F-16

In case you haven't noticed, the military enjoys its abbreviations. That's especially true of the flying forces, which seemingly speak in nothing but shorthand. While we will endeavor to explain as many of those phrases as possible in this series, today, we'll focus on one of the most common types – the combat air patrol, or CAP.

In its most basic form, this is a simple patrol mission for fighter aircraft – pilots fly to and fro over a predetermined zone looking for and eliminating aerial threats before they become an issue.

Similar to the standard CAP is the BARCAP, or barrier combat air patrol, and yes, the name is pretty self-explanatory – fighters act as a buffer between, according to the DOD's Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, "a force and an objective area." Generally, BARCAPs are employed in the direction an attack is expected to from.

Other versions of the CAP include coverage of ground-attack aircraft, high-asset targets, like a refueling or electronic warfare planes and protection of search-and-rescue aircraft. Basically, the phrase can serve as a versatile catch-all for any mission that involves fighter aircraft taking to the skies to defend against enemy fighters.

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.