military designations and models

edited March 2009 in Story Games
So in the US military, everything's an M-this, an M-that. Use your M6 backpack to store the M12 trenching tool, load your M9 pistol...

What about other countries? Can I get some brain dumping of ways to designate things? Crazy acronyms are always fun!

Thanks in advance.


  • edited March 2009
    The Soviets sometimes took a more descriptive approach, so you got:

    The PPD-40 (Pistolet-Pulemyot Degtyaryova / Пистолет-пулемёт Дегтярёва) submachinegun
    DShK-1938 (Degtyaryova-Shpagina Krupnokaliberny / Дегтярёва-Шпагина Крупнокалиберный) heavy machinegun
    NR-40 (Nozh razvedchika / нож разведчика) combat knife

    They also had R-this and R-that, PM, all kinds of prefixes (this is all for small arms and personal weapons but I think it applies to weapon systems too)
  • Oh, that link Chris gave is good. The ww2 Germans did aircraft by manufacturer code, which is different.
  • Matt, for the U.S. Army*, more specifically for our ground equipment, it's all M-#. When you're looking at aircraft and such, it's different.

    Also, we're moving away from that, by and large. Much of the field gear we currently use just uses acronyms. ACH = Army Combat Helmet, not M-# helmet. IBA = Interceptor Body Armor. We still use the M16A2 rifle, M9 Beretta pistol and M2 (Ma-Deuce!) Browning Machine Gun, not to mention our M1A2 Abrams tanks.

    But there are also the AH-64 Apache (Attack Helicopter) and the UH-60 Blackhawk (Utility Helicopter). Then going to the Air Force, you've got the Fs... F-14, F-15 and F-16, where the F stands for fighter.

    Once upon a time, I could tell you many of the designations for armored vehicles of various nationalities. All I really remember now is a few of the Soviet tanks (T-#) and light armored vehicles(BMP 1 & 2, BRDM, MT-LB) . I could give you the names of other nations vehicles, but not their designations.

    * much of this equipment is used by all the armed forces now, but the majority of the equipment was originally created for the Army, and was named accordingly.
  • edited March 2009
    Stray bit of military trivia. In a couple of years the M2 Browning (slated for replacement in, IIRC 2011) will turn 90. That boggles my mind.

    In WWII the "P" in "P-51" was for Pursuit

    The "AK" in AK-47 was the initials of its designer.

    In the early days firearms were designated by manufacturer and first production year, and occassionally who the initial contract was with. So you have a Colt model 1835 Navy Revolver, or a '73 Winchester, or a Colt Model 1911.

    Go back far enough when weapons of mass destruction were still new and novel and each one largely unique and you'd find them given individual names. The Turks had individual names for each of the big cannon they besieged Constantinople with.

    Larger capital expenditures (i.e. not mass produced) like ships tend to be built around a pattern, with all of the ships built along that pattern forming a "class". So you have Ticonderoga class cruisers and Iowa class battleships. The names of the class are typically the name of the first hull layed down. And the names of the individual ships have all sorts of different schemes, like states for battleships or cities for nuclear subs, or famous generals for tanks.

    There's also more marketing in it these days, at least while competing for a contract. There's a reason the Steel Rain guys don't refer to their weapons by some boring designations.

    Lots of different possibilities.

    I suspect that the origins of giving things squirrely designations can be traced back to the needs for efficient inventory control and logistics as armies got huge and equipment multiplied paired with a desire for some degree of...if not exactly least not letting the casual reader know exactly what everyone in the manifest is.

    In the future, when every piece of equipment is chipped for scanning and recorded digitally by serial number I suspect there will be less reason for such designations and to the extent they're continued it will be largely out of habit.
  • Posted By: Matt WilsonSo in the US military, everything's an M-this, an M-that. Use your M6 backpack to store the M12 trenching tool, load your M9 pistol...
    There's also the X designation, indicating that a weapon is still in development. The XM29 OICW, for example.

    The X is dropped after official adoption of the weapon. Thus, had the XM8 rifle not been cancelled, it would have become the M8.
  • WWI aviation have funny designations. For example, German planes: Fokker DR.I: DR, Dreidecker, triplane. Each letter means somethind different, e.g, D: armed aircraft single-seat; A: monoplane unarmed; etc. There is another designation system for Luftwaffe.

    The Royal Aircraft Factory had a interesting system too: S.E = Scout Experimental; R.E: Reconnaissance Exp. etc.

    Other famous designation system is the soviet one: MiG, TU (Tupolev), Ka (Kamov, helicopters), etc.
  • So does the M stand for Mobile?
  • M as M-1? I think M stand for Model.
  • I think there's a wikipedia page where I saw this, but I recall reading that the M# in us military stuff is how many test versions they did before it went into mass production. That means there can be the M9 pistol and the M9 bucket and the M9 toilet paper dispenser, etc.

    But I'm not a reliable source for military info.

    Anyway, thanks everyone for the references. I'm trying to put together some military or paramilitary-sounding jargon and item names and this will help.
  • One thing that I've found works really well when designing semi-realistic modern games with military material is to call or e-mail the local armed forces spokesperson. They can dump an amazing amount of information on you and would love to, for free.
  • A bit of flavor information: We tend to be a little back'ards in how we describe things.

    Vest, Protective, Ballistic instead of Ballistic Protective Vest. That's so we can group all the vests together, the subdivide them into Protective and Decorative, etc. (I am being slightly tongue-in-cheek, obviously.. We have no decorative vests; You've seen 'em. Our gear may look badass, but it's on the ugly side of badass)

    Oh, and toss the phrase "1 each" at the end of descriptions of individual objects. It's completely extraneous, but we actually talk that way.

    ~SSG Allen, Lance D. 1 each.
  • edited March 2009
    French military terms tend to be good ol' fashioned acronyms too :

    Famas : Fusil d'Assaut de la Manufacture d'Armes de St Etienne (assault rifle made in the weapons manufacture of St Etienne)

    PA : Pistolet Automatique (automatic pistol)

    VAB : Véhicule de l'Avant Blindé (we brake for nobody)

    VBL : Véhicule Blindé Léger (Light armored vehicle)

  • AIn-11: the Advanced Infantry, model 11. There were 10 models that preceded the AIn-11, not all of which saw service.

  • Posted By: ValamirThe "AK" in AK-47 was the initials of its designer.
    The "A" stands for "automatic" (Avtomat). The "K" is the designer's last name, Kalashnikov.
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