Speculative post-1962 non-Tri-Service Aircraft Designations

Attack Aircraft

Click to enlarge
Northrop YA-9.

The following are speculative extrapolations of attack aircraft designations, had the Tri-Service re-designation not occurred. As a more detailed example, the various versions of the Grumman A2F / A-6 Intruder naval attack aircraft:

A = Attack
Manufacturer Pre-1962 Post-1962
Post-1962 (Speculative)
Douglas BT2D / AD Skyraider A-1 Skyraider AD Skyraider Note 1
North American AJ Savage A-2 Savage AJ Savage
Douglas A3D Skywarrior A-3 Skywarrior A3D Skywarrior
Douglas A4D Skyhawk A-4 Skyhawk A4D Skyhawk
North American A3J Vigilante A-5 Vigilante A3J Vigilante
Grumman A2F Intruder A-6 Intruder A2F Intruder
Cessna AT-37 Dragonfly A-37 Dragonfly AT-37 Dragonfly Note 2
LTV N/A A-7 Corsair II A3U Corsair II (USN), F-114?, B-??, A-?? (USAF) Note 3
McDonnell Douglas / Hawker Siddeley N/A AV-8 Harrier A2H Harrier? Note 4
Northrop N/A YA-9A F-115?, B-??, A-?? Note 5
Fairchild Republic N/A A-10 Thunderbolt II F-116?, B-??, A-?? Note 6
N/A N/A A-11 Note 7 N/A
General Dynamics / McDonnell Douglas N/A A-12 Avenger II AV Avenger II Note 8
N/A N/A A-13 Note 7 N/A
N/A N/A A-14 Note 7 N/A
N/A N/A A-15 Note 7 N/A
General Dynamics N/A A-16 Fighting Falcon F-115, F-116 or F-117 Fighting Falcon Note 9
N/A N/A A-17 Note 7 N/A
McDonnell Douglas N/A A-18 Hornet A2H or A3H Hornet Note 10
Manufacturer Pre-1962 Post-1962
Post-1962 (Speculative)

Click to enlarge
North American A-2 Savage.


  1. Most pre-1962 aircraft would have retained their original designations.
  2. The Cessna Dragonfly light attack/COIN aircraft derived from the the T-37 "Tweet" trainer received the highly non-standard designation of A-37. It was originally designated as AT-37, an accurate description of a trainer type modifed for the attack role. It should have retained this designation irregardless of the Tri-Service re-designation, and is included here for the sake of completeness (the "A" for Attack designation had been out of vogue with the Air Force; combat aircraft were considered either fighters or bombers, "F" or "B") .
  3. The first naval attack designation assigned to a Vought aircraft was the AU, a ground attack variant of the F4U Corsair. An attack version of the F7U Cutlass was planned as the A2U, but was not built. As the next naval attack aircraft poduced by Vought (LTV), the US Navy version of the A-7 would have received the designation A3U. The US Air Force version would probably have been designated in the Fighter series, perhaps receiving the designation F-114. Another possibility is that it could have received a Bomber designation (unlikely, given that it was a small, single-engined aircraft) or possibly some sort of Attack designation (which was then not in use by the Air Force). DTanner, in a thread on rec.aviation.military, suggests the following scenario:
    The old A- series got to A-45, the original designation of the B-51. So A-7, A-9, and A-10 might have become A-46, A-47, and A-48. (The first AF A-7's had '67 fiscals, so predated the A-9 and A-10.
  4. Any non-Tri-Service designator for the Harrier is highly speculative. It seems that its AV-8 designation fits into two schemes, the "A" for Attack and the "V" for V/STOL capabilities. One possible designation would be A2H, for second McDonnell attack aircraft (very early in its development, what would later be the F4H Phantom was planned as the AH attack aircraft). Given its V/STOL capabilities, the full designation for the AV-8A might have been A2H-1V.
  5. It is very dificult to speculate as to what sort of of non-Tri-Service designator the A-X prototypes might have had. The A-9 could conceivably have received any of the following:
  6. It is very dificult to speculate as to what sort of of non-Tri-Service designator the A-X prototypes might have had. The A-10 could conceivably have received any of the following:
  7. The designations A-11, A-13, A-14, A-15 and A-17 are not known to have been assigned to any Tri-Service Attack aircraf.
  8. A likely designation for the A-12 would have been AV, or first General Dynamics (V = Convair) naval attacker.
  9. The A-16 designation was unofficially assigned to a planned attack derivative of the F-16 Fighting Falcon (see US Military Aircraft). It is possible that it would have retained its speculative non-Tri-Service designator of F-115, F-116, F-117 or F-118.
  10. Early in its development, the F/A-18 Hornet was planned as two seperate aircraft, the F-18 fighter for the USN and the A-18 attacker for the USMC. It turned out that there really was little difference in the two, and the designs were integrated into one as the F/A-18. A possible designation for a dedicated attack Hornet could have been A2H or A3H (depending on the designation of the Harrier).


[ USA ]

Home About Contact Top

[ Home | About | Contact | Top ]

© 1997-2005, Robert Beechy
Originally posted 1999
Modified: 12/04/2005