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Acronyms 101, or "What the heck are they talking about?"

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posted on Mar, 13 2016 @ 12:40 PM
The Acronym List
This isn't going to be complete, by any means, but here are the more common acronyms seen used in threads. They're also in no particular order. Thanks to everyone that helped put this list together. It was a lot harder than I thought.

AESA- Active Electronically Scanned Array. Radar with no moving parts. The beam is steered electronically, instead of the antenna moving to move the beam.
MESA- Multi-Role Electronically Scanned Array. Radar with no moving parts, that scans air to air, and air to ground, as well as and Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) system.
JSTARS- Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System. Currently an E-8C, 707 based aircraft, with a large scannable radar array mounted on the botton of the aircraft, designed to scan for ground targets, primarily vehicles, and pass information to ground and air commanders.
AWACS- Airborne Warning and Control System. Currently the E-3, 707 based aircraft, with a large radar antenna mounted above the rear fuselage. The aircraft can track hundreds of targets, several hundred miles away, including some low observable targets.
JDAM- Joint Directed Attack Munition. GPS Based unit attached to specific bombs to turn them into guided munitions.
JASSM/ER- Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile. Long range, low observable missile built by Lockheed Martin. The ER is an Extended Range version of the missile, that increases the range by changing the engine and adding more fuel.
ISR(ISTAR)- Intelligence Surveillance target acquisition and Reconnaissance.
ADVENT- Adaptive Versatile Engine Technology. A high bypass turbofan engine designed to add a third bypass stream to make the engine more efficient. That stream can then be diverted to provide more thrust.
AETD- Adaptive Engine Technology Development. The follow on to ADVENT. Program will only develop an engine core to demonstrate the technology.
AETP- Adaptive Engine Technology Program. The program to develop ADVENT and AETD.
BVR- Beyond Visual Range. Simply put, farther out than the pilot can see.
WVR- Within Visual Range. Dogfighting range.
CAS- Close Air Support. Once upon a time, it was air support at close range, generally supplied by a low slow flying aircraft. Now it can be provided from high altitude aircraft using precision guided weapons.=
AA/AAA- AntiAircraft or AntiAircraft Artillery.
SEAD- Supression of Enemy Air Defenses. The Wild Weasel mission, designed to force opposing forces to shut their air defenses down while a strike package is in the area.
DEAD- Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses. See above, only in this case, they shut them down by destroying them.
CFIT- Controlled Flight Into Terrain. The aircraft remained under control until impact with terrain.
SOF- Special Operations Forces
OPSEC- Operational Security. In WWII, it was Loose Lips Sink Ships.
HARM- High Speed Anti-Radiation Missile. A missile designed to home in on radar systems and destroy them. Later versions memorized where the antenna was and could track in even if they shut down the radar.
CENTCOM- Central Command. Responsible for operations in the Middle East region.
DIA- Defense Intelligence Agency. Responsible for tracking down leaks in programs, among other missions.
NRO- National Reconnaissance Office. Responsible for US intelligence satellites.
AMRAAM- Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile. The primary long range missile for US fighters. Radar guided missile.
AAM- Air to Air Missile.
A2A- Air to Air.
IFR- In Flight Refueling.
