Air Force oversees popular name selections

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The popular name of the joint strike fighter F-35 aircraft will be released in early July, while the Air Force is currently proposing popular names for the MQ-9A unmanned aerial vehicle.

Military vehicles are traditionally given such names that pay homage to the services' history or its mission, or reflect the aircraft's animal-like traits, such as "Fighting Falcon" for the F-16 fighter.

The Department of Defense appoints the secretary of the Air Force as the executive agent in accordance with DOD Directive 4120.15E and Air Force Instruction 16-401(I), Designating and Naming Military Aerospace Vehicles.

These military vehicles include, but are not limited to, aircraft, helicopters, missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles.

As executive agent, it is the Air Force's responsibility to manage the process for choosing names for the military aerospace vehicles.

For vehicles that are service specific, the Air Force normally delegates the naming process to that branch of service, said Douglas Thar, Air Force Public Affairs marketing and branding branch chief.

Some of the recent Popular Names include:

-- F-22 "Raptor," the Air Force's newest fighter aircraft

-- FA-18E & F models named the "Super Hornet," the Navy's new variants of the F-18 "Hornet"

-- GQM-163A missile named "Coyote"

-- EA-18G "Growler," the Navy's new electronic warfare aircraft

-- RQ-7A "Shadow," a UAV used by the Army

In the case of the F-35, a joint aircraft, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley sent a memo on Oct. 20 to the chief of Naval operations, Marine Corps commandant and Air Combat Command commander.

Each one of these agencies was to provide three possible popular names for the F-35. Also, each partner nation was invited to offer a single name for the Air Force chief of staff's review. The partner nations are not bound by the Air Force decision and can use their own names for the F-35.

"For the Air Force's part, Air Combat Command solicited nominations from each of its fighter wings," Mr. Thar said. "The command then culled the list down based on input from legal counsel and individuals with varied operational backgrounds to quantify preference and then ultimately rank order the final three Air Force options."

According to Mr. Thar, once all the potential names were gathered, officials with the Air Force Directorate of Operations Requirements combat forces division compiled the list. Air Force Materiel Command directorate of logistics officials checked the names for duplication against a master list of popular names and AFMC public affairs specialists reviewed the names.

The Air Force general counsel conducted a trademark search of proposed names, and the secretary of the Air Force public affairs director acted as the central point of contact to staff the names for the chief of staff.

General Moseley then reviewed the names and conferred with the CNO, USMC commandant and Joint Strike Fighter Program Evaluation Office on the final prioritized list. General Moseley then informed SAF/PA of the top selection and that name was provided to the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense Public Affairs.

Mr. Thar said the Air Force also is currently involved in the naming process for the MC-130W, a new version of the "Hercules," and the P8-A, a Navy aircraft used for maritime patrol and reconnaissance.