Military Factory
Military Factory

Special Purpose Aircraft

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 3/11/2014

Sometimes there proves a select aviation requirement for the military that produces specialized aircraft not fitting into any one category.


There are a total of 115 Special Purpose Aircraft in the Military Factory. Entries are listed below in alphanumeric order. Flag images indicative of country of origin.

Aerospatiale / Eurocopter HH-65 Dolphin
The HH-65 Dolphin replaced the Sikorsky HH-52A Sea Guards then in service with the United States Coast Guard (USCG). The HH-6...
Thumbnail picture of the Aerospatiale / Eurocopter HH-65 Dolphin

Aerospatiale Alouette II
The Alouette II helicopter series is billed as a multi-role, light rotary-wing platform charged with a myriad of duties in bo...
Thumbnail picture of the Aerospatiale Alouette II

AgustaWestland AW109
The British-Italian helicopter concern of AgustaWestland developed their AW109 model of 1971 as a commercial-level passenger-...
Thumbnail picture of the AgustaWestland AW109

AgustaWestland AW189
Sensing the growing market need for an all-modern, cost-effective medium-lift helicopter to serve in the offshore drilling se...
Thumbnail picture of the AgustaWestland AW189

AgustaWestland AW609 TiltRotor
Tiltrotors seemingly combine the best of two worlds in the scope of aviation - the fast, straight-line speed of a fixed-wing ...
Thumbnail picture of the AgustaWestland AW609 TiltRotor

Airco DH.4
With production numbering over 6,000 total units, the AirCo / de Havilland DH.4 was another one of Geoffrey de Havilland's su...
Thumbnail picture of the Airco DH.4

Airspeed Horsa
Aircraft such as the Airspeed AS.51 "Horsa" rarely receive their due in the grand scope of World War 2 - a conflict littered ...
Thumbnail picture of the Airspeed Horsa

Alenia-Aeritalia G.222
The Italian Alenia G.222 medium-lift tactical transport was born from a 1962 NATO requirement for a Vertical / Short Take-Off...
Thumbnail picture of the Alenia-Aeritalia G.222

Antonov An-2 (Colt)
The Antonov An-2 is a multi-role light utility biplane initially produced under the Soviet flag. Despite its 1940's pedigree,...
Thumbnail picture of the Antonov An-2 (Colt)

Antonov An-70
The Antonov An-70 is a Ukrainian transport aircraft - currently in development as of 2012 - intended to replace the aging fle...
Thumbnail picture of the Antonov An-70

Thumbnail picture of the ARCA AirStrato

Armstrong Whitworth Albemarle
The Armstrong Whitworth Albemarle became one of those aircraft designs that evolved into a role not initially envisioned. The...
Thumbnail picture of the Armstrong Whitworth Albemarle

Armstrong Whitworth Atlas
The Armstrong Whitworth Atlas was designed to replace the aging de Havilland DH.9A biplane of 1918 as well as the Bristol Fig...
Thumbnail picture of the Armstrong Whitworth Atlas

Avro Bison
When the aircraft carrier was proven a viable sea-going warship in World War 1 (1914-1918), military powers who could afford ...
Thumbnail picture of the Avro Bison

Bachem Ba 349 Natter (Adder / Viper)
The Bachem Ba 349 Natter (translated to "Adder" though also known as the "Viper") was one of the late-war German aircraft ini...
Thumbnail picture of the Bachem Ba 349 Natter (Adder / Viper)

BAe QF-4 (McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II)
The QF-4 represents a full-size unmanned target drone version of the successful Cold War-era F-4 Phantom II aircraft. QF-4's ...
Thumbnail picture of the BAe QF-4 (McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II)

Beechcraft C-45 (Expeditor)
The Beechcraft C-45 was based on the Beech Aircraft Corporation's civilian-minded Model 18 "Twin Beech" series. First flight ...
Thumbnail picture of the Beechcraft C-45 (Expeditor)

Bell H-13 Sioux
The "helicopter" saw development during World War 2 (1939-1945) and some were in fact used by the Germans in the latter phase...
Thumbnail picture of the Bell H-13 Sioux

Bell Model 47
While the helicopter received some attention during World War 2 (1939-1945), it was not until the Korean War that its practic...
Thumbnail picture of the Bell Model 47

