|Welcome to the
ADF Serial Numbers website. This site is devoted to
providing a complete list and photographs of aircraft
operated by the ADF and NZDF for the military aviation
historian and enthusiast. It includes brief summaries,
where known, about their history and what their current
status is, whether they are currently in service, flying
as Warbirds or as static displays in museums.
Australian military aviation can trace its history back to before the commencement of World War I when the Central Flying School was established in 1912 at Point Cook, Victoria, South West of Melbourne. At CFS selected Army personnel undertook training on aircraft like the Bristol Boxkite and the Depedussin that would later form the basis of the Australian Flying Corps during WWI.
Application of Serial Numbers
Soon after the AAC/AAF became known as the RAAF a series of prefixes were designed to identify specific areas or materials within the air force, some of which are still widely in use to this day. Prior to this system of identification aircraft had been using RFC/RAF serial numbers.
It is often mistaken that the A in the aircraft's serial number stands for Australia when it is merely just the group identification code (not that it is really needed!). With the introduction of the N prefix for the Navy's aircraft it is also possible to assume the A stands for Air Force or Army depending on the aircraft itself.
With the assigning
of the A prefix for aircraft it was also decided that
type should be assigned its own identifying
Often aircraft either built locally or those impressed from civilian sources, as well as several overseas types, were assigned numbers in sequential order starting at 1 however, gaps in the numbering sometimes occurred for unknown reasons. However, not all serial numbers are applied like this with a number of notable exceptions as there is no set standard in assigning individual aircraft numbers.
To date there has been three separate groups or Series as they are known as, each covering different periods and what initially began as a RAAF system has now become standard for the ADF.
First Series (1921 - 1934)
This First Series consisted of only 13 aircraft but only 12 A numbers were assigned. This was a result of the order for the 'A5' Vickers Vimy not being taken up and the re-assigning of the A5 prefix to the Westland Wapiti. All aircraft were numbered sequentially.
Second Series (1935 - 1960)
Most of the aircraft in this series were operated by the RAAF during World War II, which made the RAAF one of the top five largest airforces, behind the air forces of Britain, Russia, U.S.A and most likely Canada depending on which figures are used. Many of the aircraft served in small numbers, operating in the Communications, Liaison or Air Ambulance roles while others served in great numbers of 500 or more. With such large numbers of aircraft in use numerous gaps in the serial numbers appeared.
Many aircraft types were received from Britain during this period yet several types including the Fairey Battles, Avro Ansons and the Boeing (B-29) Washington's, operated under their RAF serial numbers. For reasons unknown RAAF A numbers had been assigned to these aircraft but not applied. Of particular interest is the fact that only the first 48 Avro Ansons had RAAF serials applied yet almost 1000 others retained their previous RAF identity.
When ordered from the United States the C-130A/E and J model Hercules had their individual numbers taken from the last three digits of the manufacturers construction numbers, the H models being numbered sequentially.
Of the 100 aircraft in this series only several serial numbers were held in reserve for aircraft that were either ordered or tested by the RAAF but never accepted into service.
Third Series (1961 - Present)
Most of the aircraft in this series had their serial numbers based on either their Manufacturers construction numbers or something completely different altogether. Only several aircraft were numbered sequentially. The prime exceptions to the rule were the Lockheed P-3B/C Orions and the McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom II, While the Orions had their individual numbers are taken from the last three digits of the US Navy's Bureau of Aeronautics number assigned to all US Navy aircraft, the Phantoms, leased from the USAF, retained and flew with their USAF identities but were assigned the spurious 'A69' prefix for administrative purposes only. The number 69 was used as it was derived from the Fiscal year of funding for the aircraft's construction.
When Army Aviation finally obtained its own aircraft independent of the RAAF, serial numbers were assigned in line with the RAAF 'A' number sequence. In 1989 the Army finally wrested control of the rotary winged aircraft fleet from the RAAF although this change did not affect serial numbers.
The Royal Australian Navy Fleet Air Arm (FAA) Serial Numbers
For many years the FAA operated without a unified designation system for Navy aircraft. Most of the aircraft were British and had retained their original Royal Navy FAA serial numbers. The only exception was the two Douglas Dakota aircraft that had been transferred from the RAAF in 1949/50. These aircraft retained their RAAF serial numbers until the introduction of the Navy's N prefix.
From 1965 the RAN FAA introduced a similar, yet separate serial number system replacing the A prefix of the RAAF / Army with an 'N' denoting Navy. Despite the new system commencing in 1965 many existing aircraft still carried their RN serial numbers until the end of their operational lives. When the Grumman S-2 Trackers were purchased they retained their full US Navy BuA numbers.
Navy aircraft were not included into the combined system until the introduction of the Kiowa in the early 70's, which was assigned the 'N17' prefix while the RAAF assigned the 'A17' prefix to their own Kiowa aircraft. Navy aircraft are now assigned prefixes under the unified system that now covers the entire ADF.
Our first priority
has been to list each aircraft operated by an ADF unit
(Australian Army, Navy and Air Force), then we will continue to add the
aircraft's history as research time allows.
From time to time we also add other pages on specific topics.
If you wish to join the team let us know!
Jeff Chartier, Brendan Cowan, Martin Edwards and
our policy to only show historical events, no current
operational information will be displayed on this