Military Acronyms for the Uninitiated

Military Acronyms for the Uninitiated

© David Burton 2019

Russian Interference

     I have long since been retired, after working for nearly fifty years as an engineer - nearly all of which was in the defense industry. During my nearly half-century of defense related work, I get accustomed to the innumerable acronyms and abbreviations employed by our military and the defense industry. Although no longer employed in the defense industry, I still am a member of a number of professional societies and regularly receive the technical journals that are published by these organizations. In reading a recent a recent magazine, The Journal of Electronic Defense, abbreviated to JED, I was reminded of the enormous number of abbreviations and acronyms to which I was exposed. In what follows, I offer a brief glimpse into the world of the U.S. Military and the defense industry in terms of their mystical language – that of the acronym and the abbreviation.

     In what follows, most of the abbreviations and acronyms that I present are taken from Reference 1. This reference is a magazine published every month by the Association of Old Crows (AOC), of which I am a retired member. This is a technical organization that focusses on electronic warfare and electronic defense systems for the military. The various abbreviations and acronyms are shown in boldface.

      According to the AOC mission statement: “The Association of Old Crows is an organization for individuals who have common interests in Electronic Warfare (EW), Electromagnetic Spectrum Management Operations (EMSO), Cyber Electromagnetic Activities (CEMA), Information Operations (IO), and other information related capabilities. The Association of Old Crows provides a means of connecting members and organizations nationally and internationally across government, defense, industry, and academia to promote the exchange of ideas and information, and provides a platform to recognize advances and contributions in these fields.” (Ref. 2))

     The name, Association of Old Crows, came into being in the following way. “It all started as an idea to have a small friendly gathering that would reunite men tied together through the common bond of having served in the Strategic Air Command (SAC) as Electronic Countermeasures (ECM) officers. By September 1964, the reunion idea had grown too large to be staged as an informal outing, and ended up in a large reception room at one of the largest hotels in Washington, DC - the original beginnings of the AOC as a non-profit association.
     “During World War II, Allied ECM officers, tasked to disrupt enemy communications and radars, were given the code name of ‘Raven’ to provide a degree of security to their existence. After WWII, a group of Raven operators were directed to establish a SAC flying course in ECM operations at McGuire AFB (Air Force Base), New Jersey. From all accounts from those present at the time, the students changed the name to ‘Crows’ and those engaged in the profession became known as Old Crows.” (Ref. 2)

     With that background, let’s get down to business. Pay attention to what follows and if you are able to remember the abbreviated jargon of the military and the defense industry, you can then pass yourself off as a “member of the club”. All you will have to do is spout off the various acronyms and abbreviations as if you fully understood their meaning and you too will be accepted as another military or defense industry expert.

DOD: Department of Defense. C-UAS: counter-unmanned aerial system (a system to defeat drones and unmanned aircraft). EW: Electronic Warfare. ECM: Electronic Countermeasures. RF: Radio Frequency. OODA: Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. EME: Electromagnetic Environment. JIEDDO: Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat office. CAOC: Combined Air Operations Center. CENTCOM: Central Command. EMBM: Electromagnetic Battle management. DARPA: Defense Advanced Projects Agency. ERI: Electronics Resurgence Initiative. RTC: Redstone Test Center. WSMR: White Sands Missile Range. MTO: Microsystems Technology Office. STOVL: Short Takeoff and Vertical Landing. AI: Artificial Intelligence. IC: Integrated Circuit. IR: Infrared. IRCM: Infrared Countermeasure. DIRCM: Directed Infrared Countermeasure. RATS: Rapid Acquisition of RF Threat Simulator. RWR: Radar Warning Receiver. TWT: Travelling Wave Tube. MOD: Ministry of Defence. MEWP: Maritime Electronic Warfare Programme. EWCM: Electronic Warfare Countermeasure. IED: Improvised Explosive Device. HPEM: High Power Electro Magnetic. COMINT: Communication Intelligence. ELINT: Electronic Intelligence. HUMINT: Human Intelligence. UAV: Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. EOIR: Electro-optic and Infrared. LAV: Light Armored Vehicle. MWS: Missile Warning System. BLOS: Beyond Line of Sight. SIGINT: Signal Intelligence. EMS: Electromagnetic Spectrum. C2: Command and Control. ERP: Effective Radiated Power. MPM: Microwave Power Module. LWIR: Long Wavelength Infrared. EOD: Explosive Ordnance Disposal. RPG: Rocket Propelled Grenade. RCS: Radar Cross section. RAM: Radar Absorbing Material. TACAMO: Take Charge and Move Out. SAM: Surface to Air Missile. SEAD: Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses. NBC: Nuclear, Biological and Chemical. IRST: Infrared Search and Track. RCS: Radar Cross Section. S/N: Signal to Noise Ratio. ATIRCM: Advanced Threat Infrared Countermeasure. ATGM: Anti-Tank Guided Missile. HFI: Hostile Fire Indicator.

     The list above is but a miniscule portion of the myriad acronyms and abbreviations employed by the military and the defense industry, but they will get you started on being recognized as a defense/military expert.

     Here’s an example of how to use some of these acronyms and abbreviations. If you can rattle this off with a knowledgeable air, then you will be perceived as a member of the club.

The FPGA has been reprogrammed and installed in the updated LWIR ATIRCM which is now ready for tests against the new ATGM in RTC.

Translation: The Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) has been reprogrammed and installed in the Long Wavelength Infrared (LWIR) Advanced Threat Infrared Countermeasure (ATIRCM) system which is now ready for tests against the new Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) in the Redstone Test Center (RTC) in Huntsville, Alabama.


  1. JED – The Journal of Electronic Defense: Vol. 42, Association of Old Crows, September 2019.
  2. Association of Old Crows – Mission & History,, Accessed 7 September 2019.
  18 October 2019 {Article 381; Suggestions?_30    
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