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Russian Missiles - SU/RU Designators

The designations and names used in Russia's missile systems are quite confused, and confusing. Before the Soviet Union collapsed, guided missiles of the former Soviet Union were known through the designations and names chosen in the West; in other words, by the American designations and the standard NATO names. However, in recent years, export advertisements were publicized for missiles built by the aerospace industry in Russia, bearing Russian designations. Such designations confuse western readers, because there are no clear correlations between Russian designations and western designations.

Due to variations with the passage of time and complex research organizations, missiles of the former Soviet Union were developed by numerous design bureaus, and these design bureaus were under different industrial ministries in order to meet the requirements of various branches of the armed services of the former Soviet Union. Therefore, there were many different names and designation systems for missiles. Generally, some missiles are a very small portion of a vast weapon system, which usually includes launch facilities and fire control system. The complex is much more involved and much higher in cost than the missile itself. Therefore, with respect to the designations of missiles proper, this indicates the designation of the missile system. In Soviet/Russian nomeclature, "M" is generally the missile designation and "K" denotes the entire Complex, including both the missile and associated systems.

The designation system in industry catalogs uses a few generalized constituents in all model numbers. Generally, this system is arranged as digit/letter/digit. This arrangement has been widely applied in the military systems of the former Soviet Union. Generally, this is the lowest level of types of the system, because these designations are usually sprayed on the exterior missile surface for compilation by the manufacturing plant. Thus, 9M9 indicates the SA-6 missile, as designated in the West; but, 2A46 indicates the 125-mm cannon installed on T-72 tanks.

The first number generally indicates the same missile category. For example, '2' indicates the weapon system that includes the fire control system and the missile. '3' indicates a tactical missile in its early period; '4' indicates naval missiles; '5' indicates strategic air defense missiles; '8' indicates strategic ballistic missiles; '9' indicates tactical missiles of surface troops (used to replace '3').

Letters also follow a general arrangement. Letter 'K' indicates missile system, including the missile, launch facility, and fire control system. However, 'M' and 'B' indicate the missile proper. The missile systems have their own designations: 'A' indicates the launch missile equipped with radar; 'PI' indicates the fundamental launch facility or launch vehicle. 'H' indicates the missile warhead compartment; 'C' indicates the major electronic component.

Air-to-air missiles (AAM) follow a quite consistent approach. The overall weapon system uses 'K' (system) as the designation; however, the designation of the missile uses 'P' (missile) at the beginning. Most designations of air-to-air missiles in Russia use a tail mark to distinguish the guidance type. For example, 'II' indicates the infrared (IR) guidance type; however, 'P' indicates the radar guidance type. Therefore, 'P-40P' indicates the radar guidance version of the P-40 series, and P-40II indicates the infrared version in the series.

Air-to-surface missiles (ASM) can be divided into two major types: tactical air-to-surface missiles and strategic air-to-surface missiles, as well as strategic air-launched cruise missiles. In the development period, tactical missiles are given a product designation. Later, this designation has the similar function of designation in the industrial indexing of most other types. When such missiles are accepted by a branch of the armed forces, it is given an 'X'-xx, like air-to-air missiles. Frequently, some tail marks are added to the designation of these missiles, to indicate the guidance type. These tail marks include the following: 'P' (radio command); 'T' (TV-EO); 'PI'(passive radar homing); and 'LAMBDA' (semiactive laser homing). Numbering of strategic cruise missiles does not follow a consistent system, because many design bureaus took part in the development of such missiles. However, generally, they are given a designation beginning with 'K'.

Antitank missiles (ATGM) were developed by precision machine-building industrial departments, and follow a quite consistent industrial indexing system. Some missiles fired from tanks have designations for their ammunition (besides code numbering for the missile), because these are also in inventory and kept as supplies. Therefore, 9M119 (125mm) missiles are also called 3UBKI4.

Tactical Air defense missiles (SAM) follow an entirely consistent system of industrial indexing; however, strategic air defense missiles follow a not-quite-consistent scheme of industrial indexing. In the early stage, this type of missile generally has system designations prefixed with 'C' (strategic: and 'B' (tactical). It is very common that an air defense system has a domestic name and an export name. However, the export model IFF system sold to developing countries is a lower-technical-level grade. Generally, strategic air defense missiles are named after rivers, and tactical air defense missiles are named after geometric shapes or sharp-pointed weapons, such as circle, rhombus, arrow, needle).

