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1962 United States Tri-Service Aircraft-Designation System

PNorwood

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Why were the USN planes re-designated in the manner in which they were? While I am aware that the intention of the system was to give the USN Fighters designations similar to that of USAF aircraft and to reset the numeric system back to one.

I fail to understand why the fighters were re-designated in such an illogical manner. The attack planes were logically re-designated by order of their first flight, but the fighter planes seemed to have little rhyme or reason to them. The F3D Skyknight for example, received a designation of F-10, even though it flew well before the F3H Demon which was re-designated as the F-3, and the F2Y never entered operational service and was simply a test aircraft.

If the fighters were re-designated, provided they were still in service, and in order of their date of first flight, the FJ, F2H, and F8U would have received the same designations of F-1, F-2, and F-8 respectively. The F9F Panther/Cougar would have been re-designated as the F-3, the F3D Skyknight would have been designated as the F-4, the F4D would have received the designation F-5, the F3H Demon would have been re-designated as F-6, the F11F Tiger would have received the designation of F-7, and the F4H Phantom II, would have received the designation F-9.
 

Stargazer2006

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There was that notion that tri-service designations ought to be as easy to memorize as possible. In this respect, it was decided that whenever possible, the new designators would resemble the old ones. This is evident in the following:

A(1)D --> A-1
A3D --> A-3
A4D --> A-4

F(1)J --> F-1
F2H --> F-2
F3H --> F-3
F4H --> F-4
F8U --> F-8
F9F --> F-9

W(1)F --> E-1
W2F --> E-2

Whatever remained came next. The AJ became A-2, the A3J Vigilante became the A-5, the A2F Intruder the A-6. Similarly, the F4D Skyray became the F-6, the F2Y SeaDart the F-7, and the F3D Skyknight the F-10.

This is also the reason why there never was an S-1 or a P-1. Indeed, the only aircraft liable to be redesignated in these missions were as follows:

P2V --> P-2
P3V --> P-3
P4M --> P-4
P5M --> P-5
P6M --> P-6

S2F --> S-2

As to why the Seadart was redesignated in the 1962 system, probably the test program was not considered over yet by the Navy.

[NOTE: a couple of typos have been corrected]
 

PNorwood

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Stargazer2006,
There was that notion that tri-service designations ought to be as easy to memorize as possible. In this respect, it was decided that whenever possible, the new designators would resemble the old ones. This is evident in the following:

A(1)J -->
A2J --> A-2
A3D --> A-3
A4D --> A-4

F(1)J --> F-1
F2H --> F-2
F3H --> F-3
F4H --> F-4
F8U --> F-8
F9F --> F-9

W(1)F --> E-1
W2F --> E-2

I suppose that makes sense. It is ironic though how all the attack-designations read across perfectly.

As to why the Seadart was redesignated in the 1962 system, probably the test program was not considered over yet by the Navy.

The F2Y was cancelled in 1957
 

Stargazer2006

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Sorry 'bout the first line. Of course it should read A(1)D --> A-1 (the Skyraider). I've rectified the mistake in my post above.
 

Tailspin Turtle

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My understanding is that for some reason the last Seadart hadn't been formally stricken as of the November 1962 redesignation. The folks making the list probably needed a fighter to fill the 7 spot for completeness and didn't know or care that it wasn't an operational fighter. I like to think that somebody in BuAer included it to see if OSD had a clue about Naval aviation programs.
 

Tailspin Turtle

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Stargazer2006 said:
Sorry 'bout the first line. Of course it should read A(1)D --> A-1 (the Skyraider). I've rectified the mistake in my post above.

And it was the AJ that became the A-2. There was an A2J but it was cancelled in the 1950s.
 

Stargazer2006

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Absolutely! A2J was the Super Savage! NOT the same as the AJ! Gosh, I DO need some sleep! Thanks for setting the record straight.
 

PNorwood

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Tailspin Turtle said:
My understanding is that for some reason the last Seadart hadn't been formally stricken as of the November 1962 redesignation. The folks making the list probably needed a fighter to fill the 7 spot for completeness and didn't know or care that it wasn't an operational fighter. I like to think that somebody in BuAer included it to see if OSD had a clue about Naval aviation programs.

