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rec.aviation.military Frequently Asked Questions (part 5 of 5)

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Archive-Name: mil-aviation-faq/part5
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Last-Modified: 20-Nov-1994

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                 Ross Smith <>

Subject: H.9. British aircraft designations Unlike the US system, the proper name is the principal part of an aircraft's formal designation in British service. The full designation consists of the name, a letter or set of letters indicating the role, and a mark number; in a few cases the mark number is followed by a letter indicating a modification. The full designation is written as, for example, "Tornado GR.1A", or sometimes "Tornado GR Mk 1A" (the Tornado GR.1 is the ground attack/reconnaissance version of the Tornado; the GR.1A is a variant in which one of the two guns is replaced by reconnaissance gear). For export versions, the role letters are usually left out, and the mark numbers are restarted from a high number, usually 50 (for example, the Indian Navy's Sea Harriers are Mk 51). Before WW2, mark numbers alone were used, and were written in Roman numerals; during the war, the role letters were added, and conventional numerals were used for mark numbers above 20. The Roman numerals were dropped altogether after the war; apart from that, the system has remained largely unchanged. Role letters (an asterisk indicates an obsolete code): AEW = Airborne early warning AH = Army helicopter AL = Army liaison AS = Anti-submarine (*) B = Bomber B(I) = Bomber/interdictor B(K) = Bomber/tanker B(PR) = Bomber/photo-reconnaissance C = Cargo transport CC = Communications (also used for VIP transports) E = Electronic warfare F = Fighter FA = Fighter/attack FAW = All-weather fighter (*) FB = Fighter/bomber (*) FG = Fighter/ground attack FGA = Fighter/ground attack FGR = Fighter/ground attack/reconnaissance FR = Fighter/reconnaissance FRS = Fighter/reconnaissance/strike GA = Ground attack GR = Ground attack/reconnaissance HAR = Search and rescue helicopter HAS = Anti-submarine helicopter HC = Cargo helicopter HCC = Communications helicopter (also used for VIP transports) HT = Training helicopter HU = Utility helicopter K = Tanker KC = Tanker/transport Met = Weather reconnaissance (*) MR = Maritime reconnaissance NF = Night fighter (*) PR = Photographic reconnaissance R = Reconnaissance S = Strike SR = Strategic reconnaissance T = Trainer TF = Torpedo fighter (*) TT = Target tug U = Unmanned drone W = Weather reconnaissance
Subject: H.10. Canadian aircraft designations The Canadian designation system is based on a simplified version of the American system. A designation consists of the letter "C" (for Canadian), a letter to indicate the aircraft's role, a dash, and a number, sometimes followed by a letter to indicate a modification; usually "A" for a modified version, or "D" for a dual-control trainer. Sometimes the aircraft's original designation in its country of origin is used, with some modification; for example, the Lockheed C-130 Hercules, in Canadian service, is known as the CC-130, versions being CC-130E (C-130E) and CC-130H (C-130H) transports and CC-130HT (KC-130H) tankers. The numbers are assigned in a single sequence for all types in Canadian service, and are always over 100. This has led to a few aircraft having a real designation that differs from the one they're commonly known by; for example, the F-5 and F/A-18 in Canadian service are usually referred to as the CF-5 and CF-18, but the correct designations are CF-116 and CF-188, respectively. Role letters: C = Cargo transport E = Electronics F = Fighter H = Helicopter P = Maritime patrol T = Trainer Types in current Canadian service: CH-113 Labrador = Boeing