Naval Aircraft Factory

The Naval Aircraft Factory (NAF) was established by the United States Navy in 1918 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was created to help solve aircraft supply issues which faced the Navy Department upon the entry of the U.S. into World War I. The US Army’s requirements for an enormous quantity of airplanes created a decided lack of interest among aircraft manufacturers in the Navy's requirements for a comparatively small quantity of aircraft. The Navy Department concluded that it was necessary to build a Navy-owned aircraft factory in order to assure a part of its aircraft supply; to obtain cost data for the department’s guidance in its dealings with private manufacturers; and to have under its own control a factory capable of producing experimental designs.

Naval Aircraft Factory
Naval Aircraft Factory USA 1918-1941
Aerial view of the NAF
Site history
In use1917-1945
Battles/warsFirst World War
Second World War


Woman making parachute, Naval Aircraft Factory, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1942 (26923789771)
Woman making parachute at NAF, May 1942

On 27 July 1917, Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels approved the project; the contract was let on 6 August 1917 and ground was broken four days later. The entire plant was completed by 28 November 1917, 110 days after ground breaking. When it was completed the greatest need was for patrol flying boats, so production of the H-16 patrol aircraft was started. On 27 March 1918, just 228 days after ground breaking and 151 days from receipt of drawings, the first H-16 built by the NAF was successfully flown. On the following second of April the first two NAF-built H-16s were shipped to the patrol station at RNAS Killingholme, England. After World War I, when the 1922 United States Navy aircraft designation system came into effect, the second letter of the codes designating the manufacturer appropriately specified the latter N for all airframe designs coming from the Naval Aircraft Factory.

In 1922, full-scale production of outside designs ended and the NAF began concentrating on the testing and evaluation of aircraft, including both the modification to outside types and all-new in-house designs. Successful designs were then turned over to industry for production. The change in focus resulted in the disuse of some production buildings, which were converted into storage depots for unused aircraft.[1] In 1922-1923, the NAF fabricated the USS Shenandoah (ZR-1), although final assembly took place at Naval Air Station Lakehurst, New Jersey, where the only hangar in the United States large enough to house the airship was located.[2]

In the 1930s, it was decided that the Navy would build 10 per cent of its own aircraft to stay abreast of modern manufacturing techniques and costs. The NAF thus resumed large-scale aircraft production in 1936 on introduction of the N3N biplane trainer aircraft.The NAF ended aircraft production with the end of World War II in 1945.[3] The existence of the Naval Aircraft Factory was controversial at times, as it put a federally funded industrial activity in direct competition with civilian industry, and this was one of the reasons it was disestablished. Upon disestablishment, the aircraft test functions were passed to the newly formed Naval Air Test Center at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland.

Located at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, on League Island, the main construction building still exists, but was converted for use by the Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock Division, as a facility for research and development.


