And what about the V in CV? Does it stand for vessel, as many books and even government documents attest? Or does it stand for aircraft, as in VF-1, for fighter squadron? And howd they ever get the idea for aircraft out of the letter “V” anyway?
Everyone agrees, however, that by the 1930s, the C in CV simply meant carrier. Over the years there have also been a CVE (escort aircraft carrier); the CVB (large aircraft carrier); CVL (small aircraft carrier); CVA (attack aircraft carrier), CVS (anti-submarine warfare aircraft carriers); CVTs (training aircraft carrier). The CVN, designating a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, was added to the nomenclature in 1956.
Many references abound saying the V in CV stands for vessel. A Department of Defense Maintenance Policy, Programs and Resources Fact Book, in the section on abbreviations, says CV stands for “carrier vessel.” A list of acronyms by the Rand Corp., a respected research organization with ties to the military, says the same thing. “Ill be honest, Im in the Navy, and I thought it meant carrier vessel,” said a Navy spokesman.
“The first thing I would do is drop that book down in the garbage,” asserted Norman Polmar, a respected author, analyst and historian from Northern Virginia.
But how did Daniels come up with CV? What did the letters stand for? Daniels initial Navy instruction didnt say. The Navys News Desk will say only that CV stands for multi-purpose aircraft carrier.Advertisement
Index to abbreviations & symbols: Select the first letter of the abbreviation or symbol to drop down to the appropriate letter in the alphabet.:
Luckily for the curious, there’s always Wikipedia, where someone took the time to list them all, including all the historical designations, like monitors and coastal defenses. Be sure to leave a tip.
So the Battleship USS Missouri, being a battleship with no sub-type and the 63rd ship in that series was designated USS Missouri BB-63.
In 1920, the Navy was producing so many new kinds of ships, they needed a better way to keep track of them all. So, acting Navy Secretary Robert Coontz decided to standardize a numbering system that included a two-letter code that would identify the ship and its status as well as its number in the series, type, and sub-type. If the ship didn’t have a sub-type, the first letter would just be repeated
That was the early 20th Century. World War I had only just introduced a number of new technological innovations to the battlefield, and there were a lot more to come. Training ships, aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines and so, so much more were still to come to the U.S. Navy, and they would need even more designation letters, ones that would describe their purpose and even their power source.
So where do aircraft carriers get the designation CVN, as in the USS Gerald Ford CVN-78? The C is for carrier, and the N means it’s a nuclear-powered ship. The V, well, that’s not that simple. According to the publication “United States Naval Aviation 1910-1995, Appendix 16: US Navy and Marine Corps Squadron Designations and Abbreviations,” the V means it carries heavier-than-air aircraft (as opposed to, say, blimps), but no one really knows for sure why the letter V was chosen, though many believe it was to represent the French vol plané, the word for “glide.”
Why are aircraft carriers called CVN?
What does CVN stand for in the military?
What does CVN 70 stand for?