CH-46 Sea Knight CT-114 Tutor = Canadair CL-41 Tutor CC-115 Buffalo = De Havilland Canada DHC-5 Buffalo CF-116 ("CF-5") = Northrop F-5A Freedom Fighter CH-118 Iroquois = Bell UH-1 Iroquois CH-124 Sea King = Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King CC-130 Hercules = Lockheed C-130 Hercules CT-133 Silver Star = Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star CT-134 Musketeer = Beech Musketeer CH-135 = Bell 212 CH-136 Kiowa = Bell OH-58 Kiowa CC-137 = Boeing 707 CC-138 Twin Otter = De Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter CH-139 Jetranger = Bell 206 Jetranger CP-140 Aurora/Arcturus = Lockheed P-3 Orion derivatives CC-142/CT-142 = De Havilland Canada DHC-8 Dash 8 CC-144/CE-144 Challenger = Canadair CL-601 Challenger CC-145 King Air = Beech King Air 200 CH-146 Griffon = Bell 412 (about to enter service) CC-150 Polaris = Airbus A310 CF-188 ("CF-18") Hornet = McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet
Subject: H.11. Chinese aircraft designations Chinese aircraft use a fairly simple system consisting of a letter or letters to indicate the role, a dash, and a number, sometimes followed by additional letters or numbers to indicate subtypes. The role letters are often replaced by their English equivalents for export versions (for example, the export version of the Q-5 (Qiang = Attack) is the A-5). The numeric sequences always start with 5. Oddly enough for one of the last bastions of Communism, this is the result of superstition; 4 is considered an unlucky number in China (because the Chinese words for "four" and "death" are very similar). The designation "J-2", often quoted for the licence-built MiG-15, is mythical; the Chinese aircraft have always been known simply as MiG-15, even after the Chinese and Russian governments parted ways. Role letters: CJ (export PT) = Chujiao (basic trainer) H (export B) = Hong (bomber) J (export F) = Jian (fighter) JJ (export FT) = Jianjiao (fighter trainer) Q (export A) = Qiang (attack) SH (export PS) = Shuihong (maritime bomber) Y = Yun (transport) Z = Zhi (vertical, i.e. helicopter) Many Russian, and more recently Western, aircraft have been manufactured in China and given Chinese designations. These include: CJ-5 = Yakovlev Yak-18 "Max" H-5 = Ilyushin Il-28 "Beagle" H-6 = Tupolev Tu-16 "Badger" J-5 = Mikoyan MiG-17 "Fresco" J-6 = Mikoyan MiG-19 "Farmer" J-7 = Mikoyan MiG-21 "Fishbed" JJ-7 = Mikoyan MiG-21U "Mongol" (but see below) Y-5 = Antonov An-2 "Colt" Y-7 = Antonov An-24/26 "Coke/Curl" Y-8 = Antonov An-12 "Cub" Z-5 = Mil Mi-4 "Hare" Z-6 = Mil Mi-8 "Hip" Z-8 = Aérospatiale AS.321 Super Frelon Z-9 = Aérospatiale AS.365 Dauphin 2 Training versions of the J-5 and J-6 were built (JJ-5 and JJ-6); these had no Russian counterparts (there was no MiG-17U or MiG-19U). Equating the JJ-7 to the MiG-21U in the list above is slightly misleading, since the trainer version was developed independently, not based on the Russian trainer. Indigenous Chinese fighter designs have gone up to at least J-12. The J-8 has entered service (see B.13). The J-9 was cancelled about 1978, with no examples built; the J-7III and J-8II were developed partly as replacements for it. The J-10 is a current project, started in the late 1980s, and expected to enter service before the end of this decade. The J-11 designation has not been used. The J-12 was built (one or two prototypes only) in Nanchang during the 1970s (the number seems to have been used out of sequence for some reason), in competition with the J-7 and J-8; it resembled a scaled-up MiG-15/17, and was cancelled because of its poor weapon system. It has recently been reported that China and Israel are collaborating on a new fighter based on Israel's abandoned Lavi project (J-11?). Two Chinese aircraft have been given NATO codenames: J-8 "Finback" and Q-5 "Fantan".
