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Common Core 109

Naval Aircraft Fundamentals


109.1 State the primary mission of the following aviation communities:


Note:  In squadron designations, the rules for meanings of letters is only general since squadron types have renamed themselves without changing designators.  H stands for Helicopter (frequently referred to as Rotary Wing).  V stands for Fixed Wing.   The secondary position (as in the P in VP) as a general rule stand for:

A - Attack

AQ - Electronic Attack (formerly known as Tactical Electronic Warfare)

AW - Airborne Early Warning

C - Cargo (renamed to Combat Support for funding purposes following Desert

      Storm) or

C - Composite (VC)

F  - Fighter

L - Light as in HAL (Helicopter Attack, Light), VA(L) (Fixed wing Attack, Light

      A-4s and A-7s) and HSL (Helicopter Antisubmarine, Light)

M - Mine Counter Measures or

M - Marine Corps (will have a third designator at least such as VMFA, or

       VMAQ) or

M - Medium lift (in conjunction with Marine Corps M)  (HMM – Helicopter,

       Marine, Medium lift)

O - Observation as in VMO

P - Patrol (us!)

Q - Electronic, Special (VQ)

R - Logistics Support (from Re-supply?)

RC - Carrier Logistics Support (from Logistics Support Composite)

S - Anti Submarine as in HS and HSL or

S - Sea Control - S-3 squadrons (another post Desert Storm name change)

      (formerly known as Fixed wing ASW) or

S - Special - as in HCS (Helicopter Combat Support, Special)

T - Trainer

X - Research and Development

      VXE- Antarctic Research Support disestablished 1999

      VXN- Permanent Test bed Research disestablished 1997


1.      HC- Helicopter Combat Support - Rotary Wing (Aircraft:  H-1, H-3, CH-46D, CH-53D/E)

2.      HCS- Helicopter Combat Support Special Squadron- Rotary Wing (Aircraft:  HH-60H)

3.      HM- Helicopter Mine Countermeasures - Rotary Wing (Aircraft:  CH/MH/RH-53E)

4.      HS- Helicopter Antisubmarine - Rotary Wing (Aircraft:  SH-60F, HH-60H)

5.      HSL- Helicopter Antisubmarine Light (Aircraft:  SH-60B)

6.      HT- Helicopter Training (Aircraft:  TH-57)

7.      VAQ- Tactical Electronic Attack - Fixed Wing (Aircraft:  EA-6B)

8.      VAW- Carrier Airborne Early Warning - Fixed Wing (Aircraft:  E-2C)

9.      VC- Fleet Composite - Fixed Wing (Aircraft:  F-5E, F-14, TA-4E, T-38, UH-3A, CH-53E, VP-3A)

10.  VF- Fighter - Fixed Wing (Aircraft:  F-14)

11.  VFA- Strike Fighter - Fixed Wing (Aircraft:  F/A-18).  (Actually, it stands for Fighter Attack but the pilots did not appreciate being called Fighter Attack Guys)

12.  VMFA- Marine Strike Fighter - Fixed Wing (Aircraft:  F/A-18)

13.  VP- Patrol - Fixed Wing (Aircraft:  P-3C)

14.  VQ- Fleet Air Reconnaissance - Fixed Wing (Aircraft: EP-3, E-6) VQ-1 & -2 fly EP-3s, VQ-3 & -4 fly E-6s.  VQ-5, -6, & -11 decommissioned.

15.  VR- Logistics Support - Fixed Wing (Aircraft:  C-9, C-20, TC-39, C-130)

16.  VRC- Carrier Logistics Support - Fixed Wing (Aircraft:  C-2, US-3A)

17.  VS- Sea Control - Fixed Wing (Aircraft:  S-3)

18.  VT- Training - Fixed Wing (Aircraft:  T-2, TA-4, TC-12, T-34, T-44, T-45)

19.  VX/VXE - Air Test and Evaluation - Fixed Wing (Aircraft:  A4M/T, TA-4J, A-6, AV-8, F/A-18A/B, S-3A/B, P-3A/C, UH-1N, AH-1J/T/W,SH-2F, SH-3H, SH-60B/F, OV-10A/D) VXE-6 - Antarctic Development- Fixed Wing (Aircraft: LC-130 and LH-1H). Decommissioned.

