US Tri-Service Designation System Guided Missiles

Introduction

In 1962, the US Military adopted the so-called "Tri-Service" designation system, which is still used today. Under the system, the three services (USAF, USN and USMC) were to use common designations for aircraft, guided missiles and electronic equipment. The conventions are described in the DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE PUBLICATION 4120.15-L and are officially known as the MDS (MISSION, DESIGN, AND SERIES SYSTEM). Below are the details of the designation system for guided missiles:

General Format

A typical Guided Missile designation has the following format:


with X for an arbitrary letter and the hash-mark for an arbitrary digit. Not all letters or digits are necessarily used. All characters have a special signification, according to their position in the designation (The numbers of the sections below correspond with the numbers in the figure above):

1. Status Prefix (Rarily Used)

Indicates any special modifications that have been made to the missile.

Status Prefixes
Prefix Status
C Captive
D Dummy
J Special Test Temporary
M Modified
N Special Test Permanent
X Experimental
Y Prototype
Z Planning

2. Launch Environment

Indicates the type(s) of launching platform(s).

Launch Environment
Prefix Launch Environment
AAir
BMultiple
CCoffin
FIndividual
GRunway
HSilo Stored
LSilo Launched
MMobile
PSoft PAD
RShip
SSpace
UUnderwater

3. Basic Mission

Indicates the primary task for which the vehicle was designed.

Basic Mission
Prefix Basic Mission
CCargo / Transport
DDecoy
EElectronic / Communications
GSurface Attack
IIntercept Arial or Space
LLaunch Detection / Surveillance
MScientific / Calibration
NNavigation
QDrone
SSpace Support
TTraining
UUnderwater Attack
WWeather

4. Vehicle Type

Indicates the type of vehicle.

Vehicle Type
Prefix Vehicle Type
BBooster
MGuided Missile or Drone
NProbe
RRocket
SSatellite

5. Design Number

Supposedly in sequential order, it indicates the model of the vehicle within the basic mission category

6. Series

Indicates (alphabetically) major modifications to the original design, which is indicated by the A. I and O are usually skipped in order to avoid confusion with the 1 and the 0.

7.Configuration Number

Indicates a minor modification.

Example

The AIM-9P-4 is an air-launched intercept missile, model nr.9, modification P, and submodification 4.




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