Subject: H.12. German aircraft designations (WW2) German aircraft were identified by two letters denoting the manufacturing company, a number denoting the aircraft type (separated from the letters by a space), and various modifiers for subtypes. Manufacturer codes: Arado = Ar Bücker = Bü Bachem = Ba Blohm und Voss = Bv, Ha Dornier = Do Fieseler = Fi Flettner = Fl Focke-Achgelis = Fa Focke-Wulf = Fw, Ta Gotha = Go Heinkel = He Henschel = Hs Horten = Ho Junkers = Ju Messerschmitt = Bf, Me "Bf" for Messerschmitt came from Bayerische Flugzeugwerke, the company's name before Willy Messerschmitt took over. "Ha" for Blohm und Voss came from Hamburger Flugzeugbau, the name of the aircraft division of the Blohm und Voss shipbuilding company. "Ta" for Focke-Wulf was used in honour of designer Kurt Tank. Type numbers were assigned by the RLM (air ministry); a single sequence was used for all manufacturers. Related types were often given numbers differing by 100; for example, the Messerschmitt Me 210 was designed as a replacement for the Bf 110, and was developed into the Me 310 (abandoned before flight) and Me 410. Prototype aircraft had a "V" followed by a number identifying individual aircraft, separated from the main designation by a space (e.g. Me 262 V1). Major variants were denoted by a letter immediately following the type number (e.g. Me 262A), minor variants by a number separated from the major variant letter by a dash (e.g. Me 262A-1). Pre-production aircraft had a zero in this position (e.g. Me 262A-0). Further variations on a subtype could be denoted by a lower case letter attached to the variant number (e.g. Me 262A-1a). Modified aircraft were indicated by "/R" or "/U" and a number (e.g. Me 262A-1a/U5), or by "/Trop" (which I assume indicated a tropical climate adaptation).
Subject: H.13. Japanese aircraft designations and codenames (WW2) Japanese aircraft designations are a highly confusing subject, since four different systems were in use simultaneously in Japan, in addition to the codenames used by the Allies. The Japanese Army and Navy each used two systems to identify the same aircraft, so a type used by both services (there were a few) could have up to five different designations -- Japanese Army Kitai number, Army type number, Navy designation code, Navy type number, and Allied codename! Just to confuse matters a bit further, a few types were known best by nicknames that had no official status. The Mitsubishi A6M fighter, also known as the Carrier-Borne Fighter Type 0, had the official Allied codename of "Zeke"; but it went down in history under the unofficial nickname used by both sides: "Zero". The Japanese Army Air Force identified aircraft by "Kitai" (airframe) numbers, which simply consisted of "Ki", a dash, and a number. Originally the numbers were a simple numeric sequence; later, some randomisation was added, as a security measure. Gliders received "Ku" ("Guraida") numbers instead. Subtypes or variants were indicated by Roman numeral suffixes, or by various Japanese abbreviations (a common one was "Kai" (for "Kaizo"), indicating a major modification). In addition to Kitai numbers, most Army aircraft also received a second designation in a parallel system based on role and the year of entry into service. Originally this was the last two digits of the year; 100 was used for the Japanese year 2600 (1940), then the numbers were restarted from 1. Imperial Japanese Navy aircraft received a designation code very similar to those used by the