RAAF Tail Codes and General serial numbers
The Royal Australian Air Force maintains control of its physical assets via a system of Groups that cover specific areas and provides a number within the group to identify the item and if required a serial to further designate the individual piece.
As the tail codes applied to RAAF planes are really just their stock/inventory number under this system, they always start with the group letter, which for all aircraft is ‘A.’ The numbers that fall directly after the group letter are called the ‘section number’ and designate the type, thus an A92 is a Jindivik drone. After this comes a hyphen, and the individual aircraft serial. So ‘A92-144’ is the 144th Jindivik taken ‘On Charge’ by the RAAF, and in this case lost again into the sea of Darwin in 1963. If the Group and Section codes are followed by a diagonal divider the next number is a subsection, or even a sub-subsection. So RAAF tailcodes should always be written as Axx–xxxx never Axx/xxxx, and only A is the correct letter to start an RAAF tail code. 'N' is used by the RAN and the Army use M, but the RAAF always use A, a point model companys need to remember.
To the present date the RAAF have had three separate series of ‘A’ numbers.
First Series (1921 - 1934)
There were only 13 aircraft types in the First Series, although with the cancellation of the order for Vickers Vimy’s (A5) only 12 actually saw service.
Second Series (1935 - 1960)
The second Series covered the watershed years of WWII, which saw the RAAF expand from a token force to one of the ten largest air forces in the world. A good number of A numbers in this Series covered only one or two examples of civilian types impressed for second line roles, but equally other ran to many hundreds or planes. Naturally with such profusion many gaps occurred in the Series and not a few inconsistencies. A number of aircraft also did not receive RAAF serials at all, many of the American and Russian types taken on charge in Russia retained their original serials in Australian service.
Post war, some order remerged and the general principal was adopted to use the last three digits of the manufacturers construction number as the service serial after the hyphen. This has remained the practice ever since, even though it can produce some deceptive results, the RAAF’s dozen Cessna 172’s carry numbers in the high 800’s.
Third Series (1961 - Present)
With the Third Series and a stable pattern for three digit serial, no such order was imposed on the A prefix. While all aircraft carrying the same A Number will be of the same type, and usually ordered on the same contract, there is no hard and fast rule to determine what that number will be. Numbers reserved for cancelled projects have been ‘backfilled’ to neaten the list, others have been the fiscal year of the order, the Air Project number or to celebrate some particular event.
When Army Aviation finally obtained its own aircraft independent of the RAAF, the RAAF also backfilled the A number’s of the types transferred to the Army and the Army retaliated by starting a new A series. This was frowned upon by higher authority and revised to be an M number instead, while the RAN has operated an N series since 1947.
A1 - de Havilland DH.9A - 30 Aircraft
A2 - RAF SE-5A - 35 Aircraft
A3 - Avro 504K - 62 Aircraft
A4 - Sopwith Pup - 11 Aircraft
A5 - Vikers Vimy - 1 Aircraft
A5 - Westland Wapiti - 44 Aircraft
A6 - de Havilland DH.9 - 32 Aircraft
A7 - de Havilland DH.60 Cirrus Moth - 118 Aircraft (Series 1 & 2)
A8 - de Havilland DH.50A - 2 Aircraft (Series 1 & 2)
A9 - Seagull III - 9 Aircraft
A10 - Fairey IIID - 6 Aircraft
A11 - Supermarine Southampton - 2 Aircraft
A12 - Bristol Bulldog 11A - 8 Aircraft
Some other examples of this system
A group Aircraft
B group Aircraft engines.
B17 Gipsy Major
B18 Pegasus XXII (for Sunderland)
B24/A1 Engine, Pratt & Whitney, Twin Row Wasp, R1830-82
B27 Wright Cyclone
B38 Warner Scarab
C group Motor transport – vehicles, vehicle spares.
C15/550 Pump, bicycle, hand type.
C20/254 Gauge, tyre
C20/514 Chains, non skid.
D group Hand tools and machine tools.
D1A/105 Bits, carpenter auger
D1B/25338 Pliers, angle cutting.
D1C/2161 Screwdriver, common
D1C/30988 Spanner, adjustable, 4 inch.
E group Guns, gun turrets, gun mounts.
E3/3129 Guns, Robow, sub-machine.
E4/4 Guns, Colt, .303, a/c.
E7A/1166 Guns, Vickers water cooled
E7B/561 Chests for rifles.
E7B/655 Pistol, signal, 1.5 inch
E11A/548 Carrier, Bomb
F group Photography
F14A/29 Camera, aircraft, complete. F.24.
F14B/2 Aprons, acid proof
F14B/17 Boxes, negative storage.
F14C Aircraft recognition films
G group Instruments and electrical
G5A Lamps, filament
G5A/346 Hydrometer, Battery testing.
