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Russian Weapon Names

Traditionally, any kind of weapon in Russia, including a tank, a pistol or an aircraft, is given an official alphabetic or alphanumeric designation. But in everyday life, the country's designers and the military refer to Russian weaponry by official and unofficial nicknames, something that is also the case with NATO representatives. In this vein, it is worth pointing to a systemic approach related to the nicknames of some kinds of weapons.

The most vivid example is the "flower" series of Soviet and Russian self-propelled cannons, howitzers and mortars: "Vasilyok" (Cornflower), the 2S1 'Carnation' (Gvozdika), the 2S3, 'Acacia' (Akatsiya), the 2S4 'Tulip' (Tyulpan), the 2S5 'Hyacinth' (Giatsint), and the 2S7 'Pion', the last of which is capable of shooting nuclear artillery rounds. The Russian military analysis site TopWar.ru once commented on this series of weapons, noting that "it is unlikely that any potential adversary would like to smell such a bouquet." The multiple launch rocket systems, capable of destroying a whole settlement in a minute, are traditionally named in honor of destructive natural phenomena: "Grad" (Hail), "Uragan" (Hurricane),"Smerch" (Twist) and "Tornado."

Russian tank designers seem to be some of the best-known trolls, making up understated and gentle names for their death on wheels designs. For instance, designers named the T-72B2, a heavily modernized variant of the T-72, the 'Slingshot' (Rogatka). Another modernized variant of the T-72, the T-72M1, has been nicknamed the 'Banana' (Banan). Meanwhile, the world's most powerful flamethrower system attached to a tank chassis, the TOS-1, has been given the moniker 'Pinocchio', (Buratino).

The names of rivers are typically given to Russian air defense systems, such as "Shilka," "Tunguska," "Dvina," "Neva," "Pechora" and "Angara." An array of Russian self-propelled and towed artillery systems also gets such nicknames, including "Msta," "Khosta" and "Kama."

Designers of command and control vehicles have their own interesting nomenclature. The 1V152 fire control system is interestingly nicknamed the Kapustnik, which roughly translates as 'Cabbage Festival'. Meanwhile, the 1L219 radio-location complex is known as the 'Zoo' (Zo'opark), and the RPMK-1 Radar-Meteorological Complex is called the 'Smile' (Ulyibka). The 3K60 coastal defense system, NATO reporting name Sennight, is known as the 'Ball' (as in the stately dance party).

Naturally, humorous nomenclature isn't limited to heavy armor and vehicles, either. The 9M14 anti-tank missile is affectionately nicknamed 'Little One' (Malyutka), while the RPG-18 short-range anti-tank launcher is known as the 'Housefly' (Muha). The 122-mm D-30A towed howitzer is called the 'Frog' (Lyagushka), not to be confused with the NATO codenamed short-range rocket artillery system FROG-7 (Russian designation 9K52 Luna-M).

The UAZ-3150 army jeep is known as the 'Varmint'/'Mischief' (Shalun). Cleverly named small arms include the GP-30 under-barreled grenade launcher the 'Little Shoe' (Obuvka), while the RG-6, a 40mm 6-barreled grenade launcher is known as the 'Gnome'. A rubber-bullet for the KS-23 shotgun has been designated the 'Hello' (Privet).

Many types of Russian military hardware receive nicknames related to their individual characteristics. It suffices to mention the heaviest Russian intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) R-36M2 nicknamed "Voevoda" (Warchief). "This 'general of all ICBMs' is capable of delivering as many as 10 combat blocks with a capacity of up to a megaton each to the enemy's territory," according to RIA Novosti expert Andrey Kots. "The attack helicopter Mi-28 'Night Hunter,' as you might guess, is specifically designed for operating in the dark. As for the high-speed missile torpedo "Shkval" (Squall), it is the absolute record holder in its class in terms of speed," he explained.

The Mi-24 attack helicopter has brought up so many thoughts and observations from its designers and operators that it has been given a whole slew of nicknames, from the 'Crocodile' (Krokodil) to the 'Drinking Glass' (Stakan) to the more obvious 'Flying Tank' (Letayushchiy Tank). As for the Ka-50 attack chopper, designers gave it a nickname the 'Black Shark' (Chernaya Akula), which can only be described as appropriate, given its ominous shark-like demeanor.

Attack aircraft have been treated with similarly interesting and endearing nomenclature, the MiG-15 trainer aircraft affectionately referred to as the 'Babushka' (Grandmother). The Su-27 attack aircraft has been named the 'Crane' (Zhuravlik), while the Su-25 is called the 'Rook' (Grach). The overwhelming majority of Soviet and Russian weapons were nicknamed in line with the "try to guess what it means" principle. Certainly, it's hard to understand why the prototype automatic grenade launcher TKB-0134 was nicknamed "Kozlik" (Kid), not to mention the heavy flamethrower system TOS-1 "Buratino" (Pinocchio) and the "Gepard" (Cheetah)-class frigates.

Separately, the nicknames of various munitions were apparently coined by those with a poetic attitude of mind," Kots pointed out, citing the Grad system's 122 mm missile 9M22K "Ukrasheniye" (Decoration), a 240 mm missile MS-24 with a chemical warhead "Laska" (Caress) and a 220 mm leaflet shell "Paragraf" (Paragraph). Also, it is worth mentioning the air target detection station "Fantasmagoria"(Phantasmagoria), and the 30 mm air gun "Balerinka" (Small Ballerina). Navy designers named the MRG-1 multi-tube ship-based grenade launcher the 'Little Fire' (Ogonyek) and the SET-65 anti-ship missile system the 'Raccoon' (Yenot).

When it comes to missile forces, some designers seem to have thought up some worryingly nonchalant nomenclature, including the ICBM RT-23 'Good Sport' (Molodets), the RSS-40 'Courier' (Kuryer), and the MS-24 chemical warhead 'Tenderness' (Laska). The tradition of being less than serious with the nicknaming of some very serious nuclear weapons goes back all the way to the early 1950s, with some of the earliest Soviet atomic bombs being nicknamed the 'Maria' (RDS-3, 30 kilotons), the 'Tatyana' (RDS-4, also 30 kilotons), and the 'Natasha' (8U49, 350 kilotons).

NATO's code classification of aircraft and helicopters with the Russian Aerospace Forces is based on a very simple principle. The first letters of NATO reporting names correspond to the type of Russian warplane or helicopter. Fighters get nicknames, which have the first letter F, such sa the Su-27 "Flanker" fighter jet, the MiG-31 "Foxhound" supersonic interceptor aircraft and the Su-34 "Fullback" fighter-bomber. This principle also pertains to Russian bombers, such as the Tu-95 "Bear," the Tu-22 "Blinder" and the Tu-22M "Backfire."

The letter M (miscellaneous) in the NATO classification denotes all other types of Russian aircraft, including reconnaissance, training and long-range radar detection planes. These include the Yak-130 "Mitten" trainer, the A-50 "Mainstay" airborne early warning and control aircraft and the Il-78 "Midas" aerial refueling tanker.

Russian transport aircraft nicknames start with the letter C (cargo). They include the Il-76 "Candid," the An-124 "Condor" and the An-12 "Cub." The NATO reporting names for Russian helicopters include the first letter H (helicopter): the Mi-24 "Hind," the Mi-28 "Havoc" and the Mi-26 "Hoodlum."




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Page last modified: 27-10-2018 18:30:03 ZULU