List of military aircraft of the United States

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

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

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

Type I: Pursuit, water-cooled

Type II: Pursuit, night

Type III: Pursuit, air-cooled

Type IV: Pursuit, ground attack, 1922

Type V: Two-seat pursuit

Type VI: Ground attack, 1920–1922

Type VII: Infantry liaison

Type VIII: Night observation

Type IX: Artillery observation

Type X: Corps observation

Type XI: Day bombardment

Type XII: Night bombardment, short range

Type XIII: Night bombardment, long range

Type XIV: Trainer, air-cooled

Type XV: Trainer, water-cooled

Ambulance, 1919–1924


Pursuit, special


Verville-Sperry R-3



Army Air Corps/Army Air Forces/Air Force 1924–1962

A-3 Falcon

Attack, 1924–1948


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

Medium Bomber, 1924–1926

Heavy Bomber, 1924–1926

Unified bomber sequence, 1926–1962

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

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.

Cargo, 1924–1962

Douglas C-1 refueling Fokker C-2


Culver PQ-8A

Aerial Target


Aerial Target (Model Airplane), 1942–1948

Radioplane OQ-2A

Controllable bomb, 1942–1945

Target Control, 1942–1948

Unified sequence, 1948–1962


Assault Glider, 1942–1944

Bomb Glider, 1942–1944

Cargo Glider, 1941–1948

Waco CG-4A

Fuel Glider, 1930–1948

Powered Glider, 1943–1948

Training Glider, 1941–1948

Schweitzer TG-3A

Unified sequence, 1948–1955

Sailplane, 1960–1962

Gyroplane, 1935–1939

Liaison, 1942–1962

Pursuit, 1924-1948/Fighter, 1948–1962

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

Pursuit, Biplace


Observation, 1924–1942

Observation amphibian, 1925–1948


Photographic reconnaissance, 1930–1948 / Reconnaissance, 1948–1962

Reconnaissance-strike, 1960–1962

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

Rotary wing 1941–1948 and helicopter 1948–present

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


Advanced Trainer, 1925–1948

Basic Combat, 1936–1940

Basic Trainer, 1930–1948

Primary Trainer, 1925–1948

Unified sequence, 1948–present

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

Army, 1956–1962

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

Airplane, Observation, 1956–1962

Flying Platform, 1955–1956

Helicopter, Cargo, 1956–1962

Helicopter, Observation, 1956–1962

Helicopter, Utility, 1956–1962

Helicopter, Experimental, 1956–1962

Vertical Takeoff and Landing Research, 1956–1962

VZ-9 Avrocar

Unified System, 1962–present

Airborne Laser


Anti-Submarine Warfare





Non-sequential designations

Electronic Warfare


Note: Designations YF-110, YF-112 through YF-116, and YF-118 were captured foreign aircraft used for evaluation and aggressor training. They were given designations in sequence—based on chronology—with "black" project aircraft, continuing the pre-1962 F series.[12][13]

Other Designations



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.





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][16]


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

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.

1962 Sequence

1990 Sequence

Utility, 1955–present

Vertical and Short Take-off and Landing Aircraft

Experimental, 1948–present

Main article: List of X-planes

In addition to aircraft intended to support military operations, the unified system includes experimental craft designed to push the boundaries of aeronautical and aerospace knowledge. These aircraft are designated in the "X-series", which led them to become known as "X-planes". Only those with military sponsors are listed here.

Un-designated foreign aircraft operated by the United States

See also



  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. Retrieved 2013-10-02.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 Parsch 2009, "DOD 4120.15-L"
  4. Andrade 1979, page 60
  5. "". rec.aviation.military FAQ, Part 4. 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. 1 2 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. 1 2 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. 1 2 3 4 Parsch, Andreas (2006-11-27). "Cover Designations for Classified USAF Aircraft". Designation-Systems.Net. Retrieved 2006-12-29.
  13. Fulghum, David A., "MiGs in Nevada", Aviation Week & Space Technology, November 27, 2006
  14. "Edwards AFB website". Col. Joseph A. Lanni, USAF biography. Archived from the original on 2005-03-18. Retrieved 2007-01-07.
  15. 1 2 3 4 5 6 94th Flying Training Squadron aircraft
  16. MS-1A, Retrieved 2010-04-08.
  17. 1 2 3 4 Parsch, Andreas. ""Missing" USAF/DOD Aircraft Designations". Designation-Systems.Net. Retrieved 2010-04-13.
  18. Jenkins, Landis and Miller 2003, p. 17.
  19. Jenkins, Landis and Miller 2003, p. 18.
  20. 1 2 Parsch 2009, "Missing Designations"
  21. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 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
  22. Baugher, Joseph F. 1930–1937 USAAS Serial Numbers



External links

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