Armed Forces Overviews
Chinese Serial Systems
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Other Forces

Air Force
The serial system is fairly straight forward and serials can be divided nowadays into the following categories:

Newly produced aircraft flying before delivery can be seen with a two-digit serial or even up to 5 digit. The system is consistent for each manufacturer and mostly indicate the production sequence number that might be added to the aircraft tye (like "20" for the J20) or batch number (like "7" for batch 7 within the J10 production.
Aircraft of the Air Academies all have the aircraft specific number as a large two- or three digit number on the fuselage or tail. In order to obtain the full five digit serial (see below) the specific regiment digits are added.

The three-digit serials are reserved for aircraft on test. Aircraft used by the test center CFTE at Xi'an-Yanliang can be seen using this serial range, but also product development aircraft from factories like XAC and SAC use this range.

Starting the reorganizations of the Flying Academies in 2012 aircraft flying within the Academies use a four digit serial in the "axbx" pattern, where "a" indicates the Flying Academy (between "1" and "4") and "b" indicates the Regiment.
6xbx series is used by special units and primarily by the 15th Airborne Corps with "b" indicating the Regiment. The HQ Liaison units might have received new serials though.
The 9aax number is used by the Navy, see below.

Allocations after 2011

Starting April 2012 in four Military Regions many Regiments were transformed into Brigades that got subordinated to 'Bases' that consisted of four Brigades. This compares to Divisions that have a maximum of three Regiments. As a consequence, two different systems are used by the Air Force: The Divisions use the axxax pattern in which the "aa" gives the Division number by subtracting 11, "xxx" is subdivided into three groups 001-050, 051-100 and 101-150, indicating the three Regiments within the Division. The serials of Brigade aircraft use an "aaxax"pattern, with "aaa" being the Brigade number plus 611. (so 70x1x being a 90th Brigade aircraft).
Compared to pre 2012 serials the Military Region Training Bases have been incorporated in the regular Division and Brigade scheme.
With the reorganization of 2012 also special Regiments got subordinated to sometimes newly created Divisions, with new five digit serials as a result. Many transport aircraft have a civilian-looking registration in the B-4xxx range.

Below is a cross reference list of the current serial ranges. Non-active Divisions are omitted. Note that 2017 changes are not yet incoprporated.

Serial range Air Div.
   
   
1bx2x 1st
1bx3x 2nd
1bx4x 3rd
1bx5x 4th
1bx6x 5th
1bx7x 6th
1bx8x 7th
1bx9x 8th
 
Serial range Air Div.
2bx0x 9th
2bx1x 10th
2bx2x 11th
2bx3x 12th
2bx4x 13th
2bx5x 14th
2bx6x 15th
2bx7x 16th
2bx9x 18th
3bx0x 19th
 
Serial range Air Div.
3bx1x 20th
3bx2x 21st
3bx5x 24th
3bx7x 26th
3bx9x 28th
4bx3x 32nd
4bx4x 33rd
4bx5x 34th
4bx7x 36th
5bx5x 44th
 
Serial range Brigade
68x9xx 78th
69x6x 85th
69x7x 86th
69x9x 88th
70x0x 89th
70x1x 90th
70x2x 91st
70x4x 93rd
72x0x 109th
72x1x 110th
 
Serial range Brigade
   
73x5x 124th
73x6x 125th
73x7x 126th
78x1x 170th
78x2x 171st
78x3x 172nd
   
   
   
 
Serial range Unit
1xbx Harbin FA
2xbx Shijiazhuang FA
3xbx Xian FA
4xbx AU FBTB
4xbx AU FITB
6x0x Hong Kong
6x1x 15th AC/ fixed wing
6x2x 15th AC/ helicopters
   

FA: Flying Acadamy
AU FBTB: Aviation University Flight Basic Training Base
AU FITB: Aviation University Flight Instructor Training Base

In 2017 another round of major reporganizations took place with many more Regiments becoming Brigades using the ‘standard’ Brigade number plus 611 system to obtain the serials.

