UNDF/RDF Navy*, Spacy, Air Force, Marine Corps Squadron Organizaton and Aircraft Numbering System

*Many fighter squadrons, particularly Navy squadrons, still use sequential numbering of fighters from zero to fourteen (200, 201, 202, 203, 204 ... 214). This is a holdover from traditional naval aircraft numbering systems, and though common in the UNDFN/RDFN, is not considered standard in other branches. What follows is a good general rule for decoding aircraft numbers on UNDF/RDF aircraft.

Squadron Breakdown:

Numbering System:


Air Wing Six, Squadron One
VF-123 "The Examples"

Pilot Aircraft No.
(Standard System)
Aircraft No.
(Naval System)
Command Detachment
Squadron Leader 101 100
Executive Officer 102 101
Liason Officer 103 102
Squad One
Squad One, Fire Team One
Squad Leader
(Operations Officer)
111 103
Fire Team One Pilot 112 104
Fire Team One Pilot 113 105
Squad One, Fire Team Two
Fire Team Leader
(Administrative Chief)
114 106
Fire Team Two Pilot 115 107
Fire Team Two Pilot 116 108
Squad Two
Squad Two, Fire Team One
Squad Leader
(Safety Officer)
121 109
Fire Team One Pilot 122 110
Fire Team One Pilot 123 111
Squad Two, Fire Team Two
Fire Team Leader
(Logistics Chief)
124 112
Fire Team Two Pilot 125 113
Fire Team Two Pilot 126 114

Since we only see examples of a Spacy Squadron, all others are subject to speculation.
Therefore, I have included the alternative (Naval) format for those preferring it over that seen in the show.

RDFN VF Chain of Command

Background notes as they relate to the ROBOTECH TV series

Examples of the numbers shown above can be seen in the series. They include:

 Why do we not see large formations of fighters in the show? Well, there are a number of plausible explanations for this. First and foremost, it should be noted that squadrons are made up of a fixed/specified number of aircraft because this is the only way to avoid complete chaos. The support personnel and equipment required to keep a squadron operating is immense, to say the least. Having a wildly varying number of planes between squadrons--i.e. no "standard" by which squadrons are measured--is a logistics and tactical decision making nightmare.

 "Does VF-6 have six fighters or eight?"

 "I'm not sure, sir."

 Fighter squadrons have a peace-time standard for aircraft and pilots (the standard F-14 squadron in the U.S. Navy is fifteen aircraft). In wartime, this number is often not reached due to combat losses or maintenance problems. On "Yankee Station" In Vietnam, for example, an eighty-percent "up" rate for a carrier squadron's aircraft was considered outstanding. Operationally speaking, not every aircraft from a squadron sorties for a particular mission. Barrier Combat Air Patrols, for example, usually consisted of two airplanes from a particular squadron, with squadrons rotating BARCAP duties.

 Attack missions flown by U.S. Navy carrier squadrons in Vietnam closely parallel what we see in ROBOTECH. For example, three 12-plane squadrons of A-4's on a carrier would fly a strike in which four planes from each squadron made up the strike "package." During this time, the other eight airplanes in each squadron underwent repair, prep for another strike, or flew a different strike themselves. You didn't often see all twelve airplanes from a squadron fly a mission at the same time to the same place.

 Also, it should be noted that to save space on a carrier, each squadron would detach a certain number of its planes "to the beach," where they would undergo corrosion treatment, heavy maintenance, etc., etc.. When combat losses occurred, the spares were flown aboard the carrier and continued operating in place of those that were lost. When maintenance was completed, these airplanes were cycled back to the ship, and another set of airplanes was flown ashore to undergo the same process.

 Different aircraft types have different squadron sizes as well. For example, the typical KA-3 "Whale" squadron was five or six planes, only two or three of which were on the boat at any one time. The spares were sent to NAS Cubi Point or Rota, Spain for maintenance and overhaul. Time permitting, they were cycled back to the ship to replace those that had been in operation during their absence. F-4 squadrons were comprised of twelve (or fifteen, I have no exact figures on hand) airplanes and routinely bingoed at least one of their fighters ashore for the same reasons. F-8 Squadrons bingoed two or more of their twelve/fifteen planes to the beach, with smaller carriers bingoing more planes per squadron.

 So, the absence of consistent scenes with fifteen airplanes from the same squadron is perfectly logical and completely normal. Round the clock duty cycles, for example, where Combat Air Patrols are flown by squadrons on a rotating basis, aircraft undergoing maintenance, and aircraft attrition are all reasons for us not to see a full fifteen planes in the air at once time. Indeed, most carrier missions are not flown at full strength--keeping aircraft in reserve is a necessary evil for protection of the ship. I have no doubts that many of the times we see Rick et. al. launch on a mission with only six or eight planes it is for the above listed reasons.

 In summary, fifteen planes are not always seen because of:

 There is nothing inconsistent with this. The original Japanese source material also points to a fifteen-plane squadron as standard, tangentially supporting a fifteen-plane squadron in ROBOTECH.

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Copyright © 1995-98 by Jason Smith

(Author's Note: This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to actual events, persons, etc. is coincidental--even if intentionally so!-- June 1995)

Based on characters and situations from
Robotech, © 1985 Harmony Gold, USA, Inc.

Robotech (R) is the property of Harmony Gold. This document is in no way intended to infringe upon their rights.

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Copyright © 1997 Jason W. Smith
Version Last Updated: 07 March 1998