Glossary of Military Aviation Terms

This glossary of aviation terms will be useful to understand some of the terminology used in this web site, and in our discussion forum. For a list of code words and phrases used in radio transmissions please see our Scanner Glossary.

AAA - Anti-Aircraft Artillery, e.g. Russian ZSU-23
AAM - Air-to-Air Missile
AAR - Air-to-Air Refuelling
ACC - Air Combat Command
ACM - Air Combat Manoeuvring
ACMI - Air Combat Manoeuvring Instrumentation - Aircraft telemetry information system to locate aircraft in aerial combat, has been replaced by the newer NACTS system
Active - As opposed to passive - a radar radiating or in 'active' mode as opposed to standby or passive mode
ADIZ - Air Defence Initialisation Zone
AEW - Airborne Early Warning
AEW&C - Airborne Early Warning & Control (see AWACS)
AFB - Air Force Base
AFMC - Air Force Material Command
AFRC - Air Force Reserve Command
AFOTEC - Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center
AIM - Air Intercept Missile, e.g. AIM-7, AIM-9 etc.
AIS pod - The pods carried by aircraft at Red and Green Flag so that ground controllers and instructors can keep track of ACMs in real time
ALCM - Air Launched Cruise Missile
AMRAAM - Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile, i.e. AIM-120
ANG - Air National Guard
APU - Auxiliary Power Unit - a small jet engine in larger aircraft that provides power whilst the aircraft is on the ground, plus power to restart an engine in flight
ARM - Anti-Radiation Missile
ASM - Air-to-Surface Missile
ASRAAM - Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile
ATC - Air Traffic Control
AWACS - Airborne Warning and Control System (see AEW&C) - Aircraft (usually Boeing E-3) equipped with a powerful radar and on-board command and control center to direct the friendly forces

BDA - Bomb Damage Assessment
BFM - Basic Fighter Maneuvering
Bird - Jargon term used to describe an aircraft or a satellite
Black - A term used to refer to a secret program that has not been acknowledged, e.g. 'Aurora', 'Astra', TR-3 etc. Also used as state of a runway. if the runway is Black, then its not useable due to a crash or mishap etc.
Black-out - In a high Gravity turn, an aviators blood is sucked out of the brain, into the lower body. Can cause unconsciousness. Also "G-lock". Usually prevented by the G-suits worn by pilots. The opposite to the more dangerous "Red-out" (see below)
BLM - Bureau of Land Management
Block - Denotes a build run or modification run of a particular aircraft that may have slight differences in avionics or weapons, e.g. F-16C Block 50. Also used to describe an altitude range, e.g. "established in the Block FL230 to 250", meaning the airspace between altitude 23,000 and 25,000ft.
BVR - Beyond Visual Range

C2 - Command & Control
C3 - Command, Control & Communications
C3I - Command, Control, Communications & Intelligence
CAF - Combat Air Forces
CAOC - Combined Air Operations Center
CAP - Combat Air Patrol
CAS - Close Air Support
Century Series - Collective term applied to the series of fighters built in the 1950's and 60's, i.e. F-100, F-101, F-102, F-103*, F-104, F-105, F-106, F-107*, F-108*, and F-111. Not generally applied to the F-110 (MiG-21), F-113G (MiG-23), or F-117 (* = Prototype only)
Chaff - Strips of tin or aluminium foil dumped by aircraft in an attempt to avoid a radar homing missile. The foil reflects radar waves and is designed to confuse the radar seeker on the missile
CIWS - Close In Weapons System, e.g. Phalanx, Goalkeeper, Metal Storm - usually ship based, but has future applications on larger aircraft
COIN - Counter Insurgency
CSAR - Combat Search and Rescue
CV - Attack aircraft carrier - Conventionally powered
CVN - Attack aircraft carrier - Nuclear powered

DARPA - Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
DCA - Defensive Counter Air
DoD - Department of Defense
DOE - Department of Energy
DT&E - Developmental Test and Evaluation
DZ - Drop Zone - Used during Red Flag exercises

ECCM - Electronic Counter-Countermeasures - powerful electronics that can 'burn through' conventional ECM systems
ECM - Electronic Countermeasures - electronics designed to decoy or deceive enemy radar or missile threats
ECR - Electronic Combat Range
ELINT - Electronic INTelligence - the interception and collection of enemy electronic and radar emissions
ESM - Electronic Support Measures - similar to ECM
EW - Electronic Warfare