US Navy. This consisted of a letter to indicate the aircraft's function, a sequential number to indicate a specific aircraft type (unlike the USN system, the number 1 was left in), and a letter to indicate the manufacturing company. This was followed by a dash and a number to indicate a subtype, plus an optional letter or letters for further variations. Function letters: A = Carrier-borne fighter B = Carrier-borne torpedo bomber C = Carrier-borne reconnaissance D = Carrier-borne dive bomber E = Reconnaissance seaplane F = Observation seaplane G = Land-based bomber H = Flying-boat J = Land-based fighter K = Trainer L = Transport M = Special-purpose seaplane N = Fighter seaplane P = Bomber Q = Patrol R = Land-based reconnaissance S = Night fighter Some manufacturer letters: A = Aichi D = Showa K = Kawanishi M = Mitsubishi N = Nakajima P = Nihon V = Seversky W = Kyushu, Watanabe Y = Yokosuka The IJN also used a parallel system based on role description and year number, similar to (but independent of) the Army's, except that the year 2600 (1940) became 0 instead of 100. This system was abandoned in 1943, when it was decided that revealing the year of an aircraft's entry into service might give useful information to the enemy. Aircraft were then given proper names instead. Because the correct designations of Japanese aircraft were often not known (and, as you've probably gathered by now, difficult to keep straight anyway), the Allies assigned codenames to them. The basic rules for these, not always followed, were: Bombers, dive bombers, reconnaissance aircraft, seaplanes, torpedo bombers -- Girls' names Fighters, reconnaissance seaplanes -- Boys' names Gliders -- Names of birds Trainers -- Names of trees Transport aircraft -- Girls' names beginning with "T" The following list gives various designations for some of the more important Japanese aircraft of WW2: Aichi D3A = Navy Type 99 Carrier-Borne Fighter = "Val" Kawanishi H8K = Navy Type 2 Flying-Boat = "Emily" Kawanishi N1K1/2 Shinden = "George" Kawasaki Ki-45 Toryu = Navy Type 2 Heavy Fighter = "Nick" Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien = Navy Type 3 Fighter = "Tony" Kawasaki Ki-100 = Navy Type 5 Fighter Kyofu N1K = "Rex" Mitsubishi A5M = Navy Type 96 Carrier-Borne Fighter = "Claude" Mitsubishi A6M = Navy Type 0 Carrier-Borne Fighter = "Zeke" Mitsubishi F1M = Navy Type 0 Observation Seaplane = "Pete" Mitsubishi G4M = Navy Type 1 Attack Bomber = "Betty" Mitsubishi J2M Raiden = "Jack" Mitsubishi Ki-15 Karigane = C5M = "Babs" Mitsubishi Ki-21 = Army Type 97 Heavy Bomber = "Sally" Mitsubishi Ki-30 = Army Type 97 Light Bomber = "Ann" Mitsubishi Ki-46 Shitei = Army Type 100 Reconnaissance Aircraft = "Dinah" Mitsubishi Ki-67 Hiryu = Army Type 4 Heavy Bomber = "Peggy" Nakajima B5N = Navy Type 97 Carrier-Borne Bomber = "Kate" Nakajima B6N Tenzan = "Jill" Nakajima J1N Gekko = "Irving" Nakajima Ki-27 = Army Type 97 Fighter = "Nate" Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa = Army Type 1 Fighter = "Oscar" Nakajima Ki-44 Shoki = Army Type 2 Fighter = "Tojo" Nakajima Ki-49 Donryu = Army Type 100 Heavy Bomber = "Helen" Nakajima Ki-84 Hayate = Army Type 4 Fighter = "Frank" Yokosuka D4Y Suisei = "Judy" Yokosuka P1Y Ginga = "Frances"
