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C-130 Designation Question

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I have been working on a new page for the site that breaks down C-130 designations.

http://www.c-130hercules.net/C-130reference/C-130DesignationInfo.php

I think I have it nailed down thus far but I do have a few questions:

Some aircraft have/had a suffix preceded by a dash, e.g. C-130A-II and C-130E-II. Can someone explain?

I have also seen some aircraft with a suffix in parenthesis, e.g. HC-130H(N). Can someone explain?

Lastly I have seen some EC-130Es referred to as EC-130E(RR) and EC-130E(CL). Where these actual designations or just used to illustrate Rivet Rider vs. Rivet Clamp modified aircraft?

--Casey

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I don't know if it will help or not, but I have this;

How to Understand US Military Aircraft Designations

United States military aircraft are all given specific designations by the Department of Defense known as MDS designations (Mission Design Series) that identify their design and purpose. This joint designation system was introduced by the Department of Defense in 1962, replacing the separate systems of the US Air Force, US Navy, US Marine Corps, US Army, and US Coast Guard. This article will explain what those designations mean and how to read them.

* 1. Understand what the MDS designation tells you about the vehicle. The system consists of six different designations which identify:

*** 1. The type of aircraft

*** 2. The basic mission of the aircraft

** 3. The modified mission of the aircraft

*** 4. The design number

*** 5. The series letter

*** 6. The status prefix

* 2. Become familiar with the format. The order in which this designation is presented is actually (6) (3) (2) (1) - (4) (5).

* 3. Read from the hyphen out to the left. Then read everything after the hyphen, to the right.

* 4. Check the type of aircraft. If it is anything other than an airplane (e.g. heavier than air, atmospheric craft) you will see one of the following symbols immediately to the left of the hyphen. Otherwise, skip to the next step.

*** a. D - UAS (Unmanned Aerial System) Control Segment; these are not the actual UAVs, but rather the manned aircraft controlling and, "D," for directing them)

*** b. G - Glider (including motorgliders used for unpowered flight; fixed wing; use air currents for normal lift; may have an engine)

*** c. H - Helicopter (any rotary wing aircraft)

*** d. Q - UAS (Unmanned Aerial System, this is the actual vehicle)

*** e. S - Spaceplane (can operate both within and outside the atmosphere; see Tips below)

*** f. V - VTOL/STOL (Vertical TakeOff and Landing / or, Short distance

TakeOff and Landing)

*** g. Z - Lighter than air (e.g. weather balloons, spy balloons, think of the old Zeppelins to remember the "Z" designator)

* 5. Determine the basic mission. The letter immediately to the left of the dash (when a type designation is not present) indicates the basic mission purpose of that aircraft. Occasionally, the basic mission designation is left out if the type and the modified mission (see next step) are included (e.g. MQ-9A).

*** a. A - Ground Attack ("A" is from Attack)

*** b. B – Bomber

*** c. C - Transport ("C" from Cargo mover)

*** d. E - Special Electronic Installation ("E" stands for the addition of extensive Electronic equipment)***

e. F - Fighter

*** f. H - Search and Rescue (Think of the "H" as in Hospital, flying Hospital ships, and also the common destination for those who are rescued)

*** g. K - Tanker (think of the "K" in tanKer or Kerosene, it carries and transfers aviation fuel--frequently a kerosene blend--in flight to other aircraft)

*** h. L - Laser-equipped (Laser weaponry against air and ground targets; a new designation)

*** i. O - Observation (Observation of enemy or potential enemy positions)

*** j. P - "P" for Patrol, maritime (as in over the ocean)

***** a. NOTE: Prior to 1962's "modernized" designations, "P" was commonly used for WWI, WWII and Korean War "Pursuit" planes, the first fighter/interceptors

*** k. R - Reconnaissance (air reconnaissance of enemy forces, territory, and facilities)

*** l. S - Anti-Submarine ("S" from enemy Submarines' search, locate, and attack; see Tips below)

*** m. T – Trainer

*** n. U - Utility (base support aircraft)

*** o. X - Special Research ("X" from eXperimental design and developmental pure research programs, with no operational mission intended or feasible)

* 6. Find the modified mission. The letter left of the basic mission designation indicates that a particular aircraft has been optionally modified for a mission different than its original design purpose. There should only be one letter for the modified mission designation, but there are a few exceptions (e.g. EKA-3B). these symbols are similar to the basic mission symbols, but contain a few extra descriptors.

