg  
Q-5 Hunter Israel Aircraft Industries Hunter RQ-5.jpg  
Q-6 Outrider Alliant Techsystems  
Q-7 Shadow AAI Corporation Shadow 200 UAV.jpg  
Q-8 Fire Scout Northrop Grumman RQ-8A Fire Scout.jpg  
Q-9 Reaper
General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper CBP.jpg Originally "Predator B"
Q-10 SnowGoose MMIST  
Q-11 Raven AeroVironment Raven UAV flying.jpg  
Q-12 Requested for Q-1CSkipped
Q-13 Skipped
Q-14 Dragon Eye AeroVironment US Navy 050627-N-0295M-096 A Dragon Eye Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) on display at the 2005 Naval UAV Air Demo held at the Webster Field Annex of Naval Air Station Patuxent River.jpg  
Q-15 Neptune DRS Technologies RQ-15 Neptune.jpg  
Q-16 T-Hawk Honeywell MicroAirVehicle.jpg  
Q-17 SpyHawk MTC Technologies  
Q-18 Hummingbird Boeing  
Q-19 Aerosonde AAI Corporation [3]
Q-20 Puma AeroVironment
Q-21 Integrator Boeing Insitu
Non-sequential designations
Q-170 Sentinel Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Wiki contributor 3Dartist.png  

Electronic Warfare[edit | edit source]

Sequence Name Manufacturer Image Notes/Notable Variants
E-1 Tracer Grumman Aircraft E-1B VAW-121 CVW-6 CVA-42.jpg Formerly WF
E-2 Hawkeye Grumman Aircraft Hawkeye.JPG Formerly W2F
E-3 Sentry Boeing Usaf.e3sentry.750pix.jpg  
E-4 "Nightwatch" Boeing E-4B Nightwatch.jpg  
E-5 Eagle Windecker Industries 100px  
E-6 Mercury Boeing Navy-e6-070403-06-16.jpg TACAMO
E-7 Designation proposed for EC-18B
E-8 Joint STARS Northrop Grumman E-8(021220-F-2034C-014).jpg  
E-9 Widget de Havilland Canada E-9A Widget aircraft 84-048.jpg  
E-10 MC2A Boeing
Northrop Grumman
E-11 Bombardier
Northrop Grumman
Battlefield Airborne Communications Node platform
E-767 Boeing E-767 Japan AWACS 112010.jpg Out of sequence designation used for foreign military sales and trials aircraft:- AEW&C aircraft for the Japanese Self-Defence Forces[3]

Experimental, 1948–present[edit | edit source]

In addition to aircraft intended to support military operations, the armed forces of the United States have also supported efforts to push the boundaries of aeronautical and aerospace knowledge. Some of the best-known of these projects are the aircraft designated in the "X-series", which led them to become known as "X-planes".

