From 1946 to 196x, the Royal British Columbia Air Force, Royal British Columbia Navy and British Columbia Army kept on using the WW2-era British designation systems, alliteration and all. From 196x on, a unified system for air force, navy and army was introduced. This unified designation scheme works as follows:
The name is selected by primary role:
- Attack - mythological or historical figures
- Bombers - cities or towns
- Fighters - birds of prey, other predators
- Flying boats - coastal communities or bodies of water
- Helicopters - storms or other wind-related phenomena
- Transports - cities or towns
Naval aircraft not used by the Air Force or Army (excluding flying boats) - various nautical themes e.g. maritime predators for fighters, nautical mythological figures for attack aircraft, academic institutions for trainers, etc.
Aircraft that are adaptations of civilian designs generally retain their civilian name, if applicable - for example, the HS Tridents operated by the RBCAF in the VIP transport role were designated Trident V.1.
Where possible, foreign-built aircraft are named with a name from the appropriate category relevant to the country of manufacture; as random examples, a Russian-built transport aircraft might be called Moscow C.1, an American-built flying boat might be called Michigan SP.1, a French-built trainer might be called Sorbonne T.1.
Recently, exceptions have begun to be made, notably the of the Spitfire II.
The role designator consists of one letter for the main role if the aircraft is of a fixed-wing, powered, piloted design. Otherwise, it consists of two letters, the first of which is one of:
- G - glider
- H - helicopter
- Q - unmanned
- S - seaplane/flying boat
- V - V/STOL
- Z - lighter-than-air
The main role designator is one of:
- A - attack
- B - bomber
- C - transport
- D - drone (later supplanted by Q)
- E - electronic warfare
- F - fighter
- K - tanker
- O - observation
- P - patrol/maritime recce
- S - anti-submarine
- T - trainer
- U - utility
- V - VIP transport
The letter codes are followed by a mark number, which indicates sequentially the variant of the type.