US Navy Aircraft

The alphabet soup that is the military is most visible in the ships and aircraft that we see among America's armed forces. Some of these designations are fairly obvious. It's not hard to figure out that the "F" in "F-16" stands for fighter (the same is true of the F-14, F-15, F-22 etc.). What about an F/A-18, though? Well, in that case, the "F" still stands for fighter, while the "A" stands for an attack aircraft. We'll try to break this down, at least for aircraft, in today's Military Terminology post (don't worry sailors, you're up next).

As we said, an "F" stands for fighter and an "A' stands for an attack aircraft that can be used against ground forces. Perhaps the other most famous designation among aircraft is the bomber aircraft's "B," worn so famously by the legendary B-52 and the sleek B-2, among others.

This system is known, officially, as the Tri-Service Aircraft Designation System, a 1962 agreement between the US armed forces to feature a unified system of naming its fixed-wing and rotary craft.

For example, before the new system, the Army Air Force used the "P" designation, which stood for pursuit, on a wide variety of its fighter aircraft, like the P-51 Mustang, P-47 Thunderbolt and P-38 Lightning. The Navy, though, used the "F" designation for its fighter aircraft. You can understand how this can lead to confusion among the public.

We've got a listing of all the current letter designations listed below. So, the next time you hear about a KC-135 refueling an F/A-18 or an A-10 and a B-1B attacking a ground installation, you'll at least have an idea of what each aircraft's role was in that particular circumstance.

If you have any suggestions on a phrase you aren't sure about, be sure to reach out to brandon dot turkus at autoblog dot com, and we'll be sure to feature it in the coming days.
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Basic Mission

A - Attack
B - Bomber
C - Transport
E - Special
Electronic
Installation
F - Fighter
L - Laser
O - Observation
P - Patrol
R - Reconnaissance S - Antisubmarine
T - Trainer
U - Utility
X- Research

Modified Mission

A - Attack
C - Transport
D - Director
E - Special
Electronic
Installation
F - Fighter
H - Search and Rescue/ Medevac
K - Tanker
L - Cold Weather
M - Multi-mission
O - Observation
P - Patrol
Q - Drone
R - Reconnaissance
S - Antisubmarine
T - Trainer
U - Utility
V- Staff
W - Weather

Vehicle Type

D – UAV Control Segment
G - Glider
H - Helicopter
Q - Unmanned Aerial Vehicle
S - Spaceplane
V- Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL)/Short Takeoff and Landing (STOL)
Z - Lighter-Than Air Vehicle

Status Prefix

G - Permanently Grounded
J - Special Test (Temporary)
N - Special Test (Permanent)
X- Experimental
Y- Prototype
Z - Planning