FAA - Federal Aviation Administration
FAC - Forward Air Control
FAE - Fuel Air Explosives - a powerful conventional bomb that explodes a canister or bag of potent fuel vapor just above the ground. One of the most powerful and destructive weapons, second only to the Nuclear Bomb, with similar effects. It can devastate everything within a mile radius, and kill everything up to a five mile radius by sucking up all oxygen. FAE were used in the Gulf War to clear large bunker and trench areas
FBW - Fly By Wire - the electronic flight control system of a modern aircraft as opposed to conventional cable operated controls - usually used on aircraft that are inherently unstable, and combined with a digital automatic flight control system, e.g. F-16, F-22
Flares - Cubes of burning magnesium dumped by aircraft in an attempt to avoid an infrared homing missile. The flare burns immensely hot, and is designed to confuse the infrared seeker on the missile
FLIR - Forward Looking InfraRed - used to spot ground targets through cloud or smoke, or at night, mainly by attack helos and special ops aircraft
FOV - field of view
FRTC - Fallon Range Training Complex
FY - Fiscal Year

g - The force of gravity, e.g. 9g = 9 x the force of gravity, about the limit of human endurance
GAM - GPS Aided Munition, a GPS guidance tail kit that can be fitted to standard Mk-82 bombs, developed for the B-2
GCI - Ground Control Intercept. The pilot has little autonomy, but is guided by Ground Control. Mostly used by Russian and Chinese forces, but also still used by western forces
GIG - Global Information Grid
Gorilla - Jargon terminology for a large strike package of many aircraft
GPS - Global Positioning System - a worldwide system whereby the user can determine their position to with 1 meter by using signals from navigation satellites orbiting the earth
Grey - Term used for a program that may have been revealed, but its true capabilities are not commonly known, e.g. SR-71, B-2, F-22
GSU - Geographically Separated Unit
GWOT - Global War on Terror

Helo - Alternate word for helicopter
HOTAS - Hands On Throttle And Stick - where the throttle is located on the control column, usually a side stick control column as on F-16
HUD - Heads Up Display - where flight control and navigation information is projected onto a glass panel or onto the windscreen directly in the pilots' line of forward vision

HVAA - High-Value Airborne Asset
IADS - Integrated Air Defence System - an air defence system where many different systems are integrated so that commanders may get a 'big picture' and information verification. Would include early warning sites, AEW&C and major ship borne systems (e.g. Aegis cruisers-USN), SAM sites and fighter aircraft
IAS - Indicated Air Speed
IFF - Identification Friend or Foe - a transponder fitted to all aircraft that allows it to be identified and tracked by ATC and friendly forces
IFR - Instrument Flight Rules
ILS - Instrument Landing System
INS - Inertial Navigation System - a navigation system that guides an aircraft based upon its position relative to a pre-determined point, usually its home base. The INS is aligned just before launch at a point on the taxiway (called the 'hammerhead') of which the coordinates are known.
IOC - Initial Operational Capability - when an aircraft or unit is declared operational, but not necessarily ready to go to war if required
IP - Initial Point - the last navigation way point for a strike aircraft before beginning a bomb run. Usually the weapons officer has control of the aircraft from the I.P. to the target
IR - InfraRed
IRST - InfraRed Search and Track, e.g. as fitted to Su-27, MiG-29 and Typhoon - a passive system that allows the pilot to track an aircraft by its heat signature from up to 50nm away

JDAM - Joint Direct Air Munition - a GPS guided 500 lb bomb
JEFX - Joint Expeditionary Force Experiment
Joint-STARS - Also called J-STARS ("Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System"), Boeing E-8C used to monitor a ground battle with SLAR real time displays - can be linked with JTIDS
JSF - Joint Strike Fighter - Boeing X-32 and Lockheed Martin X-35
JSOW - Joint Stand Off Weapon - a stealthy tactical cruise missile with GPS/INS guidance. Can be fitted with a radar homing warhead and loiter waiting for enemy radars to switch on. First used in Kosovo by USN F/A-18s
JTIDS - Joint Tactical Information Distribution System - a datalink between tactical fighter and bomber aircraft, AEW&C, Joint-STARS, and ground controllers that gives an overall tactical display of an air battle. Commonly known as Link-16 in Europe
JTRS - Joint Tactical Radio System

Klick - Slang for kilometer
Knife fight - Common term for a close in dogfight between two aircraft

Lantirn - "Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night". A system of two pods carried by US F-14s, F-15s and F-16s that combines TFR and a laser designator for accurate low level flying and bombing at night and in bad weather
Legs - Jargon term meaning the range or duration of an aircraft
LGB - Laser Guided Bomb
LO - Low Observable, i.e. Stealth
LOWAT - Low Altitude Awareness Training
LZ - Landing Zone - mainly used for helos and tactical transport aircraft

Mach 1 - The speed of sound - about 660 knots (760mph) at sea level, and about 580 knots (670mph) at 36,000 feet - varies as square root of air temperature
Mach number - The ratio of true airspeed in relation to the speed of sound, e.g. Mach 0.8 = 80% the speed of sound, or 530 knots at sea level, and 465 knots at 36,000 feet
MAF - Mobility Air Forces
MARSA - Military Assumes Responsibility for Deconfliction of Aircraft
Medevac - MEDical EVACuation, as in "medevac helos"
MHRTC - Mountain Home Range Training Complex
MIDS - Multifunction Information Distribution System
MOA - Military Operating Area
MRTFB - Major Range and Test Facility Base
MTOW - Maximum Take Off Weight

NACTS - Nellis Air Combat Training System - Aircraft telemetry information system used in exerciese within the NTTR to precisely locate aircraft in air combat, replaced the older ACMI system
NTS - Nevada Test Site
NTTR - Nevada Test and Training Range
NVG - Night vision goggles. Used by ground troops and pilots to enhance vision at night