Name Manufacturer
Image Maiden flight Notes/Notable Variants
X-1 Bell Aircraft
Bell X-1 color.jpg January 19, 1946 High-speed and high-altitude testing.
First aircraft to break the sound barrier.
Proved aerodynamic viability of thin wing sections.[12]
Bell Aircraft
X-2 After Drop from B-50 Mothership - GPN-2000-000396.jpg June 27, 1952 High-speed and high-altitude testing.
First aircraft to exceed Mach 3.[13]
Douglas Aircraft
Douglas X-3 NASA E-17348.jpg October 27, 1952 Titanium alloy construction; low aspect ratio wings.
Planned to test long-duration high-speed flight.
Incapable of reaching design speed, but Provided insights into inertia coupling.[14]
Northrop-X4-Bantam.jpg December 15, 1948 Evaluated handling characteristics of tailless aircraft in the transonic speed region.[15]
X-5 Bell Aircraft
Bell-X5-Multiple.jpg June 20, 1951 First aircraft to fly with Variable-sweep wing wings.[16] (many other aircraft had previously flown with variable geometry wings, but none with variable sweep wings)
X-6 Convair
NB-36H producing contrails in flight.jpg Not flown Modified Convair B-36 for study of Aircraft Nuclear Propulsion; not built.
NB-36H testbed tested reactor.[17]
"Flying Stove Pipe"
X-7 USAF.jpg April 1951 High-speed testbed for ramjet engines.[18]
AerojetX8.jpg Upper air research vehicle and sounding rocket.[19]
Bell Aircraft
Bell X-9 trailer.jpg April 1949 Guidance and propulsion technology testbed.
Assisted development of GAM-63 Rascal missile.[20]
X-10 North American Aviation
North American X-10 runway.jpg October 13, 1953 Testbed for SM-64 Navajo missile.[21]
X-11 Convair
Convair XSM-65A launch.jpg June 11, 1957 Testbed for SM-65 Atlas missile.[22]
X-12 Convair
Convair XSM-65B launch.jpg July, 1958 Advanced testbed for SM-65 Atlas missile.[23]
Ryan Aeronautical
Ryan X-13.jpg December 10, 1955 Vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) testbed.
Evaluated tailsitting configuration for VTOL flight.[24]
X-14 Bell Aircraft
Bell X-14 colour ground.jpg February 19, 1957 VTOL testbed.
Examined the vectored thrust configuration for VTOL flight.[25]
X-15 North American Aviation
X-15 in flight.jpg June 8, 1959 Hypersonic (Mach 6), high-altitude (350,000 feet (110,000 m)) testing.
First manned hypersonic aircraft; capable of suborbital spaceflight.[26]
X-16 Bell Aircraft
Never flew High-altitude reconnaissance aircraft project.[27]
"X-16" designation used as cover story.[28]
X-17 Lockheed
Lockheed X-17 horizontal.jpg April 1956 Tested the effects of high Mach number reentry.[29]
X-18 Hiller Aircraft
Hiller X-18 testplatformLarge.jpg November 24, 1959 VTOL/Short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) testbed.
Evaluated the tiltwing concept for VTOL flight.[30]
X-19 Curtiss-Wright
Curtiss-Wright X-19 flying.jpg November 1963 Tandem tiltrotor VTOL transport testbed.[31]
XC-143 designation proposed.[32]
NASA Color Dyna Soar.jpg Never built Reusable spaceplane for military missions.[33]
X-21 Northrop
X21A.jpg April 18, 1963 Boundary layer control testbed.[34]
X-22 Bell Aircraft
X-22a onground bw.jpg March 17, 1966 Quad ducted fan tiltrotor STOVL testbed.[35]
Martin Marietta
