Global Aircraft -- Definitions
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The Tri-Service system defines the designation of aircraft as follows:


1 - Vehicle type (optional)

G -- (Glider) -- ex. Waco CG-4A
H -- (Helicopter) -- ex. AH-64 Apache
V -- (V/STOL) -- ex. AV-8B Harrier
Z -- (Lighter than air) -- ex. LZ-129 Hindenburg

2 - Basic Mission

A -- (Attack) -- ex. A-10 Warthog
B -- (Bomber) -- ex. B-52 Stratofortress
C -- (Cargo transport) -- ex. C-5 Galaxy
E -- (Special electronics) -- E-3 Sentry
F -- (Fighter) -- ex. F-16 Flacon
O -- (Observation) -- ex. OA-10 Thunderbolt
P -- (Maritime patrol) -- ex. P-3 Orion
R -- (Reconnaissance)
S -- (Anti-Submarine Warfare) -- ex. S-3 Viking
T -- (Trainer) -- ex. T-38 Talon
U -- (Utility) -- ex. U-2 Dragon Lady
X -- (Experimental/Research) -- ex. X-15

3 - Modified Mission (optional)

This includes A, C, E, F, O, P, R, S, T, and U from (2) as well as:

D -- (Drone control) -- ex. DC-130A
H -- (Search and rescue) -- ex. HH-60 Jayhawk
K -- (Tanker) -- The "K" comes from Kerosene -- ex. KC-135 Stratotanker
L -- (Cold weather) -- ex. LC-130H - ski equipped C-130H
M -- (Multi-Mission) -- ex. MH-53E Sea Dragon
Q -- (Drone) -- ex. QF-106A - remote control equipped F-106A
V -- (VIP/staff transport) -- ex. VC-137C - presidential C-137C transport
W -- (Weather observation) -- ex. WC-130J - weather reconn. of C-130J

4 - Status (optional)

G -- (Permanently grounded) -- ex. GF-101B
J -- (Special test - temporary) -- ex. JB-26C
N -- (Special test - permanent) -- ex. N-9M Flying Wing
X -- (Experimental) -- ex. XF-89 - lead to F-89 Scorpion
Y -- (Prototype) -- ex. YF-17 Cobra
Z -- (Planning)

5 - Variant

Specifies a particular variant of an aircraft --
    ex. F-16A - F-16B, F-16C - F-16D Falcon

A few outliers to these standards would be outdated aircraft and exceptional aircraft, such as:

ER -- (Earth Resources) -- ex. ER-2
SR -- (Strategic Reconnaissance) -- ex. SR-71 Blackbird
TR -- (Tactical Reconnaissance) -- ex. TR-1
P -- (Pursuit) -- ex. P-51 Mustang (discontinued)
L -- (Liaison) -- ex. L-19 Bird Dog (discontinued)

So a completely made-up yet possible aircraft would be the XFBG-109C, which would be:
An experimental glider-bomber modified for a fighter mission, the third variant of the 109th glider aircraft.

An -- (Antonov) A plane made by the Russian company, Antonov -- ex. An-225 Cossack

Be -- (Beriev) A plane made by the Russian company, Beriev -- ex. Be-12 Tchiaka

IL -- (Ilyushin) A plane made by the Russian company, Ilyushin -- ex. IL-76 Candid

Ka -- (Kamov) An aircraft made by the Russian company, Kamov -- ex. KA-50 Hokum

Mi -- (Mil) An aircraft made by the Russian Helicopter company, Mil -- ex. Mi-26 Halo

MiG -- (Mikoyan-Gurevich) A plane made by the Russian company, Mikoyan-Gurevich -- ex. MiG-29 Fulcrum

Su/S -- (Sukhoi) A plane made by the Russian company, Sukhoi -- ex. Su-25 Frogfoot, S-37 Berkut

Tu -- (Tupolev) A plane made by the Russian company, Tupolev -- ex. Tu-95 Bear


 A -   B -   C -   D -   E -   F -   G -   H -   I -   J -   K -   L -   M - 
 N -   O -   P -   Q -   R -   S -   T -   U -   V -   W -   X -   Y -   Z - 


AA - Amrée de l'Air (French air force)

AAA - Anti Aircraft Artillery

AAC - Army Air Corps (UK)

AAM - Air-to-Air Missile

ABM - (Anti Ballistic Missile) -- a missile capable of destroying hostile ballistic missiles or their payloads before they impact on their target.

