NATO reporting name


"NATO reporting names" are a system of code names for military aircraft and other equipment from the former Soviet Union, former Warsaw Pact countries, Russia and China. They provide unambiguous and easily understood English words in a uniform manner in place of the original designations, which either may have been unknown to the Western world at the time or easily confused codes.[1] For example, the Russian bomber jet Tupolev Tu-160 is simply called "Blackjack".

Despite the association with NATO, the assignment of the names for the Russian and Chinese aircraft has always been managed by the five-nation Air Force Interoperability Council (previously the Air Standardization Coordinating Committee),[citation needed] which is separate from NATO and includes representatives from non-NATO countries.

American variationsEdit

The United States Department of Defense (DOD) 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- vis-à-vis. 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 nicknamesEdit

The Soviet Union did not always assign official "popular names" to its aircraft, but unofficial nicknames were common as in any air force. Generally, Soviet pilots did not use 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.[2][failed verification]


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" (Tupolev Tu-16), "Blackjack" (Tupolev Tu-160) and "Bear" (Tupolev Tu-95) 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' (for "cargo"), which resulted in names like "Condor" for the Antonov An-124 or "Candid" for the Ilyushin Il-76.

Lists of NATO reporting namesEdit


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


The first letter indicates the type of aircraft, like eg 'Bear' for a bomber aircraft refers to the Tupolev Tu-95, or 'Fulcrum' for the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29 fighter aircraft. For fixed-wing aircraft, one-syllable names are used for propeller aircraft and two-syllable name for aircraft with jet engines. This distinction is not made for helicopters.


Before the 1980s, reporting names for submarines were taken from the NATO spelling alphabet. Modifications of existing designs were given descriptive terms, such as "Whiskey Long Bin". From the 1980s, new designs were given names derived from Russian words, such as "Akula", or "shark". These names did not correspond to the Soviet names. Coincidentally, "Akula", which was assigned to an attack submarine by NATO, was the actual Soviet name for the ballistic missile submarine NATO named "Typhoon-class". The NATO names for submarines of the People's Republic of China are taken from Chinese dynasties.




  1. ^ "NATO Code Names for Submarines and Ships: Submarine Classes / Reporting Name". Art and Aerospace Page. Univ. of Michigan, UMCC / AIS. Retrieved 29 April 2011.
  2. ^ Zuyev, A. and Malcolm McConnell. Fulcrum: A Top Gun Pilot's Escape from the Soviet Empire. Warner Books, 1993. ISBN 0-446-36498-3.

External linksEdit

  • Designations of Soviet and Russian Military Aircraft and Missiles
  • Aerospace Web