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On June 27, 1963, the U.S. Department of Defense established a designation system for guided missiles and drones jointly used by all the United States armed services.[1] It superseded the separate designation systems the Air Force and Navy had for designating US guided missiles and drones, but also a short-lived interim USAF system for guided missiles and rockets.[2]

Explanation[edit | edit source]

The basic designation of every guided missile is based in a set of letters, which are in sequence.[1] The sequence indicates the following:

  • The environment from which the weapon is launched
  • The primary mission of the weapon
  • The type of weapon

Examples of guided missile designators are as follows:

  • AGM - (A) Air-launched (G) Surface-attack (M) Guided missile
  • AIM - (A) Air-launched (I) Intercept-aerial (M) Guided missile
  • ATM - (A) Air-launched (T) Training (M) Guided missile
  • RIM - (R) Ship-launched (I) Intercept-aerial (M) Guided missile
  • LGM - (L) Silo-launched (G) Surface-attack (M) Guided missiles

The design or project number follows the basic designator. In turn, the number may be followed by consecutive letters, representing modifications.

RGM-84D means:
  • R - The weapon is ship-launched;
  • G - The weapon is designed to surface-attack;
  • M - The weapon is a guided missile;
  • 84 - eighty-fourth missile design;
  • D - fourth modification;

In addition, most guided missiles have names, such as Harpoon, Tomahawk, Seasparrow, etc. These names are retained regardless of subsequent modifications to the missile.

Code[edit | edit source]

First letter designating launch environment
Letter Launch environment Detailed description
A Air Air-launched
B Multiple Capable of being launched from more than one environment
C Coffin or Container Stored horizontally or at less than a 45 degree angle in a protective enclosure and launched from the ground
F Individual or Infantry Carried and launched by one man
G Ground Other Ground-launched, such as runway
H Silo-stored Stored vertically in a silo but raised to ground level for launch
L Land or Silo Launched from a fixed site or hardened silo
M Mobile Launched from a ground vehicle or movable platform
P Soft Pad Partially or unprotected in storage and launched from the ground
R Surface ship Launched from a surface vessel such as a ship, barge, etc.
U Underwater Launched from a submarine or other underwater device
Second letter designating mission symbol
Letter Mission Detailed description
D Decoy Vehicles designed or modified to confuse, deceive, or divert enemy defenses by simulating an attack vehicle
E Special Electronic Vehicles designed or modified with electronics equipment for communications, countermeasures, electronic radiation sounding, or other electronic recording or relay missions
G Surface Attack Vehicles designed to destroy enemy land or sea targets
I Intercept-Aerial Vehicles designed to intercept aerial targets in defensive roles
Q Drone Vehicles designed for target reconnaissance or surveillance
S Space Vehicles designed to destroy space-based targets
T Training Vehicles designed or permanently modified for training purposes
U Underwater attack Vehicles designed to destroy enemy submarines or other underwater targets, or to detonate underwater
W Weather Vehicles designed to observe, record, or relay data pertaining to meteorological phenomena
Third letter designating vehicle type symbol
Letter Vehicle type Detailed description
M Guided Missile An unmanned, self-propelled vehicle with remote or internal trajectory guidance
R Rocket A self-propelled vehicle whose flight trajectory cannot be altered after launch
N Probe A non-orbital instrumented vehicle used to monitor and transmit environmental information

Prefixes[edit | edit source]

An X preceding the first letter indicates an experimental weapon, a Y preceding the first letter means the weapon is a prototype, and a Z preceding the first letter indicates a design in the planning phase.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

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