ELINT- Electronic Intelligence. An aircraft, such as the RC-135, will fly near a border and gather any electronic signal they can detect. Frequently they'll fly near an area, and attempt to get a surface to air missile radar to activate and track them to plot the position of missile sites.
SIGINT- Signals Intelligence. See above, only in this case, they're gathering radio and telephone signals and intercepting communications and other signals.
COIN- Counter Insurgent/Insurgency. Frequently, in aviation related cases, a light attack aircraft such as the A-29, designed to operate in low threat areas, going after insurgent forces.
HALE- High Altitude, Long Endurance. An aircraft designed to operate at extremely high altitudes, for long periods of time.
MALE- Medium Altitude, Long Endurance. Similar to above, but it operates at lower altitudes.
TEB- Triethylborane. It was used to start the engines on an SR-71. Caused a green flash at ignition.
RAM- Radar Absorbant Material. Skin of a stealth aircraft, designed to trap EM waves and keep them from returning to the antenna.
VLO- Very Low Observable.
LO- Low Observable.
GMTI- Ground Moving Target Indicator. Radar designed to track ground targets, and display their movement.
SAR- Synthetic Aperature Radar. Radar designed to "see" the ground, and display images similar to a photographic image.
SLAR- Side Looking Airborne Radar. Radar that "sees" to the side of the aircraft.
LPI/low-POI- Low Probability of Intercept. Generally talking about radar that transmits through various ways making it much harder for detection gear to see it. In the F-22, it is an AESA system that uses low power, dispersed antennas situated around the airframe.
ATA- Advanced Technology Aircraft. Would have been the A-12 Avenger II. Cancelled in 1991.
ATB- Advanced Technology Bomber. Became the B-2.
ATF- Advanced Technology Fighter. Became the F-22.
NATF- Naval Advanced Technology Fighter. Would have been a Navalized version of the ATF. Never formally began.
XST- Experimental Survivable Tactical program. Northrop counter to the F-117.
TSSAM- Tri-Service Standoff Attack Missile. Would have been a stealthy missile designed for the Navy, Air Force, and Army. The Air Force and Navy version launched from aircraft, and the Army MLRS launched.
SDB- Small Diameter Bomb. 250 lb precision guided weapon, designed for carriage in large numbers, in various weapons bays or launch rails.
JSF- Joint Strike Fighter. F-35.
LRS-B- Long Range Strike- Bomber. Now the B-21.
NGB- Next Generation Bomber. Precursor to the LRS-B program, that was cancelled and overhauled.
PGM- Precision Guided Munition. Generally either laser or GPS guided weapons.
LGB- Laser Guided Bomb. See above.
BFM- Basic Fighter Maneuvers. When fighters go out and train for very basic air to air combat. Generally well planned in advance, and keep a safe separation.
CSAR- Combat Search and Rescue. Search and Rescue on a battlefield, or with enemy forces nearby.
DACT- Disimilar Air Combat Training. When two different types of aircraft train to fight each other.
ECM- Electronic Countermeasures. The attempt to keep radar, or radar guided missiles from seeing an aircraft, or to fool a radar guided missile and make it miss.
FAC- Forward Air Controller. A controller, usually airborne, that would mark and identify targets for the strike pilots to attack.
JTAC- Joint Terminal Attack Controller. A controller, usually embedded with a ground unit, that identifies targets for strike pilots and CAS pilots to strike.
SAM- Surface to Air Missile. A missile with a fairly large warhead, capable of hitting to higher altitudes. It could be launched from a fixed setup, or a mobile launcher. Includes a radar system, missiles, and some kind of controller.
Buff- Big Ugly Fat Fellow. B-52 bomber.
edit on 3/13/2016 by Zaphod58 because: (no reason given)

