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Aircraft by Nation

United States
Navy/Marine Corps (1923 - 1962)

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Basic Classification: In 1923, the U.S. Navy (and by extension the U.S. Marine Corps) introduced a classification system in which the aircraft class (mission) was denoted by the first letter of the designation and the manufacturer denoted by the second letter.  Subtypes were denoted by a "dash number".  For example, the first Patrol aircraft purchased from Martin was designated the PM-1 (Patrol Martin, sub-type one).  Minor modifications to the PM-1 resulted in the aircraft designated the PM-2.  The second Patrol type purchased from Martin was the P2M-1.

In 1934, as aircraft become more capable, double class letters were introduced to denote aircraft designed to fill two missions.  For example, the SBD Dauntless denoted the Scout Bomber by Douglas.

Note: As the same aircraft could be subcontracted to different manufacturers, that same aircraft could have different designations.  For example, the F4F-4 (Fighter, 4th design by Grumman (F), subtype 4) was subcontracted to General Motors whose product was designated the FM-1 (Fighter General Motors (M), subtype 1).

Problems: When the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy procured the same aircraft, that aircraft would get two designations.  For example, the Douglas DC-3 civil airliner was designated the C-47 by the Army and the R4D by the Navy.  In 1962, the military moved toward a single procurement system and agreed upon a single designation system for Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.

Designation Mission Years used
A Attack 1946 -
BT Bomber Torpedo 1942 - 1945
F Fighter 1922 -
G Transport (single engine) 1939 - 1941
HO Helicopter Observation 1943 - 
HR Helicopter Transport  
HS Helicopter Anti-Submarine  
HT Helicopter Trainer  
HU Helicopter Utility 1943 - 
J Utility 1931 - 1954
JR Utility Transport 1937 - 1954
N Trainer 1923 - 1947
O Observation 1922 - 
P Patrol 1922 - 
PB Patrol Bomber 1934 -
R Transport 1931 - 1962
S Scout 1922 - 1946
S Anti-Submarine 1951 -
SB Scout Bomber 1934 - 1946
SN Scout Trainer 1939 - 1962
T Torpedo 1922 - 1935
T Trainer 1948 -
TB Torpedo Bomber 1935 - 1946
TD Target Drone 1942 - 1946
U Utility 1955 - 
W Airborne Early Warning 1952 - 1962

Manufacturer Code Letters

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page updated 08 February 2003



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Kenneth W Shanaberger 2000 - 2010