NATO reporting name

NATO reporting names were code names for Soviet and Chinese military equipment. These were created to facilitate communications between military units speaking different languages and because in most cases the actual name of the equipment was unknown or did not exist, and in many cases were not known for many years. NATO maintained lists of these names. Much of that equipment can still be found in use around the world, and NATO reporting names are sometimes still used.

The initial letter of the name indicated something about the use of that equipment; for example, fighter aircrafts were assigned names beginning with the letter F, bomber aircraft with B, helicopters with H, surface-to-surface missiles with S, and surface-to-air missiles with G. For aircraft, names with one syllable were used for propeller engines while two syllable names indicated jet engines. Perhaps the most famous reporting name is that of the SS-1 ballistic missile, the "Scud".

The United States Department of Defense expands on the NATO reporting names in some cases. For example, whereas NATO refers to surface-to-air missile systems mounted on ships or submarines with the same names as the corresponding land-based systems, despite some minor differences (and in one case, lack of corresponding systems at all, although this was not realized for some time), the US DoD assigns a different series of numbers with a different suffix (SA-N vs. SA) for these systems. The names, however, are kept the same as the land-based system as a convenience. In the case 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 assign official "popular names" to its aircraft, although unofficial nicknames were common as in any air force. Most (though not all) of the time the Soviet pilots didn't use NATO names (or the translations of them), usually because they weren't known for a long time and by later on a different Russian nickname had come into being. Many of the names were not particularly flattering, though it is a matter of opinion. For many there was no real overall meaning, others hinted at clever double meanings, and some others have become memorable and feared names. Literally hundreds of different names had to be thought up and chosen, so the names covered a wide variety of subjects. Since there is only so many words that start with certain letters, many aircraft (and other equipment as well) had very unique names.

For example, to the layman, Backfire sounds like a reference to when a plan "backfires", but in aeronautics, a backfire is a dangerous explosion of fuel out the back of a running jet engine (which can be deadly to ground crews). The bombers had names starting with the letter B and names like Badger and Bear were also used. Frogfoot, the reporting name for the Sukhoi Su-25, references the aircraft's close air support role. Transports had names starting with C, which resulted in names like Careless as they progressed through the alphabet.


Lists of NATO reporting names




de:NATO-Codename ja:NATOコードネーム no:NATO-kallenavn pl:kod NATO


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