Historical Background

The Aeronautical Division of the Signal Corps of the United States Army was established on 1 August 1907. On 18 July 1914 it was redesignated as the Aviation Section of the Signal Corps. The title was changed to the United States Air Service (USAS) on 24 May 1918 and to United States Army Air Service (USAAS) on 4 June 1920. The status was again changed on 2 July 1926 when it became the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC). On 20 June 1941 it became the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) which became completely independent as the United States Air Force (USAF) on 18 September 1947. (In this database the term Air Force is loosely used to refer to the US Air Force and its predecessors).

The first United States Navy (US Navy) aircraft was procured in 1911. On 29 August 1916 the Naval Flying Corps was established. The Bureau of Aeronautics, which advises the Navy on all air matters, was established on 12 July 1921.

The United States Marine Corps (USMC) procures all its aircraft through the US Navy.

Since the independence of the USAF, the United States Army (US Army) has procured light aircraft and helicopters through the USAF.

During peacetime the United States Coast Guard (USCG) is a branch of a government department (originally the United States Treasury, then from April 1967 Dept of Transportation and from March 2003 Dept. of Homeland Security) but is amalgamated with the US Navy during wartime. It has procured its aircraft through the US Navy, the USAF as well as directly.

The National Guard (NG), comprising the Army National Guard and Air National Guard, originated in the colonial citizen militia of the English colonies. Whilst they are in the first instance state units that can be mobilized by the State governor in the case of an emergency, they are also available for federal service to supplement the US Army and the USAF.

There is no Naval National Guard due to the constitutional provision against states having ships of war in time of peace, though Alaska, California, New Jersey, New York, Texas and Ohio have incorporated Naval Militia units. Aircraft of the NG are procured through the US Army and the USAF.

Many states also maintain their own State Defense Forces. Although these forces are federally recognized, they are separate from the National Guard and cannot be used for federal service.

Following the trend by European countries to establish civilian organizations to train young people to become pilots, with the obvious intention that they would become military pilots, the United States established the Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPTP) in 1939.

In the programme the government funded a 72-hour ground school course followed by 35 to 50 hours of flight instruction at facilities located near eleven colleges and universities.

At the programme’s peak, 1,132 educational institutions and 1,460 flight schools were participating in the CPTP with the government, through the Civil Aeronautics Authority, funding one aircraft for every ten students enrolled in the program.

After the outbreak of the war, the programme became known as the War Training Service (WTS) and, when it was phased out in the summer of 1944, it had generated 435,165 pilots.

Aircraft flown by the CPTP were Waco UPF, Meyers OTW as well as Piper and Aeronca aircraft. They are not included in this database unless they carried a designation in any of the designation systems.

The Civil Air Patrol (CAP) is an auxiliary of the Air Force. It was founded in December 1941 and chartered by Congress in 1946 to provide emergency services, cadet training and aerospace education. The non-profit organization performs 95% of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center. It operates a fleet of over 550 single engine aircraft. It has over 63,000 volunteers nationwide (in 2003) and the members are trained to perform aerial and ground missions for homeland security, disaster relief, and search and rescue. They also serve as mentors to nearly 27,000 young people participating in the CAP cadet programs.

Aircraft of the CAP are not included in this database unless they carried a designation in any of the designation systems.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) was established as the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) on 7 February 1958 as the central research and development organization for the Department of Defense (DoD).

It was renamed as DARPA on 23 March 1972, back to ARPA on 22 February 1993 and again to DARPA on 10 February 1996.

Projects undertaken by DARPA are across a wide range of disciplines and aircraft are only a small part of the activities.

Many of the aircraft projects are designated in the X series of aircraft but some projects, mainly cancelled ones, do not carry DoD designations or alternatively carry a designation unique to DARPA.

The National Aeronautics and Space Adminstration (NASA) was established on 1 October 1958 as a successor to the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) which had been established on 3 March 1915.

Some aircraft in the X series of aircraft have been exclusively used by NASA.

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