109.2 Identify the mission of the following naval aircraft:

As per NAVAIR 00-110A Appendix A

                    Aircraft Designation Symbols

                                N E C121 K        Suffix

Status Prefix Symbol                        Design Number

    Modified Mission Symbol     Basic Mission or Type Symbol                                                                                                               

Every aircraft designed for the military receives an aircraft designation.  The minimum designation is a Basic Mission Symbol and a Design Number.   Helicopters and V/STOL aircraft will have a Mission Symbol, then a Type Symbol, then the Design Number such as AV-8 and SH-60.  The Suffix indicated major variations in the particular design that do not change the mission like F-14A and F-14D.  The suffix may be followed by other acronyms that indicate modification of the baseline model, for example - P-3C UIII AIP.  Some aircraft receive such extensive changes that they receive a Modified Mission Symbol.  It is possible for an aircraft to have multiple Modified Mission Symbols as in EKA-3 but it is more common to drop the former Modified Mission Symbol and refer to the aircraft as EA-3.  Some aircraft will have a Status Prefix Symbol.  These always have at least a Basic Mission Symbol.


Type Symbols

The only Type Symbols are

H - Helicopter

V - V/STOL (Vertical/Short Take Off and Landing)

All other aircraft are considered fixed wing.


The Basic and Modified Mission Symbols are:

A - Attack – aircraft designed or modified for ground or sea attack missions.(AH-1, A-3, A-4, A-6, FA-18, AC-130)

B - Bomber – multi-engine aircraft designed for bombing surface (land or sea) targets. 

    Usually larger than Attack aircraft.  (none currently in naval service) (B-1, B-2, B-52)

C - Cargo/Transport (C-2, C-9, C-12, CH-46D, CH-53E, C-130)

D - Director – for aircraft capable of controlling drone aircraft or missiles.  (DC-130)

E - Special Electronic Installation  these aircraft perform the following roles: Electronic

    Counter Measures; Airborne Early Warning; Airborne Command & Control; Tactical

    Data Communications Link; Electronic Intelligence (E-2C, EP-3E, E-6B, EA-6B)

F - Fighter – includes aircraft considered multi-mission designed for ground support such

    as the F-4.  (F-14, FA-18)

H - Search and Rescue.  Aircraft whose mission required installation of special

    equipment specifically for performance of SAR and C/SAR (Combat SAR).  Used for

    insertion and retrieval of Special Operations forces (SEALS, Marine RECON, Green

    Berets, Rangers)  (HH-60, HC-130)

K -Tanker (KC-135, KC-10, KA-3, KS-3. KA-6)

L - Arctic, specially modified for operations in the Arctic and Antarctic regions (LH-1,


M - Military – special purpose modifications that frequently include extra navigation

    equipment and special operations capability (MV-22, MH-53, MC-130)

O - Observation – aircraft used primarily for directing Close Air Support (CAS) or

    directing artillery fire.  (OA-4, OV-10)

P - Patrol – long range, multi-engine aircraft with the primary mission of maritime

    reconnaissance, ASW, and mine interdiction. (P-2, P-3)

Q - Drone – aircraft designed or modified to be capable of being controlled from some

    where other than inside the aircraft. (QA-4, QF-4)

R – Reconnaissance – aircraft having equipment permanently installed for photographic of electronic reconnaissance (such as the mine hunting sonar on mine hunting helicopters)  (RP-3D, RF -4C, RF-8G, RH-53E)

S - Anti-submarine – shorter range shipboard aircraft designed for a similar role as Patrol

    aircraft. (S-3B, SH-60F)

