Munitions Designation System

In past questions, we have explained the designation systems used for US military aircraft and missiles. The two terms you ask about are from another system used to identify more generic weapons and weapon components. This identification system is referred to as the munitions designation system, and generally obeys the following format.

US munition designation format
US munition designation format

  1. Identification Designator
    The first two letters in the munition designation are an identification code describing the type of munition. Though some 205 codes have been developed to date, many of these are unrelated to aircraft, the weapons they carry, the components of those weapons, and their supporting equipment. Only the most relevant identification designators are shown below while a complete listing is available here.
  2. Identification Designator Descriptions
    AD Adapting Item
    (not used if CD is applicable)
    MA Miscellaneous Armament Item
    (only used if not otherwise covered)
    BB Explosive Item
    (only used if not otherwise covered)
    MD Miscellaneous Simulated Munition
    (only used if the simulated live munition is not designated)
    BD Simulated Bomb
    (or Dummy Bomb, often used for training)
    MH Munitions Handling Item
    (only used if not otherwise covered)
    BL Live Bomb
    (includes mines but not nuclear bombs)
    MJ Munition Countermeasure
    (includes flares)
    BR Bomb Rack or Shackle
    (internal and external)
    ML Miscellaneous Live Munition
    (only used if not otherwise covered)
    BS Munitions Stabilizing or Retarding Device
    (includes tail fins or ballutes)
    MX Miscellaneous
    (only used if not otherwise covered)
    CB Cluster Bomb
    (consists of a dispenser [SUU], clustering device [CDU], and submunition [BLU])
    PA External Munitions Dispensing Device
    (not used if SU is applicable)
    CD Clustering Device
    (interface unit between a dispenser [SUU] and submunition [BLU])
    PD Printed Data for Dispensing
    (or Leaflet Dispenser)
    CN Miscellaneous Container PG Gun Ammunition
    CT Aerial Delivery Container PW Internal Munitions Dispensing Device
    (not used if SU is applicable)
    DS Target Detection Device RB Rocket and Launcher Unit
    (combination of launcher [LAU] and Rocket [RLU])
    FM Munitions Fuze
    (not used if FS is applicable)
    RD Simulated Rocket
    (or Dummy Rocket, often used for training)
    FP Pylon-Mounted Fuel Tank
    RL Live Rocket
    FS Munitions Fuze Safety-Arming Device SA Sight
    (for a Bomb, Gun or Rocket)
    FZ Munitions Fuze-Related Item SU Stores Release or Suspension Unit
    (or Munitions Dispenser)
    GA Airborne Gun TD Target Device
    (excludes drones)
    GB Guided Bomb
    (not self-propelled)
    TM Miscellaneous Tank
    (excludes vehicle fuel tanks)
    GD Dummy Guided Missile
    (seldom used in favor of missile designation)
    TT Test Item
    (only used if not otherwise covered)
    GF Gun Related Item
    (excludes pods, tanks and ammunition)
    WA Warhead Section
    (not used if WD, WE or WT are applicable)
    GP Gun Pod
    (consists of an airborne gun [GAU] and a suspension unit [SUU])
    WB Vehicle Body Section
    (not used if other Wx are applicable)
    GT Weapon Turret
    (not used if GP is applicable)
    WC Vehicle Control Section
    (not used if other Wx are applicable)
    GU Miscellaneous Gun
    (other than airborne)
    WD Explosive Warhead
    HP Personnel Aerial Delivery Item WE Empty Warhead
    KA Unfilled Clustering Device WF Warhead
    (not used if WA, WD, WE or WT are applicable)
    KB Simulated Cluster Bomb WG Vehicle Guidance Section
    KD Simulated Clustering Device WN Vehicle Nose Section
    (not used if WA, WC, WD, WE, WG or WT are applicable)
    LA Vehicle Installed Launching Mechanism
    (not used if PW or SU are applicable)
    WP Vehicle Propulsion Section
    LW Laser Weapon
    (excludes target designating lasers)
    WT Training or Dummy Warhead

  3. Equipment Type
    This letter indicates the category of the equipment. Although one of three letters can be used in this position, the letter U is used the vast majority of the time. The letter K was used in the past but has now been replaced by G. The meanings of these letters are described in the following table.
  4. Equipment Type Descriptions
    G Group A single item, part of a piece of equipment, or collection of items that cannot be used on its own. This designation replaced the letter K.
    K Component A part of a piece of equipment that cannot be used on its own. This designation is no longer used for new equipment and has been replaced by the letter G.
    U Unit A piece of equipment that can function on its own.

