Follow TV Tropes


Reporting Names

Go To

We've got incoming "Backfires"! They're probably carrying "Kitchens"! They've got "Flanker" support!

If you didn't understand that, you're probably not alone.note  That was an example of using Reporting Names, which are names given to military machines whose real names aren't known for some reason. For instance, if American forces keep encountering a particular type of Russian submarine, they might start referring to those submarines as "Tango" or something.

The use of reporting names goes back to the Pacific Theater in World War II, when American intelligence officers started assigning simple, easy-to-remember names to Japanese aircraft types. (See the current page image for one example.) Fighter and reconnaissance aircraft received boys' names, such as Oscar or Zeke, while bomber and transport types received girl's names, such as Betty or Judy. During the Cold War, Western reporting names were one of the main ways to refer to Soviet, Chinese and North Korean military technology, for the reasons of language differences and because the actual designations (except for most aircraft), especially in the missile field, weren't generally known. Western military technology tends to get public names, often with help from the PR department (the companies make more sales if the item has a catchy name). The Soviet and Chinese technology was (is) secret and sometimes they didn't admit it even existed, never mind the name. Of course, some super secret ("Black") projects in the USA and other nations are given "reporting names" by other nations and the press when their rumored existence is guessed at.

In many ways (especially in the West, and very especially in the U.S.), they still are a main way to refer to these technologies, especially in naval and aerospace discussion. It helps that they are easy to remember. And in an era where Russian and especially Chinese aircraft are increasingly likely to have a public name for the same reason American aircraft do,note  there's still the fact that for English-speakers not all of their names are easy to pronounce.

Naturally, you can only assign reporting names to the stuff you're actually aware exists, so sometimes (either by very effective secrecy for its entire service life, or just by being an obscure prototype that never got a production model and went through testing without getting noticed), a vehicle or weapon will fail to get a reporting name.note  And conversely, sometimes a reporting name will be assigned a vehicle or weapon that the other side only thinks exists, but instead is the product of bad guesswork, misinterpretation or an outright hoax.

Somewhat naturally, the idea has carried into fiction, such as the Inner Sphere-given names of Clan Omnimechs in BattleTech.

Compare Market-Based Title, which is a case of different names given by the manufacturer for use in different countries.

Do not confuse with "naming names", which was a rather different Cold War phenomenon. Also don't confuse with "Reporting Marks", which are the 1- to 4-character code used to identify rolling stock operated by a railroad or rail-stock owner in the United States.

Also, if the "proper" name of a ship/fighter/tank/missile/etc. is used by all of a work's (on-screen) factions, then don't list it here; this page is for instances where a name other than the "proper" one is commonly used by at least one faction. If there is a pattern among "proper" names, then take it to Theme Naming or the respective subtrope thereof. Conversely, if the faction that uses a piece of equipment uses a name that is significantly different from its "proper" name, then it counts and should be listed here. A case where the "proper" name is not used because it is not known by any of the viewpoint factions also counts.

The Trope Codifiers

Some of these names are drawn up by the Air Standardization Coordinating Committee, made up of the UK, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, so these are known as ASCC designations too, but this is somewhat inaccurate, as other groups chip in too. Understandably, Soviet types and NATO's believed types don't fully match up.

See From Russia with Nukes, Reds with Rockets and Russians with Rusting Rockets for more examples of Soviet/Russian reporting names. The Wikipedia entry covers this in a lot more depth.

Here's some of the better known reporting names:

    open/close all folders 

It's worth noting there is a method to these names. They are all phonetic within (presumed) class. In simpler terms:
  • All Bombers have names starting with "B"
  • All Fighters start with "F"
  • All Helicopters start with "H"
  • All Cargo and transports Aircraft start with "C"
  • All Other Aircraft (trainers, reconnaissance, electronic warfare, tankers, AWACS, etc.) begin with "M"- Miscellaneous.
  • All Air to Air missiles start with "A"
  • All Air to Surface missiles start with "K"
  • All Surface to Surface missiles (anti-tank, anti-ship, tactical nuke, ICBM, whatever) start with "S".note 
  • All Surface to Air missiles start with "G".

Additionally, for fixed-wing aircraft if the name had two syllables it was jet propelled. One syllable meant propeller driven.

Variants have a letter added after them, such as "Backfire-C" for the Tu-22M3. There can be sub-categories of these too.