T - Trainer – aircraft used for training personnel on the operation of aircraft or related

    equipment.  (T-2, TP-3A, TA-4, TC-39, T-44, T-45)

U - Utility –aircraft that perform miscellaneous missions which can include carrying

    cargo, passengers and other grunt work.  (UH-1, UP-3A, UC-12)

V - Staff (Think VIP) - aircraft used for transporting of VIP personnel.  Plush

    accommodations. (VH-3, VP-3A, VC-20)

W - Weather – aircraft used for gathering weather and weather related information.  The

    more famous ones fly through hurricanes.  (WP-3, WC-130)

X - Experimental, these aircraft are purpose built for experimental use only and are not

    themselves ever planned for wide spread production. (X-15, X-29, X-33)


      Status Prefix Symbol:

J – Special Test, Temporary – aircraft used by specific organizations to temporarily test

    configurations or equipment.  The aircraft must be capable of being returned to original

    configuration.  This is not normally used any more.

N – Special Test, Permanent – aircraft modified to be permanent test beds for equipment

    or configurations.  They are not capable of being returned to their original


Y - Prototype, Developmental – aircraft procured in limited quantities for pre-production testing and development.  (YFA-18, YF-22)

X - Prototype, Experimental – aircraft testing the design.  These are the original aircraft built of a type.  Some never get past this stage.  (XF-22, XF-23)


Aircraft with long service or production life-spans can have several modifiers to variations in production or various modifications to one specific Bureau number.  C-130 aircraft have had countless modifications and have been produced in AC-130, DC-130, EC-130, HC-130, KC-130, LC-130, MC-130, NC-130, and WC-130 variants many of which are back fitted onto existing airframes.



Fixed Wing

A-4 Skyhawk- Vietnam era light attack aircraft.  Replaced by A-7 Corsair II.  TA-4J still performing job as FAC (Forward Air Controller).

A-6E Intruder- Navy's last true all weather attack aircraft.  Can carry more than twice the bomb load more than twice the distance of the FA-18E/F.  No longer in service.

A-7 Corsair II- joint light attack aircraft used by USAF and USN into the early 1990s.  Replaced by the FA-18.

AV-8B Harrier- Attack, Marines only.  Specializes in Close Air Support (CAS).  Due to be replaced by the F-35 JSF.

C-2A Greyhound- Carrier logistics support.  More commonly know as COD (Carrier Onboard Delivery) bird

C-9B Sky Train II- Land based logistics support.  Military version of the DC-9 aircraft.  Cargo and/or people mover.

UC-12B/F/M Huron- Logistics support  Base Ops short hauler.  Small twin-engine turboprop.  Commercially called King Air.  No longer controlled by NALO, many have been turned over to the Air Force or turned into trainers.

C-20D/G Gulfstream- Land based logistics support (VIP).  Primarily people mover.

C-40A Clipper- Boeing 737 built for US Navy.  Replacing C-9 and DC-9 aircraft.

C-130 Hercules- Land based logistics support.  Marines have KC-130 variant for refueling CH-53 helicopters in-flight.  All special EC-130s, LC-130L (Antarctic) have been turned over to USAF, ANG units, or sent to the bone yard.

EA-6B Prowler- Electronic Attack.  Jams any electronic transmissions: radar, communications, what ever.  Derived from the A-6 Intruder.  Sole electronic warfare aircraft for USAF, USMC, and USN.  USAF and USN crews in joint squadrons.  Replacement FA-18 variant in the works.

E-2C Hawkeye- Airborne early warning.  Performs Command & Control, Air Intercept Control, and many other functions.  Provides radar coverage out to 200 nautical miles.  E-2C 2000.

E-6 Mercury- Strategic Command and Control.  Centrally based out of Tinker AFB, OK.  Yet another Boeing 707 derivative.  Communicates with submerged ballistic missile submarines to give launch signal incase of nuclear attack.

F/A-18 Hornet- Fighter/attack.  Designed as a replacement for the A-4 and A-7 Light Attack aircraft.  F/A-18E/F versions to be replacement for A-6E Intruder.  It can carry 1/3 the bomb load 1/3 of the range an A-6 could.