Curtiss F5L NARA-31485445
The first F5L built by the Naval Aircraft Factory, July 1918[4]
Davis N-1 NARA-31485709
N-1 serial A2283
Felixstowe F5L under construction at the Naval Aircraft Factory, Philadelphia, circa 1920
F5L under construction at the Naval Aircraft Factory, c.1920
N3N production NAF 1937
N3N production in 1937
  • BN & BS - cancelled projects[5][6]
  • CS-3 - biplane torpedo bomber, variant of the Curtiss CS-2[7]
  • Felixstowe F5L - patrol flying boat, variant of the Felixstowe F.5 produced by NAF[4]
  • FN - cancelled fighter project,[8] possibly a proposed further development of the Seversky NF-1, but evidence of this is inconclusive and may stem from typos in Navy records[6][N 1]
  • GB - Giant Boat, prototype heavy flying boat, never completed
  • MF - utility flying boat, variant of the Curtiss MF produced by NAF[9]
  • N-1 - pusher floatplane gunship[6]
  • N2N - biplane trainer
  • N3N Canary - biplane trainer
  • NM - Navy Metal, experimental biplane built to test metal structure techniques[9]
  • NO - observation floatplane, also built by Martin as M2O[9]
  • OS2N Kingfisher - observation floatplane, variant of the Vought OS2U Kingfisher produced by NAF
  • PBN Nomad - patrol flying boat, variant of the Consolidated PBY Catalina produced by NAF
  • PN - patrol flying boat derived from the Felixstowe F5L
  • PT - torpedo bomber floatplane built by NAF from Curtiss R-6L and Curtiss HS2L parts[9]
  • SA - Ship's Airplane, prototype ultralight aircraft intended for basing on battleships[6]
  • SBN - carrier-based scout bomber, Brewster XSBA-1 produced by NAF under license
  • SON Seagull - observation floatplane, variant of the Curtiss SOC Seagull produced by NAF
  • SP - racing monoplane built for Schneider Trophy, known as Mercury Racer[6]
  • TDN - early unmanned combat aerial vehicle
  • TD2N, later KDN Gorgon - jet-powered target drone[10]
  • TD3N, later KD2N Gorgon II - jet-powered target drone[10]
  • TF - twin-engine flying boat prototype intended for use as escort fighter
  • TG - biplane floatplane designed for gunnery training
  • TR - racing variant of the NAF TS-2
  • TS - biplane fighter
  • VE-7 - biplane fighter and trainer aircraft, Vought VE-7 produced by NAF
  • XN5N - monoplane trainer prototype
  • XOSN - observation floatplane prototype[9]
  • XP2N and XP4N - initial and final designations given to the PN-11 prototype, an improved variant of the PN patrol flying boat[9]
  • XTN - twin-engine torpedo bomber prototype, later put into production by Douglas as T2D and P2D
  • XT2N - carrier-based biplane torpedo bomber prototype[9]
  • USS Shenandoah (ZR-1) - rigid airship (fabrication of parts for off-site final assembly)[2]



  1. ^ Under the 1922 United States Navy aircraft designation system, the designation of the initial production version of the NAF fighter would have been FN-1, which is very similar to NF-1.


  1. ^ Swanborough & Bowers 1976, pp. 326-327.
  2. ^ a b Swanborough & Bowers 1976, p. 523.
  3. ^ Swanborough & Bowers 1976, p. 327.
  4. ^ a b Molson, Kenneth M. (1978). "The FELIXSTOWE F5L". CROSS & COCKADE GREAT BRITAIN JOURNAL. 9 (2): 49, 51, 52. Retrieved 7 July 2017.
  5. ^ Swanborough & Bowers 1976, p. 528.
  6. ^ a b c d e "American airplanes: NAF". 2008-08-15. Retrieved 19 May 2019.
  7. ^ Bowers, Peter M. (1979). Curtiss Aircraft 1907–1947. London: Putnam. p. 191. ISBN 0-370-10029-8.
  8. ^ Swanborough & Bowers 1976, p. 530.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g Johnson, E.R. (2011). United States Naval Aviation 1919-1941. Aircraft, Airships and Ships Between the Wars. Jefferson, North Carolina, and London: McFarland & Company, Inc. pp. 14, 29, 11, 134, 147, 178–179, 317. ISBN 978-0-7864-4550-9.
  10. ^ a b Friedman, Norman (1982). U.S. Naval Weapons: every gun, missile, mine, and torpedo used by the U.S. Navy from 1883 to the present day. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-0-87021-735-7.


  • Roberts, Michael D. Dictionary of American Naval Aviation Squadrons Volume 2 Washington, D.C.: Naval Historical Center, Department of the Navy, 2000.
  • Swanborough, Gordon; Bowers, Peter M. (1976). United States Navy Aircraft since 1911 (2nd ed.). Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-968-5.
  • Trimble, William F. Wings for the Navy: A History of the Naval Aircraft Factory, 1917-1956. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1990. 413 pp.
  • Trimble, William F. "The Naval Aircraft Factory, the American Aviation Industry, and Government Competition, 1919-1928." Business History Review 60 (Summer 1986): 175-198.

