Aerospace Acronyms & Abbreviations

A-B | C-E | F-I | J-0 | P-T | U-Z | Greek

Science and engineering could not survive without acronyms and abbreviations. It would take five times as long to say anything important, and by the time it could be said, it would be obsolete. In fact, a large percentage of any technical or professional education is simply learning the vocabulary. The listing below should help.

There is an interesting aspect to our fascination with acronyms, abbreviations, and technical terms. They change. They warp, mutate, merge, split apart, shorten, and re-define themselves. Nouns become verbs, and vice-versa. Acronyms become the accepted noun, and then they themselves become verbs.

Sometimes an obvious mistake becomes the accepted term. One famous example - in announcing the new reconnaissance-strategic (RS) spyplane, President Lyndon Johnson accidently called it the SR-71, not the correct RS-71. His subordinates promptly changed the name in all the documentation, manuals, press releases, and the like. Another example - the collection of avionics on an aircraft is properly called the "avionics suite" (say "sweet"), but some bosses and military leaders could not pronounce that apparently-difficult word. To this day you will hear people say "avionics suit" instead. Would you like a nice avionics tie to go with that avionics suit?

Often the terminology changes are deliberate, because somebody wants to attach a new and fancy name to what they are doing...or selling. Don't forget the effects of political correctness - what we used to call a "drone" became a "UAV" which meant "Unmanned Air Vehicle." But now we have to call it an "Uninhabited Air Vehicle." Could be worse - at least we avoided calling it a "UPAV" ("UnPersoned Air Vehicle"). So far.

But, don't try to fight it! You can't win, arguing against the latest craze in terminology. Learn it, use it, and have a good laugh. When you really can't stand it anymore, do what I do - check out to the daily Dilbert cartoon.

