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Aircraft numbering

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  • Member since
    July 2012
Aircraft numbering
Posted by G-J on Thursday, September 27, 2012 2:04 PM

I think I understand that the serial number was traditionally painted on the tail.  (Someone correct me if I'm incorrect.)

However, what is the number that is (normally/traditionally?) painted on the fuselage?  And, is there a site that breaks these out, or is searchable, or tells how to decipher the number?

For example, I'm working on Revell's P-47 Thunderbolt and I'm attempting The Bug.  What is the number:  27 B that bookends the USA insignia?  And, are there sites where I can decipher other planes numbers?


On the bench:  Tamyia Mosquito Mk. VI for the '44 group build.  Yes, still.

On deck: 

  • Member since
    April 2006
  • From: ON, Canada
Posted by jgeratic on Friday, September 28, 2012 11:36 AM

I'm more familiar with the British practice of fuselage codes.   If the Americans followed the same guidelines, then the two digit code would represent the squadron, while the single letter would represent the individual aircraft  within that squadron.

Google American squadron codes and you should find plenty of info.



  • Member since
    June 2010
  • From: Austin, TX
Posted by DoogsATX on Friday, September 28, 2012 11:49 AM

Yep, they were squadron codes.

A good quick example is the 56th Fighter Group. They had the highest kill count of any U.S. fighter group in Europe (maybe in all WWII...not sure) and were the only group in the 8th Air Force to not transition to the Mustang. The group was comprised of three fighter squadrons - the 61st, 62nd and 63rd.

The 61st used the squadron code HV. The 62nd was LM, and the 63rd was UN. They also wore different color flashes (usually the rudder) to help differentiate themselves - the 61st used red, the 62nd yellow, and the 63rd blue.

On the Bench: 1/32 Trumpeter P-47 | 1/32 Hasegawa Bf 109G | 1/144 Eduard MiG-21MF x2

On Deck:  1/350 HMS Dreadnought

Blog/Completed Builds:


  • Member since
    July 2004
  • From: Sonora Desert
Posted by stikpusher on Friday, September 28, 2012 1:07 PM

Three books of a series that I will highly recommend to cover the pre-war and WWII aspects of this for the USAAC/USAAF aspect: Air Force Colors Volumes 1, 2, and 3, by Dana Bell, published by Squadron. Yes the individual aircraft serial number was usually painted on the vertical stabilizer(s). But the other markings had variety depending upon theater. USAAF aircraft in 8th and 9th Air Forces after 1943 used a system similar to the RAF with a two character combination (letters or letters and numbers) to designate the squadron assignment, and an individual letter to denote the aircraft within the squadron. In other theaters, MTO, PTO, CBI, a simple single letter or numbers were used as "plane" in group designators. Air Force Colors Volume 2 has a list of known squadron designators used in the ETO. It is not all inclusive, but fairly comprehensive.


F is for FIRE, That burns down the whole town!

U is for URANIUM... BOMBS!

N is for NO SURVIVORS...

       - Plankton



  • Member since
    July 2012
Posted by G-J on Friday, September 28, 2012 9:12 PM

Awesome!  Thanks for the help all.

Squadron Codes.  Now I have something to go on.

And, I'm looking for the books.

Many thanks!.

On the bench:  Tamyia Mosquito Mk. VI for the '44 group build.  Yes, still.

On deck: 

  • Member since
    November 2012
Posted by buffjock on Sunday, November 25, 2012 9:40 PM


You need to go to Joe Baughers website, he has all the info you would needd to decipher what you want.                

Hope this helps.



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