Dedicated SAR & transportation units started a new system using a 5ax1x method where the a identifies the unit and the xx identifies the specific aircraft.

The 8xxxx and 9xxxx series are used by the Navy and the Army, see below.

Allocations between 2005 and 2012

Up to 2012 the four digit serials were dedicated to special regiments. The "5xax" pattern was used by the Air Force for reconnaissance regiments, and the "6xax" pattern as used for the 15th Airborne Corps and MR HQ transport units, where "a" identified the regiment and xx is a unique number within the regiment. In earlier days (before 2005) "3aax" and "4aax" could be found for Air Force reconnaissance regiments.
Up to 2012 the regular Regimens were subordinated to Divisions. The five-digit serials followed the "abxax" pattern in which the "a"s indicate thed Division number. Divisions that were identified by a number (transport, fighter and attack divisions) had a serial range with the first and fourth digit equal to the Division number plus eleven, thereby correcting some mismatches in the pre-2005 system. Up to 2005, when the fighters still had red and blue painted serials the second digit indicated the regiment within the Division, starting with a "0" for the first regiment, effectively reserving 100 srials for each regiment. With the change of colour to yellow, the maximum number of codes reduced to 50 for each regiment. The second, third and last digit are used together, with 001 up to 049 for the first regiment, 050 up to 099 for the second regiment and 100 up to 150 for the third regiment within the Division. Lead-in trainers within the fighter regiments usually take the first couple or last couple within the range. As an example JJ7A 50533 belonged to the second regiment (code 053) within the 53-11=42nd Division, being the 125th Regiment.

Also the Military Region Training Bases and some special Regiments used to be within this scheme using the 6xaxa range. Basis training was done in Divisions with serials in the 7xxxx range.

Below is a cross reference list of the serial ranges for 2005-2012. Division numbers that were not used are omitted.

Serial range Air Div.
   
   
1bx2x 1st
1bx3x 2nd
1bx4x 3rd
1bx5x 4th
1bx6x 5th
1bx7x 6th
1bx8x 7th
1bx9x 8th
 
Serial range Air Div.
2bx0x 9th
2bx1x 10th
2bx2x 11th
2bx3x 12th
2bx4x 13th
2bx5x 14th
2bx6x 15th
2bx7x  
2bx8x  
2bx9x 18th
 
Serial range Air Div.
3bx0x 19th
3bx1x 20th
3bx2x 21st
3bx3x 22nd
3bx4x 23rd
3bx5x 24th
3bx6x  
3bx7x 26th
3bx8x 27th*
3bx9x 28th
 
Serial range Air Div.
4bx0x 29th
4bx1x 30th
4bx2x  
4bx3x  
4bx4x 33rd
4bx5x 34th
4bx6x  
4bx7x 36th
4bx8x 37th
4bx9x  
 
Serial range Air Div.
5bx3x 42nd
5bx5x 44th
6bx1x Shenyang MR TB
6bx2x Beijing MR TB
6bx3x Lanzhou MR TB
6bx4x Jinan MR TB
6bx5x Nanjing MR TB
6bx6x Guangzhou MR TB
6bx7x Chengdu MR TB
6bx8x FTTC
6bx9x SMTU
 
Serial range Air Div.
7bx1x 1st FA
7bx2x 2nd FA
7bx3x 3rd FA
7bx4x 4th FA
7bx5x 5th FA
7bx6x 6th FA
7bx7x 7th FA
7bx8x 13th FA
7bx9x NTS

FA: Flying Acadamy
FTTC: Flight Test & Training Center
MR TB: Military Region Training Base.
NTS: Navigator Training School
SMTU: Special Missiles Testing Unit

The 8xxxx and 9xxxx series were used by the Navy and the Army, see below.

The old allocations (pre-2005)

In the early days a four digit serial system was used in the axax format with aa identifying the Division.
This changed into a five -digit system that was unchanged until 2005. Before mid 2005 the serial allocation was as listed below.