  • "Backfire" - The Tupolev Tu-22M medium bomber, which plays a major role in Red Storm Rising. Mach 2+ capable and with the capacity to carry three nuclear or conventional anti-shipping missiles (or a lot of bombs), it scared the West so much that they got the USSR to take the refueling probes out in a side agreement during the SALT negotiations
    • These turn up a lot in Cold War naval games. It's a Cool Plane.
    • It will likely always be known as the Backfire in the west because of the strange nature of its actual name. The "M" at the end stands for modern and is absolutely critical because the Tu-22 without the M is a completely different (and crappy) aircraft, with its own reporting name "Blinder". The Soviets didn't want to shill out and award Tupolev with the money to design a new plane so they just gave him enough to modernize the Tu-22. Tupolev designed a new aircraft anyway and it was designated the Tu-22M, technically a variant of the Tu-22. Some western sources also mistakenly believed that the production models (Tu-22M2 "Backfire-B" onward), which were significantly improved from the prototype and pre-production aircraft, had the separate designation of Tu-26. This was not the case, but the error spread widely enough to further confuse the issue of the plane's Soviet designation.
  • "Badger"- the Tu-16 medium bomber, used in both a land-attack and anti-ship role, as well as electronic warfare, air-to-air refuelling, SIGINT... you get the idea.
    • In The Sixth Battle, a Eurasian character mentally notes that while badgers are ferocious carnivores, they are prized for their pelts.
    • Also note that at the height of the Cold War, part of the Mnogo Nukes Soviet Strategy for closing the Atlantic involved a Zerg Rush of Tu-16's (reporting name Badger), some of them equipped with enhanced PSBN-M-8 (reporting name Mushroom) radars, flying in a vaguely serpentine formation. Hilarious in Hindsight leading to the obvious snarky comment from the Meme-Savvy.
  • "Bear" - the Tu-95 strategic bomber (Bear-H in its current form) or the Tu-142 anti-submarine plane the subs can hear coming ("Bear-F" in that form), with other variants. Legend has it a Soviet pilot came up with the name, since the bear is the symbol of Russia. Another version has the Russians learning that reporting name from the NATO pilots, and liking it enough to adopt it. In the early years of the Cold War, Bears were armed with nuclear weapons in much the same role as the B-52 Stratofortress. Bears Are Bad News indeed.
  • "Firefox" - The fictitious reporting name for the MiG-31 from the book (and film) of the same name, which was Very Loosely Based on contemporary rumours that the new aircraft would be some kind of Soviet Super Science-powered Game-Breaker. The Real Life MiG-31, which looks nothing like the plane in the movie, has the reporting name "Foxhound" — it's an interceptor with a Mach 2.8 top speed, the ability to climb to the edge of space, an advanced PESA radar and 6 to 10 missiles depending on the type carried. Undergoing upgrades to become a multi-role aircraft.
    • "Foxfire" is the NATO reporting name for the fire-control radar on the MiG-25 "Foxbat" (see below).
  • "Flanker" - the Su-27S ("Flanker-B"), the newer version two-seater Su-30 ("Flanker-C", "Flanker-G" for the Chinese version and "Flanker-H" for the Indian one), the carrier-capable Su-33 ("Flanker-D"), the limited-service Su-35 ("Flanker-E") and the technology demonstrator Su-37 ("Flanker-F" or the "Super Flanker" still in prototype stage). The Russian response to the previously-unrivaled F-15, it is a higly-maneuverable, long-range aerial interceptor, which has been exported quite a bit. Capable of doing a move (some other aircraft can do it too, but it's most associated with the Flanker series) called "Pugachev's Cobra", where the aircraft effectively slides along on its tail. Whether it is of real-world combat utility or not remains to be seen on account of all the combat they've seen to date being so one-sided that dogfighting hasn't entered in the the equation (similar questions were raised about the Harrier "Viffing", before it turned out to be lethally effective in the Falklands). Whatever else may be said about it, it's one hell of a Cool Plane.
  • "Frogfoot" - the Su-25, known to its crews as "Grach" ("rook"). A ground-attack aircraft, a new two-seater version, the Su-39 is in production. Dubbed "The German Product" by Afghan fighters because they couldn't initially believe that something Soviet-built was that efficient. A counterpart to the A-10 (and coincidentally very similar to the YA-9 that lost out to the A-10 for a USAF contract): not very high-and-flashy, but very tough and boy does it get the job done.
    • Intra-Russian calling name also produced a famous running gag. There is a rather popular picture "Rooks Flew In" (often less correctly translated as The Rooks Have Come Back, which loses part of the joke) by 19-century artist Savrasov. Needless to say, this picture was, and still is, more referenced by Russian frontline forces then every other piece of art combined. With much relief and Schadenfreude.