Why did they need to fill in F-7? F-5 was left empty, and the F-5 Freedom Fighter/Tiger wasn't given it's name until later if I recall
 

Jos Heyman

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One should go from the premise that logic or common sense does not play a role in the application of the Department of Defense designation system. Unlike us, who may be considered as 'designation freaks', those folks that allocate the designation just do that - they allocate. And if there is any bit of common sense in it that should be considered as a bonus to us. That's why there are gaps (eg U-12 to U-15); that's why for some mysterious reason H-1 to H-6 were assigned in 1962 and they then happily went back to the AF H series; that's why the T-1 designation has been used twice (Seastar and Jayhawk) along with the use of the AF T series. And there are more examples of inconsistencies, such as the Handley Page C-10 v the McDonnell Douglas C-10.
On the plus side and as far as I am concerned, it keeps us busy..... :)
 

Stargazer2006

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You are absolutely right! How dull life would be if had filled all the gaps and could offer an explanation to every inconsistency! Mystery and lack of logic are what keeps us going! LOL

As for the Handley Page C-10A Jetstream, it was canceled and the number re-allocated to the DC-10 tanker. Despite documents showing Jetstreams in USAF colors, this was only speculative as the type never saw service with USAF.
 

PNorwood

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Jos Heyman,
One should go from the premise that logic or common sense does not play a role in the application of the Department of Defense designation system.

While there is some truth to that, Many of the designation systems actually do make sense. The F-84 came before the F-100 for example

Honestly I'm still quite surprised that McNamara didn't just redesignate them in any way he felt like. He wasn't the type of person who had a problem with imposing his will on others
 

Tailspin Turtle

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PNorwood said:
Tailspin Turtle said:
My understanding is that for some reason the last Seadart hadn't been formally stricken as of the November 1962 redesignation. The folks making the list probably needed a fighter to fill the 7 spot for completeness and didn't know or care that it wasn't an operational fighter. I like to think that somebody in BuAer included it to see if OSD had a clue about Naval aviation programs.

Why did they need to fill in F-7? F-5 was left empty, and the F-5 Freedom Fighter/Tiger wasn't given it's name until later if I recall

You had me wondering about the F-5 but the interweb came to the rescue. The Air Force ordered three prototypes in February 1958 by the company designation, N-156T. According to Baugher (http://home.att.net/~jbaugher1/f5_1.html), it was designated the F-5 in August 1962. The overall designation change was formally implemented on 18 September 1962.

Still doesn't justify filling the F-7 slot with an airplane that hadn't flown in five years...
 

Stargazer2006

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Indeed, I have always found it surprising that the USAF (and all related articles in the press) only ever refered to the FREEDOM FIGHTER and TALON as the N-156F and N-156T until 1962. As if they weren't sure what to call it!
 

Andreas Parsch

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Tailspin Turtle said:
You had me wondering about the F-5 but the interweb came to the rescue. The Air Force ordered three prototypes in February 1958 by the company designation, N-156T. According to Baugher (http://home.att.net/~jbaugher1/f5_1.html), it was designated the F-5 in August 1962. The overall designation change was formally implemented on 18 September 1962.
The new designations did indeed become effective on 18 Sep 1962, but new designations were already assigned according to the new system beginning in early July 1962 (DOD Directive 4505.6, dated 6 July 1962). E.g., "C-2A" and "XH-51A" were allocated in late July.

So the whole renumbering scheme had to be finalized by early July at the latest, and most likely quite a few weeks earlier. Which brings us to the next question ...

Still doesn't justify filling the F-7 slot with an airplane that hadn't flown in five years...
At this site, you find extensive tables of USN aircraft and their operational status. Open page 70 of the "June 1962" file, and you'll find "Table 8: Distribution of Non-Program Aircraft by Model". Under "Fighter", it has a line listing a single YF2Y-1 with status "Awaiting Decision or Strike". In the next issue (July 1962), the YF2Y-1 is gone. This single YF2Y-1 can be actually tracked back to the "September 1956" file - most of the time, it's in the "Board of Inspection and Survey" status class.

So, the YF2Y-1 was still formally on the list of USN aircraft by 30 June 1962 (the date of the "June 1962" file). As I said above, at that date the table of the allocations of new designations to all(!) USN aircraft must have been already complete. And since the YF2Y-1 was on the list, it probably had to be included in the redesignation scheme. In fact, when browsing through the June 1962 inventory, I think you'll find that all aircraft types with at least one example in non-stricken status were included in the redesignations.