*** a. A - Ground Attack

*** b. C - Transport (Cargo)

*** c. D - Drone Detector (modified to control unmanned aerial vehicles such as drones)

*** d. E - Special Electronic Installation (addition of extensive

electronic equipment)

*** e. F - Fighter (air combat)

*** f. K - Tanker (carries and transfers aviation fuel in flight to other aircraft)

*** g. L - Cold Weather Operations (Arctic or Antarctic environments)

*** h. M - Multi-mission (catch-all category)

*** i. O - Observation (observation of enemy or potential enemy positions)

*** j. P - Maritime Patrol

*** k. Q - UAV or drone

*** l. R - Reconnaissance (Reconnaissance by air of enemy forces,

territory, and facilities)

*** m. S - Anti-Submarine (search for, locate, and attack enemy submarines)

*** n. T – Trainer

*** o. U - Utility (base support aircraft)

*** p. V - VIP/Presidential Staff Transport (comfortable accommodations)

*** q. W - Weather Reconnaissance (weather monitoring and air sampling)

* 7. See if there is a status prefix. If this symbol is present, it will be all the way to the left, and it is only needed if an aircraft is not in normal operational service.

*** a. C - Captive. Rockets and missiles that are incapable of launch.

*** b. D - Dummy. Non-flying rockets and missiles, usually for ground training.

*** c. G - Permanently Grounded. Usually for ground training of crews and support. Rare.

*** d. J - Special Testing, Temporary. Aircraft with equipment temporarily installed for testing.

*** e. N - Special Testing, Permanent. Aircraft with equipment installed for testing and that cannot be returned to original configuration.

*** f. X - Experimental. Aircraft not yet finalized or accepted for

service.

*** g. Y - Prototype. Think of the "Y" in prototYpe, this is a final

aircraft creation which is intended for mass production.

*** h. Z - Planning phase. In the planning/pre-development phase. Not for actual aircraft.

* 8. Look for the design number to the right of the hyphen. The first number after the hyphen is an aircraft designation. The rule, although often violated, is that normal aircraft are to be designated in a strict numerical series according to their basic mission. The easiest examples are found in the Fighter class of US airplanes: F-14, then the F-15, F-16 and so on. But, there are exceptions. For example, the X-35, which was a research plane, was later redesignated the F-35 when it became fighter capable, even though the next number in the Fighter sequence was F-24.

* 9. Review the series letter. A suffix letter designates variants of a basic aircraft, with the first model being "A" and subsequent series letters being assigned the next letters of the alphabet (skipping "I" and "O" to avoid confusion with the numbers "1" and "0"). As with other symbols, there are exceptions with out-of-sequence suffixes (e.g. to designate a specific customer, like the "N" in F-16N designated "Navy").

* 10. Make note of any additional elements. There are three additional symbols which you may encounter, and which are optional. E.g. F-15E-51-MC Eagle, EA-6B-40-GR Prowler

*** a. Assigned popular name. "Eagle" and "Prowler" in the examples given.

*** b. Block number. Distinguishes between minor sub-variants of a specific aircraft variant. "51" and "40" in the examples above. Sometimes the hyphen before the block number is replaced by the word "block" (e.g. B-2A Block 30).

*** c. Manufacturer code letters. Identifies manufacturing plant.

* 11. Some confusion can arise from the fact that both the type and the basic mission designators have "S" symbols. Interestingly, the "S" designation S-for-Spaceplane has been used only once in designating the SR-71 as a Spaceplane Reconnaissance aircraft, actually named the RS-71, correctly, at first. When President Lyndon Johnson made reference to the incredible fastest jet plane ever, he made a verbal slip. As part of a nationally televised speech, he transposed the "R" and "S" letters, and his designation stood. Designers and military personnel then adjusted the abbreviations. The reconnaissance plane that flew at the edge of outer space, "RS," became instead, the spaceplane that performed reconnaissance,

"SR."

* A. the only two S-for-Antisubmarine designations are the S-2 and S-3. In the particular case of the SR-71, as just described above, the "S" designation is used as a MODIFIED mission indicator.

* B. Most of the symbols used have a corresponding letter in their

description to help remember them all. (A - Ground Attack; P - maritime Patrol). Try to remember these and this process becomes much easier.