  • "Fulcrum" - the MiG-29, the Russian counterpart to the F-16. Very agile. Its best known feature is the R-73/AA-11 "Archer" missiles. Coupled to a helmet-mounted sight (like Airwolf has), these highly agile missiles can be launched by the pilot merely looking at his target, up to about 60 degrees off the centre-line. Shockingly disproportionate results in mock dogfights with German MiG-29s led to the U.S. developing improved Sidewinders in response.
    • According to references in The Other Wiki, the Russian pilots liked the NATO reporting name so much (they found the MiG-29 to be rather "pivotal") that they started using the Fulcrum name themselves. This was somewhat common for Soviet aircraft; they didn't have official names, just model numbers, so if the pilots hadn't already come up with their own nickname (see next entry), they'd likely adopt the NATO reporting name.
  • "Foxbat" - The MiG-25 interceptor aircraft. Capable of reaching a blistering Mach 3.2 and an altitude of over 80,000 feet, but had a very short range and wasn't very maneuverable, as the Americans learned when a Soviet pilot defected with one of them (when they were done with it, they gave it back to the USSR. In over 60 boxes). It sacrificed a lot of combat ability for its phenomenal performance,note  but it was nevertheless the only aircraft able to cause trouble to SR-71 flights, and fast enough to outrun many air-to-air missiles. The above-mentioned "Foxhound" is a greatly-improved evolution of the "Foxbat" design.
  • "Hind" - the Mil Mi-24 helicopter gunship/transport. Troop capacity is about half that of the UH-60 Black Hawk, weapons capacity is of AH-64 Apache level- it can carry the Russian equivalent of the Sidewinder IR missile, the R-73/AA-11 "Archer". A lot of variants. Soviet pilots called it the "Crocodile" or "Flying Tank". The Mujahideen hated it and called it "The Devil's Chariot". Widely exported and is still turning up in conflicts the world over.
    • In Afghanistan the Russians tended to *use* it carrying only four-man fireteam elements, but this was due entirely to the inadvisability of hanging around under heavy fire. It could carry a full eight-man squad, making it quite comparable to the Blackhawk or Huey. Its anti-tank armament was somewhat lacking, though; as designed, it had launch rails for only four antitank missiles, compared to the sixteen even an old AH1-T could carry. It did have stub wings with four hardpoints that in theory could carry an astonishing variety of heavy ordnance but which in the field frequently got UM57 57mm dumb rocket launchers bolted on, because Soviet airmobile doctrine envisioned using the transport helicopter in a secondary direct-fire fire-support role as a sort of flying Katyusha artillery rocket launcher. They got a whole lot deadlier when more powerful 80mm rockets with FAE warheads were installed.
    • The Hind's role as a troop transport is a distant second after its primary role as a gunship, one reason being that with the increased weight of a full load of passengers it has to make a rolling takeoff to get airborne.
    • The Hind was featured in the Rambo series, Red Dawn and Blood Diamond, among other films, and Metal Gear Solid 3 went so far as to 'reveal' that Big Boss came up with the name "Hind". It also inspired the LAAT transport gunships in the Star Wars prequels.
  • "Scud" - Made most famous by the Persian Gulf War, it describes the R-11/R-17 ballistic missile series (better known by its Western designation of SS-1: see below).
  • Some of the most obscure of the NATO reporting names are notable for being American-made aircraft. These are the "Fred" (Bell P-63 Kingcobra), the "Box" (Douglas A-20 Havoc), the "Bank" (North American B-25 Mitchell) and the "Mop" (Consolidated PBY Catalina). Additionally, there was the "Cab" (Lisunov Li-2), a license-built Douglas DC-3.
  • "Aurora" - An American version. Aurora (SR-91 Aurora) is the popular name for a hypothesized United States reconnaissance aircraft, alleged to be capable of hypersonic flight. It is believed that the Aurora project was canceled due to a shift from spyplanes to high-tech unmanned aerial vehicles and reconnaissance satellites. Whether or not it ever existed, if it was ever officially "Aurora", the name was probably changed as soon as the rumors became public.
  • The rumored F-19 Stealth Fighter, often seen in toy models and computer games during the 1980's and 1990's, was the result of jumbled information surrounding the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk, the Northrop YF-21, and the Lockheed YF-22 (which became the Lockheed F-22 Raptor). Even the 1987 edition of Jane's All the World's Aircraft speculated the existence of a Lockheed RF-19, presuming that the number between the F/A-18 Hornet and F-20 Tigershark in the fighter sequence would surely have been assigned to the still-classified but widely rumored stealth fighter.note 
The Russians generally feel a bit insulted by many of these names, many of which are a bit derogatory. Who, for example, would want to fly a "Fishpot" (the Su-9), a "Fishbed" (MiG-21), a "Farmer" (MiG-19) or, for that matter, a "Flogger" (MiG-23/27)? The ultimate prize would go to the MiG-15 (It's 'fagot'. A name for a bassoon.), except the 9K111 anti-tank missile (known to NATO as the AT-4 Spigot), received the Russian name Фагот, AKA "Fagot". Some, however, are liked by their crews- the aforementioned "Bear" and "Fulcrum", for example.