OCA - Offensive Counter Air
OCU - Operational Conversion Unit - where prospective combat pilots get to fly front line aircraft before being declared fully operational on that aircraft type
OT&E - Operation Test and Evaluation
OTHR - Over The Horizon Radar

Passive - Non-emitting sensor or detection device, either something like an active radar in standby mode, or a passive device such as IRST
Payload - Weapon and/or cargo capacity of an aircraft
Package - Common term for a group of combat aircraft
Paddle - Jargon for the action of turning off a TFR radar - mainly F-111 and Tornado related. On the F-111, the TFR is disengaged by pulling on a small trigger-like paddle on the control column
Pickle - When a pilot or bombardier presses the trigger button to release bombs or missiles
PGM - Precision Guided Munition - collective term for GPS or laser guided weapons

RADAR - Radio Detection and Ranging
Radar Altimeter - a small radar mounted on the underside of an aircraft that constantly measures the altitude above ground
RAM - Radar Absorbing Material - a special paint, carbon fibre, plastic, or iron ferrite coating that is applied to parts of an aircraft to reduce its radar cross-section
RCS - Radar Cross-Section - a term used to describe the size of a radar return
Recce - Reconnaissance
Red-out - In a negative gravity maneuver, a pilots blood is pulled into his upper body. This may result in his/her vision being distorted due to blood vessels in the eye expanding
RF-N - Red Flag Nellis
RFI - Radio Frequency Interferometer - A small sensor on most modern military aircraft that can determine an air defense threat by measuring another plane's radar frequency
ROE - Rules Of Engagement
RPV - Remotely Piloted Vehicle, e.g. Predator UAV
RVSM - Reduced Vertical Separation Restrictions
RWR - Radar Warning Receiver - a device that warns a pilot he is being tracked by radar

SAM - Surface-to-Air Missile
SAR - Search And Rescue
SAT - Surface Attack Tactics
SEAD - Suppression of Enemy Air Defences - the tactics of targeting and attacking enemy radar and SAM position. Aircraft used include F-16CJ, EA-6B, Tornado ICR, F/A-18 EC
Sigint - SIGnals INTelligence - the interception and collection of enemy communications transmissions
SLAR - Side Looking Airborne Radar - used by aircraft such as the E-8 Joint-STARS to map ground targets and land layout
Sidewinder - AIM-9 IR guided short range AAM
Smart - Common term used to describe weapons that are guided, e.g. LGBs, JDAMs and GAMs
SOI - Special Operations Integration
Sparrow - AIM-7 radar guided medium range AAM
Stealth - Common term applied to low observable (LO) technology and doctrine, that makes an aircraft near invisible to radar, infrared or visual detection

TACAMO - TAke Charge And Move Out - Boeing E-6 airborne command post - US Navy only
TACAN - TACtical Aid to Navigation - a ground based military UHF navigation aid
Take - Common term for the results of photo recon, Elint or Sigint missions
TCT - Time critical targeting
TD&E - Tactics Development and Evaluation
TES - Test and Evaluation Squadron
TFR - Terrain Following Radar - a radar fitted to an aircraft that interfaces with the flight controls to keep it at a pre-determined height above the ground for low-level high-speed flight, i.e. Tornado, F-111, F-15E
TI - Tactical Intercepts
TIALD - Thermal Imaging And Laser Designator - as used by UK forces on Harrier, Jaguar and Tornado aircraft
Toss - A modern method of delivering a PGM bomb or missile on target without having to overfly the target. The aircraft approaches the target at low level, then pulls up at high speed and releases the weapon in the pull-up, which then flies a ballistic trajectory to the target while the aircraft turns away
TOW - Tube launched Optically tracked Wire guided anti-armor missile carried by Apache and other attack helos
Track - A common term for an AAR refuelling orbit, usually racetrack shaped and about 25 long by 10 miles wide, but can be as large as 200 by 30 miles, and different shape. Also used by AWACS for the path of an aircraft in ACM
TTNT - Tactical Targeting Networking Technology

UAS - Unmanned Aerial System
UAV - Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, remote controlled, e.g. Predator
UCAV - Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle - Armed UAV, e.g. Predator equipped with two hellfire missiles
USAFWC - United States Air Force Warfare Center
USAFWS - United States Air Force Weapons School
UTTR - Utah Test and Training Range

VFR - Visual Flight Rules
VLO - Very Low Observable, i.e. advanced stealth
VSI - Vertical speed indicator
VSTOL - Vertical or Short Take-Off and Landing, e.g. Harrier, V-22 Osprey

Weasel - Common term applied to some SEAD aircraft and tactics
White - A term used to refer to a program that has been acknowledged and its capabilities are known, e.g. F-15, F-16
WSMR - White Sands Missile Range
WSO - Weapon Systems Officer - back seater on F-15E and Tornado, or right seater on F-111 - also called 'Wizzo'

XCAS - On-Call Close Air Support (CAS)

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