X23 PRIME.JPG December 21, 1966 Maneuvering atmospheric reentry effects testbed.[36]
Note: Designation never officially assigned.[37]
X-24 Martin Marietta
August 1, 1973 Low-speed lifting body handling testbed.
Lifting body aerodynamic shape trials.[38]
X-25 Benson
X-25.jpg December 6, 1955 Light autogyro for emergency use by downed pilots.[39]
X-26 sailplane.jpg
Training glider for yaw-roll coupling
Quiet observation aircraft testbed.[40]
X-27 Lockheed X-27 mockup.jpg Never flew High performance fighter prototype.[41]
Sea Skimmer
Osprey Aircraft
X-28 on ground.jpg August 12, 1970 Inexpensive aerial policing seaplane testbed.[42]
X-29 Grumman
Grumman-X29-InFlight.jpg 1984 Forward-swept wing testbed.[43]
X-30 NASP 2.jpg Never built Single stage to orbit spaceplane prototype.[44]
X-31 Rockwell
Rockwell-MBB X-31 landing.JPG 1990 Thrust vectoring supermaneuverability testbed.
ESTOL testbed.[45]
X-32 Boeing
USAF X32B 250.jpg September 2000 Joint Strike Fighter prototype.[46]
Venture Star
Lockheed Martin
X-33 Venture Star.jpg Prototype never completed Half-scale reusable launch vehicle prototype.[47]
X-34 Orbital Sciences
Orbital Sciences X34.jpg Never flew Reusable unmanned spaceplane testbed.[48]
X-35 Lockheed Martin
X-35.jpg 2000 Joint Strike Fighter prototype.[49]
X-36 McDonnell Douglas/Boeing
Boeing-X36-InFlight.jpg May 17, 1997 28% scale tailless fighter testbed.[50]
X-37 Boeing
Boeing X-37B inside payload fairing before launch.jpg April 7, 2006 (drop test)
April 22, 2010 (orbital flight)
Reusable orbital spaceplane.[51]
X-38 Scaled Composites
ISS Crew Return Vehicle.jpg 1999 Lifting body Crew Return Vehicle demonstrator.[52]
X-39 Unknown
Unknown Future Aircraft Technology Enhancements (FATE) program.[53]
Note: Designation never officially assigned.[37]
X-40 Boeing
Boeing X40A.jpg August 11, 1998 80% scale Space Maneuver Vehicle testbed.
X-37 prototype.[54]
X-41 Unknown
Unknown Maneuvering re-entry vehicle.[55]
X-42 Unknown
Unknown Expendable liquid propellant upper stage rocket.[56]
X-43 NASA.jpg June 2, 2001 Scramjet hypersonic testbed.[57]
Lockheed Martin
Cancelled F-22-based Multi-Axis No-Tail Aircraft thrust vectoring testbed.[58]
X-45 Boeing
Boeing X-45A UCAV.jpg
May 22, 2002 Unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) demonstrator.[59]
X-46 Boeing
X46.jpg Cancelled Naval UCAV demonstrator.[60]
X-47A Pegasus
Northrop Grumman
X-47A rollout.jpg February 23, 2003 Naval UCAV demonstrator.[61]
X-48 Boeing
ED06-0198-62.jpg July 20, 2007 Blended Wing Body (BWB) testbed.[62]
Piasecki Aircraft
US Army
Piasecki X-49-3.jpg July 29, 2007 Compound helicopter
Vectored Thrust Ducted Propeller (VTDP) testbed.[3]
24 November 2003 Canard Rotor/Wing testbed.[63]
X51waverider.jpg 26 May 2010[64] Hypersonic scramjet demonstrator.[65]
X-52 Number skipped to avoid confusion with B-52.[37]
X-53 Boeing Phantom Works
X-53 Active Aeroelastic Wing NASA test aircraft EC03-0039-1.jpg November 2002 Active Aeroelastic Wing testbed.[66]
X-54 Gulfstream Aerospace
Future Supersonic transport testbed.[3]
X-55 Lockheed Martin Skunk Works
100px June 2, 2009 Advanced Composite Cargo Aircraft (ACCA).
Molded composite fuselage and empennage testbed.[67]