By the way, that message at the top of this page means incoming Tu-22Ms armed with Kh-22 anti-shipping missilesnote  (which could be equipped with a nuclear warhead), backed up by Su-27s.

    Ships and Subs 
All submarine classes are named, in random order, for a letter in the Military Alphabet (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, etc..). When they ran out, the next class was named "Akula" ("shark" in Russian). It should be noted that the same name was actually given by the Soviets to what the West called the "Typhoon", which causes some confusion among sub spotters. The Cold War ended before more classes came out post-"Graney". The intention was to continue using fish names, but since Russia has been somewhat less secretive about the introduction of new submarines (publicly announcing the names of each new sub while it's under construction) NATO has simply used the name of the first ship as the reporting name. These are sub-divided with a Roman numeral afterwards for modified versions, such as "Delta IV" for the Delfin type of Soviet SSBN. Though in at least one case (the "Echo I" and "Echo II") the Soviets considered them to actually be separate classes; Project 659 for the former and Project 675 for the latter despite their extreme similarity.

Older works may refer to these by letters i.e. T-class for the "Tango", D-class for "Deltas" etc.


  • "Whiskey"- Project 613 and some others. One of the most numerous submarine classes built in history- over 250 built. Diesel patrol subs, one ended up running aground off the coast of Sweden in 1981, an incident dubbed "Whiskey on the Rocks".
  • "Charlie"- Project 670 SSGN- guided missile nuclear submarines, capable of firing nuclear warheads. Included the "Charlie I" type, seen in the Pacific Fleet and the Northern Fleet's improved "Charlie II".

Surface ship classes have a variety of different names. A ship might go from temporary designations, to Russian words beginning with "K" (for "korabl", Russian for "warship") to "first in class" names (rendered in "italics" here), which the Soviet Union and Russia don't actually do, tending to use names of birds for their bigger ships (and in all cases using a Project number; when a name is also used for the class it's appended after the number; Project numbers are not sequential and sometimes are reused, so the bird names can also serve a disambiguation purpose). Additionally, the ship NATO thought was the first of the class isn't always the actual class leader.note  There were also "shipyard first sited" names for more minor vessels (this was standard for destroyers at the very start of the Cold War, until it occurred to NATO that the Soviets had a finite number of shipyards and this would've resulted in lots of repeat names), as well as Russian diminutives, bird names...

Fast attack craft, both torpedo boats and the succeeding missile boats, were given the Russian names of insects. Which is another potential cause of confusion because the Soviets themselves also named their boats after insects, but naturally didn't choose the same insects as NATO.