External links

CTV-N-2 Gorgon IIC

The CTV-N-2 Gorgon IIC – also designated KGN, KUN, and CTV-2 – was an experimental drone, originally intended as a surface-to-surface missile, developed by the United States Navy near the end of World War II. It was used to test control and homing systems for guided missiles, and was also produced in small numbers as a target drone under the designations TD3N and KD2N.

Consolidated PBY Catalina

The Consolidated PBY Catalina, also known as the Canso in Canadian service, is an American flying boat, and later an amphibious aircraft of the 1930s and 1940s produced by Consolidated Aircraft. It was one of the most widely used seaplanes of World War II. Catalinas served with every branch of the United States Armed Forces and in the air forces and navies of many other nations.

During World War II, PBYs were used in anti-submarine warfare, patrol bombing, convoy escort, search and rescue missions (especially air-sea rescue), and cargo transport. The PBY was the most numerous aircraft of its kind, and the last military PBYs served until the 1980s. As of 2014, nearly 80 years after its first flight, the aircraft continues to fly as a waterbomber (or airtanker) in aerial firefighting operations in some parts of the world.

Curtiss CS

The Curtiss CS (or Model 31) was a reconnaissance and torpedo bomber aircraft used by the United States Navy during the 1920s. It was a large single-engine biplane with single-bay unstaggered wings, the design conventional in all respects other than that the lower wing was of greater span than the upper. The CS was built to allow its undercarriage to be quickly and easily interchangeable between wheeled, tailskid undercarriage, and twin pontoons for operation from water. Provision for the carriage of a torpedo was semi-recessed into the underside of the fuselage, blended in behind an aerodynamic fairing. The pilot and gunner sat in tandem open cockpits, while accommodation inside the fuselage was provided for a third crewmember who served as bombardier and radio operator. This station was also provided with a dorsal hatch aft of the gunner's position, and a ventral blister aft of the torpedo recess, which was used for aiming bombs or torpedoes.

Curtiss SOC Seagull

The Curtiss SOC Seagull was an American single-engined scout observation aircraft, designed by Alexander Solla of the Curtiss-Wright Corporation for the United States Navy. The aircraft served on battleships and cruisers in a seaplane configuration, being launched by catapult and recovered from a sea landing. The wings folded back against the fuselage for storage aboard ship. When based ashore or on carriers the single float was replaced by fixed wheeled landing gear.

Curtiss delivered 258 SOC aircraft, in versions SOC-1 through SOC-4, beginning in 1935. The SOC-3 design was the basis of the Naval Aircraft Factory SON-1 variant, of which the NAF delivered 64 aircraft from 1940.

Douglas T2D

The Douglas T2D was an American twin-engined torpedo bomber contracted by the military, and required to be usable on wheels or floats, and operating from aircraft carriers. It was the first twin-engined aircraft to be operated from an aircraft carrier.

Felixstowe F5L

The twin-engine F5L was one of the Felixstowe F series of flying boats developed by John Cyril Porte at the Seaplane Experimental Station, Felixstowe, England, during the First World War for production in America.

A civilian version of the aircraft was known as the Aeromarine 75.

List of military aircraft of the United States (naval)

This list of military aircraft of the United States (naval) includes prototype, pre-production and operational types designations under the 1922 United States Navy aircraft designation system, which was used by the United States Navy, the United States Marine Corps, and the United States Coast Guard.

Prototypes are normally prefixed with "X" and often unnamed (note that these are not the same as the experimental X-planes, which are not generally expected to go into production), while pre-production models are usually prefixed "Y".

For aircraft designations prior to the adoption of this system, see List of military aircraft of the United States (1909–19).