Fighter[edit | edit source]

Sequence Name Manufacturer Image Notes/Notable Variants
F-1 Fury North American North American FJ-1 Fury in flight.jpg (previously designated FJ)
F-2 Banshee McDonnell F2H Banshee VF-11 over Wonsan colour 1952.jpg (previously designated F2H)
F-3 Demon McDonnell McDonnell F3H-2 Demon of VX-4 on USS Midway (CVA-41) in 1957.jpg (previously designated F3H)
F-4 Phantom II McDonnell Douglas F-4G Phantom II Wild Weasel carries AGM-78 and AGM-45.jpg (previously designated F4H and F-110)
F-5 Freedom Fighter Northrop Three F-5E agressors from Alconbury 1983.jpg
F-6 Skyray Douglas Douglas F4D-1 Skyray of VMF-115 in flight, 4 April 1957 (NNAM.1996.253.7328.029).jpg (previously designated F4D)
F-7 Sea Dart Convair XF2Y-1 off San Diego 1954-55 NAN1-81.jpg (previously designated F2Y)
F-8 Crusader Vought Vought F-8 Crusader 2.JPG (previously designated F8U)
F-9 Cougar Grumman F9F-6 NAN7-54.jpg (previously designated F9F)
F-10 Skyknight Douglas F3D-2 VMFN-513 Kunsan2 1953.jpg (previously designated F3D)
F-11 Tiger Grumman F11f grumman tiger.jpg (previously designated F11F)
F-12 Lockheed YF-12 on ground.jpg Two-seat Fighter version of the A-12 reconnaissance aircraft
F-14 Tomcat Grumman F-14-vf-84.jpg
F-15 Eagle McDonnell Douglas F-15, 71st Fighter Squadron, in flight.JPG
F-16 Fighting Falcon General Dynamics / Lockheed Martin F-16Cs South Carolina ANG in flight 1998.JPEG Winning contender in the LWF contest
F-17 Cobra Northrop Northrop YF-17 Cobra 060810-F-1234S-033.jpg Losing contender in the LWF contest, developed into the F/A-18 Hornet
F-18A/B/C/D Hornet McDonnell Douglas F-18s from VFMA-314 in formation.jpg Developed from the YF-17 as a shipboard fighter Attack aircraft
F/A-18E/F Super Hornet Boeing F-18F after launch from USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72).jpg Enlarged F/A-18 with bigger everything[3]
F-20 Tigershark Northrop Two f-20 in flying.jpg The ultimate Tiger development powered by a single F404 afterburning turbofan, but no production
F-21 Kfir C-2 Israel Aircraft Industries DN-ST-85-08601.jpg Kfir C2 aircraft for US Navy dissimilar combat training and aggressor training
F-22 Raptor Lockheed Martin Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptor JSOH.jpg [3]
F-23 Black Widow II Northrop / McDonnell Douglas Cobrachen yf-23.jpg Lost out to the F-22 in competition
F-35 Lightning II Lockheed Martin CF-1 flight test.jpg Production version of the X-35, winner of the JSF competition[3]
YF-110 MiG-21s Mikoyan-Gurevich Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21PF USAF.jpg Note: Captured foreign aircraft used for evaluation and aggressor were given designations in sequence—based on chronology—with "black" project aircraft, continuing the pre-1962 F series.[68] Designation used for captured MiG-21s and new-build J-7s[69]
YF-112 Su-22 Sukhoi Su-20 RB3.jpg Note: Captured foreign aircraft used for evaluation and aggressor were given designations in sequence—based on chronology—with "black" project aircraft, continuing the pre-1962 F series.[68] – obtained from Egypt or Allegedly used for captured MiGs[69]
YF-113 MiG-23s Mikoyan-Gurevich Airforce Museum Berlin-Gatow 495.JPG Note: Captured foreign aircraft used for evaluation and aggressor were given designations in sequence—based on chronology—with "black" project aircraft, continuing the pre-1962 F series.[68] – Designation used for captured MiG-17s and[68][69]
YF-114 MiG-17 Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-17F Top View.JPG Note: Captured foreign aircraft used for evaluation and aggressor were given designations in sequence—based on chronology—with "black" project aircraft, continuing the pre-1962 F series.[68] – Designation used for captured MiG-17s[69]
F-117 Nighthawk Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk Front.jpg Production version of the HAVE BLUE experimental stealth aircraft
F-117D Tacit Blue TACIT BLUE Tacit Blue in flight.jpg A stealth experimental aircraft[69]
    • F-13 – skipped
    • F-19officially skipped; rumored to be still classified
    • YF-24 – (fictional?) Classified project[69][70]
    • YF-113G – possible USAF "black project"[69]
    • YF-121 Rumored "black project"[69]

Note: Captured foreign aircraft used for evaluation and aggressor were given designations in sequence—based on chronology—with "black" project aircraft, continuing the pre-1962 F series.[68]

    • YF-116 – Rumored designation of captured MiG-25
    • YF-118 – Rumored designation of MiG-29

Glider[edit | edit source]

Helicopter[edit | edit source]

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.

Sequence Name Manufacturer Image First flight Notes/Notable Variants
H-1 Iroquois Iroquois
Bell Helicopter Bell UH-1A Iroquois in flight.jpg 22 October 1956 Formerly H-40
Formerly HU-1
UH-1N Twin Huey
UH-1Y Venom
H-1 Cobra Cobra
Bell Helicopter Ah1-228-070719-02cr-16.jpg Formerly
AH-1 Cobra
AH-1 SuperCobra
AH-1Z Viper
H-2 Seasprite Seasprite Kaman Aircraft Kaman Sh-2G.jpg 2 July 1959 Formerly HU2K
SH-2G Super Seasprite
H-3 Sea King Sea King
"Jolly Green Giant"
Sikorsky Aircraft UH-3H Sea King.jpg 11 March 1959 Formerly HSS-2
CH-/HH-3 Sea King
H-4   Bell Helicopter Oh4a002.jpg 8 December 1962 Formerly HO-4
H-5   Fairchild Hiller 100px 21 January 1963 Formerly HO-5
H-6 Cayuse Cayuse
Little Bird
Hughes Helicopters
McDonnell Douglas
Boeing Helicopters
US Army OH-6A Cayuse.jpg 27 February 1963 Formerly HO-6
MH-6 Little Bird

