World Navies Today: US Ship Missions

Revised 13 July 2000
Version 2.03
Compiled and Maintained by: Andrew Toppan
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This list includes brief explanations of US ship missions, for current designations and missions only.

Non self propelled craft are marked with an asterisk (*)


CVN Nuclear Powered Aircraft Carrier CV Aircraft Carrier Floating airbases, carry 70+ aircraft for a variety of offensive and defensive roles including air superiority, strike, ASW, air defense, special operations/combat rescue, etc. A powerful political tool. CG Guided Missile Cruiser DDG Guided Missile Destroyer Provide air-defense (anti-aircraft & anti-missile) to other surface forces, primarily carrier battle groups. Secondary missions include ASW, ASuW, cruise missile strike. DD Destroyer Provide anti-submarine and anti-surface defense to other surface forces, as well as cruise missile strike capability and ELINT capabilities in some cases. FFG Guided Missile Frigate Provide air defense and limited submarine defense to other surface forces, replenishment groups and convoys. SSBN Nuclear Powered Ballistic Missile Submarine The primary leg of the nuclear deterrence "Triad". Carry 24 SLBMs (ballistic missiles); are virtually impossible to detect or track and are the most secure part of the Nation's nuclear deterrence. SSN Nuclear Powered Attack Submarine Hunt, track and destroy enemy ballistic missile submarines, attack submarines and surface warships; conduct mining missions and launch land-attack cruise missiles.

Small Combatants, Patrol Boats and Landing Craft

LCC Command Ship AGF Flagship Provide command facilities for the 4 numbered fleets and various temporary deployments/operations. LCCs were meant as amphibious command ships, AGFs are converted LPDs. All are now considered to be "Joint Command Ships" capable of serving as floating headquarters for multi-service expeditionary operations. LHD Amphibious Assault Ship LHA Amphibious Assault Ship Carry troops, vehicles, equipment, supplies, helicopters, attack aircraft and landing craft for amphibious invasions. Secondary role is sea control, with ASW helicopters aboard. Carry command facilities for amphibious operations. All ships should have been designated in the LHA series. LPD Amphibious Transport Dock LSD Dock Landing Ship Carry troops, vehicles, equipment, supplies and landing craft for amphibious operations. Have minimal helicopter support capabilities, but LPDs have a hangar. LPDs have a smaller docking well and greater troop/equipment space than LSDs. Newer LSDs are really LPDs. LST Tank Landing Ship Carry troops and vehicles for amphibious operations, can be beached to unload vehicles. Being phased out. AOE Fast Combat Support Ship Carry fuel, supplies, ammunition, spares, etc. for transfer to deployed combat forces. AOE is fast enough to operate with carrier groups. AE Ammunition Ship Carry ammunition for transfer to deployed combat forces. AFS Combat Stores Ship Carry stores, spares, etc. for transfer to deployed combat forces. AO Fleet Oiler Carry fuel for transfer to deployed combat forces. MCS Mine Countermeasures Support Ship Carry minesweeping helicopters and provide command and support facilities for other mine countermeasures vessels and forces. MCM Mine Countermeasures Ship Modern minesweeper for coastal and open ocean areas, can hunt and eliminate essentially all modern mines. MHC Coastal Minehunter Minesweeper intended for operations in coastal areas to locate and mark mines, with a limited capability to eliminate advanced mines. PC Coastal Patrol Craft Conducts coastal patrol and interdiction operations, special forces transport, support and insertion/extraction. Secondary mission is supporting the USCG "Drug War". LCAC Air Cushion Landing Craft Carry troops and vehicles from ships to shore during amphibious operations, can operate over flat land areas, swamps, marshes, etc. LCU Utility Landing Craft Utility landing craft for personnel, supplies and vehicles (including tanks).


ACS Crane Ship Cargo ships fitted with heavy cranes to unload other ships in areas where port facilities are not available. AG Auxiliary Miscellaneous and general support ships. AGM Missile Range Instrumentation Ship Missile tracking for US and/or foreign missile tests. AGOR Oceanographic Research Ship AGS Surveying Ship General purpose ocean research ships; the differences have become blurred. AGOS Ocean Surveillance Ship Tow the SURTASS sonar array to supplement SOSUS seafloor sonar sensors. AGSS Experimental Submarine Developmental platform for new submarine technologies. AH Hospital Ship Provides medical support facilities in forward areas. AK Cargo Ship General purpose cargo ship for break-bulk and containerized cargo. AKR Roll-on/Roll-off Cargo Ship Cargo ship for vehicles (including tanks, etc.); some have break-bulk or container cargo capabilities also. ARC Cable Ship Cable-laying and repair ship. ARS Salvage Ship Provide heavy towing, salvage and repair services to the fleet. AS Submarine Tender Provide parts, maintenance, repairs, supplies and support services for submarines. ATF Fleet Tug Provide coastal towing and limited salvage support services to the fleet. AVB Aviation Logistics Support Ship Provide repair, resupply and maintenance service to deployed USMC aviation units.

Coast Guard

WHEC High Endurance Cutter Large frigate (FF) sized ships for long-range, long-endurance offshore patrol. WMEC Medium Endurance Cutter Small cutters for coastal and limited offshore patrol. They have been forced to take on long-range patrol duties in many cases. WPB Patrol Boat Fast coastal patrol and rescue boats. These boats have been forced to take on medium-range patrol duties. WLB Seagoing Buoy Tender WLM Coastal Buoy Tender Oceangoing buoy tenders in two sizes; major differences are in range, cargo & hoisting capability. WLI Inland Buoy Tender WLIC Inland Construction Tender WLR River Buoy Tender Inland and river tenders. Most recent craft are small tugs pushing buoy or construction barges. WTGB Large Icebreaking Tug WYTL Small Harbor Tug Harbor tugs in various sizes.

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Compiled and maintained by Andrew Toppan.
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