Friday, February 6, 2015

Military Spacecraft Designations

Spacecraft designations consist of a series of letters and numbers that uniquely identifies each craft by type, role, mission, design, and modifications. All designations follow the following form: [Vehicle Type] _ [General Mission] [Specific Mission] - [Design Number] [Series Letter]; although, the vehicle type may be omitted at times to create a short designation. This system, in its current form, has existed for 87 years, and there currently is no interest in drastically changing it.

Vehicle Type

Spacecraft of a specific type are denoted by a single letter preceding and separated from the general and specific missions by a space.

D - Unmanned Drone: Any unmanned craft operated remotely by a person or completely by a computer.
I - Starship: Any craft capable of superluminal travel through space.
P - Space Station: Any spacecraft incapable of moving itself. While not immobile, they remain in the orbit in which they are left until it degrades or they are towed elsewhere.
S - Spaceship: Any craft lacking superluminal capability that operates in space. Spaceships typically do not leave a solar system unless carried by a starship.
T - Trans-Atmospheric: Any craft capable of operation in both space and atmosphere.

General Missions

Vessels designed for a specific general purpose are denoted by a single letter preceding the specific mission designation. These general missions describe the vessel's role within the space force as a whole.

A – Auxiliary: Craft designed to operate in any number of roles supporting combatant ships and other spaceborne operations.
C – Space Combat: Combatant craft designed to directly engage and destroy the enemy while, themselves, operating in space.
L – Aerospace Combat: Combatant craft capable of both atmospheric and spaceborne operation designed to directly engage and destroy the enemy or support the insertion of atmospheric or surface forces.
S – Support: Generally unarmed, noncombatant craft that may operate in interplanetary or interstellar space to provide general support to combatant forces or surface-based establishments.

Specific Missions

Spacecrafts' exact role within their general mission is denoted by one or two letters following the general mission. Specific mission designations may overlap those of other general missions may use similar letters and combinations. General and specific missions are always presented together to avoid confusion.

Space Combat Specific Missions

There are five space combat specific missions. The line between Attack and Interceptor is somewhat unclear in the present system. Some people within the military favor omitting the Interceptor mission completely by redesignating all such vessels as Attack craft.

A - Attack: Craft designed to directly engage and destroy enemy forces.
B - Bombardment: Craft designed to indirectly engage areas of space or surface targets.
E - Escort: Craft designed to protect other craft from enemy forces through electronic interdiction, support fire, and the direct engagement of enemy forces. Patrol craft occasionally fall into this category, but see interceptor, below.
I - Interceptor: Craft designed to pursue and destroy enemy forces before they can enter firing range of their target. The line between attack and interceptor craft often blurs, with interceptors typically being faster and more lightly armored than attack craft. Patrol craft usually fall into this category.
R - Raider: Craft capable of independent operation designed to engage enemy forces, often utilizing hit-and-run tactics far from any supporting fleet. Raiders and attack craft have few differences, and there is a movement underway to fold them into the Attack specific mission. 

Aerospace Combat Specific Missions

There are currently five aerospace combat specific missions, but a growing focus on electronic warfare suggests a sixth may need to be added at some point in the future.

A - Ground Attack: Atmospheric or aerospace craft designed for tactical surface bombardment.
B - Bomber: Atmospheric or aerospace craft designed for strategic surface bombardment.
C - Carrier: Craft that carry smaller, often space- or superluminal-incapable, craft to a celestial body for the purpose of trans-atmospheric combat. Carriers rarely enter an atmosphere themselves.
G - Gunship: Craft designed to serve as a mobile aerospace weapons platform capable of engaging and destroying enemy surface, air, and space forces as needed.
L - Landing Craft: Craft designed to enter an atmosphere and land on a celestial body, usually with the intent to deliver or retrieve ground forces or supplies.

Auxiliary Specific Missions

There are nineteen auxiliary specific missions presently, but this number is not particularly stable. At its highest, there were thirty-seven, and at its lowest, there were twelve.

