Northrop P-61/F-15 Black Widow

Tail codes

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A brief history of tail codes

Unit identification aircraft markings, commonly called "tail markings" after their most frequent location, were numbers, letters, geometric symbols, and colors painted onto the tails (vertical stabilizer fins), wings, or fuselages of the combat aircraft (primarily bombers) of the United States Army Air Forces during the Second World War. The purpose of these markings was to provide a means of rapid identification of the unit to which an aircraft was assigned. Variations of these markings continue to be used in the United States Air Force in the form of tail codes identifying operational wings.

In civilian service, tail codes and tail art took on a whole new meaning with operators, be they air tanker or executive conversions using the fin to display their own unique design that usually represented the company the aircraft flew for.