Australian & New Zealand Military Aircraft Serials & History
Introduction to ADF-Serials

  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 each aircraft type should be assigned its own identifying number..
This was followed by
another number for each individual aircraft as the final part of the serial number.
So the serial number for an RAAF P-40 Kittyhawk looks like below:

Profile by Gordon Birkett



A Aircraft group

29 Aircraft type identification number

117 the 117th aircraft of how ever many ordered/delivered/taken on charge

(Link to RAAF Vocabulary of Stores by Wynnum Graham)

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.


RAN Aircraft Codes By Jeff Chartier, 723 Squadron, RAN


The coding of the RAN FAA's aircraft is basically a carry on from the old days where we managed everything in line with the Royal Navy standards of operation.
From 1946, all RN FAA aircraft, whether at home or abroad, would carry a 3 digit fuselage code of which the first digit would denote its layout or function.

Single seaters used 100 codes,
2 seaters used 200 codes,
3 seaters used 300 codes,
Multi engines used 400 codes,
Fleet Support (FRU) used 500 codes,
Multi engined light trainers used 600 codes,
700 codes were spare,
Communications aircraft used 800 codes,
Station flights used 900 codes,
Trials / development aircraft used 000 codes.

The RAN FAA adopted the same system when it stood up in 1948.
It continued to use a fairly similar system, changing to 900 series codes for all 2nd Line Units in 1955, and then a whole of FAA change to 800 series codes for both 1st & 2nd Line Units in 1958.

By 1977 and into the 80's the RAN had used / were using pretty much all available 800 codes:
HS-748: 800-801
Wessex: 810-836
Tracker (E): 840-853
Tracker (G): 844-859
Macchi: 860-869
Skyhawk: 870-889
Kiowa: 890, 891, 892, 896, 899
Iroquois: 893, 894, 895, 897, 898
Sea King: 901-910

Aircraft codes from approx 1990 to now were / are:

HS-748: 800-801
Squirrel (ex-Army): 801, 811, 819-824
Seasprite: 840-850
Squirrel (Navy): 860-865
Seahawk: 870-885
Kiowa: 890, 892, 896, 031, 032
Sea King: 902, 905, 907, 909, 910, 920, 921, 922
A-109E: 501, 505, 510
Bell 429: 047, 048, 049
MRH-90: Will operate any 6 numbered between 001-046
MH-60R: 901-924

The exceptions to the rule have been the contractor supplied Agusta A-109E's & Bell 429's, which have used their manufacturers numbers (A109: 501, 505, 510; Bell 429: 047, 048, 049).

The MRH-90's do also use their manufacturer’s numbers as their side numbers. But that has more to do with the fact that all MRH-90's are pooled between Navy and Army, making the process of repainting airframes a costly undertaking to reflect who they may be operating with at any given time.
Similar to why they will ALL operate in a camouflage scheme, instead of the Navy cabs being painted grey.

MH-60R will be coded 901-924. Which is nice to see, as a good proportion of those numbers were last used on the last ASW Helo we had with a dipping sonar capability the mighty Sea King!

Interesting to note that 2 Kiowas were operated towards the end of RAN Kiowa OPS with their Army codes 031 & 032, and operated at points in their Army Camo scheme. No 800 series codes were allocated.


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.
If you have information on an aircraft please contact us at or
posting on our message board.

From time to time we also add other pages on specific topics.

If you wish to join the team let us know!

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Page Authors: Jeff Chartier, Brendan Cowan, Martin Edwards and Dean Norman

Page Updated 6th November 2015


It is our policy to only show historical events, no current operational information will be displayed on this website.
 "The ADF-Serials team give permission to use the content of this page, excluding images, providing that it contains an acknowledgement to the adf-serials team and any other listed sources."