Ballistic missiles (BM) adopt a very consistent approach in designations. In the designations of most intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) there is a PC as the tail mark, indicating strategic missiles, although some early solid-fuel missiles have 'T' used as the tail mark, indicating solid, such as PT-2. The name of an intercontinental ballistic missile generally indicates the entire weapon system, including launch silo or other launch facility. Obviously, the designation of some missiles in the seventies is related to the designation of the prototype missiles in the sixties. This is because improvements in presently-available weapons can be more easily approved by the government than the development of a new weapon system. Therefore, the designation of SS-18 is P-36MY, although there is no similarity with P-36 (SS-9). Many missiles related to arms control talks are given false designations, such as the designation of 'OTP' used to indicate tactical ballistic missiles. Thus, these missiles are not included in the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF).

Ship-launched surface-to-surface missiles (SS-N) designations are the most inconsistent because antiship cruise missiles, antisubmarine torpedo rockets, and strategic ballistic missiles are also included in this very broad missile type. There is a tendency for tactical antiship missiles to have the tail mark 'P', but antisubmarine weapons (ASW) usually have 'P' added after two numbers (such as 82-P). In development, ship-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) have a classified D-xx designation. During deployment, a P-xx and a 4K-xx are given as the designation. However, in the SALT talks, a designation of PCM-xx was given.

A series of numbers following the letters is generally a continuous number array. In the 1980s, this approach was improved into a three-digit numbering system involving ground troop missiles: 9MI XX indicates an antitank missile; 9M2XX indicates an unguided rocket; 9M3XX indicates a surface-to-air missile (SAM); and 9M7XX indicates a tactical ballistic missile. Variation in this practice meant that missile numbering also changed over time. For example, the SA-6 Gainful missile was named 3M9 in the late 1960. Later, the first number was changed, and the missile was called 9M9; today it is called 9M336, because of coping with the requirements of new numbering types using three numbers at the end.

In a more complex situation, some tail mark is often added after the fundamental designation. Generally, these tail marks indicate different versions of the fundamental missile system. The most general form is to add an 'M' and a number. Therefore, 9M336 indicates the first version, and 9M336M1 indicates the second version, and so on. Another frequently seen tail mark is the letter 'E', indicating the export model number. Some industrial ministries adopt different systems by eliminating 'M'. For example, 9M112-1 indicates the first version, and 9M112-2 indicates the second version, and so on.

As in the West, in the missile design stage, a temporary designation or name is tagged onto a missile project by design bureaus in Russia. Once the missile passes acceptance inspection by the state committee, it receives a formal designation. These code numbers and temporary designations are almost never mutually consistent.

Mission Variants
A   Anti-ballistic missile
B   Unguided test vehicle
KAB Guided bomb
Kh  Air-to-surface missile
KRM Air-to-surface drone
KS  Air-to-surface missile
KSR Air-to-surface missile
R   Guided missile 
S   Surface-to-air missile	
S   Unguided rocket [?]
RS  Guided missile
V   Surface-to-air missile
E  Export (?)
F  New warhead (?)
K  Export (?)
Kr Modified with a guidance unit (?)
N  Naval (?)
P  Practice
T  Telemetry unit or guidance unit (?)
U  Training
V  Test
Zh New propulsion unit (?)
Military Service Function Identification Variants
2  Ground Forces
3  Navy (VMF)
4  Navy (VMF)
5  Air / Missile Defense (PVO, PKO) 
6  Air / Missile Defense (PVO, PKO)
8  Rocket Force (RVSN)
9  Air Force (VVS)
11 Space Force
14 Space Force
15 Rocket Force (RVSN)
17 Naval Space Force
A  Sealed unit
D  Rocket engine
F  Warhead
K  Complex
Kh Satellite
M  Missile
N  ???
P  Silo
S  Rocket stage
Ya Anti-missile missile
Zh Solid rocket motor
two-digit number alpha-numeric

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Page last modified: 29-04-2018 19:31:46 ZULU