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U. S. Air Force Tail Codes

A variety of Air Force tail codes
USAF jet fighter Tail Codes

Tail Codes are markings usually on the vertical stabilizer of U.S. military aircraft that help to identify the aircraft's unit and/or base assignment and other information. The code is sometimes referred to as a "Tail Flash".

A tail code is not the same as the Air Force Serial Number, Navy Bureau Number, aircraft registration number, or Buzz Number.

Since 1993, all Air Force units, including Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard, utilize this system.

Tail Code Numbering System

Two large letters identify the unit (wing/group/organization) that the aircraft is assigned to, or the home base of the unit. In some instances, the letters indicate an historic legacy; for example, tail code "FF" has been used to indicate "1st Fighter Wing".

The Air Force aircraft Serial Number is also usually marked on the tail, in smaller numbers. Below the abbreviation "AF" is placed the first two digits of the serial number, indicating the fiscal year in which the aircraft was ordered. To the right are the last 3-digits of the serial number. See graphic below.

Different units located at the same air base can use different 2-letter codes.

Tail Code LF (Luke AFB), 56th Fighter Wing, on McDonnell-Douglas F-4D Phantom II, ordered in 1966, Serial Number 66-8812
U.S. Air Force aircraft tail code numbering scheme

 

Air National Guard units usually use the two-letter state abbreviation (AL, DE, NM, PA, etc) as a tail code. But variations in identification can vary from state to state, and unit to unit.

Air Mobility Command (AMC) aircraft do not use the two-letter identification number. Instead, they have the name of the base written on the tail along with the serial number.

List of Frequently Seen U.S. Air Force Tail Codes

Tail Code U.S. Air Force Base - Unit
AF USAF Academy, CO
AK Elmendorf AFB, AK - 3rd WIng
AK Eielson AFB, AK - 354th FW
AU Maxwell AFB, AL
BB Beale AFB, CA
BD Barksdale AFB, LA
CB Columbus AFB, MS
CC Cannon AFB, NM
CO Buckley ANGB, CO
CR Peterson AFB, CO - 302nd AW
CS Peterson AFB, CO - 21st SPW
DB Dobbins ARB, GA
DC Andrews AFB, MD
DM Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ - 355th Wing
DR Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ - 939th RQW
DY Dyess AFB, TX
ED Edwards AFB, CA
EG Eglin AFB, FL
EL Ellsworth AFB, SD
EN Sheppard AFB, TX
ET Eglin AFB, FL
FC Fairchild AFB, WA
FF Langley AFB, VA
FF or FL Patrick AFB, FL
FM Homestead ARB, FL
FT Pope AFB, NC
GA Robins AFB, GA
GF Grand Forks AFB, ND
HI Hill AFB, UT - 419th FW
HL Hill AFB, UT - 388th FW
HO Holloman AFB, NM - 49th FW
HT Holloman AFB, NM - 46th TG
HV Vandenberg AFB, CA
JS Robins AFB, GA
KC Whiteman AFB, MO
KS or KT Keesler AFB, MS
LA Barksdale AFB, LA - 2nd BW
LF Luke AFB, AZ - 56th FW
LR Luke AFB, AZ - 944th FW
LK Little Rock AFB, AR
MI Selfridge ANGB - 127th FW
MM Malmstrom AFB, MT
MO Mountain Home AFB, ID
MT Minot AFB, ND - 5th BW
MX Maxwell AFB, AL
MY Moody AFB, GA
NJ McGuire AFB, NJ
NM Kirtland AFB, NM
OF Offutt AFB, NE
OK Tinker AFB, OK
OT Eglin AFB, FL
OT Cannon AFB, NM
PF Peterson AFB, CO
RA Randolph AFB, TX
RS Ranstein AFB, Germany - 86th Airlift Wing
SA Kelly AFB, TX
SD Sioux Falls, S.D. - 114th FW
SH Tinker AFB, OK
SJ Seymour Johnson AFB, NC
SM McClellan AFB, CA
SS McClellan AFB, CA
SW Shaw AFB, SC
TF NAS JRB Fort Worth, TX
TY Tyndall AFB, FL
VN Vance AFB, OK
WA Nellis AFB, NV
WE Tyndall AFB, FL
WM Whiteman AFB, MO
XL Laughlin AFB, TX
ZZ Kadena AB, Japan

 

 

Tail Code "DM" (Davis-Monthan AFB) on a Fairchild-Republic A-10A Thunderbolt II,
Air Force Serial Number 75-0298 355th Wing, Davis-Monthan AFB

Tail Code "DM" on a Fairchild-Republic A-10A Thunderbolt II, Air Force Serial Number 75-0298, 355th Wing, Davis-Monthan AFB

