Thursday, November 03, 2005

What's in a name?

Oh, I'm glad you guys are posting about sub names, 'cause this (totally random, trivial) thought occurred to me the other day and I forgot to post this question--delete this post if someone's already addressed this...

What do the letters in the submarine designators "SSN" or "SSBN" stand for--specifically, I want to know why the Navy doubles the letters on some occasions and other times does not. I know, of course, that the attributes of the ship (i.e. that it is "nuclear" or carries ballistic or guided missiles) is usually tacked on to the end. That's fine. But why the double letters?

You might say, for example, that "SS" stands for "submersible ship" or "ship, submarine" or whatever ... but hold on a second--that can't be right 'cause the designators "BB" for battleship wouldn't make sense.

And it seems the Navy does NOT always double the letters -- as it does with "DD" or "DDG". The example that leaps to mind is "CVN". Why not "CCVN" (or "CCN" or "CVCVN")?

As I said, these ruminations are admittedly random and trivial--such are the places my mind wanders to when walking to and from campus!!! LOL.

Thanks in advance for any and all explanations!

UPDATE (11/3/05; 2330 EST): Vigilis very resourcefully provided a link to the explanation (see comments below). Thanks, shipmate!


At 2:59 PM, Blogger Vigilis said...

WillyShake, here is your first lead. As usual, it is an involved explanation:

At 7:57 PM, Blogger Sam Boogliodemus said...

Sub Suface Nuclear and Sub Surface Ballistic Nuclear. The diff between Fast Attacks and Boomers.
Semple. As in Chaz.

At 8:34 PM, Blogger WillyShake said...

You nailed it, Vigilis--thanks! Wow, I had no idea the convention was *that* old, but it makes sense now (in a bureaucratic kind of way, LOL).

For those who didn't follow the link he provided, here's the pertinent part (with my emphasis added):

"Warships in the United States Navy were first designated and numbered in system originating in 1895. Under this system, ships were designated as "Battleship X", "Cruiser X", "Destroyer X", "Torpedo Boat X" and so forth where X was the series hull number as authorized by the US Congress. These designations were usually abbreviated as "B-1", "C-1", "D-1", "TB-1," etc. This system became cumbersome by 1920, as many new ship types had been developed during World War I that needed new categories assigned, especially in the Auxiliary ship area. On 17 July 1920, the designation system was revised so that all ships were now designated with a two letter code and a hull number, with the first letter being the ship type and the second letter being the sub-type. For example, the destroyer tender USS Melville, first commissioned as "Destroyer Tender No. 2" in 1915, was now re-designated as "AD-2" with the "A" standing for Auxiliary, the "D" for Destroyer (Tender) and the "2" meaning the second ship in that series. Ship types that did not have a subclassification simply repeated the first letter. So, Battleships became "BB-X" and Destroyers became "DD-X" with X being the same number as previously assigned. Ships that changed classifications were given new hull numbers within their new designation series."

At 8:45 PM, Blogger WillyShake said...

...oh, and lest you think that the aircraft carriers are an exception to the rule I qoted above--they are NOT. It turns out that the "V" in "CVN" does not stand for "vessel" (as I had stupidly assumed), but is subclassification designator referring to the fact that the carrier (C) has heavier-than-air aircraft, or "V's". As the website Vigilis linked to explains:

"The following is taken from "United States Naval Aviation 1910-1995, Appendix 16: US Navy and Marine Corps Squadron Designations and Abbreviations":

On 17 July 1920, the Secretary of the Navy prescribed a standard nomenclature for types and classes of NAVAL VESSELs, including aircraft, in which lighter-than air craft were identified by the type "Z" and heavier-than air craft by the letter "V". The reference also speculates that: "The use of the "V" designation has been a question since the 1920s. However, no conclusive evidence has been found to identify why the letter "V" was chosen. It is generally believed the "V" was in reference to the French word volplane. As a verb, the word means to glide or soar. As a noun, it described an aeronautical device sustained in the air by lifting devices (wings), as opposed to the bag of gas that the airships (denoted by "Z") used. The same case may be regarding the use of "Z". It is generally believed the "Z" was used in deference to Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin. However, documentation has not been located to verify this assumption."

In European NATO Countries, "R" is used to designate an aircraft carrier."

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