Observation[edit | edit source]

Sequence Name Manufacturer Image First flight Notes/Notable Variants
O-1 Bird Dog Cessna Aircraft Cessna O-1A Bird Dog US Army in flight.jpg 14 December 1949 Formerly L-19
O-2 Skymaster Cessna Aircraft Cessna Skymaster O-2 3.jpg January 1967  
O-3 "Quiet Star" Lockheed Missiles & Space Lockheed YO-3.png 1969  
O-4   Wren Aircraft   1963
(Wren 460)
Not proceeded with.
O-5 ARL de Havilland Canada Arl-dash7-N158CL-010515-01.jpg 27 March 1975
Formerly RC-7

Patrol[edit | edit source]

Sequence Name Manufacturer Image First flight Notes/Notable Variants
P-1 Skipped  
P-2 Neptune Lockheed Corporation Lockheed OP-2E Neptune of VO-67 in flight on a mission over Laos, circa in 1967.jpg 17 May 1945 Formerly P2V
P-3 Orion
Lockheed Corporation Orion.usnavy.750pix.jpg 25 November 1959 Formerly P3V
WP-3D Orion
EP-3 Aries
P-4 Privateer Consolidated Aircraft U.S. Coast Guard Consolidated P4Y-2G Privateer in flight, circa in the 1950s.jpg 1943 Formerly PB4Y-2K / P4Y-2K)
P-5 Marlin Glenn L. Martin Company P5M-2 VP-45 1962.jpg 30 May 1948 Formerly P5M
P-6 Skipped – presumably because of Martin P6M which was canceled a few years previously  
P-7   Lockheed Corporation   Long-Range Air ASW-Capable Aircraft
Not built
P-8 Poseidon Boeing 25 April 2009 [3]

Reconnaissance[edit | edit source]

Sequence Name Manufacturer Image First flight Notes/Notable Variants
R-1 Dragon Lady Lockheed Corporation 100px August 1981  
R-2 Skipped  
R-3         Possibly assigned to a Black Project
Speculated: TR-3 Black Manta
Speculated: SR-3 Blackstar

Spaceplane[edit | edit source]

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][72]

Tanker[edit | edit source]

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 | edit source]

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.

Sequence Name Manufacturer Image First flight Notes/Notable Variants
1962 Sequence
T-1 SeaStar Lockheed Corporation TV-2 T2V-1 NAN6-55.jpg 15 December 1953 Formerly T2V.
T-2 Buckeye North American Aviation Buckeye T-2A.jpg 31 January 1958 Formerly T2J.
1990 Sequence
T-1 Jayhawk Raytheon
Hawker Beechcraft
T-2 Skipped T-2 Buckeye was still in service.
T-3 Firefly Slingsby Aviation T-3A Firefly.jpg 1991  
T-4 Skipped  
T-5 Skipped  
T-6 Texan II Hawker Beechcraft T-6A Texan II.jpg July 1998 Named in honor of AT-6 Texan

Utility, 1955–present[edit | edit source]