* C. As with any system or set of rules, there are exceptions to these designations.

*D. This in no way constitutes a complete or wholly accurate account of United States Military Aircraft designations.

* E. An aircraft with dual, basic roles may sometimes use a '/' designator between roles, such as the F/A-18E (Fighter/Attack aircraft).

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I see that the ski models were left out. The Air Force acquired 12 A models with skies in the 1957 budget. These were designated D model. The tail numbers were 0484 to 0495. After the DEW Line was finished in Greenland 6 had the skies and fairings removed. However the hydraulics, plumbing and wiring for the skis was retained. These were designated D-6. They were tail numbers 0484 to 0489. All 12 continued to fly from Elmendorf AFB, AK, along with 4 A models. The ski equipped planes were not used on the gravel strips the other 10 aircraft assigned to the 17 TAS had that mission. I was assigned to the 17 TAS in 1971 and left in 1973.

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Guest

I don't know if it will help or not, but I have this;

How to Understand US Military Aircraft Designations

Thanks for posting. That was a good read and I think I captured it as it relates to C-130s on my page. Unfortunately, it did not provide the answers I am looking for.

--Casey

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I see that the ski models were left out. The Air Force acquired 12 A models with skies in the 1957 budget. These were designated D model. The tail numbers were 0484 to 0495. After the DEW Line was finished in Greenland 6 had the skies and fairings removed. However the hydraulics, plumbing and wiring for the skis was retained. These were designated D-6. They were tail numbers 0484 to 0489. All 12 continued to fly from Elmendorf AFB, AK, along with 4 A models. The ski equipped planes were not used on the gravel strips the other 10 aircraft assigned to the 17 TAS had that mission. I was assigned to the 17 TAS in 1971 and left in 1973.

Since the "D" was a series indicator, I wouldn't say that they were left out. As, Bs, E's, etc. were not mentioned either. However, the modified mission modifier of "L" for cold weather reconnaissance was listed.

The "-6" that was added to the C-130D is another example of the suffixes I was asking about.

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Casey,

See if this is what you are looking for:

http://www.9websites.com/airforce/c130.htm or

http://www.uswarplanes.net/c1302.html

It appears the -ll is for electronic reconnaissance.

Sonny

Found this:

HC-130H(N)

As HC-130P, SAR / helicopter refuelling version,

avionics upgrade. All later redesignated as HC-130N.

Produced

Lockheed Marietta, Georgia (LM)

C-130E, this designation applies to five different conversions:

- 1 factory built aircraft in 1966, (USCG 1414).

- 9 C-130E-II, 1977, Airborne Battlefield Command / Control Center

with avionics upgrades. Designated as EC-130E(ABCCC).

- 9 as electronic reconnaissance aircraft for ANG designated:

5 EC-130E(CL) "Comfy Levi" / "Senior Scout".

4 EC-130E(RR) "Rivet Rider" / "Commando Solo I".

- 3 as electronic intelligence gathering.

- 2 as electronic warfare aircraft used in the 1970's.

Edited by Sonny

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Casey,

See if this is what you are looking for:

Thanks for the post/links; more interesting reading. It seems that when an aircraft was further modified, they just added a dash and a number to the end or added a letter in parenthesis to the end. There sure doesn't seem to a logic to it but I will try to add an explanation to the page.

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I can tell you which aircraft have what designation but not really why.

These designations come out of the 130 Program Office at Robins.

I have heard some of their explanations, and I really think they just pull them out of their ***.

They would be the only ones who could give you an explanation.

Bob

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I have been working on a new page for the site that breaks down C-130 designations.

http://www.c-130hercules.net/acftdb/reference/designation.php

I think I have it nailed down thus far but I do have a few questions:

Some aircraft have/had a suffix preceded by a dash, e.g. C-130A-II and C-130E-II. Can someone explain?

I have also seen some aircraft with a suffix in parenthesis, e.g. HC-130H(N). Can someone explain?

Lastly I have seen some EC-130Es referred to as EC-130E(RR) and EC-130E(CL). Where these actual designations or just used to illustrate Rivet Rider vs. Rivet Clamp modified aircraft?

--Casey

Casey - this may have already been answered but here is a link to some A-IIs

http://www.7406supportsquadron.com/history/c130aii.asp

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