Subject: H.14. Swedish aircraft designations The aircraft designations used by the Swedish armed forces consist of a set of letters to indicate the role, and a number to indicate an aircraft type, with a space between them. A letter may be added after the number to indicate subtypes. The numbers are assigned in a single sequence for all types of aircraft. The same number is always used for the same basic aircraft type, but the prefix may be changed to indicate different roles. Role codes (these may be combined, e.g. "JA" for fighter/attack): A = Attack B = Bomb Fpl = Flygplan (aeroplane; used for multirole light aircraft) Hkp = Helikopter J = Jakt (fighter) S = Spaning (reconnaissance) SF = Spaning foto (photographic reconnaissance) SH = Spaning havsövervakning (maritime reconnaissance) Sk = Skol (trainer) T = Torped (torpedo bomber) (obsolete) Tp = Transport The following types are currently in Swedish service: Hkp 3 = Agusta/Bell AB-204 Iroquois Hkp 4 = Boeing/Kawasaki KV-107 Sea Knight Hkp 5 = Schweizer (Hughes) 300 Hkp 6 = Agusta/Bell AB-206 Jetranger Hkp 9 = MBB BO 105 Hkp 10 = Aérospatiale AS.332 Super Puma J 32 = Saab Lansen J/Sk 35 = Saab Draken AJ/AJS/JA/SF/SH/Sk 37 = Saab Viggen JAS 39 = Saab Gripen Sk 50 = Saab Safir Fpl 53 = Dornier 27 Tp 54 = Piper PA-31 Navajo Sk 60 = Saab 105 Fpl/Sk 61 = BAe Bulldog Tp 84 = Lockheed C-130 Hercules Tp 86 = Rockwell Sabreliner Tp 88 = Fairchild Metro SH 89 = CASA C-212 Aviocar Tp 100 = Saab 340 Tp 101 = Beech Super King Air Tp 102 = Gulfstream IV
Subject: J.1. Reference books This is not intended to be a general list of reference books on military aviation; it's simply a list of most of the books I found useful in compiling this FAQ list. I've quoted ISBN numbers where I could find them. I assume Jane's Planes has a new ISBN each year; the one quoted here is from the 1990-91 edition, the latest available to me. Roy Braybrook, S Skrynnikov & L Yakutin (1993): _Russian Warriors: Sukhois, MiGs and Tupolevs_ (Osprey Aerospace, UK; ISBN 1-85532-293-5) Piotr Butowski (1992): _Military Aircraft of Eastern Europe: (1) Fighters and Interceptors_ (Concord Publications, Hong Kong; ISBN 962-361-028-9) Piotr Butowski (1992): _Military Aircraft of Eastern Europe: (2) Bombers and Attack Aircraft_ (Concord Publications, Hong Kong; ISBN 962-361-035-1) David Donald & Robert F Dorr (1990): _Fighters of the United States Air Force_ (Military Press, USA; ISBN 0-517-66994-3) Lou Drendel (1984): _C-130 Hercules in Action_ (Squadron/Signal Publications, USA; ISBN 0-89747-111-3) Marcus Fülber (1993): _Red Stars Over Europe_ (Concord Publications, Hong Kong; ISBN 962-361-709-7) Tony Gibbons and David Miller (1992): _Modern Warships_ (Salamander Books, UK; ISBN0-86101-673-4) Yefim Gordon & Bill Sweetman (1992): _Soviet X-Planes_ (Motorbooks International, USA; ISBN 0-87938-498-0) Bill Gunston (1976): _The Encyclopaedia of the World's Combat Aircraft_ (Salamander Books, UK) Bill Gunston (1981): _Military Helicopters_ (Salamander Books, UK; ISBN 0-86101-110-4) Bill Gunston (1983): _Modern Airborne Missiles_ (Lansdowne Press, Australia; ISBN 0-7018-1705-4) Bill Gunston (1987): _Modern Fighters and Attack Aircraft_ (Salamander Books, UK; ISBN 0-86101-320-4) Bill Gunston (1987): _The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Aircraft Armament_ (Salamander Books, UK; ISBN 0-86101-314-X) Bill Gunston (1988): _Combat Arms: Modern Fighters_ (Salamander Books, UK; ISBN 0-86101-413-8) Bill Gunston (1989): _Combat Arms: Modern Attack Aircraft_ (Salamander Books, UK; ISBN 0-86101-451-0) Bill Gunston & Mike Spick (1983): _Modern Air Combat_ (Salamander Books, UK) Bill Gunston & Mike Spick (1986): _Modern Fighting Helicopters_ (Tiger Books, UK; ISBN 1-85501-164-6) John Jordan (1992): _Modern