That the YF2Y-1 wasn't pulled from the grave only to "fill the F-7 slot" is implausible anyway. First, the F7U-3M would have been a more likely candidate, and second, gaps were left in other series anyway. E.g., the PBM was not "resurrected" just to have a type for the "P-1" slot ;).


This leaves the F-5 as an apparent "anomaly". However, it was not the only new USAF designation, which was allocated during the redesignation process, and placed right in the middle of designations assigned for true re-designations. Other examples are XH-48A and XH-49A (of which the -49A was cancelled and replaced by XCH-46B even before the initial redesignation list was published!). So I guess that when the USAF was just about to allocate a new designation in spring 1962, they simply put the new aircraft type onto the heap of (mostly USN) aircraft which had to be (re-)designated according to the new system.


And while we're at it ;), there is yet another group of "anomalous" redesignations: Those that were not on the original list, but were added between 18 Sep 1962 and Februray 1963. These include, but are not limited to, RM-1Z -> VC-3A, HU2S-1G -> HH-52A and F11F-1F -> F-11B.


Ok, that's it ... any questions? ;)

Andreas
 

Stargazer2006

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Thanks Andreas, your interventions are always must reading! (I guess that's why you moderate that section... ;) )

Why do you describe the above as "anomalous"? Simply because they were not included in the original list?
 

Andreas Parsch

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Stargazer2006 said:
Why do you describe the above as "anomalous"? Simply because they were not included in the original list?
Yes. In the examples I gave, the old-style designations existed before mid-1962, and the respective aircraft types were in "normal" service (ok, not the F11F-1F of course). So I regard their omission in the original list as an "anomaly".
 

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Tailspin Turtle said:
Still doesn't justify filling the F-7 slot with an airplane that hadn't flown in five years...

Andreas,

Sloppy wording on my part, excellent synopsis on yours. I didn't mean to say that whoever created the list was trying to fill all the slots. I had already mentioned that at least one F2Y hadn't been stricken for some reason (Hal Andrews thought there were two still on the rolls in 1962), which is why it was included even though it hadn't flown in five years. Based on the time line in your post, my guess is that somebody in the Navy reviewed the draft designation list in June, saw the F-7, realized that its formal disposition had been overlooked, and had it taken care of.
 

saturncanuck

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PNorwood said:
Why were the USN planes re-designated in the manner in which they were? While I am aware that the intention of the system was to give the USN Fighters designations similar to that of USAF aircraft and to reset the numeric system back to one.

I fail to understand why the fighters were re-designated in such an illogical manner. The attack planes were logically re-designated by order of their first flight, but the fighter planes seemed to have little rhyme or reason to them. The F3D Skyknight for example, received a designation of F-10, even though it flew well before the F3H Demon which was re-designated as the F-3, and the F2Y never entered operational service and was simply a test aircraft.

If the fighters were re-designated, provided they were still in service, and in order of their date of first flight, the FJ, F2H, and F8U would have received the same designations of F-1, F-2, and F-8 respectively. The F9F Panther/Cougar would have been re-designated as the F-3, the F3D Skyknight would have been designated as the F-4, the F4D would have received the designation F-5, the F3H Demon would have been re-designated as F-6, the F11F Tiger would have received the designation of F-7, and the F4H Phantom II, would have received the designation F-9.

As the "Air Force" aircraft already had designations of this kind, the "Navy" aircraft were redesignated and they used the original USN designations as a basis for the new ones.

In regards to the F2Y becoming the F-7, the story goes that one was still in storage in 1962 and "had" to be redesignated.
 

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saturncanuck said:
In regards to the F2Y becoming the F-7, the story goes that one was still in storage in 1962 and "had" to be redesignated.

Someone actually required it be redesignated...

Crazy
 

saturncanuck

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PNorwood said:
saturncanuck said:
In regards to the F2Y becoming the F-7, the story goes that one was still in storage in 1962 and "had" to be redesignated.

Someone actually required it be redesignated...

Crazy

You know thos government types
 

PNorwood

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saturncanuck,

Still, one would figure with the airplane retired and such that it would not get a new designation number even if they were in storage. To my knowledge, every other re-designated aircraft was still in service in one capacity or another.

