Serial Numbering System
United States Marine Corps

of the United States Marine Corps

Background on Naval Aircraft Bureau (Serial) Numbers

Serial number and bureau number are synonymous terms for the identifying numbers assigned to individual naval aircraft. The earliest system was a letter-number combination which segregated the aircraft by manufacturer (or designer) and general type. As this scheme developed, the letter “A” was used with Curtiss hydroaeroplanes, “B” for Wright type hydroaeroplanes, “C” for Curtiss flying boats, “D” for Burgess flying boats, and “E” for Curtiss amphibian flying boats. Sequential numbers beginning with one, were assigned to each set of aircraft. That scheme was replaced by AH numbers which were assigned aircraft in service. A system of construction numbers was then initiated to identify aircraft on order. The two coexisted for some 15 months when the service numbers were abandoned.
 


The Early Designation Systems are as follows:
 

The First System from 1911–1914
A-1 Curtiss hydroaeroplane (originally an amphibian)
A-2 Curtiss landplane, rebuilt as hydroaeroplane. It was again rebuilt as a short-hulled flying boat variously described as OWL for over-water-land or as a Bat boat, and was fitted with wheels for use as an amphibian. This was recorded in the aircraft log for November 25, 1913: “title by order of Captain Chambers [was] changed [to] El.”
A-3 Curtiss hydroaeroplane, received summer of 1912.
A-4 Curtiss (or Curtiss type) hydroaeroplane
B-1 Wright landplane, converted to hydroaeroplane
B-2 Wright type hydroaeroplane, built from spares, October 1912
B-3 Wright type hydroaeroplane, built from spares, October 1913
C-1 Curtiss flying boat
C-2 Curtiss flying boat
C-3 Curtiss flying boat
C-4 Curtiss flying boat
C-5 Curtiss flying boat
D-1 Burgess Co. & Curtis flying boat
D-2 Burgess Co. & Curtis flying boat
E-1 OWL or short hulled amphibious flying boat (see A-2)
 

The Second Designation System, 1914–1916
AH designations

General Order No. 88 of 27 March 1914 listed the corresponding designations between the above designations and the new system: “The aeroplanes now in the service are hereby designated as follows:

New Designation Old Designation
 

AH-1 A-1
AH-2 A-2
AH-3 A-3
AH-4 B-1
AH-5 B-2
AH-6 B-3
AB-1 C-1
AB-2 C-2
AB-3 C-3
AB-4 C-4
AB-5 C-5
AB-6 D-1
AB-7 D-2
AX-1 E-1

Despite the phrase, “now in the Service,” the A-1, B-1, B-2 and probably the D-1 had ceased to exist before the order was issued. Other records show AH-2 as redesignation for A-4.

The designation of follow-on aircraft was as follows:
AH-7 Burgess-Dunne hydroaeroplane
AH-8 Curtiss hydroaeroplane
AH-9 Curtiss hydroaeroplane
AH-10 Burgess-Dunne hydroaeroplane
AH-11 Curtiss hydroaeroplane
AH-12 Curtiss hydroaeroplane
AH-13 Curtiss hydroaeroplane
AH-14 Curtiss hydroaeroplane
AH-15 Curtiss hydroaeroplane
AH-16 Curtiss hydroaeroplane
AH-17 Curtiss hydroaeroplane
AH-18 Curtiss hydroaeroplane
 

The Five Numbering Systems for the Aircraft History Cards

Construction numbers began with A-51 and, as serial numbers or bureau numbers, ran through A-9206 after which the letter “A” was dropped although sequential numbering continued through 9999. A second series of four digit numbers began with 0001 and ran through 7303. The last number in this series was assigned in December 1940. Beginning in 1941 a series of five digit numbers, beginning with 00001 was adopted and numbers were assigned through 99999, with 99991-100000 cancelled. A sixth digit numbering system was then added beginning with 100001 and is still in use. To summarize, the five major numbering systems are as follows:
 

A-51 to A-9206
9207 to 9999 (the A prefix was dropped)
0001 to 7303
00001 to 100000 (99991-100000 were cancelled)
100001 to present (still in use but with many modifications)

 

There are several major exceptions to the assignment of numbers in the six digit numbering system. In the 1960s a block of six digit numbers, beginning with 00, were assigned to the DASH vehicle (Drone Antisubmarine Helicopter). The original designation for the unmanned helicopter was DSN. Production models of the DSN were designated QH-50C and QH-50D. All of these helos had six digit bureau numbers that began with 00. The double zeros were part of the bureau number. These numbers obviously do not fit into the regular six digit numbering system that began with 100001. Documentation has not been found that explains why the normal six digit numbering system was not employed for these aircraft.
 

The other major exception to the normal sequential assignment of bureau numbers in the six digit system involves numbers beginning with 198003 and ranging up to 999794. This group of six digit numbers is not sequentially assigned. Almost all of the aircraft in this group of numbers were acquired by the Navy from the Army, Air Force, or other organizations, not directly from the manufacturer. There appears to be no logical sequence or reasoning for the assignment of these six digit numbers. It is believed that some of the numbers may have been derived by modifying the Air Force aircraft numbering system. However, this is only conjecture since there is no documentation to verify this explanation.
 

Aside from the very sizable overlap stemming from the numbering schemes, the same number was never used on more than one aircraft. During the planning and contracting processes, however, numbers were often assigned to aircraft that were never obtained. Sometimes, but by no means always, these cancelled numbers were reassigned to other aircraft.
 