G5A/476 Torch, complete with globe
G5F/451 Tape, insulating.
G5E/30048 Cable, electric, S.6
G5U Voltage regulators, reverse current relays, ammeters,
G6B Indicator, air position
G106A Aircraft instruments – Indicators, rate of climb, airspeed, clock, compass.
G106D Aircraft oxygen equipment – regulators, valves, cylinders.
H group Aircraft hardware – nuts, bolts, washers, screws.
H28/31 bolt, steel, mild, BSF 5/16 X 1 inch length.
H128F/30055 bolt, steel, ¾ in. x ¼ in S.A.E., AN4-6.
H128F/30532 washer, ¼ in.
I group. Material stocks, safety equipment etc
I1/774 Dural sheet, 16 SWG, 6 ft X 3 ft.
I1/2565 Alclad, 24 SWG
I2/9012-12 Extruded angle, al. alloy 24ST, ¾ in x ¾ in x 1/16 in.
I4B/2005 Flags, ensign, RAAF, 2’6’’ x 1’3”.
I15A/2026 Parachute, Observer Type, Dominion.
I16B/1 Anchor, ground (as distinct from a sea anchor) (flying boat equipment)
I32B/526 Bunting, green.
I32B Rags, cleaning
J group Bombs; Torpedoes;
J12A/283 Bombs, aircraft, 250 pound.
J12D/238 Detonator (For destruction of Boomerang IFF equipment)
J12F/3004 Cupboards, pyrotechnic.
K group Fuels, oils, paints, varnishes, floor polish
K1 Fuel/octane or grade
K2/139 Oil, aero, Shell.
K3/175 Zinc Chromate Primer
K4/239 Kerosene, illuminating.
K8/5 Cylinders, gas, oxygen
L group Clothing, boots, and personal equipment
L1/17 Waistcoat, lifesaving
L1/27 Suits, aviation, summer.
L2/66 Shoes, working.
L3/17 Greatcoats, airmen.
L4/1 Bags, Kit, Universal.
L4/62 Shirts, blue-grey, airmen
L5 Badges etc
L6 Buttons, Buckles, Hooks etc
L8 Music instruments etc
L23/88 Slings, rifle.
M group Huts portable, huts steel frame, hangars portable, sandbags and containers.
M2/20 Containers, petrol & water, 2 gallon.
M2/46 Airscrew cases.
M2/54 Drums, steel.
N37F3/16216 Handle, crank, starter (Catalina engine manual start crank handle)
N37H/1 Auxiliary Power Unit, (Eclipse type) (fitted to early Catalinas)
N37H/26 Auxiliary Power unit, (Lawrence type) (fitted to later Catalinas)
N37J Hydraulic components
N38 Electrical starter motors
O group. Water craft.
O16G/10211 Pump, Bilge, Hand (flying boat)
O16G/10215 Hook, boat, c/w 100 ft rope.
O18A Chrysler marine engines.
O18J Universal marine petrol engines.
P group. Office equipment.
P6/9 Baskets, waste paper.
P6/44 Machine, duplicator, Gestetner.
Q group. Furnishings, domestic equipment, sport equipment
Q10/323 Plates, Dinner, Airmen
Q11/30 Brooms, sweeping
Q12/1421 Machine, potato peeling
Q14/6 Blankets, general service.
R group Medical, dental.
R4/127 Towels, Surgical
R5/211 thermometer, clinical
R7/148 Urinal, enamel iron, male.
R8/9 Outfit, first aid, Medium (long range)
R11/27 Tube, centrifuge, plain.
T4B/37 Covers, outer
T25A/5061 Airscrew, Hamilton 23E50, 3 blade, 12ft 1 inch diameter. (used on Catalina)
T25L/25617 Constant speed unit (for use with Hamilton propellers)
T27A Tyres, aero; tubes, aero; wheels, aero.
T27C/1027 Oars, wood, small
T27C/1254 Dinghy Type H Mark 1 (British)
T27D All sorts of covers for aircraft
T27D/16003 Cover, canvas, engine. (Catalina)
W1/93 Switch, tumbler
W2/1 Axes, pick handled
W4 Aircraft handling equipment. Trestles, wing stands, lifting jacks.
W4A/10991 Catalina beaching chassis
W4A/11507 Ostrich steering and towing arm.
W4C/1155 Hoist, Bomb
W4C/1609 Pump, tyre inflation.
W4D/20345 Steel drum with tap, 4 gallon.
W4D/20347 Locker, parachute.
W21F/374 Switch, inertia (Graviner) Part Number BC649A
Y group Radio, radar equipment.
Y10BB/300012 Yagi aerial.
Y10DB/500023 Transmitter, type AT.300 (modified).
Y10B/60244 Cable,coaxial type PT.7M.
Captured enemy equipment.