NATO Reporting Name

NATO reporting names are unclassified 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 at the time or easily confused codes. Much of this so-named equipment remains in use, and NATO reporting names are frequently used.

NATO maintained lists of these names. The assignment of the names for the Russian and Chinese aircraft is handled by the five-nation Air Standardization Coordinating Committee (ASCC) which consisted of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.

U.S. variations

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.

Soviet nicknames

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. Many of the names, particularly those chosen in the height of the Cold War, were derogatory. The MiG-15 was to be designated 'Falcon', but this was changed to 'Fagot'. Later names were descriptive or even flattering. Soviet airmen appreciated the MiG-29's codename 'Fulcrum' as an indication of its pivotal role in Russian air defence. The Tu-95's codename 'Bear' has been widely adopted by its operators. Hundreds of names had to be chosen, so the names covered a wide variety of subjects and include some obscure words.


Since there are only so many words that start with a given letter, many aircraft (and other equipment as well) had unusual names. For example, to the layman, "Backfire” sounds like a reference to a plan “backfiring,” but in aeronautics, a “backfire” is a dangerous explosion of fuel out the back of a running jet engine (deadly to ground crews). Perhaps the Tu-22M was named backfire because it had two rear remote-controlled cannon. The bombers had names starting with the letter B and names like Badger, Bear, 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 Careless or Candid.

The author Craig Thomas created a fictional NATO reporting name "Firefox" for the MiG-31 in his novel Firefox// in 1977, probably in reference to the existing "Foxbat" reporting name for the MiG-25. The novel was made into a movie in 1982, starring Clint Eastwood. The real MiG-31 from 1979 was assigned the reporting name "Foxhound" not because of the movie, but because it was a development of the earlier "Foxbat".

Lists of NATO reporting names

The initial letter of the name indicated the use of that equipment.



-for fixed-wing aircraft, one syllable names were used for propeller-powered craft (turboprops included), while two-syllable names indicated jet engines.



External links

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