Send additions or corrections to Conceptual Research Corporation

A    :		Aspect Ratio of Wing
A    :          Helicopter rotor disk area
AAA  :      	Anti-Aircraft Artillery
ABC  :		Activity-Based Costing
A/C  :      	Aircraft
ACC  :          Advanced Carbon/Carbon (used for high temp)
AFRSI:          Advanced Flexible Reusable Surface Insulation (TPS)
ACM  :      	Air Combat Maneuvering
AEW  :    	Airborne Early Warning
AF   :          Air Force
AFB  :      	Air Force Base
AFMC :		Air Force Material Command
AFRL :          Air Force Research Lab  
AGM  :      	Air-to-Ground Missile
AH   :      	Attack Helicopter
AIM  :		Air Intercept Missile
AIM  :          Airmans Information Manual
ALCM :      	Air-Launched Cruise Missile
AMPR :          Airframe Manufacturers Planning Report
AMRAAM:         Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (now AIM-120)
ANSI :		American National Standards Institute
AOA  :      	Angle of Attack
APU  :      	Auxiliary Power Unit
ARM  :      	Anti-Radiation Missile
ARPA :          Previous/alternate name for DARPA (see below)
ARPANET:        Internet predecessor
ASM  :      	Air-to-Surface Missile
ASPJ :      	Airborne Self-Protection Jammer
ASRAAM:  	Advanced Short-Range Air-to-Air Missile
ASTOVL:  	Advanced Short Take-Off/Vertical Landing (JSF/F-35 predecessor program)
ASW  :      	Anti-Submarine Warfare
ATB  :      	Advanced Technology Bomber  (B-2 predecessor program)
ATC  :          Air Traffic Control
ATD  :		Advanced Technology Demonstration
ATF  :      	Advanced Tactical Fighter (F-22 predecessor program)
AWACS:      	Airborne Warning and Control System
BDA  :      	Bomb (or Battle) Damage Assessment
BFL  :		Balanced Field Length
BINGO:          Fuel state at which a pilot must begin to return to base
BINGO:          A game - a special version involves acronyms and buzzwords 
BIT  :          Built-In Test
BL   :		Boundary Layer
BMI  :          Bismaleimide (high temp composite material)
CAD  :      	Computer Aided Design
CADAM:          Computer Augmented Design And Manufacturing (early Lockheed CAD system)	 
CAIV :		Cost as an Independent Variable
CAM  :      	Computer Aided Manufacturing
CAP  :      	Combat Air Patrol
CAS  :      	Close Air Support
CAS  :      	Calibrated Airspeed
CATIA:		Computer-Aided, Three-D Interactive Application (high-end CAD system)
CAW  :      	Carrier Air Wing
CCC  :          Command, Control, & Communications ("C-cubed")
CDRL :		Contract Data Requirements List
CER  :		Cost Estimating Relationship
CFD  :		Computational Fluid Dynamics
CG   :          Center of Gravity
CLIN :		Contract line item number
CNA  :          Center for Naval Analysis (think-tank for USN) 
CO   :      	Commanding Officer
COD  :      	Carrier On-Board Delivery
COIN :      	Counter-Insurgency
COTS :          Commercial Off-The-Shelf (no development required)
COTS :          Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (NASA program for manned space launcher)
CS   :		EASA Certification Specifications (like FAR's)
CTOL :      	Conventional Take-Off and Landing
CV   :      	Aircraft Carrier, Heavier-than-Air Aircraft
CVN  :      	Aircraft Carrier, Heavier-than-Air, Nuclear Powered
DAB  :		Defense Acquisition Board
DAPCA:	        Development and Procurement Cost of Aircraft (RAND cost model)
DARPA:		Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
DATCOM:         Data Compendium (USAF aerodynamics methodology report)
DCMC :		Defense Contract Management Command
DCPR :		Defense Contractors Planning Report
DISA :		Defense Information Systems Agency
DMSO :		Defense Modeling and Simulation Office
DoD  :		Department of Defense
DOF  :          Degree of Freedom 
DSB  :		Defense Science Board
e    :          Oswald's Span Efficiency Factor   
EAP  :      	Experimental Aircraft Program (Eurofighter Typhoon EF-2000 predecessor)
EAS  :          Equivalent Air Speed
ECCM :      	Electronic Counter-Countermeasures
ECM  :      	Electronic Countermeasures
EFA  :      	European Fighter Aircraft  (Eurofighter Typhoon EF-2000 predecessor)
EHP  :      	Equivalent Horsepower
ELT  :          Emergency Locator Transmitter
EASA :		European Aviation Safety Agency (like FAA)
ESHP :      	Equivalent Shaft Horsepower (horsepower including residual thrust)
ELINT:      	Electronic Intelligence