ACC - Air Combat Command

ACM - Air Combat Maneuvering

ACMI - Air Combat Maneuvering Instrumentation

ACMR - Air Combat Maneuvering Range

ADF - Australian Defense Force

ADIZ - Air Defense Identification Zone

AEW - (Airborne Early Warning) -- An aircraft which serves as a radar manager, which manages and broadens the span of radar. The radar from AEW aircraft are sent to all aircraft in the area to give them a more detailed view of the field

AEW&C - (Airborne Early Warning and Control) An aircraft which serves as a radar manager and operations control, which manages and broadens the span of radar. The radar from AEW aircraft are sent to all aircraft in the area to give them a more detailed view of the field

AF - Air Force

AFB - Air Force Base

AFCS - Automated Flight Control System

AFMC - Air Force Materiel Command (USAF)

AFRES - Air Force REServe

AFV - Armored Fighting Vehicle

AGM - Air-to-Ground Missile

Aircraft - Any vehicle capable of atmospheric flight

Airplane - A vehicle with wings and a jet engine or propellers, that is heavier than air, and is able to fly

ALAT - Aviation Légère de l'Armée de Terre

ALBM - Air Launched Ballistic Missile

ALCM - Air Launched Cruise Missile

AMC - Air Mobility Command

AMP - Avionics Modernization Program

AMRAAM - (Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile) -- the Hughes AIM-120

ANG - Air National Guard

AoA - Angle of Attack

APC - Armored Personnel Carrier

APU - Auxiliary Power Unit

ARIA - Advanced Range Instrumentation Aircraft

ARM - (Anti-Radiation Missile) -- Missiles designed to intercept or seek out radar emitting stations

ARNG - ARmy National Guard

AShM - Anti-Ship Missile

ASM - Air-to-Surface Missile

ASMP - Air-Sol Moyenne Portée

ASPJ - Airborn Self Protection Jammer

ASRAAM - (Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile) -- An IR guided missile under development by BAe

AST - Air Staff Target

ASTOVL - Advanced Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing

ASV - Anti-Surface Vessel

ASW - (Anti-Submarine Warfare) -- All measures designed to reduce or nullify the effectiveness of hostile submarines

ASuW - Anti-Surface Warfare

ATARS - Advanced Tactical Air Reconnaissance System

ATBM - Anti-Tactical Ballistic Missile

ATF - Advanced Tactical Fighter

ATGM - Anti-Tank Guided Missile

ATM - Anti-Tank Missile

AUW - All Up Weight

AWACS - (Airborne Warning And Control System) -- An aircraft which serves as a radar manager and operations control, which manages and broadens the span of radar. The radar from AEW aircraft are sent to all aircraft in the area to give them a more detailed view of the field


BAe - British Aerospace

BERP - British Experimental Rotor Program

BVR - Beyond Visual Range


C2 - Command and Control

C3 - Command, Control and Communications

C³I - Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence

CAF - Canadian Armed Forces (now Canadian Forces)

CAP - Civil Air Patrol; Combat Air Patrol

CAS - Correct Air Speed; Close Air Support

CBU - Cluster Bomb Unit

CDU - Control Display Unit

CEA - Circular Error Average

CEP - (Circular Error Probable) -- a measure of the accuracy of missiles or bombs. The CEP is the radius of a circle in which half the shots are statistically likely to fall.

CF - Canadian Forces

CFE - Conventional Forces Europe

CFT - Conformal Fuel Tank

CIA - Central Intelligence Agency

CIS - Commonwealth of Independent States

CIWS - Close-In Weapon System (US)

COD - Carrier Onboard Delivery

COIN - COunter-INsurgency

CRT - Cathode Ray Tube

CV - Attack aircraft carrier, conventionally powered (US)

CVN - Attack aircraft carrier, nuclear powered (US)

CVW - Carrier Air Wing

CW - Continuous Wave


DA - (Dalnuaua Aviatsiya) -- Long Range Aviation, Russian AF command in charge of strategic bombers.

