Hull classification symbol

From Academic Kids

The United States Navy uses hull classification symbols to identify the types of its ships. See also pennant number, a somewhat analogous system used by the Royal Navy and some European navies.

The combination of symbol and hull number identify a modern Navy ship uniquely. A heavily modified or repurposed ship may receive a new symbol, and either retain the hull number or receive a new one. Also, the system of symbols has changed a number of times since it was introduced in 1907, so ships' symbols sometimes change without anything being done to the physical ship.

Many of these symbols are not presently in use.

The 1975 ship reclassification of cruisers, frigates, and ocean escorts brought US Navy classifications into line with other nations' classifications, and eliminated the perceived "cruiser gap" with the Soviet Navy.



Warships are designed to participate in combat operations.

Aircraft Carrier Type

All ships designed primarily for the purpose of conducting combat operations by aircraft which engage in attacks against airborne, surface, sub-surface and shore targets. "CV" is from the original description, "Cruiser, Aviation" -- CA was already in use for "Cruiser, Armored". By the 1930s, CV was a single symbol, meaning Aircraft Carrier.

  • AVG Auxiliary Aircraft Ferry (Escort carrier) (1941-2)
  • ACV Auxiliary Aircraft Carrier (Escort carrier) (1942)
  • CV Multi-purpose Aircraft Carrier
  • CVA Attack Aircraft Carrier (retired)
  • CVB Large Aircraft Carrier (category merged into CVA, 1952)
  • CVE Escort aircraft carrier (retired) (1943-retirement of type)
  • CVHA Assault Helicopter Aircraft Carrier (retired in favor of various L-series amphibious assault ship hull codes)
  • CVHE Escort Helicopter Aircraft Carrier (retired)
  • CVL Light aircraft carrier (retired)
  • CVN Multi-purpose Aircraft Carrier (Nuclear-Propulsion)
  • CVS Antisubmarine Aircraft Carrier (retired)

Surface Combatant Type

Large, heavily armed, surface ships which are designed primarily to engage enemy forces on the high seas.

  • ACR Armored Cruiser (pre-1920)
  • C Cruiser (pre-1920 Protected Cruisers and Peace Cruisers)
  • CA (first series) Cruiser (retired)
  • CA (second series) Heavy Cruiser, category later renamed Gun Cruiser (retired)
  • CAG Guided Missile Heavy Cruiser (retired)
  • CB Large Cruiser (retired)
  • CBC Large Command Cruiser (retired)
  • CC Battlecruiser (retired, never used operationally)
  • CC (second usage) Command Cruiser (retired)
  • CG Guided Missile Cruiser
  • CGN Guided Missile Cruiser (Nuclear-Propulsion)
  • CL Light Cruiser (retired)
  • CLAA Antiaircraft Cruiser (retired)
  • CLG Guided Missile Light Cruiser (retired)
  • CLGN Guided Missile Light Cruiser (Nuclear-Propulsion) (retired)
  • CLK Hunter-Killer Cruiser (abolished 1951)
  • CS Scout Cruiser (retired)
  • CSGN Strike Cruiser

  • D Destroyer (pre-1920)
  • DD Destroyer
  • DDE Escort Destroyer (not to be confused with Destroyer Escort, DE - an Escort Destroyer, DDE, was a Destroyer, DD, converted for antisubmarine warfare) (category abolished 1962)
  • DDG Guided Missile Destroyer
  • DDK Hunter-Killer Destroyer (category merged into DDE, 4 March 1950)
  • DDR Radar Picket Destroyer (retired)

A word about the DE type symbol is in order here. There were two distinct breeds of DE, the World War II Destroyer Escorts (some of which were converted to DERs) and the postwar DE/DEG classes, which were known as Ocean Escorts despite carrying the same type symbol as the WWII Destroyer Escorts. All DEs, DEGs, and DERs were reclassified as FFs, FFGs, or FFRs, 30 June 1975.

  • DL Destroyer Leader (later Frigate) (retired)
  • DLG Guided Missile Frigate (abolished 30 June 1975)
  • DLGN Guided Missile Frigate (Nuclear-Propulsion) (abolished 30 June 1975)

The DL category was established in 1951 with the abolition of the CLK category. CLK 1 became DL 1 and DD 927-930 became DL 2-5. By the mid-1950s the term Destroyer Leader had been dropped in favor of Frigate. Most DLGs and DLGNs were reclassified as CGs and CGNs, 30 June 1975. However, DLG 6-15 became DDG 37-46. The old DLs were already gone by that time.

  • DM Destroyer Minelayer (retired)
  • FF Frigate (retired)
  • FFG Guided Missile Frigate
  • FFR Radar Picket Frigate (retired)
  • FFT Frigate (Reserve Training) (retired)

The FF, FFG, and FFR designations were established 30 June 1975 as new type symbols for ex-DEs, DEGs, and DERs.

Submarine Type

All self-propelled submersible types regardless of whether employed as combatant, auxiliary, or research and development vehicles which have at least a residual combat capability.