The basic sources used in compiling the following list include a master “Serial List of Designating Numbers for Naval Aircraft” prepared by the aircraft records office in the Bureau of Aeronautics It was typed on twelve 17 1/2 inch by 21 1/2 inch pages and numbered consecutively 0 through 11. It was probably put in that form in 1935 when the first significant handwritten emendations appeared. Page 0 covered the pre-1916 schemes and pages 1 through 11 began with A-51 and ran through all four digit serials. For later aircraft, primarily those in the six digit system, the bureau number listing was compiled by using the “List of Serial Numbers Assigned Navy Aircraft” developed by the Aviation Statistics Office of DCNO (Air) and by reviewing the Aircraft History Card microfilm collection.

References:

Naval Historical Center

National Markings
Paraguayan Air Force

This section describes and illustrates the various national insignia used by Paraguayan Air Force since its formation:


                         (no main marking used)          
                               Main Marking                        Fin Flash

 

ca 1922 – ca 1928
The fin flash is displayed on the rudder with the serial number applied in the middle.

 


                               
                                          Main Marking                                         Fin Flash

ca 1928 – ca 1935
The main marking is displayed in 4 positions (ie above and below each wing). The fin flash is displayed on the rudder. Most aircraft have the serial number applied on the fuselage and on one position below each wing.

 


                                     
                              Main Marking                              Fin Flash

ca 1935-Present
The main marking and on some aircraft also the serial number with the prefix FAP is displayed in 4 positions (ie above and below each wing, and on each side of the fuselage) of aircraft and on each side of the fuselage of helicopters. The fin flash is displayed on the rudder. Most aircraft have FUERZA AÉREA PARAGUAY and the serial number applied on the fuselage with the prefix FAP, while many helicopters have the serial number applied on the fuselage. Aircraft of the TAM carry the prefix T and show the name TRANSPORTE AEREO MILITAR on each side of the fuselage.

 

National Markings
Paraguayan Naval Aviation

of the Paraguayan Navy

This section describes and illustrates the various national insignia used by Paraguayan Naval Aviation since its formation:


                          (no main marking used)                
                              Main Marking                            Fin Flash

1929-n/a
The fin flash is displayed on the rudder. Black anchors were painted in the four wing positions instead of roundels and the serial numbers were painted in black squared
letters/numbers on both sides of the front fuselage.


                                     
                                Main Marking                        Fin Flash

n/a-n/a
The main marking is displayed in 4 positions (ie above and below each wing). The fin flash is displayed on the rudder. Most aircraft have the serial number applied on the fuselage and on one position below each wing.


                         (no main marking used)                
                           Main Marking                              Fin Flash

n/a-Present
The fin flash is displayed on the rudder, which is superimposed on an anchor-marking. Most aircraft have NAVAL and the serial number applied on the fuselage. The helicopters have the serial number applied on the fuselage.

National Markings
Paraguayan Army

This section describes and illustrates the various national insignia used by Paraguayan Army Aviation since its formation:


               (no main marking used)                

                         Main Marking                          Fin Flash

1980s-2010

The fin flash was displayed on the rudder. The aircraft had the serial number applied on the fuselage.

National Markings
Costa Rican Security Force

This section describes and illustrates the various national insignia used by the Costa Rican Air Surveillance Service since its formation:


                                                    
                                Main Marking                               Fin Flash 

1964-1994
The main marking and on some aircraft also the serial number with are displayed in 4 positions (ie above and below each wing, and on each side of the fuselage) of aircraft and on each side of the fuselage of helicopters. The fin flash and on some aircraft also the main marking are displayed on the rudder. Usually the inscription "FUERZA PUBLICA" is written on the fuselage sides.



                                                         
                               Main Marking                                Fin Flash

1994-Present
The main marking and on some aircraft also the serial number with are displayed in 4 positions (ie above and below each wing, and on each side of the fuselage) of aircraft and on each side of the fuselage of helicopters. The fin flash and on some aircraft also the main marking are displayed on the rudder. Usually the inscription "FUERZA PUBLICA", "VIGILANCIA AÉREA" or "POLICIA" are written on the fuselage sides.

National Markings
Latvian Air Force (Post-WW2)

This section describes and illustrates the various national insignia used by the Post-WW2 Latvian Air Force since its formation:




Main MarkingFin Flash

1993-present
The main marking is displayed on the fuselage sides of helicopters, and in the standard six positions (above and below each wing and each side of the fuselage) on aircraft. The national flag is carried as a rudder flash on some aircraft and helicopters. Neither aircraft or helicopters carry service titles.

National Markings
Latvian National Guard (Post-WW2)

This section describes and illustrates the various national insignia used by the Post-WW2 Latvian National Guard since its formation:




Main MarkingFin Flash

1993-2000
The main marking is displayed on the fuselage sides of helicopters, and in the standard four (wing not fuselage) positions on aircraft. A smaller version is carried as a fin flash on aircraft. Aircraft don’t carry service titles.

National Markings
Latvian Border Guard

This section describes and illustrates the various national insignia used by the Latvian Border Guard since its formation:



 

Main MarkingFin Flash

1993-present
The national flag is carried as a fin flash. All helicopters carry the service coat of arms in a shield on the rear fuselage together with the service titles VALSTS ROBEZSARDZE in gold.

National Markings
Lithuanian National Guard (Post-WW2)

This section describes and illustrates the various national insignia used by the Lithuanian National Guard since its formation:



    
Main MarkingFin Flash

1993-present
The main marking is displayed in the standard four positions, (above and below each wing), and on the fin or rudder. The KASPAR service marking is carried on the fuselage side. Aircraft don’t carry service titles.

National Markings
Lithuanian National Guard (Pre-WW2)

of the Lithuanian National Guard

This section describes and illustrates the various national insignia used by the Lithuanian National Guard since its Post-WW2 formation:



  
Main MarkingFin Flash

1993-2009
The main marking is displayed in the standard four positions, (above and below each wing), and on the fin or rudder. The KASPAR service marking is carried on the fuselage side. Aircraft don’t carry service titles.