Skipped #s in aircraft "name" series

Cold war, Korea, Vietnam, and Desert Storm - up to and including for example the A-10, F-15, Mirage 200, MiG-29, and F-18.
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delvo

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Unread post08 Oct 2012, 04:56

I thought of this some time after finding out about the skips in the "F" series, at least since #14. Wherever there's a number in the F-series that didn't get used as the name for a plane in our Armed Forces, there's a specific story behind the non-use of that number: 17 lost a competition against 16; "19" was skipped at a manufacturer's request to use "20" instead; 20 never found any customers; "21" strangely got applied to some imported planes used for training; 23 lost a competition against 22; "24" through "34" got jumped over when X-35 was brought into the F-series without having its number changed as had been expected. Except for that last one and "117" (which had something to do with civilian radio IDs in the area where the first secret stealth flights were held), the rule is mostly that the next number to be used is the number right after the last one, and "YF" prototypes & imports for training can get numbers without necessarily going into production or front-line use.

But what about other series? They seem to have much larger gaps in them. Bombers, cargo planes, and fighters, before the number-reset, were all over 100, dating back to WWII or sooner, but I've only heard of a few scattered numbers in each series before. Those missing ones can't ALL be prototypes that just didn't get picked up, can they? What other reason is there to skip a bunch of numbers at once? And if each lost number really does represent an actual less-well-known plane, why were there so many for so long back then compared to more recent times? And even since the reset, we seem to still be skipping a lot in the cargo planes (starting with 5, 12, and 17 instead of 1, 2, and 3), even though some military cargo planes are just renamed civilian cargo planes with no competition losers or failed prototypes to account for the missing numbers. And in others it gets weirder. SR-71 didn't have a line of 70 predecessors; the "SR" initials didn't even exist until Nixon slipped and reversed the original "RS-71". The closest thing to an SR-71 predecessor is U-2, which not only is off by 69 numbers but also has a different letter, and sounds like a successor to a "U-1", but there was no such plane. And where are the 21 predecessors for V-22? I only know of two or three relevant "XV" prototypes.

So what's going on here?
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count_to_10

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Unread post08 Oct 2012, 12:12

It's actually pretty complicated, and I know only a little of it. Fighters were originally termed Pursuit or (P-##) aircraft by the army, but were re-designated Fighters at some point after WWII. The Navy had it's own designation system (generally with more numbers). The F's went up over 100, and then were reset to single digits at the same time the Air Force and Navy unified their designation system. Captured soviet fighters were given designations over 100, and the F-117 was so numbered as a misinformation effort. The SR-71 is particularly complicated, as the original one seat design was the A-12, and one source I read claimed that Reagan made up the SR-71 designation in a speech.
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Unread post08 Oct 2012, 21:33

Salute!

Decent thread.

Original Navy designations were actually pretty easy:

"F" for fighter, "x" for number produced by the company, and then "x" for the company. So the Vought planes were like F-4U, F-8U, etc. Grumman was "F", so F6F, F11F, etc. "A" was for attack, like A4D Skyhawk and and A2F Intruder ( later the A-6). Later versions added a number like F4U-2 and so on. McDonnell planes were 'H", like F4H for original Phamtom II of VietNam era.

At the time a universal designation series was implemented, the USAF F-4 was actually F-110. The Skyraider was simply AD, then became A-1 under the new system. the 'vaark might have been the last intentional USAF designation, and the F-117 story has been explained.

Apparently, McNamara thought the Navy designations were confusing, as there were two or more "F-4" designations and USAF was up in the "century" series.

Gums sends...

P.S. There's prolly a book someplace that goes thru the whole story. Try: http://www.designation-systems.net/usmi ... tions.html
to get started.
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Unread post10 Oct 2012, 05:20

Yes there are 3 books that tell the story. They are by LLoyd S. Jones. One is for bombers, one is for naval fighters, and the last one is for air force fighters. They are from Aero Publishing. They go from the first dash one of each version to the present. The books were published in 1975, 1977 and 1980 with pictures of each aircraft. Obviously the very latest 5th generation fighters aren't in there.
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TC

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Unread post10 Oct 2012, 06:42

Disinformation might've been part of it with the -117, but there was also some purpose behind it as well. #'s -110 (MiG-21; reused from former F-4 designation) -113 (Flogger) and -114 (Fresco) were reserved for the CONSTANT PEG MiGs, also located at Tonopah at the same time... We only had 3 MiG types at Tonopah, you say? That is true. But, there may have been another project at Groom Lake which also used #'s -112, -115, and -116. I'm not sure who (if anybody) ever used these designations. Time and declassification may tell.

