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Old September 26, 2012, 02:27 AM   #21
FrankenMauser
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Join Date: August 25, 2008
Location: 1B ID
Posts: 6,839
You shouldn't even get started on aircraft.
As time goes by, they add more and more complications and "exceptions to the rules."

Things are supposed to be simple, allowing up to 3 primary mission designators before the design number. (with the possibility of a leading 4th designator for special aircraft - experimental, displays, etc.) Then, capped off by the variant/series.

Sometimes aircraft follow suit properly:
F-15E
-Fighter, design 15, variant E
KC-135
-Tanker, Transport, design 135, variant A

But others play "outside the box".
Example of one that was/is truly messed up:
MH-53M(J)
-Multi-Mission - indicating that the aircraft has multiple missions AND is no longer used for its original mission.
-Helicopter
-design 53
-variant M
-upgraded to 'M' from a 'J' variant that had previously been modified from an MH-53H variant (which would have previously been a C variant ) -- This is not an official 'approved' method for aircraft designation. Yet, it was used until 2008.
Without the (J), it indicated that it was upgraded/modified from an 'J' variant that had never been an MH-53H variant; but upgraded directly from an HH-53C. This was important to mission and mobility planning, because the aircraft were slightly different, mechanically, based on the variant they were upgraded from.

But, an experimental upgrade on top of the 'M' variant of that helicopter would have resulted in another stupid designation. Since only the modification/upgrade was experimental (electronics), and not the basic aircraft, the experimental designation did not include the 'Y' mission assignment. Instead, they did this:
MH-53M(+) {read as "emm plus")
or
MH-53M+
-the '(+)' indicated it was a 'H'-to-'J' variant, upgraded to 'M' status, and further upgraded to 'M+'.
-the '+' indicated it was never an 'H' variant, before upgrading 'J'-to-'M', and then to 'M+'.

To complicate that designation further, the Air Force approved letting that 'M+' go "live" as the official designation of the upgraded aircraft. So, the previous differentiation of slight mechanical differences would be lost in the new designation.
Unfortunately for tax payers, the entire 'J', 'M', and 'M+' fleet was retired before the 'M+' upgrade made it to the real world. With the fleet's retirement, the (J) differentiation went away.
Now, quite a few of the former 'M(J)'s are in museums, due to their rather colorful and eventful histories.

Did I mention there were also 'J' variants that had sub-designations to indicate whether they had originally been a 'B' or 'C' variant? Nah... I won't get into that....
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Last edited by FrankenMauser; September 26, 2012 at 02:35 AM.
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