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In this article you will find definition which are used throughout the aviation and aircraft spotters world, and as such commonly used on this Website (including the Message Board) and Scramble magazine. They do not include those confined to a single aircraft manufacturer or air force (like unit designations).



anti-submarine-warfare aircraft aircraft wih maritime patrol, anti-submarine warfare and/or anti-surface vessel warfare capability (e.g. P-3C).


bomber aircraft aircraft with long-range strategic conventional and/or nuclear strike capability (e.g. B-1B).
band small section of the spectrum of radio communication frequencies, in which channels are usually used or set aside for the same purpose. See Wikipedia - Radio spectrum for band definitions


command & control aircraft aircraft with Command, control and communication (C3) capability, including data-relay (e.g. E-4B).
CAT A Aircraft which have declared a 'Police Emergency'. Ambulance/Medical aircraft when the safety of life is involved.
CAT B Flights operating for search and rescue or other humanitarian reasons. Post accident flight checks. Other flights, including Open Skies Flights, authorised by the CAA.


design study proposal or design study, not built and/or flown (e.g. V-1100).
dry thrust jet engine thrust without use of afterburner


fighter aircraft aircraft with primary air defence and (generally) equal ground-attack/strike capability (e.g. F-16C).


ground-attack aircraft aircraft optimized for ground/surface-attack mission, generally not radar equipped (e.g. A-10A)
gun type of (usually multi-barrel) cannon that fires projectiles at high speeds, and usually at relatively low angles.


intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft with strategic or tactical intelligence gathering capability, including Sigint and E/O (e.g. MC-12W).


lead computing sight aiming device that uses a cathode ray tube to generate an aiming image and optical means to project said generated image into a line of sight through the gun sight. Velocity of movement of the gun sight is sensed by gyros and in response thereto the cathode ray tube generates an aiming image at a location displaced from a sight-stationary position by an amount dependent on the velocity and direction of movement of the gun sight and a predetermined target range.


M Mach.
Maximum take-off weight Maximum weight approved for the start of the takeoff run
Maximum taxi weight Maximum weight approved for ground maneuvers. This is the same as maximum ramp weight
Maximum zero fuel weight The maximum authorized weight of an aircraft without fuel. This is the total weight for a particular flight less the fuel. It includes the aircraft and everything that will be carried on the flight except the weight of the fuel
Maximum ramp weight Maximum weight approved for ground maneuver. It includes weight of start, taxi, and runup fuel.
MDF Maximum demonstrated diving speed.
MMO Maximum operating speed.
MT Mach maintained by using Thrust.
ME Mach maintained by use of elevators.


operating empty weight the basic weight of an aircraft including the crew, all fluids necessary for operation such as engine oil, engine coolant, water, unusable fuel and all operator items and equipment required for flight but excluding usable fuel and the payload. Also included are certain standard items, personnel, equipment, and supplies necessary for full operations.
observation aircraft aircraft optimised for visual (eg. non-radar or e/o sensor supported) battlefield observation, forward air control and/or artillery observation platform (e.g. OV-1D).


strike aircraft aircraft with long-range autonomous high accuracy ground-attack capability or sub-strategic nuclear strike capability, generally (ground mapping) radar equipped (e.g Tornado GR4).
sustained turn rate the best possible turn rate where a aircraft continuously sustains the turn for long periods of time, without giving up altitude, speed, or degrees of turn
shp power delivered to the propeller shafts


tanker/transport aircraft with aerial fuel transfer capability and cargo transport capability (e.g. KC-10A).
tactical transport medium-range, medium payload (> 10 tonnes) transport aircraft with intra-theatre (e.g. soft field) STOL capabilities (e.g. C-130J).
tonne a metric system unit of mass equal to 1000 kilograms, aka US metric tonne
trainer two-seat aircraft with primary or advanced training capability, secondary light ground-attack capability (e.g. Hawk T2).
turbojet gas turbine engine where all the air ingested by the inlet is passed through the compressor, combustor, and turbine, unlike the turbofan engine (e.g. J79).
turbofan gas turbine engine where some of the flow is accelerated by a fan and bypasses the gas generator core of the engine (e.g. F100).
turboshaft gas turbine which is adapted to produce shaft power, rather than jet thrust (e.g. General Electric T700).


Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) According to NATO STANAGs UAVs are divided into the following classes.
Type Radius (max) Altitude (max) Mission time
Micro-UAV Up to 10 km 250 m (less than) 1 hour
Mini-TUAV 10 km 350 m 2 hours
Close Range TUAV 10 to 30 km 3 km 2 to 4 hours
Short Range TUAV 30 to 70 km 3 km 3 to 6 hours
Medium Range TUAV 70 to 200 km 3 to 5 km 10 hours
MALE UAV 200 to 2000 km 9 to 10 km 24 to 50 hours
HALE UAV 2000 to 11000 km 13 to 20 km 24 to 36 hours


V-speed A shorthand notation of significant speeds within an aircraft's flight envelope.
V Scientific abbreviation of the word Velocity, meaning Speed.
V1 Decision speed, up to which it should be possible to abort a take-off after failure of the critical engine and stop safely within the remaining runway length. After reaching V1 the take-off must be continued.
V2 Minimum take-off safety speed.
VA Design manoeuvring speed. The speed below which abrupt and extreme control movements are possible (though not advised) without exceeding the airframe's limiting load factors.
VB Design speed for maximum gust intensity.
VC Design cruising speed.
VD Design diving speed.
VDF Maximum demonstrated diving speed. Also MDF
VE Maximum speed at which landing gear (or other item) may be extended or retracted (cycled).
VFE Maximum flap extension speed (top of white arc on ASI (Air Speed Indicator)).
VH Maximum level-flight speed with maximum continuous power.
VLE Maximum speed with landing gear extended.
VMCA Minimum control speed (air). Minimum speed at which directional control of a multi-engined aircraft can be maintained after failure of critical engine (in effect, the lowest speed at which the aircraft possesses sufficient rudder authority to counteract the yaw induced by asymmetric thrust).
VMU Minimum unstick speed.
VNE Never-exceed speed.
VMO Maximum operating speed. Also MMO
VNO Normal operating speed. The maximum structural cruising speed allowable for normal operating conditions.
VR Rotation speed, at which to raise the nose for take-off.
VRA Rough-air speed. Maximum recommended airspeed for penetrating turbulent air.
VREF Any reference or `bug' speed, typically quoted for approach speeds.
VS0 Stalling speed at maximum take-off weight, in landing configuration with flaps and landing gear down, at sea level, ISA (International Standard Atmosphere) conditions (bottom of white arc on ASI). Also VS
VSSE Minimum speed for deliberate shutting down of one engine for purposes of asymmetric flight training.
VX Best angle of climb speed on all engines.
VXSE Best engine-out angle of climb speed.
VY Best rate of climb speed on all engines.
VYSE Best engine-out rate of climb speed.
VZRC Zero rate of climb speed (on one engine, where drag of inoperative engine reduces climb gradient to zero).


wet thrust jet engine thrust with use of afterburner.


zero fuel weight the total weight of the airplane and all its contents, minus the total weight of the fuel on board.
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