As for the Habu? Well, here's (as Paul Harvey would've said) "The Rest of the Story..."

So, let's set the Ol' Way Back Machine to 1964. We had a new kid on the bomber block called the XB-70 Valkyrie. SAC was looking at a Reconnaissance/Strike version of the Valkyrie, to be named "RS-70". Enter Kelly Johnson, and Lockheed, who promised Uncle Sam that they could build a smaller, and much higher performance bird to fit this role, AND have it ready to go faster than North American could have the RS-70 ready, as this bird would be, essentially, an extended version of Project OXCART, aka, the A-12 Archangel.

Now, the Skunk Works went about calling their new project the "R-12". However, since the Air Force saw this as a continuation of the proposed Recon/Strike variant of the B-70, the AF ALMOST officially designated the bird "RS-71". BUT, Curtis LeMay was the CSAF at the time, and he didn't like the designation. Reason being? There was no "Strike" in this "Recon/Strike" bird. He wanted it properly designated to better suit the true nature of its mission, which as we all know, was "Strategic Reconnaissance".

Here's where it gets a little tricky, and history dealt the Presidency an unmade gaffe: In 1964, during the Presidential campaign, Sen. Barry M. Goldwater, Johnson's opponent, charged that the President was weak on defense against the Soviets and wondered what, if anything, he had done to counter the threat. Enter LBJ's speech writers, who apparently were not all that great at proof-reading their own work. Some lines in the President's speech were still written with the old designation, "RS-71", while some lines were properly written "SR-71". LBJ correctly kept to the same term throughout, and called the bird "SR-71".

Some folks in the media, however, decided that due to some of the lines being written "RS-71", then the Prez must've botched it, and that the AF had "changed the designation" to save President Johnson some embarrassment. No matter how many times this story has been told and corrected, however, there are many in the public who still do not realize what had actually happened.

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Prinz_Eugn

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Unread post12 Oct 2012, 20:52

Thanks TC! I was about to point out the problems with the old "President renamed it on the fly" story.

What I think is interesting is the drift in what it takes to change the designation compared to say, WWII, when a change from B to C would basically be a Block difference for an F-16. Nowadays to get the letter changed you have to build almost (but not quite) a whole new airplane (F-18C vs F-18E).
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delvo

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Unread post12 Oct 2012, 22:22

TC wrote:"...We had a new kid on the bomber block called the XB-70 Valkyrie. SAC was looking at a Reconnaissance/Strike version of the Valkyrie, to be named "RS-70". Enter Kelly Johnson, and Lockheed, who promised Uncle Sam that they could build a smaller, and much higher performance bird to fit this role..."
Cool, that's the answer for the Blackbird at least: it got its number because that was the next in line from the bomber series, just with a change of the letters. I didn't know of any other cases of a same-number letter-change like that except for X-35 and P-86 both being switched to F.

BTW, in the movie "X-Men: First Class", Agent Taggert identifies herself on the radio as "X-Ray Bravo Seven Zero". :D

Inspired by the Blackbird getting the next bomber's number, I checked to see whether something similar might also be the case with the Osprey. But the only other series it could have been taken from is "C", and there's already a C-22 which predates it. (I already knew "H" was in at least the sixties, and "U" for "utility" is practically unused.)

TC wrote:"...the AF ALMOST officially designated the bird "RS-71". BUT, Curtis LeMay was the CSAF at the time, and he didn't like the designation... He wanted it properly designated to better suit the true nature of its mission, which as we all know, was "Strategic Reconnaissance"... Some lines in the President's speech were still written with the old designation, "RS-71", while some lines were properly written "SR-71". LBJ correctly kept to the same term throughout, and called the bird "SR-71"...."
Interesting. The only place I'd ever heard the "mistake" story before was the book "Skunk Works" by Ben Rich, who was an engineer there at the time and would later become its chief. His real complaint that he was focusing on for that part, though, was not the President's role in it but the time and money wasted under orders to reprint every piece of paper (including blueprints) they had that said "RS-71" with no changes but the switch to "SR-71", as if to pretend it had been that all along. At least that part's the same even if he misattributes the cause of it.

