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U. S. Air Force Buzz Numbers

History and Rationale Behind Air Force Buzz Numbers

B-17 Flying Fortress "Buzzing" during World War IIB-17 Flying Fortress "Buzzing" during World War II

A Buzz Number was a large letter and number combination applied to U. S. Air Force planes after World War II and into the early 1960s.

They were applied for general aerial identification of aircraft, but particularly for the identification of aircraft guilty of "buzzing" (very-low-altitude high-speed passes) over populated areas.

The system was designed to be a deterrent to 8th Air Force pilots performing unauthorized low-level flying over post-war Europe.

This practice created the need for ground observers to be able to identify and report an offending aircraft.

In response to this need, a system of letters and numbers was developed to uniquely identify each aircraft in inventory.

North American F-86H S/N 31525, Buzz Number FU-525North American F-86H S/N 31525, Buzz Number FU-525

The number was painted as large as possible on each side of the fuselage, and on the underside of the left wing (see photo of B-25J below).

The Buzz Number system continued in use through the 1950s, but was ended during the 1960s.

One of the last Air Force fighters to carry was the F-4 Phantom II, which used a Buzz Number of FJ (see photo below on this page).

U.S. Air Force Buzz Number Naming Standards

The Buzz Number consisted of 6-characters:

  • The first two letters indicated the type of aircraft (see table below)
  • A dash, i.e., "-"
  • The last three numbers were generally the last 3 digits of the aircraft serial number
F-84C Thunderjet S/N 47-1433, Buzz Number FS-433-A F-84C Thunderjet S/N 47-1433, Buzz Number FS-433-A

Air Force fighters used Buzz Numbers starting with the letter F (or P, when fighters were designated as "pursuit" aircraft before June 1948), while bombers started with the letter B. Cargo aircraft were identified as C series, while trainers were coded beginning with a T.

For example, an F-86 Sabre with serial number 31525 would have a Buzz Number of FU-525.

In situations where the type of aircraft and the last three digits of the serial number were identical, "-A" was added to the end of the Buzz Number, e.g., FS-433-A (see photo to the right).

Some aircraft types changed prefixes during their service life, while other prefixes were re-used after an earlier aircraft type was retired.

Buzz Number Assignments for Key U.S. Air Force Aircraft

The following table lists some frequently seen Buzz Numbers used by the U.S. Air Force in the 1950s and 1960s:

Buzz Number Prefixes
Aircraft
BA
B-17
BD
B-25
BF
B-29
BM
B-36
BE
B-45
BK
B-50
CZ
C-123
FF
P-51
FJ
F-4
FT
F-80
FS
F-84
FU
F-86
FV
F-89
FA
F-94
FW
F-100
FB
F-101
FC
F-102
FG
F-104
FH
F-105
FE
F-106
PN
P-80
TA
T-6
TR
T-33

Photographs of U.S. Air Force Aircraft with Buzz Numbers

Close-up of the tail section of the North American F-86H S/N 31525, Buzz Number FU-525, Tucson
Close-up of the tail section of the North American F-86H S/N 31525, Buzz Number FU-525
Republic F-84C Thunderjet S/N 47-1433, Buzz Number FS-433-A
Republic F-84C Thunderjet S/N 47-1433, Buzz Number FS-433-A
F-84F Thunderstreak tail section, S/N 52-7080, Buzz Number FS-080, England AFB, Louisiana
F-84F Thunderstreak tail section, S/N 52-7080, Buzz Number FS-080, England AFB, Louisiana
Republic F-84F Thunderstreak, S/N 51-1386, Buzz Number FS-386, at Barksdale AFB
Republic F-84F Thunderstreak, S/N 51-1386, Buzz Number FS-386
Boeing B-29 Superfortress S/N 487627, Buzz Number BF-627, Barksdale AFB, Louisiana
Boeing B-29 Superfortress S/N 487627, Buzz Number BF-627
Convair F-102 Delta Dagger S/N 56-1393, Buzz Number FC-393
Convair F-102 Delta Dagger S/N 56-1393, Buzz Number FC-393
Lockheed F-104 Starfighter Buzz Number FG-733 in Tyler, Texas
Lockheed F-104 Starfighter Buzz Number FG-733 in Tyler, Texas
F-89 Scorpion, Buzz Number FV-322 in Ogden, UT
F-89 Scorpion, Buzz Number FV-322
F-106 S/N 80-774, Buzz Number FE-774
F-106 S/N 80-774, Buzz Number FE-774
Lockheed F-80A Shooting Star, S/N 44-84999, Buzz Number FT-999
Lockheed F-80A Shooting Star, S/N 44-84999, Buzz Number FT-999
North American Aviation's T-6 Texan, S/N 51-14429, N729AM, Buzz Number TA-429
North American Aviation's T-6 Texan, S/N 51-14429, N729AM, Buzz Number TA-429
F-84, Buzz Number FS-562, Pueblo
F-84, Buzz Number FS-562
North American F-100A Super Sabre S/N 55-3537, Buzz Number FW-537
North American F-100A Super Sabre S/N 53-1684 painted as 55-3537, Buzz Number FW-537
Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star, Serial Number 16656, Buzz Number TR-656,
gate guard, Rusk County Airport, Henderson, Texas
Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star, Buzz Number TR-656, on static display at the Rusk County Airport, Henderson, Texas


More Photos of Aircraft with Buzz Numbers

B-25J Mitchell, S/N 44-31418, showing Buzz Number BD-418
on front fuselage and under left wing
B-25J Mitchell, S/N 44-31418, showing Buzz Number BD-418 on front fuselage and under left wing
B-25J Mitchell, S/N 44-29028, Buzz Number BD-028
B-25J Mitchell, S/N 44-29028, showing Buzz Number BD-028
F-4 Phantom Buzz Number FJ-407
F-4 Phantom ... photo courtesy of the U.S. Air Force
USAF P-51 Mustang with "FF" Series Buzz Number
USAF P-51 Mustang with "FF" Series Buzz Number
USAF B-36 Peacemaker Buzz Number BM-006
USAF B-36 Peacemaker Buzz Number BM-006