|United States military aircraft|
This list of military aircraft of the United States includes prototype, pre-production, and operational types. For aircraft in service, see the list of active United States military aircraft. Prototypes are normally prefixed with "X" and are often unnamed (note that these are not the same as the experimental X-planes, which are not generally expected to go into production), while pre-production models are usually prefixed with "Y".
The United States military employs a designation and naming system to provide identifications to all aircraft types. Until 1962, the United States Army, United States Air Force (formerly Army Air Force), and United States Navy all maintained separate systems. In September 1962, these were unified into a single system heavily reflecting the Air Force method. For more complete information on the workings of this system, refer to United States Department of Defense Aerospace Vehicle Designations.
This list does not include early aircraft used by the U.S. military during time periods when no numerical designation system was in effect, nor aircraft that did not receive designations for other reasons, such as foreign military aircraft borrowed for testing or civil aircraft impressed into military service during wartime. For these aircraft, see List of undesignated military aircraft of the United States. It also does not include aircraft designated under pre-1962 United States Navy designation systems. For these aircraft, see List of United States Navy aircraft designations (pre-1962).
Prior to 1919, all aircraft flown by the Army Air Service were referred to by the designation given to them by their manufacturer. The United States Navy used two designation systems in this time period, but abandoned the second system in 1917 with the country's entry into World War I (WWI). During this period, a variety of both domestic and foreign types were operated, with the latter being the primary front-line types during WWI.
In September 1919, the Army Air Service decided that it needed an organized designation sequence, and adopted fifteen classifications, designated by Roman numerals. Several other unnumbered designations were added later. Each designation was assigned an abbreviation, and each design a number within that abbreviation. Variants were designated by alphabetically appending letters to the design number.
Until 1926, the Army Air Service had three sequences for bombers. Light bombers were indicated by the LB- prefix, medium bombers by the B- prefix, and heavy bombers by the HB- prefix. In 1926, the three-category system was scrapped and all bombers subsequently built were placed in the B- sequence.
Beginning with #69, the "M-" (missile) and "B-" (bomber) series diverged. The missiles designated M-69 to M-92, some of which are incorrectly labeled as "formerly designated B-xx" in some sources, never used a "B-" series designation. Beginning with #70, another sequence diverged, the "RS-" (Reconnaissance/Strike) series, which was later changed to the "SR-" (Strategic Reconnaissance) series of the Tri-Service system.
Some bomber designations were assigned out of sequence.
A short-lived designation used from 1935–1936 to refer to three long-range bomber projects commissioned by the Army Air Corps. Most of the bombers were night bombers.
This sequence was restarted at C-1 with the introduction of the Tri-Service system. However, the original sequence was picked up at C-143 starting in 2005, leading to the US military maintaining two separate sequences for cargo aircraft.
The USAF extablished a separate sequence for purpose-built research aircraft in 1946. Originally designated with the "S" mission letter, the sequence switched to "X" in 1948.
Main article: List of X-planes
Below is a list of "X-planes" designated before 1962. For a list of X-planes designated after 1962, see #X: Special research.
Designated P- for "pursuit" until June 1948, nine months after the United States Air Force was founded. After this, all P- designations were changed to F- ("fighter"), but the original numbers were retained.
In 1948, all the glider categories were unified into a single sequence.
Both of the following aircraft are numbered in the B- (bomber) sequence.
In 1941, the category letter R- was allotted for "rotary wing" aircraft, and this designation was used until the founding of the United States Air Force in 1947, at which point the category letter was changed to H-, for "helicopter". However, the original numbering sequence was retained.
In 1948, the Advanced, Basic, and Primary Trainer categories were unified into one sequence. Below are the designations that were assigned before the introduction of the Tri-Service system. For the designations in the same sequence that were assigned after 1962, see #Continued original sequence (1962–present).
In 1956, the U.S. Army adopted a new, and relatively simple, designation system for its aviation assets. Aircraft were divided into three different types – 'A' for fixed-wing aircraft, 'H' for helicopters, or 'V' for V/STOL aircraft, and then were given a mission modifier, which, unlike the USAF system, came after the type code: 'C' for transports, 'O' for observation and reconnaissance aircraft, 'U' for utility types, and 'Z' for experimental aircraft. Aircraft types designated in this system were numbered sequentially.
The "D" sequence is assigned to ground control stations for UAVs. This sequence is not applied to aircraft.
Designations YF-110, YF-112 through YF-116, and YF-118 were captured foreign aircraft used for evaluation and aggressor training. They were given designations in sequence—based on chronology—with black project aircraft, continuing the pre-1962 "F" series.
Unlike most other categories of aircraft, the introduction of the tri-service designation system in 1962 did not result in a wholesale redesignation of helicopters. While six types received new designations in the unified, "re-started" sequence, the original "H-" series of designations that started in 1948 was also continued, and no further types of rotorcraft have been designated in the "post-1962" system.
Continuation of 1948 sequence
No specialised types have been acquired to receive a stand-alone 'K for Tanker' designation; for aircraft modified for use as tankers, see the parent aircraft in the proper sequence.
The "SR" sequence is a continuation of the original USAF bomber sequence, which ended at B-70.
Despite the adoption of the unified Mission Designation System in 1962, only two aircraft were designated in the new sequence, both former Navy types. New trainer aircraft after 1962 continued to use the original sequence. In 1990, an alternate sequence was started, with the first designation being T-1, though the old sequence continues to be used. The next designation available in the 'T' series is T-54 or T-8, depending on which series is continued.
Continued original sequence (1962–present) Only aircraft designated after the adoption of the Tri-Service system are listed below. For aircraft in the sequence designated before 1962, see #T: Trainer (1948–1962).
Main article: List of X-planes
In addition to aircraft intended to support military operations, the unified system includes experimental craft designed to push the boundaries of aeronautical and aerospace knowledge. These aircraft are designated in the "X-series", which led them to become known as "X-planes". Only those designated after 1962 are listed here. Some aircraft did not have military sponsors, but since they were designated under the same sequence they are listed here. For aircraft in the sequence designated before 1962, see #X: Experimental (1948–1962).