Checking some more now because of what you said, I also found out that the changes were made so late that the press was given an older version of the speech than the one the President actually used.
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Unread post14 Nov 2012, 03:14

As for the Osprey..

There's an AV-8, of course. And the NA/Rockwell XFV-12, which went nowhere (at least not up), and which seems to share the 'F-12' designation with the Blackbirds' YF-12 variant. And I think there were some V-14 or -15 prototypes/testbed thingies for the Osprey's tilt-a-rotor system. Maybe they did get close to V-22?

But..by the rationale of the first two examples, shouldn't the F-35B actually be called FV-35? Or even F/A-35? AFV-35B? Oh, god.

I'm very sorry. I made it more confusing by trying to clear things up.

-N
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Unread post14 Nov 2012, 03:55

My understanding is that LM was already referring to the thing as F-24 internally, being rather annoyed when the DoD decided to call it F-35... which I suppose was just a publicity stunt to make sure the public would identify it with the X-35. In retrospect, it seems F-24 might have been better for keeping the program quiet while issues were sorted out.
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Unread post28 Dec 2012, 03:09

Just finished reading a history of the F-101 Voodoo and in there it says that the original designation of the F-101B model was F-109. It further says that this was the only aircraft assigned the F-109 designation. It says "contrary to published accounts the F-109 number was never assigned to the Ryan tail-sitter vertical take off aircraft". The F-109 concept was redesignated F-101B in August 1955.
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Unread post27 Apr 2013, 06:12

izardofwoz wrote:As for the Osprey..

There's an AV-8, of course. And the NA/Rockwell XFV-12, which went nowhere (at least not up), and which seems to share the 'F-12' designation with the Blackbirds' YF-12 variant. And I think there were some V-14 or -15 prototypes/testbed thingies for the Osprey's tilt-a-rotor system. Maybe they did get close to V-22?

But..by the rationale of the first two examples, shouldn't the F-35B actually be called FV-35? Or even F/A-35? AFV-35B? Oh, god.

I'm very sorry. I made it more confusing by trying to clear things up.

-N


For years, the DoD has decided that if there's an X-plane that is directly developed into an aircraft for another series, it'll keep the original X-series number. Skips quite a few, but the numbers are free, the planes they're attached to, ain't.

The AV-8 was so named because, well say it out loud, it sounds like "aviate" as in "fly", it' is in the "V" series of designations, but there never was an "A-8", the next designation used was the A-9 for Northrop's ungodly uuuuugly A-X entry, which lost to the equally ugly Warthog.
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Unread post28 Apr 2013, 22:13

delvo wrote:I... and sounds like a successor to a "U-1", but there was no such plane.

There is still a "U-1" in service. It is at NAS Pax River, MD.
It's also called the DeHavilland Otter.
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Unread post28 Apr 2013, 22:32

I got a ride home in an Army Guard U-1 after planting a Super Sabre.

The oil chip light came on and the oil pressure went to zero about halfway home.

I thought I was going to die. :shock:
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Unread post29 Apr 2013, 08:00

Just to add to the confusion.

In an article published in Popular Science at the time it was reported that thePrez referred to it as an "A-11" -- as opposed to "A12" ( they didn't mention A12 in the article, but there were vague pics of the A12/SR71)

Apparently they also tried to pass it off as an interceptor, but nobody was buying that.

hj
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Unread post01 May 2013, 02:27

ford2go wrote:Just to add to the confusion.

In an article published in Popular Science at the time it was reported that thePrez referred to it as an "A-11" -- as opposed to "A12" ( they didn't mention A12 in the article, but there were vague pics of the A12/SR71)

Apparently they also tried to pass it off as an interceptor, but nobody was buying that.

hj


The "A-11" was revealed as part of the 1964 presidential campaign. The designation A-11 was used as a bit of disinformation, because there really was an A-12, the existence of which wouldn't be revealed for decades. It was later said that the SR-71 and YF-12 were developed form the A-11, which was kinda true.

As for trying to pass it off as an interceptor, the planes that Johnson showed as the A-11 were actually the YF-12s---an interceptor.

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