Berezniak-Isayev BI
Rocket- and jet-powered fighter aircraft were not the sole developments of Germany, Britain, and the United States during Wor...
Thumbnail picture of the Berezniak-Isayev BI

Beriev Be-200 Altair
The Beriev Be-200 "Altair" is based on the Cold War-era Beriev A-40 "Albatros", a twin-engined amphibious aircraft capable of...
Thumbnail picture of the Beriev Be-200 Altair

Beriev Be-42 (A-40) Albatross (Mermaid)
The Soviets progressed jet-powered amphibious aircraft more so than any world power during the Cold War years. Beriev, with a...
Thumbnail picture of the Beriev Be-42 (A-40) Albatross (Mermaid)

Blackburn Buccaneer
The Blackburn Buccaneer was a low-level, high-speed, carrier-borne strike aircraft utilized by the British Royal Air Force an...
Thumbnail picture of the Blackburn Buccaneer

Boeing / Hughes AH-6 / MH-6 Little Bird
The AH-6/MH-6 "Little Bird" forms an oft-overlook yet wholly vital part of American Special Operations services. This highly ...
Thumbnail picture of the Boeing / Hughes AH-6 / MH-6 Little Bird

Boeing 737 Peace Eagle
The Boeing 737-700 civilian passenger jet airliner - coupled with a modern radar and airborne control system - forms the basi...
Thumbnail picture of the Boeing 737 Peace Eagle

Boeing 757
The 757-series airliner began as a 1970s Boeing endeavor to replace their aging 727 three-engined "trijet" airliner model. Th...
Thumbnail picture of the Boeing 757

Boeing C-97 Stratofreighter
A post-World War 2 design, the C-97 was developed by The Boeing Company from its Model 367 product - a military-minded transp...
Thumbnail picture of the Boeing C-97 Stratofreighter

Boeing E-6 Mercury
The Boeing E-6 Mercury was original developed for the United States Navy as an airborne command and communications relay plat...
Thumbnail picture of the Boeing E-6 Mercury

Boeing Skyfox
The Boeing Skyfox was a modification program intended to modernized the large fleet of existing Lockheed T-33 "Shooting Star"...
Thumbnail picture of the Boeing Skyfox

Boeing T-43 (Gator)
In the early 1970s, the United States Air Force commissioned the Boeing concern to develop and deliver an airborne navigation...
Thumbnail picture of the Boeing T-43 (Gator)

Bombardier Raytheon Sentinel
The Bombardier Raytheon Sentinel currently (2013) serves the Royal Air Force (RAF) as its primary Airborne Battlefield and G...
Thumbnail picture of the Bombardier Raytheon Sentinel

Britten-Norman Defender
The Britten-Norman Defender is a militarized version of the successful Britten-Norman Islander twin turboprop-powered aircraf...
Thumbnail picture of the Britten-Norman Defender

Canadair CT-133 Silver Star
America's first operational jet-powered fighter became the P-80 Shooting Star of World War 2. The type was a single-engine, s...
Thumbnail picture of the Canadair CT-133 Silver Star

Cessna O-1 Bird Dog (L-19)
In 1947, the United States Army Air Forces ceased to exist in the American military structure, replaced instead by two autono...
Thumbnail picture of the Cessna O-1 Bird Dog (L-19)

Convair C-131 / R4Y Samaritan
Convair introduced its CV-240 passenger airliner in 1947 with American Airlines and production of this aircraft eventually re...
Thumbnail picture of the Convair C-131 / R4Y Samaritan

Curtiss H-16
In 1911, the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company unveiled their Model D, a biplane aircraft powered by a single Curtiss E-4 e...
Thumbnail picture of the Curtiss H-16

Dornier Do 17 (Flying Pencil)
The Dornier Do 17 was a medium-class bomber fielded primarily by the German Luftwaffe in the years leading up to World War 2....
Thumbnail picture of the Dornier Do 17 (Flying Pencil)

Douglas B-66 / RB-66 Destroyer
Requiring a successor for their aging Douglas A-26 Invader fleet, the United States Air Force (USAF) contracted with the Doug...
Thumbnail picture of the Douglas B-66 / RB-66 Destroyer

Embraer KC-390
To head off the sudden global military need for a modern medium-lift transport system estimated to come within the next ten y...
Thumbnail picture of the Embraer KC-390

