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Serial Numbering System Explained
Aircraft assigned to the Southern Rhodesia Air Unit (and later Southern Rhodesia Air Force) were given a single digit serial number with the prefix SR. Some aircraft wore their SR serials in addition to their RAF serials, e.g. Hart K3877/SR3. When the SRAF was absorbed into the RAF, the SR serial system was discontinued. Aircraft with Nos. 237, 44 and 266 Squadrons carried RAF serials.
In the initial period after the re-establishment of a Southern Rhodesia Air Force, the SR serial system was continued from where it left off. As new aircraft were received, additional serial numbers were allocated in sequence. When the Vampires were delivered, a jump was made to a new serial block starting at SR100. The sequence ended at SR 139, a Percival Provost.
In 1953 the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland was established, and on 15 October 1954 the SRAF was renamed the Rhodesian Air Force. Shortly afterwards the Force became the Royal Rhodesian Air Force. Aircraft received after this date were given a serial number with the prefix RRAF. The numerical sequence continued as before, so the next Provost delivered was serialled RRAF140. Aircraft already in service had the SR prefix changed to RRAF.
In March 1962 the previous sequential numbering system was replaced by a batch numbering system. The Canberras were reserialled to RRAF 200 onwards, the Provosts to RRAF 300 onwards, and the Vampire T.11s to RRAF 400 onwards. Pembrokes and Dakotas shared a batch from RRAF 700 onwards, and the Canadair DC-4Ms became RRAF 600 onwards. The single seat Vampires retained their original RRAF 100 onwards numbering. Aircraft which had been lost in accidents were not omitted from the new numbering sequence. Curiously, Hawker Hunters which were delivered a short time later were not allocated their own serial batch but took up serial numbers vacated by the renumbered Vampire T.11s, i.e. RRAF 116 onwards.
Rhodesian Air Force 1968-1980
In March 1962, a modified serial numbering system was introduced, in an attempt to disguise the number of aircraft currently Rhodesian service - an increasingly important issue as a good number of these aircraft were obtained illegally. Apparently random 4-figure serial with the prefix R were applied to all current and newly acquired aircraft, e.g. Hunter R8122. In fact the new numbers were based on the old 3-digit numbering system, but with an additional number inserted in a certain pattern to give a 4-digit serial. The additional number was the Squadron number, except for the Hunter which used 8 instead of 1. The R prefix was later deleted.
Air Force of Zimbabwe 1980-current
Aircraft acquired after independence in 1980 have reverted to the 3-digit batch serial system, with Hawks serialled 600 onwards, Chengdu F-7s serialled 700 onwards and CASA 212s 800 onwards. No prefix letters are used.