US Navy’s Hull Classification Codes

by tashan
US Navy's Hull Classification Codes

Understanding the US Navy’s Hull Classification Codes

The United States Navy, with its vast and diverse fleet of ships and submarines, employs a system known as the Hull Classification Symbol (or Hull Classification Code) to categorize and quickly identify the mission and type of its vessels. These codes provide a shorthand designation for each ship class, ensuring efficient communication and differentiation among the vast fleet. This article aims to offer a closer look at these classification symbols, accompanied by various examples and a comprehensive list of currently applicable codes.

History of Hull Classification Codes
US Navy’s Hull Classification Codes system dates back to 1920 when the US Navy adopted a two-letter system to represent the ship’s primary mission and specific type within that category. Over the decades, as naval technology evolved, new classification codes emerged to accommodate the newer ship classes.

Examples of Hull Classification Codes
1. Aircraft Carriers:

CV – Aircraft Carrier, e.g., USS Enterprise (CV-6).
CVN – Nuclear-Powered Aircraft Carrier, e.g., USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78).
2. Surface Combatants:

DD – Destroyer, e.g., USS Arleigh Burke (DDG-51).
CG – Guided Missile Cruiser, e.g., USS Ticonderoga (CG-47).
3. Submarines:

SS – Attack Submarine, e.g., USS Nautilus (SS-571).
SSN – Nuclear-Powered Attack Submarine, e.g., USS Virginia (SSN-774).
SSBN – Nuclear-Powered Ballistic Missile Submarine, e.g., USS Ohio (SSBN-726).
4. Amphibious Warfare Ships:

LHA – Amphibious Assault Ship, e.g., USS America (LHA-6).
LPD – Amphibious Transport Dock, e.g., USS San Antonio (LPD-17).
Complete List of Current Hull Classification Codes:
Below are some of the major, currently applicable Hull Classification Codes, categorized by the primary mission:

Aircraft Carriers:

CV – Aircraft Carrier
CVN – Nuclear-Powered Aircraft Carrier
Surface Combatants:

CG – Guided Missile Cruiser
DDG – Guided Missile Destroyer
FFG – Guided Missile Frigate

SS – Attack Submarine
SSN – Nuclear-Powered Attack Submarine
SSBN – Nuclear-Powered Ballistic Missile Submarine
SSGN – Nuclear-Powered Guided Missile Submarine
Amphibious Warfare Ships:

LHA – Amphibious Assault Ship
LHD – Amphibious Assault Ship (with Well Deck)
LPD – Amphibious Transport Dock
LSD – Dock Landing Ship
Patrol and Coastal Combatants:

PC – Patrol Coastal
Auxiliary Ships:

AO – Fleet Oiler
T-AO – Fleet Replenishment Oiler
(Note: The above list is not exhaustive as the US Navy has numerous other hull classifications for auxiliary, mine warfare, service craft, and other specialized vessels.)

The Hull Classification Code system serves as a backbone for distinguishing the diverse fleet of the US Navy. It’s a blend of tradition, evolving naval technology, and practicality that helps ensure effective communication, understanding, and operations both in peace and during conflict.