Photographs Showing U.S. Air Force Tail Codes

Tail Code SH (Tinker AFB) on F-105D Thunderchief, Air Force Serial Number 62-4360
at the Charles B. Hall Airpark located at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
F-105D S/N 62-4360 at the Charles B. Hall Airpark located at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

 

F-16 Fighting Falcon S/N 80573, Tail Code ET (Eglin AFB), at the Air Force Armament Museum in Florida
F-16 Fighting Falcon S/N 80573

Tail section of SR-71A Blackbird, S/N 61-7967, Tail Code BB (Beale AFB)
Tail section of SR-71A Blackbird, S/N 61-7967

McDonnell-Douglas F-4D Phantom II, S/N 66-8812, Tail Code LF (56th Fighter Wing, Luke AFB)
McDonnell-Douglas F-4D Phantom II S/N 66-8812

Tail Code SH on F-4D Phantom II, Serial Number 66-7518, Tail Code SH (Tinker AFB), Oklahoma City
F-4D Phantom II S/N 66-7518 at the Charles B. Hall Airpark located at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Tail section of F-105 Thunderchief, S/N 57-803, Tail Code HI (Hill AFB), on display at the March Field Air Museum in California
F-105 Thunderchief, S/N 57-803, on display at the March Field Air Museum in California


U.S. Air Force A-7D Corsair, S/N 74739, with Tail Code SD, outside Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota
U.S. Air Force A-7D Corsair, S/N 74739, near the gate of Ellsworth AFB

Tail section of McDonnell-Douglas F-4C Phantom II, 63-7424, Tail Code MO (Mountain Home AFB), at the Hill Aerospace Museum in Utah
McDonnell-Douglas F-4C Phantom II, 63-7424

USAF B-52 Stratofortress, 60-062, 2nd Bomb Wing, with Tail Code LA (Barksdale AFB, Louisiana)
USAF B-52 Stratofortress, 60-062, 2nd Bomb Wing, with Tail Code LA (Barksdale AFB, Louisiana)

U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor, 04-079, with Tail Code TY (Tyndall AfB, Florida)
Tail markings on USAF F-22 Raptor, 04-079, with Tail Code TY (Tyndall AfB, Florida)

Tail markings on USAF F-35 Lightning II, 11-5030, with Tail Code LF (Luke AFB, Arizona)
Tail markings on USAF F-35 Lightning II, 11-5030, with Tail Code LF (Luke AFB, Arizona)

Air Mobility Command Tail Markings

U.S. Air Force Air Mobility Command (AMC) aircraft do not use the two-letter identiication number. Instead, they have the name of the base written in a tail stripe, along with the serial number.

Tail markings on USAF C-5M Super Galaxy, 87-0040, of the Air Mobility Command (AMC) from Travis AFB, California
Tail Code markings on USAF C-5M Super Galaxy, 87-0040, of the Air Mobility Command (AMC) from Travis AFB, California

USAF C-130J Hercules, 05771, of the Air Mobility Command (AMC) from Little Rock AFB ... "The Rock"
USAF C-130J Hercules, 05771, of the Air Mobility Command (AMC) from Little Rock AFB ... "The Rock"

Tail markings on USAF C-17 Globemaster III 30603 of the Air Mobility Command (AMC) from Charleston AFB
Tail Code markings on USAF C-17 Globemaster III 30603 of the Air Mobility Command (AMC) from Charleston AFB

 

Air National Guard

Air National Guard units often use the two-letter state abbreviation (AK, CO, NM, VA, etc) as part of the identification on the tail of an aircraft. But variations in numbering can vary from state to state, and unit to unit.

F-16 Fighting Falcon, 87-345, of the Wisconsin Air Guard 115th FW with Tail Code WI (Wisconsin ANG)
F-16 Fighting Falcon, 87-345, of the Wisconsin Air Guard with Tail Code WI (Wisconsin ANG)

F-86 Sabre 9050 of the Idaho Air National Guard, at Gowen Field Air National Guard Base, Boise, Idaho
F-86 Sabre of the Idaho National Guard, on display at Gowen Field Air National Guard Base, Boise, Idaho

Tail markings on F-101B Voodoo, S/N 58-0301, of the Oregon Air National Guard
Tail markings on F-101B Voodoo, S/N 58-0301, of the Oregon Air National Guard

More Tail Number Examples

C-130J-30, S/N 78609, of the U.S. Air Force, 86th Airlift Wing, with Tail Code RS (Ramstein AB, Germany)
C-130J-30 RS 78609 of the U.S. Air Force, 86th AW, with Tail Code RS (Ramstein AB, Germany)