NATO reporting names are code names for military equipment of the Eastern Bloc (Soviet Union and other nations of the Warsaw Pact) and China. They provide unambiguous and easily understood English language words in a uniform manner in place of the original designations — which may have been unknown (to the West) at the time or easily confused codes.
NATO maintains lists of these names. The assignment of the names for the Russian and Chinese aircraft was once managed by the five-nation Air Standardization Coordinating Committee (ASCC) (now called the Air and Space Interoperability Council, or ASIC, which includes representatives of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States). This is no longer the case.
The United States Department of Defense expands on the NATO reporting names in some cases. NATO refers to surface-to-air missile systems mounted on ships or submarines with the same names as the corresponding land-based systems, but the US DoD assigns a different series of numbers with a different suffix (i.e., SA-N- vs. SA-) for these systems. The names are kept the same as a convenience. Where there is no corresponding system, a new name is devised. Some US DoD nomenclature is included in the following pages and is noted as such.
The Soviet Union did not always assign official “popular names” to its aircraft, although unofficial nicknames were common as in any air force. Generally the Soviet pilots have not used the NATO names, preferring a different Russian nickname. An exception was that Soviet airmen appreciated the MiG-29's codename 'Fulcrum' as an indication of its pivotal role in Soviet air defence. Hundreds of names had to be chosen, so the names covered a wide variety of subjects and include some obscure words.
To reduce the risk of confusion, unusual or made-up names were allocated, the idea being that the names chosen would be unlikely to occur in normal conversation, and be easier to memorise. For fixed-wing aircraft, single-syllable words denoted piston-prop and turboprop, while multiple-syllable words denoted jets. Bombers had names starting with the letter B and names like Badger (2 syllables: jet), Bear (single syllable: propeller), and Blackjack were used. “Frogfoot,” the reporting name for the Sukhoi Su-25, references the aircraft’s close air support role. Transports had names starting with C (as in “cargo”), which resulted in names like Condor or Candid.
A fictional NATO reporting name "Firefox" for a fictional "MiG-31" appears in the novel Firefox and subsequent movie. The real MiG-31 from 1979 was assigned the reporting name "Foxhound".
Lists of NATO reporting names
The initial letter of the name indicated the use of that equipment.
- A — air-to-air missiles: List of NATO reporting names for air-to-air missiles
- K — air-to-surface missiles (from the Russian Kh designation): List of NATO reporting names for air-to-surface missiles
- G — surface-to-air missiles, SAM (or Ground-to-air), including ship- and submarine-launched: List of NATO reporting names for surface-to-air missiles
- S — surface-to-surface missiles, including ship- and submarine-launched. (most famously the SS-1 “Scud”): List of NATO reporting names for surface-to-surface missiles
- from this anti-tank missiles (also S): List of NATO reporting names for anti-tank missiles
- F — fighter aircraft, also later ground attack aircraft: List of NATO reporting names for fighter aircraft
- B — bomber aircraft: List of NATO reporting names for bomber aircraft
- C — commercial aircraft and airliners, and cargo aircraft: List of NATO reporting names for transport aircraft
- H — helicopters: List of NATO reporting names for helicopters
- M — Miscellaneous; trainers, reconnaissance, seaplanes, tankers, AEW etc.: List of NATO reporting names for miscellaneous aircraft
For fixed-wing aircraft, one syllable names were used for propeller-powered craft (turboprops included), while two-syllable names indicated jet engines.
- List of NATO reporting names for equipment
- "NATO Code Names for Submarines and Ships: Submarine Classes / Reporting Name". Art and Aerospace Page. Univ. of Michigan, UMCC / AIS. http://www.ais.org/~schnars/aero/nato-shp.htm. Retrieved 29 April 2011.
- Zuyev, A. and Malcolm McConnell. Fulcrum: A Top Gun Pilot’s Escape From the Soviet Empire. Warner Books, 1993. ISBN 0-446-36498-3.
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