Non-Standard USAF Designations


Crazy Researcher
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19 December 2006
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While reading the official history of SAC Headquarters for 1961

Link to PDF of the History

I found the following interesting bits

1.) They designated the reconnaissance/strike version of the B-70 the RSB-70, instead of the designator RB-70, you can see this on page 111.

2.) They redesignated the entire reconnaissance/ELINT series of B-47s to non-standard designators for PR reasons; you can see this on page 117:

The R-47s and the E-47s were the old RB-47s redesignated.

The redesignation was necessary to clearly distinguish reconnaissance Stratojets from bombers to lessen the propaganda potential should another one be shot down by the Russians. The modified B-47s were redesignated in August 1961 as follows:

RB-47H to R-47H
RB-47K to R-47K
RB-47E to E-47
ERB-47K to ER-47H
I'd never seen this before, and while I was noodling around the Air Force Historical Papers Index site
I tried searching for 'R-47" and "E-47"
I found some reports from the 55th SRW for the 1961-1962 timeframe that refer to recon Stratojets
under these designations.
So - I can't sat if it was an official re-designation, but it was being used.

Pete Stickney
In August 1961 various aircraft were redesignated to clearly distinguish between bomber aircraft and reconnaissance aircraft so that the propaganda potential would lessened in case one of them would be shot down by the USSR. The RB-47Hs were redesignated as R-47H, the RB-47K became R-47K, the RB-47E became E-47 whilst the ERB-47H became ER-47H.

Source:History of Headquarters STrategic Air Command, 1961, SAT Historical STudy No. 89, p.117
It's possible that the WB-47s were also re-designated W-47. I took a vacation in Utah last month and visited Hill AFB, where there is a WB-47E on display, marked as a "W47E-12-BW." More pictures on my my Photobucket


  • wb-47e_20.jpg
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It's quite strange that the stretched version of the Lockheed C-130J (aka C-130J-30) was erroneously designated CC-130J for a little while before the DoD recognized the error and rescinded the CC-130J designator. Any idea why the stretched version of the C-130J was called CC-130J rather than C-130W (never mind that the CC-130J designation is now used for the RCAF C-130J-30)?

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