For aircraft designations under the U.S. Army Air Force/U.S. Air Force USAF system or the post-1962 Tri-Service system and aircraft currently in service, see List of military aircraft of the United States.

Martin BM

The Martin BM was a 1930s American torpedo bomber built by the Glenn L. Martin Company for the United States Navy.

Naval Aircraft Factory N2N

The Naval Aircraft Factory N2N was an American two-seat open-cockpit primary training biplane designed and built by the Naval Aircraft Factory. The N2N could be fitted with twin-floats and was powered by a 200 hp Lawrance J-1 radial engine, only three N2N-1s were built.

Naval Aircraft Factory N3N

The Naval Aircraft Factory N3N was an American tandem-seat, open cockpit, primary training biplane aircraft built by the Naval Aircraft Factory (NAF) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, during the 1930s.

Naval Aircraft Factory NO

The Naval Aircraft Factory NO was an American three-seat observation floatplane, designed by the Naval Aircraft Factory (NAF) for the United States Navy. Powered by a 435 hp (324 kW) Curtiss D12 engine, three were built by the NAF with the designation NO, and a further three were built by Martin with the designation M2O.

Naval Aircraft Factory PN

The Naval Aircraft Factory PN was a series of open cockpit American flying boats of the 1920s and 1930s. A development of the Felixstowe F5L flying boat of the First World War, variants of the PN were built for the United States Navy by Douglas, Keystone Aircraft and Martin.

Naval Aircraft Factory SBN

The Naval Aircraft Factory SBN was a United States three-seat mid-wing monoplane scout bomber/torpedo aircraft designed by the Brewster Aeronautical Corporation and built under license by the Naval Aircraft Factory in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The landing gear was similar to that on the Brewster F2A Buffalo fighter aircraft. The SBN had non-folding wings with perforated flaps.

Naval Aircraft Factory TS

The Naval Aircraft Factory TS-1 was an early biplane fighter aircraft of the United States Navy, serving from 1922 to 1929.

Naval Aircraft Factory XN5N

The XN5N was a prototype United States monoplane trainer aircraft produced by the Naval Aircraft Factory in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1941. A single prototype was built and evaluated.The type was not placed in production.

Naval Aircraft Factory XOSN

The Naval Aircraft Factory XOSN was an American biplane observation floatplane developed by the Naval Aircraft Factory for the United States Navy during the late 1930s.

Naval Aircraft Modification Unit KDN Gorgon

The Naval Aircraft Modification Unit KDN Gorgon, originally designated TD2N, was an early jet-powered target drone developed by the Bureau of Aeronautics and constructed by the Naval Aircraft Modification Unit for use by the United States Navy. First flown near the end of World War II, it was cancelled due to problems with its engine in 1946.

Vought OS2U Kingfisher

The Vought OS2U Kingfisher is an American catapult-launched observation floatplane. It was a compact mid-wing monoplane, with a large central float and small stabilizing floats. Performance was modest because of its light engine. The OS2U could also operate on fixed, wheeled, taildragger landing gear.

The OS2U was the main shipboard observation aircraft used by the United States Navy during World War II, and 1,519 of the aircraft were built. It served on battleships and cruisers of the US Navy, with the United States Marine Corps in Marine Scouting Squadron Three (VMS-3), with the United States Coast Guard at coastal air stations, at sea with the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy, and with the Soviet Navy. The Royal Australian Air Force also operated a few Kingfishers from shore bases.

The Naval Aircraft Factory OS2N was the designation of the OS2U-3 aircraft built by the Naval Aircraft Factory in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The OS2U first flew on 1 March 1938.

Vought VE-7

The Vought VE-7 "Bluebird" was an early biplane of the United States. First flying in 1917, it was designed as a two-seat trainer for the United States Army, then adopted by the United States Navy as its very first fighter aircraft. In 1922, a VE-7 became the first plane to take off from an American aircraft carrier.

Other types
NRL drones
NSWC drone


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