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

Sequence Name Manufacturer Image First flight Notes/Notable Variants
V-1 Mohawk Grumman Aircraft OV-1 Mohawk.jpg 14 April 1959 Formerly AO-1
V-2 Caribou de Havilland Canada C-7A Caribou USAF Jan 1967.JPEG 30 July 1958 Formerly AC-1
Redesignated as C-7
V-3   Bell Helicopter Bell Xv-3.jpg 11 August 1955 Formerly H-33
Formerly V-3 in Convertiplane series
V-4 Hummingbird Lockheed Corporation LockheedXV-4Hummingbird.jpg 7 July 1962 Formerly VZ-10
V-5 Vertifan Ryan Aeronautical XV-5-ramp.jpg 25 May 1964 Formerly VZ-11
V-6 Kestrel Hawker Siddeley Hawker Siddeley XV-6A Kestrel USAF.jpg 7 March 1964 VZ-12 was used for the preceding P.1127 model, but these were never delivered
V-7 Buffalo de Havilland Canada CV-7 Buffalo.jpg 22 September 1961 Formerly AC-2
Redesignated as C-8
V-8 "Fleep" Ryan Aeronautical XV-8A Fleep Prototype - GPN-2000-001271.jpg 1961 Designation later reused.
V-8 Harrier Hawker Siddeley DN-ST-83-05846.JPEG

BAE-McDonell-Douglas AV8B-01.jpg
28 December 1967 AV-8B Harrier II
McDonnell Douglas/British Aerospace
V-9   Hughes Helicopters Hughes XV-9A in hover.jpg 5 November 1964  
V-10 Bronco Rockwell International
OV-10A MissANG 1980.JPEG 16 July 1965  
V-11 Marvel Parsons Corporation XV-11A Marvel.jpg 1 December 1965  
V-12   Parsons Corporation Airborne magnetometer.jpg 1961
Cancelled, designation reused.
V-12   Rockwell International Rockwell XFV-12A on gantry.jpg 1978
(tethered hover)
V-13 Skipped  
V-14 Skipped Skipped to avoid confusion with X-14.[73]
V-15   Bell Helicopter N702NA-Bell-XV-15A-Paris2.jpg 3 May 1977  
V-16 Advanced Harrier McDonnell Douglas
British Aerospace
  Not built; developed into AV-8B
V-17 Skipped Assigned to a U.S. Army project but not used.[73]
V-18 Twin Otter de Havilland Canada Golden Knights UV-18A.png 20 May 1965
V-19 Skipped Assigned to a U.S. Navy project but cancelled.[73]
V-20 Chiricahua de Havilland Canada 100px 1979  
V-21 PACES Airship Industries 1983 Unconfirmed designation.[73]
V-22 Osprey Bell Helicopter
Boeing Helicopters
US Navy 080220-N-5180F-015 A Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey prepares to land aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Nassau (LHA 4).jpg 19 March 1989  
V-23 Scout Dominion Aircraft 100px 21 April 1975