US Navy_ (Salamander Books, UK; ISBN 0-8317-5061-8) Mark Lambert, ed (annual): _Jane's All the World's Aircraft_ (Jane's Publishing, UK; ISBN 0-7106-0908-6) Chris Marshall, ed (1988): _The Defenders_ (Oriole Publishing, UK; ISBN 1-870318-10-2) R A Mason & John W R Taylor (1986): _Aircraft, Strategy and operations of the Soviet Air Force_ (Jane's Publishing, UK; ISBN 0-7106-0373-8) Doug Richardson (1989): _Stealth Warplanes_ (Salamander Books, UK) Mike Spick (1987): _Modern Fighter Combat_ (Salamander Books, UK; ISBN 0-86101-319-0) Mike Spick & Tim Ripley (1992): _Modern Attack Aircraft_ (Smithmark Publishers, USA; ISBN 0-8317-5054-5) Mike Spick & Barry Wheeler (1992): _Modern Aircraft Markings_ (Salamander Books, UK; ISBN 0-86101-695-5) Mike Spick & Barry Wheeler (1992): _Modern American Fighters and Attack Aircraft_ (Salamander Books, UK; ISBN 0-86101-696-3) Bill Sweetman (1989): _Stealth Bomber_ (Airlife Publishing, UK; ISBN 1-85310-097-8) Bill Sweetman (1993): _Aurora_ (Motorbooks International, USA; ISBN 0-87938-780-7) Michael J H Taylor (1983): _Military Prototypes of the 1950s_ (Arms and Armour Press; UK; ISBN 0-85368-579-7) Michael J H Taylor (1987): _Encyclopaedia of Modern Military Aircraft_ (Bison Books, UK; ISBN 0-86124-349-8) Michael J H Taylor (1991): _Jane's American Fighting Aircraft of the 20th Century_ (Studio Editions, UK; ISBN 1-85170-767-0) Masami Tokoi (1990): _Soviet Military Aircraft in Monino_ (Dai Nippon Kaiga, Japan; ISBN 4-499-20561-1) Steven J Zaloga (1991): _Modern Soviet Warplanes: Fighters and Interceptors_ (Concord Publications, Hong Kong; ISBN 962-361-014-9) Steven J Zaloga (1991): _Modern Soviet Warplanes: Strike Aircraft and Attack Helicopters_ (Concord Publications, Hong Kong; ISBN 962-361-015-7) Steven J Zaloga (1992): _Russian Falcons_ (Concord Publications, Hong Kong; ISBN 962-361-707-0)
Subject: J.2. Magazines As with the list of reference books, these are the magazines whose articles I found useful in compiling these answers. _Air Forces Monthly_ (Key Publishing, UK; monthly) _Air International_ (Key Publishing, UK; monthly) _Aviation Week and Space Technology_ (McGraw Hill, USA; weekly) _Flight International_ (Reed Business Publishing, UK; weekly)
Subject: J.3. Acknowledgements Thanks to the following people for their help: Dan <> Raymundio <> Kevin Au <> Guy Beaver <> Al Bowers <> Martin Briscoe <> Carlton Brown <> Dwight Brown <> Wei-Bin Chang <> Dave Cherkus <> Rodney Clark <> Geoff A Cohen <> Jim Davis <> Albert Dobyns <> Dave Elliott <> Bernd Felsche <> Peter Fenelon <> Read Fleming <> Robert M Franklin <> Urban Fredriksson <> George Gale <> Emmanuel Gustin <> Lee Hauser <> Scott Hemsley <> Richard Hunt <> John B Iodice <> Cal Jewell <> Larry & Kim Jewell <> Rheza Jina <> Paul Kennedy <> Krzysztof Krzysztofowicz <> Lanny Lancaster <> Robin John Lee <> Ray Loy <> Steven Malikoff <> Duane P Mantick <> Chris Maxfield <> Paul McGinnis <> Jack McKillop <> Jeff Mitchell <> Eugene N Miya <> Chris Neary <> Vince Norris <> Christopher Ridlon <> Jaap Romers <> Geoff Russell <> Simon D Shpilfoygel <> Steven Vincent <> Mark W <> Rustam Yusupov <> Stefan Zamel <> ...and some others who have asked not to be named. ------------------------------ -- ... Ross Smith (Wellington, New Zealand) <> ... "Being in the air farce and navy means you only get to kill people by remote control, which takes some of the fun out of it." (Steve Kieffer-Higgins, in alt.tasteless)

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