B - Barracks Ship: Craft designed to house troops and their equipment. These craft often overlap with Troop Transport Ships, but usually lack a means of rapidly deploying troops in favor of serving as long-term housing for them.
C - Cargo Ship: Craft designed to store or haul cargo.
CA - Ammunition Ship: Cargo craft designed specifically for storing and transporting explosives and nuclear devices safely. 
CP - Pressurized Cargo Ship: Cargo craft designed to provide pressurized climate-controlled cargo space. These are often used to store and transport perishables and other climate-sensitive items and equipment. 
CR - Replenishment Ship: Cargo craft designed to dock with and resupply other craft while under way. 
CT - Tanker: Cargo craft designed to store and transport liquids and volatiles, such as air, fuel admixtures, etc.
D - Mobile Drydock: Craft designed to serve as a mobile platform for performing maintenance and executing repairs on ships under way.
E - Sensor Picket Ship: Craft designed to engage in electronic warfare, both to extend the detection radius of enemy forces, and to jam the sensors of any enemies present.
H - Hospital Ship: Craft designed to serve as a mobile spaceborne hospital.
G - Gas Mining/Refining Ship: Craft designed to collect and/or refine raw gases and fluids into useful substances – usually breathable air or hydrogen for fuel.
M - Ship Tender: Craft designed to transport crew and supplies between a larger craft and other craft, ports or docks. Tenders are sometimes called "shuttles" or "shuttlecraft"
R - Communication Relay Ship: Craft designed to boost or relay signals or carry messages over long distances.
S - Reconnaissance Ship: Craft designed to operate on the periphery of a fleet with the purpose of gathering intelligence on enemy positions. They may heavily overlap with Sensor Picket Ships, but these generally lack any means of jamming enemy electronics.
SR - Search and Rescue Ship: Craft designed to locate survivors in debris fields, wrecks, or open space; retrieve them; and stabilize them until they can be taken to a hospital.
SS - Salvage Ship: Craft designed to locate and recover damaged or destroyed craft, in part or in whole.
T - Troop Transport Ship: Craft designed to transport troops. They sometimes overlap with Landing Craft, but tend to be slower and more lightly armed.
YA - Astrometric Survey Ship: Craft designed to conduct detailed astrometric surveys, including star types, positions, movement, and the existence of any planets or other celestial bodies.
YP - Planetary Survey Ship: Craft designed to detect and describe multiple aspects of planets, including physical, geological, meteorological, and biological data.

Support Specific Missions

There are currently nine support specific missions, recently expanded from eight – tugs use to be grouped together.

B - Barge: Powered craft designed to store or transport cargo, or otherwise serve as a platform for noncombat spaceborne operations.
D - Drydock: Craft designed to service existing or construct new craft while in space.
F - Ferry: Craft designed to transport cargo, crew, or personnel.
L - Lighter: Unpowered craft designed to store or transport cargo, or otherwise serve as a platform for noncombat spaceborne operations.

P – Spaceport: Craft designed to serve as an interplanetary or interstellar spaceport for other ships, providing provisions, accommodations, and varying degrees of maintenance for docked ships.

R - Special Research: Craft designed for conducting special research. This includes prototypes built for testing.
S - Satellite Tender: Craft designed to boost, maintain, repair, or recover satellites.
TP - Interplanetary Tug: Craft designed to move other craft over interplanetary distances.
TS - Interstellar Tug: Craft designed to move other craft over interstellar distances.
U - Utility Craft: Craft designed for a wide variety of noncombat spaceborne tasks.

Design Number

Spacecraft of a particular type and specific mission are numbered consecutively. Numbers are not assigned to avoid confusion with other letter sequences or to conform with manufacturers' model numbers. Gaps in design number sequences occasionally occur when a new spacecraft is commissioned, assigned a number, and is later canceled, scrapped, grounded, or otherwise leaves service.

Series Letter

Different versions of the same basic spacecraft are delineated using a single letter suffix beginning with A and increasing sequentially. The letters I and O are omitted from the sequence to avoid confusion with the numbers 1 and 0. Modification from one mission to another does not necessarily require a new suffix, but often a new letter is assigned.

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