Fieseler Fi 103R (Reichenberg)
The Fiseler Fi 103R was, in essence, the piloted form of the successful V-1 rocket that terrorized London citizens throughout...
Thumbnail picture of the Fieseler Fi 103R (Reichenberg)

Fieseler Fi 156 Storch (Stork)
The seemingly fragile Fieseler Fi 156 Storch(or "Stork") does not seem to have a home in a global conflict as World War 2 was...
Thumbnail picture of the Fieseler Fi 156 Storch (Stork)

Focke-Wulf Projekt Kamikaze Carrier
For a brief moment in World War 2 history, some elements of the German hierarchy entertained the prospect of kamikaze suicide...
Thumbnail picture of the Focke-Wulf Projekt Kamikaze Carrier

Gotha Go.242
After the stunning successes of German airborne troops using gliders in the opening stages of World War 2, a premium was plac...
Thumbnail picture of the Gotha Go.242

Granville Gee Bee (Series)
The Gee Bee (deriving its name from a shortened form of "Granville Brothers") racers became the unofficial symbol of the "Gol...
Thumbnail picture of the Granville Gee Bee (Series)

Griffon Aerospace MQM-170 Outlaw
Developed as a low-cost Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) for military applications, the Griffon Aerospace MQM-170A "Outlaw" serv...
Thumbnail picture of the Griffon Aerospace MQM-170 Outlaw

Grumman Goose (G-21)
While most every aircraft venture usually began with a military requirement or private venture undertaken by a manufacturer f...
Thumbnail picture of the Grumman Goose (G-21)

Grumman TBF Avenger
Destined never to win beauty contests, the Grumman TBF Avenger series of aircraft would go down as one of the most potent tor...
Thumbnail picture of the Grumman TBF Avenger

Thumbnail picture of the HAL Dhruv

Heinkel He 111
The German Luftwaffe of World War 2 fielded a trio of capable (though eventually limited) medium-class bombers in the Dornier...
Thumbnail picture of the Heinkel He 111

Heinkel He 111Z (Zwilling)
The He 111 Z (or "Zwilling") was a relatively successful joining of two He 111 medium-class bombers (detailed elsewhere on th...
Thumbnail picture of the Heinkel He 111Z (Zwilling)

Heinkel He 70 (Blitz)
The Heinkel 70 (Blitz) was originally born out of a need for a speedy aeroplane charged with "fast" mail delivery for the Deu...
Thumbnail picture of the Heinkel He 70 (Blitz)

Henschel Hs 129
The Henschel Hs 129 fighter-bomber was built to a 1937 German specification for a twin-engine close-support aircraft with con...
Thumbnail picture of the Henschel Hs 129

Hiller OH-23 Raven (Model UH-12)
Hiller Aircraft began during World War 2 in 1942 under the operating name of Hiller Industries. The company carried the surna...
Thumbnail picture of the Hiller OH-23 Raven (Model UH-12)

Hughes H-1 (Hughes 1B)
The H-1 (also known as the "Hughes 1B") model was the first product of the Hughes Aircraft firm and was intended as a world r...
Thumbnail picture of the Hughes H-1 (Hughes 1B)

Junkers Ju 88
The Junkers Ju 88 formed a third of the German Luftwaffe medium bomber triad of World War 2 (1939-1945) and, like its sister ...
Thumbnail picture of the Junkers Ju 88

Kaman HH-43 Huskie
Charles Kaman (1919 - 2011), an aeronautical engineering student, served as an employee to another fabled helicopter develope...
Thumbnail picture of the Kaman HH-43 Huskie

Kaman K-MAX (K-1200)
The Kaman K-MAX is a general purpose, multi-role, all-weather platform certified for long endurance, repeated external medium...
Thumbnail picture of the Kaman K-MAX (K-1200)

Thumbnail picture of the Kellett KD-1

Kyushu K11W Shiragiku (White Chrysanthemum)
Oft-forgotten, but no less important to the Japanese war effort of World War 2, was the Kyushu K11W Shiragiku ("White Chrysan...
Thumbnail picture of the Kyushu K11W Shiragiku (White Chrysanthemum)

Lockheed C-130 Hercules
Easily one of the most successful military aircraft of the post-World War 2 age, the Lockheed C-130 "Hercules" continues in d...
Thumbnail picture of the Lockheed C-130 Hercules