EMP  :      	Electromagnetic Pulse
EW   :      	Electronic Warfare
F/A  :      	Fighter/Attack
FAA  :          Federal Aviation Administration
FAC  :      	Forward Air Control
FAR  :		Federal Aviation Regulations (flight & certification specs)
FAR  :		Federal Acquisition Regulations 
FB   :      	Fighter-Bomber
FBW  :      	Fly by Wire
FEM  :            Finite Element Method (usually for structural analysis)
FFRDC:		Federally funded research and development center (like RAND)
FLA  :      	Future Large Airlifter (European C-130 replacement project)
FLIR :      	Forward-Looking Infrared
FOD  :      	Foreign Object Damage
FSW  :      	Forward-Swept Wings
FY   :      	Fiscal Year
GA   :      	General Aviation
GA   :          Genetic Algorithm (optimization method)
G&A  :		General and administrative (overhead expenses)
G&C  :		Guidance & Control
GAO  :		General Accounting Office
GCA  :      	Ground Controlled Approach
GCI  :      	Ground Controlled Interception
GLOW :          Gross Liftoff Weight (Wo for rockets)
GPS  :      	Global Positioning System
HALE :          High Altitude Long Endurance
HARM :      	High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile
HE   :      	High Explosive
He   :          Helium
Helo :      	Helicopter
HGI  :		Hot Gas Ingestion
HOTAS:     	Hands On Throttle and Stick
HUD  :      	Head-Up Display
IAS  :      	Indicated Airspeed
ICAO :          International Civil Aviation Organization
IDA  :          Institute for Defense Analysis (think-tank for DoD) 
IFF  :     	Identification Friend-or-Foe
IFR  :      	Instrument Flight Rules
IFR  :      	In-Flight Refueling
ILS  :          Instrument Landing System
INS  :      	Inertial Navigation System
IPPD :		Integrated Product and Process Development 
IPT  :		Integrated Product Team
IR   :      	Infrared
IRST :      	Infrared Search and Track
ISO  :		International Standards Organization
Isp  :          Specific Impulse (rocket propellant consumption =3600/SFC)
ISR  :          Intelligence-Surveillance-Reconnaissance (missions & equipment)
JAR  :          Joint Aviation Requirements (European flight & certification specs)
JASSM:		Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile
JAST :		Joint Advanced Strike Technology
JATO :      	Jet-Assisted Take-Off
JDAM :		Joint Direct Attack Munition
JP   :          Jet Propellant (kerosene-based fuel)
JSF  :		Joint Strike Fighter (project leading to F-35)
JSTARS: 	Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System
JTIDS:      	Joint Tactical Information Distribution System
kips :      	kilo pounds (=1,000 lbs, fps unit of force or weight in 1-g field) 
kp   :      	kilopond=kilogram_force=9.8N  (non-SI-standard unit of force in 1-g field)
KISS :      	Keep It Simple, Stupid (attributed to Ed Heinemann, designer of A-4)
KPP  :          Key Performance Parameter
LANTIRN: 	Low-Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night
L/D  :		Lift to Drag Ratio
LGB  :      	Laser-Guided Bomb
LLLTV:      	Low-Light-Level Television
LOX  :          Liquid Oxygen 
LTA  :      	Lighter Than Air
LWF  :      	Lightweight Fighter
M    :      	Mach Number
Mcr  :		Critical Mach Number
Mdd  :		Drag Divergent Mach Number
MAD  :      	Magnetic Anomaly Detection  (finds submarines)
MAD  :      	Mutually Assured Destruction
MAD  :      	Magazine
MECO :          Main Engine Cut Off (shutdown)
MDO  :          MultiDisciplinary Optimization or Multidisciplinary Design Optimization
MDAO :          Multidisciplinary Design, Analysis, & Optimization
MOA  :          Military Operation Area
MOE  :          Measure of Effectiveness
MOP  :          Measure of Performance
MRF  :      	Multirole Fighter  (JSF/F-35 predecessor program)
MS   :          Milestone (on a schedule)
MSL  :          Mean Sea Level
MTOW :          Maximum Takeoff Weight
MZFW :          Maximum Zero Fuel Weight
n    :          Load Factor 
NAS  :      	Naval Air Station
NASA : 		National Aeronautics & Space Administration
NASTRAN: 	NASA Structural Analysis
NAV  :          Navigation
NAVAID:         Navigational Aid
NAVSAT:  	Navigation Satellite
NC   :		Numerically controlled
NIH  :          Not Invented Here (unspoken reason for rejection)
NOTAR:      	No Tail Rotor (helicopter)
NPV  :          Net Present Value
NS   :          Navier-Stokes (high-end CFD)
