1962 United States Tri-Service missile and drone designation system

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
Letter Launch environment Detailed description
BMultipleCapable of being launched from more than one environment
CCoffin or ContainerStored horizontally or at less than a 45 degree angle in a protective enclosure and launched from the ground
FIndividual or InfantryCarried and launched by one man
LLand or SiloLaunched from a fixed site or hardened silo
MMobileLaunched from a ground vehicle or movable platform
PSoft PadPartially or unprotected in storage and launched from the ground
RSurface shipLaunched from a surface vessel such as a ship, barge, etc.
UUnderwaterLaunched from a submarine or other underwater device
Second letter designating mission symbol
Letter Mission Detailed description
DDecoyVehicles designed or modified to confuse, deceive, or divert enemy defenses by simulating an attack vehicle
ESpecial ElectronicVehicles designed or modified with electronics equipment for communications, countermeasures, electronic radiation sounding, or other electronic recording or relay missions
GSurface AttackVehicles designed to destroy enemy land or sea targets
IIntercept-AerialVehicles designed to intercept aerial targets in defensive roles
QDroneVehicles designed for target reconnaissance or surveillance
SSpaceVehicles designed to destroy space-based targets
TTrainingVehicles designed or permanently modified for training purposes
UUnderwater attackVehicles designed to destroy enemy submarines or other underwater targets, or to detonate underwater
WWeatherVehicles designed to observe, record, or relay data pertaining to meteorological phenomena
Third letter designating vehicle type symbol
Letter Vehicle type Detailed description
MGuided MissileAn unmanned, self-propelled vehicle with remote or internal trajectory guidance
RRocketA self-propelled vehicle whose flight trajectory cannot be altered after launch
NProbeA 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.

See also


    External links

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