posted on Mar, 13 2016 @ 12:45 PM
a reply to: Zaphod58

Thank-you very much for making this list.I had been noticing a lot of
these acronyms and wasn't sure about their meanings.

posted on Mar, 13 2016 @ 01:31 PM

And thanks for the list. Very helpful.
edit on 13-3-2016 by Stngray because: (no reason given)

posted on Mar, 13 2016 @ 01:33 PM
a reply to: Stngray

There's a test tonight. You need to score at least a 99% to continue in this forum.

posted on Mar, 13 2016 @ 01:40 PM
Can I mention MAC (Military Airlift Command,Galaxies,Starlifters,Hercs etc) which was preceded by MATS (Military Air Transport Service,Globemasters,Cargomasters,C118s etc). There was a sort of joke about a few years ago that our (England) equivalent to MATS was 'CARPETS',which of course stood for Coastal Air Reconnaissance Pickup and Express Transport Service at the time we had Shackletons etc.
edit on 13-3-2016 by Imagewerx because: (no reason given)

edit on 13-3-2016 by Imagewerx because: (no reason given)

posted on Mar, 13 2016 @ 01:55 PM
Zaphod, thanks for creating this list. Sometimes when you guys start using all those acronyms it starts to look like a foreign language.

Here are a couple of other simple ones that you might want to add for people who know even less than I do:
COMMSEC: the discipline of preventing unauthorized interceptors from accessing telecommunications in an intelligible form.
PSYOPS: are planned operations to convey selected information and indicators to audiences to influence their emotions, motives, and objective reasoning.
SECDEF: is the leader and chief executive officer of the US Department of Defense.
V/STOL: verticle/short take-off and landing. An airplane able to take-off or land vertically or on short runways.

BTW: I like the new avatar. But it will take some time to get used to it. I've come to think of you as our resident wizard of all things related to aircraft.


posted on Mar, 13 2016 @ 02:00 PM
a reply to: DexterRiley

I have to change it every so often to confuse the hell out of people.

posted on Mar, 13 2016 @ 02:08 PM
Excellent effort that smacks of kindness and a mind to reach out to the 'aero-tech' challenged... a demographic that I find myself in despite old, cursory aviation knowledge...

so a deep thanks for the effort, sir, from those of us who don't do our homework.

posted on Mar, 13 2016 @ 02:23 PM
a reply to: Baddogma

Samammishman, Barnalby, and justwanttofly helped with suggestions. I started putting it together, and got a few of them listed, and then drew a total blank, and thought "Holy crap this is harder than I thought". Heh.

So big thanks to them too.

posted on Mar, 13 2016 @ 02:36 PM
a reply to: Zaphod58

You couldn't even alphabetize it? Lazy bastard...

Off the top of my head, you could add


posted on Mar, 13 2016 @ 02:43 PM
I'm out of room in the OP, so in the spirit of SAM, here's another one:

MANPADS- Man Portable Air Defense System. Shoulder fired missiles, used to defend at short range, usually against helicopters, or slower moving aircraft.

posted on Mar, 13 2016 @ 02:44 PM
a reply to: RadioRobert

It's Sunday, a day of rest. Alphabetizing would be too much like work for today.

posted on Mar, 13 2016 @ 02:45 PM
Dare I say it, this thread should be stacked up top for reference.

posted on Mar, 13 2016 @ 02:48 PM
a reply to: Caver78

It is. That's the big reason it was created, was to stick to the top as a reference guide.

posted on Mar, 13 2016 @ 02:58 PM
Thanks for the list. With a little study my comprehension of military acronyms will be a little less FUBAR.

posted on Mar, 13 2016 @ 03:10 PM
Can we have the BUFF in both its normal and polite form?

There's probably so many acronyms that its probably confusing when over the years one thing has morphed in to something else, in the IT world its getting silly in some ways so i'd imagine its even worse as the aviation world as theres been even longer for people shorten stuff.

but for us Brits we seem to have decided to make things longer as the RAF is known as Crab air (many myths as to why)

posted on Mar, 13 2016 @ 03:20 PM
a reply to: Zaphod58

Now you smart-asses will acronym
all your posts and us old farts with lousy memories will have to flip back and forth trying to figure out what the hell you just said.....

posted on Mar, 13 2016 @ 03:21 PM
a reply to: Maxatoria


posted on Mar, 13 2016 @ 04:18 PM
a reply to: Zaphod58

Thanks, Zaph. It's much appreciated.

posted on Mar, 13 2016 @ 06:09 PM

originally posted by: Zaphod58
I'm out of room in the OP, so in the spirit of SAM, here's another one:

MANPADS- Man Portable Air Defense System. Shoulder fired missiles, used to defend at short range, usually against helicopters, or slower moving aircraft.

Cool thread man, thanks for the lesson!

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