DACT - Dissimilar Air CombaT

DARPA - Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency

DEW - Distant Early Warning (US)

DFC - (Distinguished Flying Cross) -- air force decoration

DGPS - Differential GPS

DIANE - Digital, Integrated Attack and Navigation Equipment

DLIR - Down Looking Infra-Red

DoD - Department of Defense

DOSAAF - Dobrolvol'noe Obshchestvo Sodietstviya Armii, Aviatii Flotu (Russian voluntary society for the support of army, aviation and fleet)

DVI - Direct Voice Input


EAS - (Equivelant Air Speed) -- Calibrated airspeed corrected for compressibility errors. Compressibility is when the aircraft reaches faster speeds where air starts to pile up in front of the pitot tube. This is only relevant for aircraft moving at speeds of 200 knots or more

ECCM - (Electronic Counter CounterMeasures) -- a form of electronic warfare designed to overcome enemy use of ECM.

ECM - (Electronic CounterMeasures) -- A form of electronic warfare designed totally or partially to prevent effective use by the enemy of part of the electromagnetic spectrum

ECR - Electronic Combat Reconnaissance

EFIS - Electronic Flight Instrument System

Elint - (Electric Intelligence) -- Intelligence derived from enemy electronic transmissions other than telecommunications (ie. radar)

endurance - The length of time an aircraft's fuel load will permit it to remain airborn.

EO - Electro-Optical

ESM - Electronic Surveillance Measures

ESSS - External Stores Support System

EVS - Electro-optical Viewing System

EW - Electronic Warfare; Early Warning

EWO - Electronic Warfare Officer


FA - (Frontal Aviation) -- Russian AF command in charge of tactical fighters.

FAA - Federal Aviation Administration (US); Fleet Air Arm (UK, Australia); (Fuerza Aerea Argentina) -- Argentine AF

FAB - (Forca Aera Brasileria) -- Brazilian AF

FAC - Forward Air Control; (Fuerza Aerea de Chile) -- Chilean AF; (Fuerza Aerea Colombiana) -- Colombian AF

FAE - Fuel Air Explosives; (Fuerza Aerea Ecuatoriana) -- Ecuadorian AF

FBW - (Fly By Wire) -- Flight-Control system with electric signaling

FCS - Flight Control System

fire and forget missile - AAM or ASM with electronic signalling

FIS - Fighter Intercept Squadron

FLIR - Forward Looking Infra-Red

FMS - Foreign Military Sale (US)

FSD - Full-Scale Development


g - Force of Gravity

GAM - (GPS-Aided Munition) -- Mk 82 bombs with GPS guidance tail kit)

GCA - Ground-Controlled Approach

GCI - Ground-Controlled Interception

GE - General Electric

GPS - (Global Positioning System) -- A worldwide system by which the user can derive his position by receiving signals from navigation satellites


HARM - (High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile) -- A high speed missile that seeks out radar stations

HDD - Head-Down Display

HDU - Hose-Drum Unit

HF - High Frequency (3-30 MHz)

HIRSS - Helicopter Infra-Red Suppression System

HMMWV - High-Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicle

HOT - Haut subsonique Optiquement Téléguidé tiré d'un Tube

HOTAS - Hands On Throttle And Stick

HOTCC - Hands On Throttle, Collective and Cyclic

hp - horsepower

hr - hour(s)

HUD - Head-Up Display

HUDWAC - Head-Up Display Weapon Aiming Computer

HUDWASS - Head-Up Display Weapon Aiming SubSystem


IADS - Integrated Air Defense System

IAS - (Indicated Air Speed) -- The airspeed that is read directly off the airspeed indicator. This airspeed does not take into account any corrections for altitude, temperature or compressibility

ICBM - (InterContinental Ballistic Missile) -- Land based missile with range in excess of 3000nm (5600km)

IDF/AF - Israeli Defense Force / Air Force

IFF - Identification, Friend or Foe

IFR - In-Flight Refueling

IGE - In Ground Effect

IIR - Imaging Infra-Red

ILS - Instrument Landing System

INS - Inertial Navigation System

INAS - Inertial Navigation and Attack System

INS - (Inertial Navigation System) -- A navigation system in which displacement from the point of departure is determined by measuring the acceleration exerted upon a gyroscopically stabilized platform by vehicle movement

IOC - Initial Operating Capability

IR - Infra-Red

IRS - Inertial Reference System

IRST - Infra-Red Search and Track

IRAN - Inspect and Repair As Necessary

IRBM - (Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile) -- Land based missile with range of 1500nm (2780km) to 3000nm (5600km)

