NATO reporting names are code names for military equipment from Russia, China, and historically, the Eastern Bloc (Soviet Union and other nations of the Warsaw Pact). 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. For example, the Russian bomber jet Tupolev Tu-160 is simply called "Blackjack".
NATO maintains lists of the names. The assignment of the names for the Russian and Chinese aircraft was once managed by the five-nation Air Standardization Coordinating Committee (ASCC),[a] but that is no longer the case.
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.
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.[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" (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".
The initial letter of the name indicated the use of that equipment.
The first letter indicates the type of aircraft, like Bear for a bomber aircraft, or Fulcrum for a fighter aircraft. For fixed-wing aircraft, a one-syllable name refers to a propeller aircraft and a two-syllable name refers to an 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 dubbed “Typhoon”. The NATO names for submarines of the People's Republic of China are taken from Chinese dynasties.