  • SC Cruiser Submarine
  • SF Fleet Submarine (retired)
  • SM Submarine Minelayer
  • SS Submarine
  • SSA Cargo Submarine
  • SSK Hunter-Killer Submarine (retired)
  • SSN Attack Submarine (Nuclear-Powered)
  • SSBN Ballistic Missile Submarine (Nuclear-Powered)
  • SSG Guided Missile Submarine (retired)
  • SSGN Guided Missile Submarine (Nuclear-Powered)
  • SSO Submarine Oiler (retired)
  • SSP Submarine Transport (retired)
  • SSR Radar Picket Submarine (retired)
  • SSRN Radar Picket Submarine (Nuclear-Powered) (retired)
  • SST Training Submarine

There have been several other submarine designations which did not begin with SS, included here for completeness:

  • AGSS Auxiliary Submarine
  • AOSS Submarine Oiler
  • ASSP Transport Submarine
  • APSS Transport Submarine
  • LPSS Amphibious Transport Submarine

(Note: SSP, ASSP, APSS, and LPSS were all the same type, redesignated over the years.)

  • IXSS Unclassified Miscellaneous Submarine

Patrol Combatant Type

Combatants whose mission may extend beyond coastal duties and whose characteristics include adequate endurance and sea keeping providing a capability for operations exceeding 48 hours on the high seas without support.

Amphibious Warfare Type

All ships having organic capability for amphibious assault and which have characteristics enabling long duration operations on the high seas.

Combat Logistics Type

Ships which have the capability to provide underway replenishment to fleet units.

Mine Warfare Type

All ships whose primary function is mine warfare on the high seas.

  • CM Minelayer
  • CMc Coastal Minelayer
  • DM Destroyer Minelayer

Coastal Defense Type

All ships whose primary function is coastal patrol and interdiction.

Mobile Logistics Type

Ships which have the capability to provide direct material support to other deployed units operating far from home base.


Support Ships

Support ships are not designed to participate in combat, and are generally not armed.

Support Type

A grouping of ships designed to operate in the open ocean in a variety of sea states to provide general support to either combatant forces or shore based establishments. (Includes smaller auxiliaries which by the nature of their duties, leave inshore waters).

Service Type Craft

A grouping of navy-subordinated craft (including non-self-propelled) designed to provide general support to either combatant forces or shore-based establishments.

  • AB Crane Ship
  • AFDB Large Auxiliary Floating Dry Dock
  • AFDL Small Auxiliary Floating Dry Dock
  • AFDM Medium Auxiliary Floating Dry Dock
  • APB Self-Propelled Barracks Ship
  • APL Barracks Craft
  • ARD Auxiliary Repair Dry Dock
  • ARDM Medium Auxiliary Repair Dry Dock
  • ATA Auxiliary Ocean Tug
  • DSRV Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicle
  • DSV Deep Submergence Vehicle
  • NR Submersible Research Vehicle
  • YC Open Lighter
  • YCF Car Float
  • YCV Aircraft Transportation Lighter
  • YD Floating Crane
  • YDT Diving Tender
  • YF Covered Lighter
  • YFB Ferry Boat or Launch
  • YFD Yard Floating Dry Dock
  • YFN Covered Lighter
  • YFNB Large Covered Lighter
  • YFND Dry Dock Companion Craft
  • YFNX Lighter (Special purpose)
  • YFP Floating Power Barge
  • YFR Refrigerated Cover Lighter
  • YFRN Refrigerated Covered Lighter
  • YFRT Range Tender
  • YFU Harbor Utility Craft
  • YG Garbage Lighter
  • YGN Garbage Lighter
  • YLC Salvage Lift Craft
  • YM Dredge
  • YMN Dredge
  • YNG Gate Craft
  • YNT Net Tender
  • YO Fuel Oil Barge
  • YOG Gasoline Barge
  • YOGN Gasoline Barge
  • YON Fuel Oil Barge
  • YOS Oil Storage Barge
  • YP Patrol Craft, Training
  • YPD Floating Pile Driver
  • YR Floating Workshop
  • YRB Repair and Berthing Barge
  • YRBM Repair, Berthing and Messing Barge
  • YRDH Floating Dry Dock Workshop (Hull)
  • YRDM Floating Dry Dock Workshop (Machine)
  • YRR Radiological Repair Barge
  • YRST Salvage Craft Tender
  • YSD Seaplane Wrecking Derrick
  • YSR Sludge Removal Barge
  • YT Harbor Tug (craft later assigned YTB, YTM, or YTM classifications)
  • YTB Large Harbor Tug
  • YTL Small Harbor Tug
  • YTM Medium Harbor Tug
  • YTT Torpedo Trials Craft
  • YW Water Barge
  • YWN Water Barge
  • IX Unclassified Miscellaneous Unit
  • X Submersible Craft

The USS Constitution, formerly IX 21, was reclassified to none, effective September 1, 1975.

See also


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