IRCM - Infra-Red CounterMeasure

IRST - Infra-Red Search and Track

ISA - International Standard Atmosphere


J-STARS - Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System

JASDF - Japan Air Self-Defense Force

JAST - Joint Advanced Strike Technology

JDAM - (Joint Direct Attack Munitions) -- INS and GPS guidance kits for conventional bombs. Mk 84 with JDAM is GBU-31

JGSDF - Japan Ground Self-Defense Force

JMSDF - Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force

JPATS - Joint Primary Aircraft Trainer System

JSF - Joint Strike Fighter

JSOW - Joint Stand-Off Weapon

JTIDS - Joint Tactical Information Distribution System


KCAS - Calibrated airspeed in knots

kg - Kilogram(s)

KIAS - Knots Indicated AirSpeed

km - Kilometer(s)

km/h - Kilometers per hour

kN - (KiloNewton) -- 1 newton == 0.2248lb of force)

Knot - Aviation and maritime unit of velocity. 1 knot = 1 nautical mile per hour

KT - KiloTon

kt(s) - Knot(s)

KTAS - True airspeed in knots

kW - KiloWatt


LABS - Low Altitude Bombing System

LAMPS - Light Airborn Multi-Purpose System

LANTIRN - Low Altitude Targeting Infra-Red for Night

LAPES - Low-Altitude Parachute Extraction System

LASTE - Low-Altitude Safety and Targeting Enhancement

lb(s) - Pounds for mass or thrust

LCD - Liquid Crystal Display

LERX - Leading-Edge Root eXtentions

LF - Low frequency (30-300 kHz)

LGB - Laser-Guided Bomb

LLLTV - Low-Light-Level TeleVision

LO - Low Observable

LOROP - LOng-Range Oblique Photography

LRMP - Long Range Matitime Patrol aircraft

LRMTS - Laser Rangefinder and Marked Target Seeker

LZ - Landing Zone


MAC - Military Airlift Command (Now AMC -- USAF)

Mach - Ratio of true airspeed to speed of sound in the surrounding air which varies with temperature. In normal conditions, the speed of sound (Mach 1) is 1223km/h (661kt) at sea level and 1063km/h (575kt) at 36,000ft

MAD - (Magnetic Anomaly Detection) -- ASW equipment designed to detect disturbances in the Earth's magnetic field.

MAP - Military Assistance Program (US)

MAW - Marine Air Wing (USMC)

MBT - Main Battle Tank

MCM - Mine CounterMeasures

MFD - Multi-Function Display

min(s) - Minute(s)

MIRLS - Miniaturized Infra-Red Landing System

MLU - Mid-Life Update

MMW - MilliMetric Wave

MoD - Ministry of Defense

MPA - Maritime Patrol Aircraft

MPLH - Multi-Purpose Light Helicopter

MR - Maritime Reconnaissance

MRBM - Medium Range Ballistic Missile (range of 600nm to 1500nm)

MSIP - Multi-Stage Improvement Program

MTOW - Maximum Take-Off Weight


NACA - National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (Later named NASA)

NACES - Naval Aircrew Common Ejection System

NAS - Naval Air Station

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration

NATO - North Atlantic Treaty Organization

Nautical mile - Measurement of distance. 1nm is one minute of the great circle of the earth.

NBC - Nuclear, Biological, Chemical

nm - Nautical mile

NVG - Night Vision Goggles


OCU - Operational Conversion Unit

ODR - Overland Downlook Radar

OGE - Out of Ground Effect

OTH - Over The Horizon

OTHR - Over The Horizon Radar

OTHT - Over The Horizon Targeting


P&W - Pratt & Whitney engine designers

PACAF - Pacific Air Force (USAF)

Passive - Not itself emitting

Payload - Weapon and/or cargo capacity of an aircraft or missile

PGM - Precision-Guided Munitions

PID - Passive Identification Device

PLA - People's Liberation Army

PLSS - Precision Location Strike System

PNGDF - Papua New Guinea Defense Force

PNVS - Pilot's Night Vision System

PVO - Protivovosduzhnaya Oborona (Russian Air Defense)


R&D - Research & Development

RAAF - Royal Australian Air Force

RAAWS - Radar Altimeter and Altitude Warning System

RAF - Royal Air Force (UK)