It sure seems that every day brings some kind of surprise with it.
 

saturncanuck

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Well, how's this for a surprise?

I am still tyring to figure out why the Sea Dart was designated as F2Y (the second fighter from Convair) in January 1951, while the "Pogo" was designated the FY (the first fighter from Convair) two months later in March 1951.

:)
 

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It is doubly mysterious considering the earlier F2Y was Model 2, while the later FY was Model 5 !
 

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What happened was the original designation in January 1951 was Y2-2, as the Seadart was originally designated as an experimental aircraft. This was changed to F2Y in August, after the FY was designated. Another anomaly was that the first two aircraft eventually got the BuNos 137634 and 5 (the latter subsequently canceled), while the YF2Ys that were contracted for later got lower BuNos, beginning with 135762.
 

saturncanuck

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Tailspin Turtle said:
What happened was the original designation in January 1951 was Y2-2, as the Seadart was originally designated as an experimental aircraft. This was changed to F2Y in August, after the FY was designated. Another anomaly was that the first two aircraft eventually got the BuNos 137634 and 5 (the latter subsequently canceled), while the YF2Ys that were contracted for later got lower BuNos, beginning with 135762.

I have NEVER heard something like "Y2-2" as a USN designation. I had always thought this was the Convair model number, as the Sea Dart was the Model 2.

Andreas, can we get a ruling on this?
 

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saturncanuck said:
I have NEVER heard something like "Y2-2" as a USN designation. I had always thought this was the Convair model number, as the Sea Dart was the Model 2.

Andreas, can we get a ruling on this?

It is the Convair model number. The Navy designated experimental aircraft with their letter for the company (in this case Y) and the company's model number for the design. Other examples are the Vought V-173 and the Douglas D-558-1. I'm not sure where the Bell L-39 designation came from; 39 is not the model number of the swept wing P-63 modification according to Birch Matthews' book Cobra! and he doesn't give one for the L-39.
 

saturncanuck

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Tailspin Turtle said:
saturncanuck said:
I have NEVER heard something like "Y2-2" as a USN designation. I had always thought this was the Convair model number, as the Sea Dart was the Model 2.

Andreas, can we get a ruling on this?

It is the Convair model number. The Navy designated experimental aircraft with their letter for the company (in this case Y) and the company's model number for the design. Other examples are the Vought V-173 and the Douglas D-558-1. I'm not sure where the Bell L-39 designation came from; 39 is not the model number of the swept wing P-63 modification according to Birch Matthews' book Cobra! and he doesn't give one for the L-39.

Hmmmm, again, never heard of this before.

While the "D" was added to the Model 558 for the Skystreak (et al) and the USN letter for Convair (Consolidated) was "Y", the example of the V-173 does not hold water. For one, Vought (Chance Vought) was assigned the USN letter of "U", not "V". Vought numbered their designs, and the V-173 was the proof-of-concept aircraft for the eventual XF5U-1. The V-162 was a circular wing prototype built by Charles Zimmerman prior to the V-173 with company funds, and without USN money. The V-166B was the F4U Corsair, the V-346 was the F7U Cutlass, the V-383 was the F8U Crusader and the V-401 was the XF8U-3. Also, V-143 was a fighter built for the USAAC -- NOT the USN -- against the P-36.

We need to examane this in depth I think.
 

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The Vought V- designations you quote are internal Vought model numbers, not Navy assigned. I think this explains your issue here.
 

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Indeed, while the USAF quickly set up an "X for Experimental" designation, the Navy didn't, and for a few years they used non-standard designations for their experimental aircraft. D-558-1 and -2 of course come to mind, but they simply were the Douglas inhouse designations for the project. V-173 was also the inhouse designation for Vought's "Flying Pancake". Why the Navy came up with Y2-2 for the Seadart is most strange, but it is not a mistake, as the plane indeed was officially designated thus for a while. Please not that it is NOT a standard Convair designation, as the SeaDart was simply called the Model 2. I suspect that the Navy took the inhouse "2-2" model designation, and being embarrassed with it, stuck the letter "Y for Convair" in front of it to make it clearer.
 

