From 1962 the U.S. Department of Defense established a unified missile and rocket designation sequence, which is used in all weapons of the kind produced in the USA.
The basic designation of every guided missile is based in a set of letters, which are in sequence. 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
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.
First letter designating launch environment
||Capable of being launched from more than one environment
||Coffin or Container
||Stored horizontally or at less than a 45 degree angle in a protective enclosure and launched from the ground
||Individual or Infantry
||Carried and launched by one man
||Land or Silo
||Launched from a fixed site or hardened silo
||Launched from a ground vehicle or movable platform
||Partially or unprotected in storage and launched from the ground
||Launched from a submarine or other underwater device
||Launched from a surface vessel such as a ship, barge, etc.
Second letter designating mission symbol
||Vehicles designed or modified to confuse, deceive, or divert enemy defenses by simulating an attack vehicle
||Vehicles designed or modified with electronics equipment for communications, countermeasures, electronic radiation sounding, or other electronic recording or relay missions
||Vehicles designed to destroy enemy land or sea targets
||Vehicles designed to intercept aerial targets in defensive roles
||Vehicles designed for target reconnaissance or surveillance
||Vehicles designed to destroy space-based targets
||Vehicles designed or permanently modified for training purposes
||Vehicles designed to destroy enemy submarines or other underwater targets, or to detonate underwater
||Vehicles designed to observe, record, or relay data pertaining to meteorological phenomena
Third letter designating vehicle type symbol
||An unmanned, self-propelled vehicle with remote or internal trajectory guidance
||A self-propelled vehicle whose flight trajectory cannot be altered after launch
||A non-orbital instrumented vehicle used to monitor and transmit environmental information
An X preceding the first letter indicates an experimental weapon, a Y preceding the first letter means the weapon is a prototype.
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