RAM - (Radar Absorbent Material) -- Materials that absorb more radar waves then they emit, thus giving the aircraft a lesser radar signature

RAN - Royal Australian Navy

RANSAC - RANge Surveillance AirCraft

RAST - Recover, Assist, Secure, Traverse

RATO - Rocket Assisted TakeOff

RCS - (Radar Cross-Section) -- the radar cross section is a measurement of how large an aircraft, stealth or not, shows up on radar, Infra-Red, or other means of detection

RDT & E - Research, Development, Test & Evaluation

Recce - Reconnaissance

RHAWS - Radar Homing And Warning System

RMAF - Royal Malaysian Air Force

RN - Royal Navy (UK)

RNAY - Royal Naval Aircraft Yard

RNeAF - Royal Netherlands Air Force

RNZAF - Royal New Zealand Air Force

ROE - Rules Of Engagement

RoKAF - Republic of Korea Air Force (South Korea)

RPV - Remotely Piloted Vehicle

RR - Rolls-Royce

RSAF - Royal Saudi Air Force; Republic of Singapore Air Force

RWR - Radar Warning Receiver


SAAF - South African Air Force

SAC - Strategic Air Command (USAF, merged into ACC)

SAM - Surface-to-Air Missile

SAOEU - Strike/Attack Operational Evaluation Unit

SAR - Search And Rescue

SARH - Semi-Active Radar Homing

SEAD - Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses

SEAL - SEa, Air, Land

SENSO - Sensor Operator

Sigint - Signals intelligence

SLAM - Stand-off Land Attack Missile

SLAR - Side Looking Airborn Radar

SLEP - Service Life Extension Program

Smart - Device possessing precision guidance.

Sonobuoy - A buoy fitted with equipment for detecting underwater noises and transmits them by radio

SRAM - (Short-Range Attack Missile) -- Cancelled nuclear missiles designed for the B-2 Spirit

SSM - Surface-to-Surface-Missile

STAR - Surface-To-Air Recovery

Stealth - Designed or constructed in such a way and using requisite technology and materials so as to be invisible to enemy radar. Stealth depends on many variables; heat signature, radar reflection, visibility of an aircraft, and sounds the aircraft emits. Stealth can be greatened by radar absorbent material, a technique called faceting, smooth curves, and many other ways

STO - Short Take-Off

STOL - Short Take-Off and Landing

STOVL - Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing


TAC - Tactical Air Command (USAF, now merged into ACC)

TACAMO - TAke Charge And Move Out

TACAN - TACtical Air Navigation

TACCO - Tactical coordinator

TADS - Target Acquisition and Designation Sight

TANS - Tactical Air Navigation System

TAS - (True Air Speed) -- Calibrated airspeed corrected for non-standard temperature and pressure

TBO - Time Between Overhauls

TCS - Television Camera System

Teline - Telemetry intelligence

TFR - Terrain Following Radar

TIALD - Target Identification Airborn Laser Designation

TINS - Tactical Inertial Navigation System

TJS - Tactical Jamming System

TRAM - Target Recognition and Attack Multisensor

TOW - Tube-launched, Optically-sighted, Wire-guided

TSSAM - Tri Service Stand-off Attack Missile


UAV - Unmanned Aerial Vehicle

UHF - Ultra-High Frequency (300MHz to 3GHz)

UK - United Kingdom

UN - United Nations

USAF - United States Air Force

USAFE - United States Air Forces in Europe

USCG - United States Coast Guard

USMC - United States Marine Corps

USN - United States Navy

USSR - Union of Soviet Socialist Republics


V/STOL - Vertical or Short Take-Off and Landing

VertRep - Vertical Replenishment

VG - Variable Geometry

VHF - Very High Frequency (3 to 3000MHz)

VIP - Very Important Person

VLF - Very Low Frequency

VTA - (Voenno-Transportnaya Aviatsiya) -- Russian military transport command

VTAS - Voice, Throttle, And Stick

VTO - Vertical Take-Off

VVS - Voenno-Vozdushnye Sili (Russian Air Forces)


WSO - Weapons System Operator


Zero-Zero Seat - Ejection seat qualified for operation at zero height and zero airspeed. Pilots can safely eject from a parked aircraft

Last Updated August 17, 2003

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