F-4 Phantom II- the plane that the F-14 AND F/A-18 were designed to replace.  Saw combat all around the world in a multitude of nations service.  The ONLY aircraft the F-4 Phantom came out a consistent loser against was the F-4 Phantom (in the Geek - Turkey skirmishes over Cyprus in the 1870s).  QF-4s are used as target drones.  The common practice is to stencil the pilot's name as ENS NOLO (No Live Operator Onboard).  Everytime the QF-4 survives an attempt to blow it apart with missiles, the rank is changed (for example LCDR Nolo has survived 3 attempts on his life).

F-5 Tiger- Fighter used as enemy aircraft by aggressor squadron for Dissimilar Air Combat Maneuvering Training (DACM).  F-5E is the two seater version.

F-14 Tomcat- Fighter.  Fleet defense.  Only aircraft capable of firing AIM-54 Phoenix missile.  Between the Tomcat’s long range and the 100+ mile range of the Phoenix, it pushed the fleet defense bubble well away from the carrier.  Also targeted for replacement by the less capable F/A-18E/F

MV-22B Osprey- Tilt rotor aircraft able to take off, hover, and land like a helicopter, but able to fly the safer and more fuel efficient profile of an airplane.  Replacing MH-46 for landing Marines in hostile places.

P-3 Orion- Patrol, Reconnaissance, ASW, ASuW.  NOAA hurricane hunters use specially built WP-3 aircraft.  Testbed NP-3Ds come in a variety of styles.

EP-3E Aires- Electronic reconnaissance aircraft.  Made famous for its visit to Hainan Island, PRC.

S-3Viking- Carrier antisubmarine warfare, Air Group Electronic Support.

TA-4 Skyhawk- Training, observation, aggressor squadron aircraft.

T-2 Buckeye- Trainer.  Primarily replaced by T-45.

T-6 Texan II- JPATS joint service training aircraft.  Replacing T-34.

T-34C Turbo-Mentor- Turbo-prop trainer.

T-39 Sabreliner- Business Jet along the lines of an early Learjet.  Used for VIP transport.

T-44 Pegasus- Multi-engine trainer.

T-45 Goshawk- Trainer replacing T-2 and TA-4.  Derived from British Aerospace Hawk.



AH-1 Cobra- Helicopter attack Marines Close Air Support.

UH-1N Iroquois- Helicopter combat support, Utility, SAR.  The N variant is twin-engined.  Genuine Jack-of-All-Trades.

SH-2 Seasprite- Helicopter antisubmarine, light.  Not in active or reserve naval service.

SH-3 Sea King- Helicopter antisubmarine.  HH-3H and VH-3 only variants left in active naval service.  Currently used for SAR and VIP transportation.

CH-46 Sea Knight- Helicopter combat support.  Used for underway replenishment, VERTREP and amphibious assault.  Some models are also SAR capable.

CH-53D/E Sea Stallion- Helicopter mine countermeasures, combat support, VERTREP.  The MH-53E Super Stallion variants are three engines, larger fuel tanks, and drop tank capability.  Many versions are capable of in-flight refueling.

TH-57 Sea Ranger- Primary helicopter trainer.

SH-60B Seahawk- Helicopter antisubmarine light.  Uses sonobouys.  Operates primarily from small boys (DDGs, FFGs)

SH-60F Oceanhawk- Helicopter antisubmarine.  Uses dipping sonar.  Operates mainly from carriers.

HH-60H Seahawk- Helicopter combat support, special.  Takes people who aren’t there where they didn’t go and picks them back up.  Has hoist, drop tank, and in-flight refueling capability.  Also used for SAR.

SH-60R- replacement for SH-60B and SH-60F.

CH-60S- Replacement for CH46.



Common Core

102    103    104    105    106    107    108    109    110    111    112    114    115    116    117    118

P-3C Specific

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