F-84 Series Designations

Agency Reconstitution, Politics, and the Wandering Designations
By Bruce Craig, Webmaster

On June 11, 1948, the Army Air Forces were reconstituted as the United States Air Force, and along with that change, the "P" for Pursuit aircraft was redesignated to "F" for Fighter. The early models of the P-84 were redesignated to F-84 in accordance with that change. Generally, early photos of Thunderjets show them with the "P" and later photos show them with the "F"; some photos taken during the transition period show aircraft side by side, some with "P" and some with "F". For continuity of documentation, I attempted to be consistent by using the original designation, whether P or F, of a given model at the time of manufacture. My attempt has fallen by the wayside, and has defaulted -- more or less -- to using the designation shown on the aircraft in a photo. Therefore, the prototypes through C-models may be designated either P or F, and thereafter are F.
Further, due to other factors, not the least of which was Congressional politics, various models of the Thunderjet and its derivatives were assigned different designations at seemingly random whim. As though these changes in designation were insufficent to confuse the troops, evolving possiblities for uses of the aircraft, and modifications to service test units, lead to a confusing sequence of designations for the Thunderstreak and Thunderflash prototypes. I have (a) tried to document these changing designations, (b) settle on a "logical" designation for a particular aircraft, and (c) consistently use that "logical" designation. Despite my intent to be consistent with designation use, some factors, such as "misinformation" on, for example, a model of an "F-84F" actually being a kinda-sorta YF-96A, has lead me to be (perhaps) too prone to over-document wherein I have used both designations.
In any case, my "default" is to designate an aircraft with the "current" designation as it appears in a particular photo.

YF-96A Cigarette Card

YF-96A-RE 49-2430, one of the more "famous" subjects of redesignationitis. Cigarette card from the collection of Guido Van Roy.

Copyright Bruce Craig -- All Rights Reserved