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Physics a type of diffraction grating used in spectroscopy consisting of a series of plates of equal thickness arranged stepwise with a constant offset
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(Russian, eshelon), in Soviet military usage:

(1) A unit within the battle or operational arrangement of a body of troops. A battle formation or the operational arrangement of a front’s or any army’s forces may consist of one echelon or of several echelons arranged one behind another.

(2) A distinct grouping of personnel being moved by rail, water, or air. In this sense, an echelon may be a troop train, a motor-vehicle convoy, or a group of aircraft or surface ships.

(3) In military strategy, the part of a country’s armed forces that is deployed while mobilization is taking place in a critical period, at the very outset of a war, or in the course of military actions.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


A formation of troops; the units are parallel but unaligned, in a steplike manner.
A similar arrangement of planes or ships, as planes flying in a V formation.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


i. An arrangement of aircraft flying a formation in which each flies at a level above or below another aircraft in the formation and usually at a distance to the right or the left. Aircraft are said to be in the echelon port or the star-board, depending on which side of the leader they are on.
ii. A level of maintenance service, such as first echelon maintenance, fourth echelon maintenance, etc.
An Illustrated Dictionary of Aviation Copyright © 2005 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved
References in periodicals archive ?
To ensure the development of a truly seamless solution for the tactical echelons, the BAA and BAB joint configuration control boards are converging into one board to ensure interoperability between the command post and the platform.
As Bamford writes, the idea behind Echelon was that "agencies would be able to submit targets to one another's listening posts and, likewise, everyone would be allowed to share in the take--to dip their electronic ladles into the vast cauldron of intercepts and select what they liked."