Serial range Air Div.
   
1bx2x 1st
1bx3x 2nd
1bx4x 3rd
1bx5x 4th
1bx6x 5th
1bx7x 6th
1bx8x 7th
1bx9x 8th
1bx0x 9th
 
Serial range Air Div.
2bx1x 20th
2bx2x 21st
2bx3x 22nd
2bx4x 23rd
2bx5x 24th
2bx6x 25th
2bx7x 26th
2bx8x 27th
2bx9x 28th
2bx0x 29th
 
Serial range Air Div.
3bx1x 10th
3bx2x 11th
3bx3x 12th
3bx4x 13th
3bx5x 14th
3bx6x 15th
3bx7x 16th
3bx8x 17th
3bx9x 18th
3bx0x 19th
 
Serial range Air Div.
4bx1x 40th
4bx2x 41st
4bx3x 42nd
4bx4x 43rd
4bx5x 44th
4bx6x 45th
4bx7x 46th
4bx8x 47th
4bx9x 48th
4bx0x 49th
 
Serial range Air Div.
5bx1x 30th
5bx2x 31st
5bx3x 32nd
5bx4x 33rd
5bx5x 34th
5bx6x 35th
5bx7x 36th
5bx8x 37th
5bx9x 38th
5bx0x 39th
 
Serial range Air Div.
6bx1x 1st FA
6bx2x 2nd FA
6bx3x 3rd FA
6bx4x 4th FA
6bx5x 5th FA
6bx6x 6th FA
6xx7b 7th FA
6xx8b 8th FA
7bx6x FTTC
7bx7x 12th FA
7bx8x 13th FA
7bx9x NTS
7bx0x 50th

Naval Air Force

The Naval serial system is an extension of the Air Force system in that the five digit serial starts with a 9, used in the 9bxcx format, where the "b" indicates the regiment and the c the Division. Around 2011/2012 the Independent Regiments were taken under the command of proper Divisions, with a new Regiment number as a result. The old serials remain to be used however.

Serial range Air Division
8bx0x Air Academy
8bx1x 1st
8bx2x 2nd
8bx3x 3rd
8bx4x 4th
8bx5x 5th
8bx6x 6th
8bx7x 7th
8bx8x 8th
8bx9x 9th
 
Serial range Former Air Regiment.
9xx0 Air Academy
9xx1 1st Independent Regiment
9xx2 2nd Independent Regiment
9xx3 3rd Independent Regiment
9xx4 4th Independent Regiment
   
9xx6 6rd Independent Regiment
9xx7 7th Independent Regiment
   
   

In 2013 aircraft destined to be operated from the Lianong aircraft carrier had three digit serials allocated, with the 100-series for the J15 and 300 series for the Z9D.

Army Aviation

The serial system is also based on a five-digit number, preceded by "LH" for LuJun HangKongBing (Army Aviation).
The second digit indicates the Brigade or Regiment the helicopter is flying with. The number versus Regiment alocation is presented in the table below:

Serial range Regiment
LH90cxx Army Aviation Training Regiment
LH91cxx 1st Army Aviation Brigade
LH92cxx 2nd Army Aviation Brigade
LH93cxx 3rd Army Aviation Brigade
LH94cxx 4th Army Aviation Brigade
LH95cxx 5th Army Aviation Brigade
LH96cxx 6th Army Aviation Brigade
LH97cxx 7th Army Aviation Brigade
LH98cxx 8th Army Aviation Brigade
LH99cxx 9th Army Aviation Brigade
LH910cxx 10th Army Aviation Brigade

The "c" digit is an indication for the helicopter or aircraft type.

Code Aircraft type
0 Transports
1 Alouette, Z10
2 S70C-2
3 SA342L
4 Z11
7 Mi-17/171
8 Mi-8, Z8
9 Z9, Z19

The final two digits are unique within the regiment.