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

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  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. http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=2699. Retrieved 2013-10-02. 
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 3.14 3.15 3.16 3.17 3.18 3.19 3.20 3.21 3.22 3.23 3.24 3.25 3.26 3.27 3.28 3.29 Parsch 2009, "DOD 4120.15-L"
  4. Andrade 1979, page 60
  5. "HazeGray.org". rec.aviation.military FAQ, Part 4. http://www.hazegray.org/faq/ram4.htm. 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. 9.0 9.1 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. 10.0 10.1 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. Jenkins, Landis and Miller 2003, pp. 5–7.
  13. Jenkins, Landis and Miller 2003, p. 8.
  14. Jenkins, Landis and Miller 2003, p. 9.
  15. Jenkins, Landis and Miller 2003, p. 10.
  16. Jenkins, Landis and Miller 2003, p. 11.
  17. Jenkins, Landis and Miller 2003, p. 12.
  18. Jenkins, Landis and Miller 2003, p. 13.
  19. Jenkins, Landis and Miller 2003, p. 14.
  20. Jenkins, Landis and Miller 2003, p. 15.
  21. Jenkins, Landis and Miller 2003, p. 16.
  22. Jenkins, Landis and Miller 2003, p. 17.
  23. Jenkins, Landis and Miller 2003, p. 18.
  24. Jenkins, Landis and Miller 2003, p. 19.
  25. Jenkins, Landis and Miller 2003, p. 20.
  26. Jenkins, Landis and Miller 2003, pp. 21–22.
  27. Jenkins, Landis and Miller 2003, p. 23.
  28. "X-16". globalsecurity.org, accessed 11 May 2010.
  29. Jenkins, Landis and Miller 2003, p. 24.
  30. Jenkins, Landis and Miller 2003, p. 25.
  31. Jenkins, Landis and Miller 2003, p. 26.
  32. Baugher 2007
  33. Jenkins, Landis and Miller 2003, p. 27.
  34. Jenkins, Landis and Miller 2003, p. 28.
  35. Jenkins, Landis and Miller 2003, p. 29.
  36. Jenkins, Landis and Miller 2003, p. 30.
  37. 37.0 37.1 37.2 Parsch 2009, "Missing Designations"
  38. Jenkins, Landis and Miller 2003, pp. 31–32.
  39. Jenkins, Landis and Miller 2003, p. 33.
  40. Jenkins, Landis and Miller 2003, p. 34.
  41. Jenkins, Landis and Miller 2003, p. 35.
  42. Jenkins, Landis and Miller 2003, p. 36.
  43. Jenkins, Landis and Miller 2003, p. 37.
  44. Jenkins, Landis and Miller 2003, p. 38.
  45. Jenkins, Landis and Miller 2003, p. 39.
  46. Jenkins, Landis and Miller 2003, pp. 40–41.
  47. Jenkins, Landis and Miller 2003, p. 42.
  48. Jenkins, Landis and Miller 2003, p. 43.
  49. Jenkins, Landis and Miller 2003, p. 44-45.
  50. Jenkins, Landis and Miller 2003, p. 46.
  51. Jenkins, Landis and Miller 2003, p. 47.
  52. Jenkins, Landis and Miller 2003, p. 48.
  53. Jenkins, Landis and Miller 2003, p. 49.
  54. Jenkins, Landis and Miller 2003, p. 50.
  55. Jenkins, Landis and Miller 2003, p. 51.
  56. Jenkins, Landis and Miller 2003, p. 52.
  57. Jenkins, Landis and Miller 2003, p. 53.
  58. Jenkins, Landis and Miller 2003, p. 54.
  59. Jenkins, Landis and Miller 2003, p. 55.
  60. Jenkins, Landis and Miller 2003, p. 56.
  61. Jenkins, Landis and Miller 2003, p. 57.
  62. Jenkins, Landis and Miller 2003, p. 58.
  63. Jenkins, Landis and Miller 2003, p. 60.
  64. "X-51 Waverider makes historic hypersonic flight". US AIr Force Public Affairs. 26 May 2010. Archived from the original on 17 Jul 2012. http://archive.is/lTXJ. Retrieved 27 May 2010. 
  65. "X-51 Scramjet Engine Demonstrator – WaveRider" globalsecurity.org. Retrieved 2010-05-11.
  66. Jordan 2006
  67. Kaufman 2009
  68. 68.0 68.1 68.2 68.3 68.4 68.5 Fulghum, David A., "MiGs in Nevada", Aviation Week & Space Technology, November 27, 2006
  69. 69.0 69.1 69.2 69.3 69.4 69.5 69.6 69.7 Parsch, Andreas (2006-11-27). "Cover Designations for Classified USAF Aircraft". Designation-Systems.Net. http://www.designation-systems.net/usmilav/coverdesignations.html. Retrieved 2006-12-29. 
  70. "Edwards AFB website". Col. Joseph A. Lanni, USAF biography. Archived from the original on 2005-03-18. http://web.archive.org/web/20050318164828/http://www.edwards.af.mil/units/bio/lanni-bio.html. Retrieved 2007-01-07. 
  71. 71.0 71.1 71.2 71.3 71.4 71.5 94th Flying Training Squadron aircraft
  72. MS-1A, GlobalSecurity.org. Retrieved 2010-04-08.
  73. 73.0 73.1 73.2 73.3 Parsch, Andreas. ""Missing" USAF/DOD Aircraft Designations". Designation-Systems.Net. http://www.designation-systems.net/usmilav/missing-mds.html. Retrieved 2010-04-13. 
  74. 74.0 74.1 74.2 74.3 74.4 74.5 74.6 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
  75. Baugher, Joseph F. 1930–1937 USAAS Serial Numbers
  • 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. 

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