NURBS:          Non-Uniform Rational B-Spline (curve equation for CAD)
NX   :          Siemens (previously Unigraphics) high-end CAD system
O&S  :		Operations and Support
OEM  :		Original Equipment Manufacturer
OEI  :          One Engine Inoperative
PDT  :		Product Development Team
PPPI :          Pre-Planned Product Improvement ("P-cubed I")
pre-preg:       Pre-Impregnated (composite materials)
ProE :          Pro/Engineer (high-end CAD system)
q    :          Dynamic Pressure (of oncoming air)
QFD  :          Quality Function Deployment
RAND :          RAND Corp. -Research ANd Development (think-tank for USAF)  
RAND :          Research And No Development (funnier version) 
RATO :          Rocket-Assisted Take-Off
RCS  :          Radar Cross Section
RCS  :          Reaction Control System (small thrusters for control)
RDS  :          Raymer's Design System (aircraft design software)
RDT&E:		Research, development, test, and evaluation 
RFI  :		Request for Information (usually unpaid)
RFP  :		Request for Proposals
RFQ  :		Request for Quotations
Recce:      	Reconnaissance
Recon:      	Reconnaissance
RPM  :          Revolutions per minute
RP   :          Rocket Propellant (kerosene-based fuel)
RPV  :      	Remote-Piloted Vehicle
RWR  :      	Radar Warning Receiver
SAM  :      	Surface-to-Air Missile
SAR  :      	Search and Rescue
SAR  :      	Synthetic Aperture Radar
S&C  :		Stability and Control
SEAD :      	Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses
SDI  :      	Strategic Defense Initiative
SFC  :      	Specific Fuel Consumption
SHM  :          Structural Health Monitoring
SL   :      	Sea Level
SLAM :      	Standoff Land Attack Missile
SOP  :      	Standard Operating Procedure
SPC  :		Statistical process control
SPI  :		Single Process Initiative
SRAM :      	Short-Range Attack Missile
SST  :		Supersonic Transport
STOL :      	Short Take-Off and Landing
STOVL:      	Short Take-Off/Vertical Landing
T&E  :		Test and evaluation 
TAB  :          TAB-delimited aircraft data table from RDS
TABI :          Tailorable Advanced Blanket Insulation (TPS)
TABBY:          Cat with certain markings
TABY :          Nice town in Sweden  
TAS  :      	True Airspeed
TLA  :          Three Letter Acronym (not kidding, there is a 3 letter acronym for "3 letter acronym")  
TPM  :          Technical Performance Measure
TRL  :          Technology Readiness Level   
TFR  :      	Terrain-Following Radar
TOGW :	        Takeoff Gross Weight
TPS  :          Thermal Protection System (for reentry)
TQM  :		Total quality management
TVC  :          Thrust Vector Control
T/W  :		Thrust-to-Weight Ratio
UAV  :      	Unmanned or Uninhabited Aerial (or Air) Vehicle
UCAV :       	Unmanned or Uninhabited Combat Air Vehicle
UH   :     	Utility Helicopter
V1   :          Takeoff decision speed 
V2   :          Takeoff safety speed
VFR  :      	Visual Flight Rules
VG   :      	Variable Geometry
VIFF :      	Vectoring in Forward Flight
VNE  :          Never-exceed speed
V/STOL:  	Vertical/Short Take-Off and Landing
VTO  :      	Vertical Take-Off
VTOL :      	Vertical Take-Off and Landing
We   :          Empty Weight
Wo   :          Takeoff Gross Weight
WBS  :		Work Breakdown Structure
WIG  :      	Wing In Ground-Effect
WMD  :      	Weapon of Mass Destruction
W/S  :		Wing Loading
ZFW  :          Zero Fuel Weight
Common Aerospace Applications of Greek Letters 
α (alpha)  :    Angle of Attack
β (beta)   :    Sideslip Angle
β (beta)   :    Prandtl-Glauert compressibility correction 
δ (delta)  :    Change in some parameter
δ (delta)  :    Deflection of Controls
Δ (DELTA)  :    Wing Sweep (see also Λ)
ε (epsilon):    Unit Strain
γ (gamma)  :    Flight Path Angle
Γ (GAMMA)  :    Wing Dihedral Angle
η (eta)    :    Efficiency
λ (lambda) :    Wing Taper Ratio
Λ (Lambda) :    Wing Sweep (see also Δ)
μ (mu)     :    Viscosity
μ (mu)     :    micro (one millionth = 1/10^6 )
π (pi)     :    3.141592653589793...
Π (PI)     :    Product Operator 
ρ (rho)    :    Air Density
ρ (rho)    :    Conic Shape Parameter
ρ (rho)    :    Radius of Gyration
ς (sigma)  :    Unit Stress
ς (sigma)  :    Air Density Ratio
Σ (SIGMA)  :    Summation Operator
τ (tau)    :    Unit Shear Stress
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updated 2-20
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