US Equipment Designations

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US Equipment Designations

Postby Ricky » Tue Jun 10, 2008 7:37 am

American military equipment, from tanks to mess tins, all tends to be designated in the following way:

M1A1

With the 'M' number being the model and the 'A' number being the version.

I always wondered if the letters actually stood for anything, or if it is simply 'model' and 'version'.
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Re: US Equipment Designations

Postby Grieg » Tue Jun 10, 2008 11:50 am

Ricky wrote:American military equipment, from tanks to mess tins, all tends to be designated in the following way:

M1A1

With the 'M' number being the model and the 'A' number being the version.

I always wondered if the letters actually stood for anything, or if it is simply 'model' and 'version'.


Military perhaps or military specification? I'm not certain about that but I do recall that when I was in the service everything had a "milspec" number. Abbreviated from military specification number(since changed to mil-std I think for military standard).
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Re: US Equipment Designations

Postby JCalhoun » Wed Jun 11, 2008 1:00 am

I believe that prior to WW2 everything was labeled with a "Model of" and year such as U.S. Rifle Model of 1903 etc. It was shortened during the late '30s to a M and a short number such as M-1 etc. The "A" designator stands for alteration (update in the design much like the UK's Mk.) The odd thing is that this only applied to equipment used by ground personnel. Aircraft had a different set of prefixes and such.

I think the tradition goes back to the first US made military musket which was something like the U.S. Musket Model of 1799.
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Re: US Equipment Designations

Postby bf109 Emil » Sun Jun 15, 2008 3:20 pm

a .30-06 rifle is a .30 calibre designed in 1906

my only guess is any rifle or5 vehicle used in Military service had an M designation...i.e.M-1 rifle, M-16, M4 tank

Por F in planes being Pursuit or fighter, a B meaning bomber...or does A, in planes mean aviation, as A1 stealth

guess M is shorter to say and print the military
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Re: US Equipment Designations

Postby Grieg » Sun Jun 15, 2008 5:16 pm

bf109 Emil wrote:a .30-06 rifle is a .30 calibre designed in 1906

my only guess is any rifle or5 vehicle used in Military service had an M designation...i.e.M-1 rifle, M-16, M4 tank

Por F in planes being Pursuit or fighter, a B meaning bomber...or does A, in planes mean aviation, as A1 stealth

guess M is shorter to say and print the military


The A in military airplanes stands for attack. F/A = multirole fighter/attack.
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Re: US Equipment Designations

Postby canambridge » Sun Jun 15, 2008 7:09 pm

MAjor WWII US Military Aviation Prefixes:

USAAC:
P = Pursuit (P-40; "F" for fighter came into use after WWII)
A = Attack (A-26)
B = Bomber (B-24)
C= Cargo (C-47)
F = Photo Recon (F-4)
O = Observation (O-49; later redisgnated = L-1)
L = Liason (L-4)

USN/USMC (Note USN/USMC often combined functionality prefixes such as "SBD" for Scout Bomber (by Douglas)):
F = Fighter (F4F-3; Fighter type (F), fourth design (4), by Grumann (F), third variant (-3))
S= Scout (SBD-3; SB = Scout Bomber)
B = Bomber (SB2C-4)
O = Observation (OSU-2; OS = Observation Scout; PO = Patrol Obervation)
P = Patrol (PBY-5A; PB = Patrol Bomber)
T = Torpedo (TBD)
R = Transport (R4D)

Editorial Note 17 June 2008: Added example for USAAF Observation type; corrected typo in USN fighter explantion; changed USN bomber example to SB2C-4.
Last edited by canambridge on Tue Jun 17, 2008 8:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: US Equipment Designations

Postby wooden major » Mon Jun 16, 2008 5:58 am

cool ,i didnt know any of this stuff ..

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Re: US Equipment Designations

Postby bf109 Emil » Tue Jun 17, 2008 4:03 am

seems a lot easier to tell weapon designation then say Luftwaffe type of aircraft, where manufacturers name and a number to identify plane type...ie ME 109,210,410,110, etc, unless previous knowledge of aircraft prior..
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Re: US Equipment Designations

Postby Ricky » Thu Dec 18, 2008 1:50 pm

Ricky wrote:American military equipment, from tanks to mess tins, all tends to be designated in the following way:

M1A1

With the 'M' number being the model and the 'A' number being the version.

I always wondered if the letters actually stood for anything, or if it is simply 'model' and 'version'.


just because there is always one exception - why were the variants of the M7 'Priest' designated as M7B1 and M7B2 instead of M7A1?
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Re: US Equipment Designations

Postby JCalhoun » Fri Dec 19, 2008 1:05 am

I'm not sure. They also did it with the M-36 Jackson.

Then again, the sniper versions of the M-1 Garand were the M-1C and M-1D.

I guess the Ordnance Department folks thought they would play around a bit.

US military radios don't always go along with the M designation. Such as the AN-PRC 77.
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Re: US Equipment Designations

Postby Revere » Fri Dec 19, 2008 3:52 am

Wow this is real new stuff that I've been wondering. but then why would the M4A1 Sherman and M4A1 Carbine have same designation? or maybe because they had alot of time seperating them.
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Re: US Equipment Designations

Postby ram » Fri Dec 19, 2008 4:59 am

wooden major wrote:cool ,i didnt know any of this stuff ..


:oops: me too.

This is a great thread and very informative!
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Re: US Equipment Designations

Postby Notmi » Fri Dec 19, 2008 7:08 am

During the WW2, designation M1 was used to refer many different devices used by US military.
AA-gun, rifle (Garand), bayonet (for Garand), sub-machine gun, carbine, howitzer, mine, helmet and mortar
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Re: US Equipment Designations

Postby Ricky » Fri Dec 19, 2008 8:24 am

And even different types of vehicles. During WW2 you had:

Light Tank M3
Medium Tank M3
Scout Car M3
Halftrack M3

all in service at the same time.
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Re: US Equipment Designations

Postby Hoosier » Sun Dec 21, 2008 7:20 pm

Then there was the WW2-era P-38 can-opener.
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