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Just to make sure I have everything covered here,


Andreas Parsch,

At this site, you find extensive tables of USN aircraft and their operational status. Open page 70 of the "June 1962" file, and you'll find "Table 8: Distribution of Non-Program Aircraft by Model". Under "Fighter", it has a line listing a single YF2Y-1 with status "Awaiting Decision or Strike". In the next issue (July 1962), the YF2Y-1 is gone. This single YF2Y-1 can be actually tracked back to the "September 1956" file - most of the time, it's in the "Board of Inspection and Survey" status class.

So even if the program was officially cancelled, the fact that it was not stricken meant it had to get a designation?

So, the YF2Y-1 was still formally on the list of USN aircraft by 30 June 1962 (the date of the "June 1962" file). As I said above, at that date the table of the allocations of new designations to all(!) USN aircraft must have been already complete. And since the YF2Y-1 was on the list, it probably had to be included in the redesignation scheme. In fact, when browsing through the June 1962 inventory, I think you'll find that all aircraft types with at least one example in non-stricken status were included in the redesignations.

What other airplanes that were not in any form of operational service (active, reserve, etc) that were not stricken got a re-designation?
 

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PNorwood said:
So even if the program was officially cancelled, the fact that it was not stricken meant it had to get a designation?
While I cannot prove this conclusion, it definitely looks reasonable, based on all available information.

What other airplanes that were not in any form of operational service (active, reserve, etc) that were not stricken got a re-designation?
I don't know any other type which was as close to "not making it" as the YF2Y-1. But I'm rather sure that e.g. not many A-2A's (ex AJ-1's) were still around in 1962 either - for practical purposes, the AJ was gone in 1962.

By the way - one type, which was not redesignated, was the P6M Seamaster. Although there are many sources, which say that the P6M became the P-6, this is not true! The last P6M airframe was stricken in 1960 or '61 (too lazy to look right now), and official DOD designation records explicitly list only the P-2 to P-5 designation, and say that P-6 was skipped. The reason for skipping P-6 is not documented, but trying to avoid any confusion with the P6M appears not too implausible ;) .
 

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It is unusual that the Navy didn't strike the F2Y from its inventory. Has anybody heard of any explanation why?
 

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I just thought of something. Was the XF5D-1 Skylancer still in the USN Storage? Or was it already stricken?
 

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The Skylancers had already been transferred to NACA/NASA - they were out of the Navy system. On the other hand, the Navy had an AJ Savage bailed to Lycoming until as late as 1972 (I think) for YF102 geared turbofan development.
 

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aim9xray said:
The Skylancers had already been transferred to NACA/NASA - they were out of the Navy system. On the other hand, the Navy had an AJ Savage bailed to Lycoming until as late as 1972 (I think) for YF102 geared turbofan development.
This airplane had already been surplused by the Navy and operated as a borate-bomber. It was strictly a commercial operation.
 

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I have found something of interest regarding the F2Y/F-7 on, of all places, wikipedia. According to the article it talked about employing the F2Y on some type of submarine that could carry them. The development was at a very basic stage and there were numerous technical problems which were already identified. I do not know if this proceeded past 1957 or into 1962, however.

Does anybody have any additional data?
 

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Tailspin Turtle said:
This airplane had already been surplused by the Navy and operated as a borate-bomber. It was strictly a commercial operation.
Correct as usual!

Further research indicates that three AJ-2s were "bailed" to NASA Lewis Research Center in the January 1960 to September 1964 timeframe. BuNos were:

AJ-2 130412 (loaned aircraft)
AJ-2 130421 (loaned aircraft)
AJ-2 134069 (NASA 230)

The existence of loaned/bailed aircraft on the books may have been the reason that the aircraft received the A-2 designation.
 

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aim9xray said:
Tailspin Turtle said:
This airplane had already been surplused by the Navy and operated as a borate-bomber. It was strictly a commercial operation.
Correct as usual!

Further research indicates that three AJ-2s were "bailed" to NASA Lewis Research Center in the January 1960 to September 1964 timeframe. BuNos were:

AJ-2 130412 (loaned aircraft)
AJ-2 130421 (loaned aircraft)
AJ-2 134069 (NASA 230)

The existence of loaned/bailed aircraft on the books may have been the reason that the aircraft received the A-2 designation.

I was correct about Lycoming's AJ, but in Strike from the Sea, I stated that "All (AJs) were stricken as of October 1959." It didn't occur to me that statement didn't make sense if the AJ was included in the redesignation as the A-2. Good catch.
 

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