Lockheed C-141 Starlifter
The Lockheed C-141 "Starlifter" became the United States military's first jet-powered, strategic transport when it was adopte...
Thumbnail picture of the Lockheed C-141 Starlifter

Lockheed HC-130J Combat King II
The Lockheed HC-130J "Combat King II" is a long-range Search and Rescue (SAR)/aerial refueling platform utilized by the Unite...
Thumbnail picture of the Lockheed HC-130J Combat King II

Lockheed MC-130 Combat Talon (I / II)
The MC-130 series is represented by the MC-130E Combat Talon I and the MC-130H Combat Talon II systems. Both utilize the huge...
Thumbnail picture of the Lockheed MC-130 Combat Talon (I / II)

Lockheed MC-130J Commando II
The Lockheed MC-130J "Commando II" is an in-flight refueling platform of the United States Air Force, intended to refuel heli...
Thumbnail picture of the Lockheed MC-130J Commando II

Lockheed MC-130P Combat Shadow
The Lockheed MC-130P "Combat Shadow" debuted with American forces in the Vietnam War when it was known under the designation ...
Thumbnail picture of the Lockheed MC-130P Combat Shadow

Marenco SwissHelicopter SKYe SH09
The SKYe SH09 is an in-development, low-cost, light utility helicopter venture originating out of Swiss-based Marenco SwissHe...
Thumbnail picture of the Marenco SwissHelicopter SKYe SH09

Martin B-57 Canberra
When the United States committed to participation in the Korean War (1950-1953), it pressed into service much of its existing...
Thumbnail picture of the Martin B-57 Canberra

Martin JRM Mars
World War 2 proved the swan song for the flying boat, large aircraft granted boat-like hulls and high-mounted wings to allow ...
Thumbnail picture of the Martin JRM Mars

Messerschmitt Bf 108 Taifun (Typhoon)
The high performance, record-setting Messerschmitt Bf 108 "Taifun" ("Typhoon") was born as a racing aircraft under the protot...
Thumbnail picture of the Messerschmitt  Bf 108 Taifun (Typhoon)

Messerschmitt Bf 109
In the years leading up to and during World War 2, the Messerschmitt Bf 109 was the principle fighter of the German Luftwaffe...
Thumbnail picture of the Messerschmitt Bf 109

Messerschmitt Me 321 Gigant (Giant)
The Messerschmitt Me 321 "Gigant" ("Giant") was developed as a large cargo hauler to help supplement German airborne troop ac...
Thumbnail picture of the Messerschmitt Me 321 Gigant (Giant)

Messerschmitt Me 323 Gigant (Giant)
No sooner had the Messerschmitt Me 321 unpowered glider entered service that a powered version was being requested by the Ger...
Thumbnail picture of the Messerschmitt Me 323 Gigant (Giant)

Messerschmitt Me 328
The "parasite" fighter had long held an interest within the minds of aircraft engineers, particularly as new methods of propu...
Thumbnail picture of the Messerschmitt Me 328

Mil Mi-24 (Hind)
The famous Mil Mi-24 "Hind" helicopter stemmed from a Soviet Cold-War requirement for a heavily armed and armored transport h...
Thumbnail picture of the Mil Mi-24 (Hind)

Mil Mi-35 (Hind)
The Mil Mi-35 "Hind" became a major upgrade to the classic Soviet-era Mi-24 "Hind" assault gunships and transport series of h...
Thumbnail picture of the Mil Mi-35 (Hind)

Mil Mi-38
Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant holds a long-running history of rotary-wing aircraft design and development, its first successful...
Thumbnail picture of the Mil Mi-38

Mil Mi-6 (Hook)
The Mil Mi-6 was an inventory stalwart for the Soviet Union and its allies during the Cold War. For a time, the Mi-6 represen...
Thumbnail picture of the Mil Mi-6 (Hook)

Mitsubishi Ki-51 (Sonia)
Mitsubishi lent its considerable development and production talents to more than just "Zeroes" during World War 2. The Mitsub...
Thumbnail picture of the Mitsubishi Ki-51 (Sonia)

Nakajima Ki-115 Tsurugi
The Nakajima Ki-115 Tsuguri ("Sword") was a simplistic single-seat, single-engine suicide fighter aircraft development undert...
Thumbnail picture of the Nakajima Ki-115 Tsurugi

Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa (Oscar)
By 1937, it became apparent to the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) that a more modern replacement for the Nakajima Ki-27 was nee...
Thumbnail picture of the Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa (Oscar)

Nanchang Q-5 (Fantan)
As a long time Soviet equipment user, the Chinese were already building the twin-engine Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-19 "Farmer" jet ...
Thumbnail picture of the Nanchang Q-5 (Fantan)

Northrop Grumman E-8 Joint STARS (JSTARS)
A product of the Northrop Grumman Corporation, the E-8 "Joint Stars" series of aircraft provides the United States Air Force ...
Thumbnail picture of the Northrop Grumman E-8 Joint STARS (JSTARS)

Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton
The MQ-4C "Triton" unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) represents a "navalized" form of the original Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global H...
Thumbnail picture of the Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton

ORBIS International DC-10 (Flying Eye Hospital)
ORBIS International is a non-profit organization developed to combat blindness in Third World countries. Philanthropists purc...
Thumbnail picture of the ORBIS International DC-10 (Flying Eye Hospital)

Panavia Tornado ECR (Electronic Combat / Reconnaissance)
The Tornado ECR (Electronic Combat / Reconnaissance) is a specialized "Suppression of Enemy Air Defense" (SEAD) offshoot of t...
Thumbnail picture of the Panavia Tornado ECR (Electronic Combat / Reconnaissance)

Paramount AHRLAC
The AHRLAC (Advanced High-performance Reconnaissance Light Aircraft) is a budget-minded, light strike solution currently unde...
Thumbnail picture of the Paramount AHRLAC

Radioplane OQ-2
Today's multi-billion dollar UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) and drone industry held some rather modest roots in early forays c...
Thumbnail picture of the Radioplane OQ-2

Saab 32 Lansen (Lance)
By the late 1940s, the Swedish Air Force (or "Flygvapnet") was reviewing options in an effort to replace its aging series of ...
Thumbnail picture of the Saab 32 Lansen (Lance)

Saab Skeldar
The Saab Skeldar is an unarmed rotary-wing Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). It is a relatively new development in the UAV field...
Thumbnail picture of the Saab Skeldar

Savoia-Marchetti SM.81 Pipistrello (Bat)
The Savoia-Marchetti SM.81 Pipistrello ("Bat") served primarily with the Regia Aeronautica throughout the 1930s and 1940s. Th...
Thumbnail picture of the Savoia-Marchetti SM.81 Pipistrello (Bat)

Short S38 Sturgeon
The Short S.38 Sturgeon was born through a World War 2 (1939-1945) British naval requirement under Specification S.6/43 for a...
Thumbnail picture of the Short S38 Sturgeon

Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion
The mammoth Sikorsky CH-53E "Super Stallion" heavy-lift transport helicopter was designed from the original CH-53 "Sea Stalli...
Thumbnail picture of the Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion

Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant
The HH-3E "Jolly Green Giant" was a specialized development of the original Sikorsky CH-3 transport helicopter. The HH-3E was...
Thumbnail picture of the Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant

Sikorsky HH-60 / MH-60T Jayhawk
The US Coast Guard's HH-60 "Jayhawk" is based on the hugely successful Sikorsky Aircraft "S-70" rotary-wing model series that...
Thumbnail picture of the Sikorsky HH-60 / MH-60T Jayhawk

Sikorsky VH-60 White Hawk
The Sikorsky VH-60N "White Hawk" is a Presidential ("Marine One") and government-level VIP transport operated by the United S...
Thumbnail picture of the Sikorsky VH-60 White Hawk

Thumbnail picture of the Sopwith Tabloid

Thumbnail picture of the Stinson Reliant

Tupolev Tu-16 (Badger)
The Tupolev Tu-16 (codenamed "Badger" by NATO) owed its success story to the Cold War and its own versatility. Throughout its...
Thumbnail picture of the Tupolev Tu-16 (Badger)

Yokosuka MXY7-K1 Ohka (Cherry Blossom)
The Yokosuka MXY7 Ohka (translated to "Cherry Blossom") was a single-seat, pilot-guided suicide fighter proposed and produced...
Thumbnail picture of the Yokosuka MXY7-K1 Ohka (Cherry Blossom)