  5. Serial Number
    Each type of munition is numbered in order starting with 1. For example, the CB series starts at CBU-1, the LA series at LAU-1 and so on. However, the U, G, and K equipment types under each munition code are numbered sequentially and not individually. For example, if there is a MXK-856, then there is no MXU-856 or MXG-856.
  6. Series Model
    This letter indicates a major variant of the weapon. Unlike missiles, the first production model has no letter, and subsequent variants are differentiated by a letter. "A" represents the second model, "B" is the third, and so on with subsequent models being indicated by subsequent letters. "I" and "O" are typically skipped to avoid confusion with "1" and "0".
  7. Installation Designator
    This letter indicates how the particular unit is installed, carried, or otherwise employed.
  8. Installation Designator Descriptions
    A Aerospace vehicle, fixed Equipment is attached to and carried aboard an aircraft throughout its entire mission, such as a target designator pod.
    B Aerospace vehicle, expendable Equipment is attached to an aircraft but may be jettisoned or otherwise separated from the aircraft during its mission, such as a bomb.
    C Ground/airborne combination
    E Ground item, movable, not a vehicle Equipment is used to support or handle munitions on the ground, such as a storage box.
    F Ground item, fixed Equipment cannot be moved.
    M Ground item, self-contained Equipment is movable but not self-propelled.
    N Aircraft or missile transported Used only if the equipment is neither installed aboard the aircraft (A) or expendable (B).
    P Individual person Equipment is carried by ground personnel.
    S Ground, self-propelled Ground vehicles.
    U Multiple or Combination
    W Water Equipment is carried aboard a ship or submersible.

Some examples of the munition designation system are provided below. Note that any given weapon is usually made up of several individual components having their own designations. For example, the GBU-15 guided bomb system is composed of several separate pieces, including a dumb bomb warhead, guidance system, fuze, control system, fins, and a launcher attaching the weapon to an aircraft.

 Identification  Equipment -  Number       Series    /     Installation         (Description)

       GA            U     -     8                   /           A
   Airborne Gun    Unit        8th GA    1st variant      Aircraft, fixed       30-mm gun on A-10

       TR            K     -    55                   /           A
   Transmitter   Component    55th TR    1st variant      Aircraft, fixed

       LA            U     -     7            A      /           A
    Launcher       Unit        7th LA    2nd variant      Aircraft, fixed       Launch rail for AIM-9

       AD            G     -   770                   /           B
  Adapting Item    Group     770th AD    1st variant    Aircraft, expendable

       GD            U     -     1                   /           B
  Dummy Missile    Unit        1st GD    1st variant    Aircraft, expendable    Same as DATM-9


       GB            U     -    15                   /           B
  Guided Bomb      Unit       15th GB    1st variant    Aircraft, expendable    2000 lb TV-guided bomb

       BL            U     -   109            A      /           B
    Live Bomb      Unit      109th BL    2nd Variant    Aircraft, expendable    2000 lb bomb for GBU-15

       DS            U     -    27            A      /           B
 Target Detection  Unit       27th DS    2nd variant    Aircraft, expendable    TV-seeker for GBU-15

       WC            U     -     8                   /           B
 Control Section   Unit        8th WC    1st variant    Aircraft, expendable    Control unit for GBU-15

       AD            U     -    45            A      /           B
  Adapting Item    Unit       45th AD    2nd variant    Aircraft, expendable    Guidance adapter for GBU-15

       MX            U     -   724            A      /           B
  Miscellaneous    Unit      724th MX    2nd variant    Aircraft, expendable    Airfoil group for GBU-15

       FM            U     -   124            A      /           B
  Munition Fuze    Unit      124th FM    2nd variant    Aircraft, expendable    Fuze for GBU-15

       MA            U     -    12                   /           A
  Miscellaneous    Unit       12th MA    1st variant      Aircraft, fixed       Launcher for GBU-15


       CB            U     -    97                   /           B
  Cluster Bomb     Unit       97th CB    1st variant    Aircraft, expendable    Sensor Fuzed Weapon

       SU            U     -    64                   /           B
Munition Dispenser Unit       64th SU    1st variant    Aircraft, expendable    Dispenser for CBU-97

       BL            U     -   108                   /           B
   Live Bomb       Unit      108th LB    1st variant    Aircraft, expendable    Submunition for CBU-97

       FZ            U     -    39                   /           B
   Fuze Item       Unit       39th FZ    1st variant    Aircraft, expendable    Proximity fuze for CBU-97


       FM            U     -    54            A      /           B
  Munition Fuze    Unit       54th FM    2nd variant    Aircraft, expendable    Fuze for Mk-82 bomb

       DS            U     -    30                   /           B
 Target Detection  Unit       30th DS    1st variant    Aircraft, expendable    Proximity sensor for Mk-82 bomb

       BS            U     -    49                   /           B
    Stabilizer     Unit       49th BS    1st variant    Aircraft, expendable    Retarding tail for Mk-82 bomb


       GP            U     -     5                   /           A
     Gun Pod       Unit        5th GP    1st variant      Aircraft, fixed       Gun pod for F-16

       GA            U     -    13                   /           A
   Airborne Gun    Unit       13th GA    1st variant      Aircraft, fixed       Gun used in GPU-5

       PG            U     -    14            A      /           B
  Gun Ammunition   Unit       14th PG    2nd variant    Aircraft, expendable    Ammo used in GPU-5

You can test your knowledge of the munitions designation system at Andreas Parsch's Component, Group, Unit Listing of US weapons.
- answer by Jeff Scott, 7 March 2004

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