  • "Osa"- the Project 205 Tsunami missile boats. Over 400 built and widely exported, they featured in the Battle of Lakatia in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the first battle between missile vessels on sea- Syria (with the "Osas") lost to Israel. They also featured in the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war, where they put their small size and devastating missile armament to lethal use on more than one occasion.
    • "Osa" (rendered in Cyrillic as "Oca" is Russian for "wasp". Not to be confused with "Oka" which is the VAZ-1111 minicar.
    • There are two Russian platforms actually called Osa- the 9K33 (its GRAU number, a Soviet/Russian thing for equipment categorising) Osa/SA-8 "Gecko"- a mobile SAM system and the M79 Osa hand-held anti-tank missile launcher.
  • "Kirov"- the Project 1144 Orlan (Sea Eagle) class of nuclear-powered heavy missile cruisers (dubbed "battlecruisers" in the west), first one originally called Kirov. Real life examples of the Cool Boat- they are seriously heavily armed. Four in Russian service, three undergoing refits.
    • "Sea Eagle", incidentally, is also the name of a British anti-shipping missile roughly comparable to the Exocet.
  • "Kiev"- the Project 1143 Krechyet (Gyrfalcon) class of hybrid cruiser/carriers. As in case of the Kirov class, this class was known after its first unit, Kiev. This class was equipped with powerful missile armament, a number of antisubmarine helicopters and one of the worst naval fighters in Cold War history, the Yak-38 "Forger".
  • "Admiral Kuznetsov"- the Project 1143.5 Orel (Eagle) class of aircraft carriers. This is actually the Russian name (the final one anyway- going through a few - Riga, Tbilisi and Leonid Brezhnev) for the sole completed ship of the class, but it became the NATO reporting name too, since it fit the scheme. It's a one-of-a-kind large aircraft carrier with a heavy anti-ship missile battery, although three brother (Russian ships are generally male) vessels were planned - the incomplete Varyag was taken by the Chinese Navy and converted into the functional carrier Liaoning. Kuznetsov has suffered from maintenance and engine problems and once had to be towed home from the Mediterranean by a tug.
  • "Slava"- the Project 1164 Atlant (Atlas) cruisers, also a "first-in-class" name. Large and heavily armed, although not nearly as much as the Kirov class. The reporting name remains the same, although Slava is now called Moskva- the reporting name of another class. Well, it was, until it was sunk in the Russian-Ukrainian War.

For the People's Liberation Army Navy, surface combatants are given reporting names based on locations in China, while submarines are named after historical Chinese dynasties.

    Warheads, Radars, and other Ancillaries 
The other way of referring to missiles (and space launchers) is by a Department of Defense letter designation i.e. SS-20. SS means surface to surface and 20 was the 20th type identified. If there's an N in the designation, it's a naval missile. X means eXperimental (i.e. in development). This system remains today, with the under-development (and not exactly working) Bulava missile (for the Borey class submarines) being the SS-NX-30.

The two designations are often combined (i.e. SS-20 "Saber"), but they are assigned separately. This sometimes means that the same "name" is allocated to more than one designation, something that usually applies with surface-to-air missiles. It should be noted that while anything new that turned up got a reporting name, only stuff thought likely to enter service got a DoD designation.

Other designations included:

  • SA- surface-to-air.
  • AA- air-to-air
  • AS- air-to-surface.
  • AT- anti-tank.
  • SL- space launchers.
  • FROG (Free Rocket Over Ground)- certain types of artillery.
  • -N- as a middle designator is for a naval system, for the example the P-120 Malakhit/SS-N-9 "Siren" anti-shipping missile. It does not designate a naval version of the land-based missile with the same number: the ship-based version of the 9K33 Osa/SA-8 "Gecko" is called the 9K33M Osa-M/SA-N-4 "Gecko". However, when a naval missile is a variant of a land-based one they will always have the same reporting name. Variants of the same missile are always the same reporting name (with letter suffixes to denote which variant), with the exception of missiles that have both surface- and air-launched versions.
  • -C- as a middle designator refers to coastal defense missiles.

Specific examples:

  • The SS-20 "Saber" (Soviet designation RT-21M Pioneer) was a medium-range, multiple-warhead ballistic missile, which lead to the counter-deployment of Pershing II and Gryphon missiles in Western Europe.
  • SA-7 "Grail"- the Strela hand-held SAM system.
  • SA-2 "Guideline"- the famous S-75 SAM system, a major problem for US forces in Vietnam and the most widely-used air defense system in history.
  • The the Kh-35 anti-ship missile (nicknamed "Harpoonski" for its suspicious similarity to the American Harpoon missile) is an example of a missile that was required to have two different reporting names, since it has both air-launched and ship-launched versions, since air-to-surface missile reporting names have to start with "K" and surface-to-surface with "S". The air-launched type is the AS-20 "Kayak", while the surface-launched one is the SS-N-25 "Switchblade".
  • The SS-N-22 "Sunburn" designation was applied to two entirely unrelated missiles, though until the fall of the Soviet Union no one in NATO realized this. The NATO and DoD designation were given without ever actually seeing the missile(s), because like many Soviet anti-ship missiles they used fully enclosed launch tubes. It was assumed that these tubes fired only a single type of missile, because that had always been Soviet Navy practice in the past. But the launch tubes of the Sovremenny class destroyers (Project 956 Sarych) and Tarantul III class corvettes (Project 12411) were initially used for the rocket-propelled P-80 Zubr, but these were replaced but the more capable ramjet-powered P-270 Moskit, which was designed to use the same launch tubes. For several years, some ships even carried a mix of Zubr and Moskit missiles before the former was retired. Since the Zubr was already retired by the time the West learned about this, neither the DoD nor NATO bothered to give it a separate designation and reporting name.

When it comes to equipment designed and produced by the Peoples Liberation Army (as opposed to imported or licensed hardware) the usual methodology is to reset the number and add a "C" too the front of one of the above designations. For example: The CSS-4 (Chinese designation Dongfeng 5), which was the first true Chinese ICBM. And the CSS-N-2 "Silkworm" (Chinese designation Hai Ying 1) is a widely-exported anti-ship cruiser missile, based heavily on the Soviet P-15 Termit (SS-N-2 "Styx").

North Korean missiles were named after the places where they were first seen (Nodong is not the actual name for the missile, being called Hwaseong or "Mars" by the DPRK); but US designations seem to have moved to a numbering system beginning with KN.

Radar, electronic, communications and sonar systems usually have two-word names, sometimes picked in an amusing reference to the shape of the system, such as:

  • "Slot Back" - the MiG-29's N019 radar.
  • "Fan Song" - for the search radar for the SA-2 and SA-6 among others.
  • "Mouse Roar" - the MG-519 attack sonar, found on the "Kilo" class of submarines, among others.
  • "Sky Watch" - Mars-Passat search radar, found on the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, although it's never become operational.
  • "Trash Can "- Tamara passive tracking system (tracks aircraft by radar emissions).
  • "Eye Bowl" - a fire-control radar for the SS-N-14 "Silex" (see From Russia with Nukes).
  • "Steel Yard" - The Duga-3 over-the-horizon early warning radar, including one example based in the later Zone of Alienation at Chernobyl, Ukraine. That one was known as the "Russian Woodpecker" by the ham radio community during its 1976-1989 operating life, due to the sheer annoyance factor of the thing broadcasting at 10 Hz and interfering with a lot of other traffic.
  • "Head Light" - the fire-control system for the M-11 Shtorm/SA-N-3 "Goblet".
  • Zoopark - a counterbattery radar.

Torpedoes form an odd exception to the usual scheme: they were designated by two numbers, the first being the diameter of the torpedo in centimeters, and the second being the year the torpedo was introduced. Hence, the 53-65 wake-homing torpedo is a 53cm wide torpedo first seen in 1965, and the 65-76 torpedo is 65cm wide and was introduced in 1976. There are a lot of 53-'s as this was a standard torpedo size for the USSR during most of the Cold War.note 

    Other Real Life Examples 
A similar system was used for Japanese aircraft during World War II. "Zeke" referred to the Mitsubishi A6M Reisen fighter more commonly known as the "Zero".note  (Although when a new version, the A6M3, was issued, the Allies, unaware that it was a new iteration of the Zero, gave it initially the reporting name "Hap." However, General Henry H. "Hap" Arnold wasn't too thrilled with the name, and it was changed in extremely short order to "Hamp.") The naming scheme was a mostly simple one, with fighters being given male names (Zeke, Oscar, Rufe, George, Frank), bombers/recon planes given female names (Betty, Kate, Val, Myrt, Dinah), trainers being named after kinds of trees (Maple, Ash), and a rocket-powered kamikaze guided bomb being quite appropriately referred to as "Baka" note . In case anyone's wondering about the choice of names here, the officer who selected most of these codenames, Captain Frank T. McCoy, was from the Deep South and chose the names he was most familiar with.

Fictional examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Gundam:
    • In Mobile Suit Gundam, Zeon refer to the titular Humongous Mecha and its carrier White Base as "White Devil" and "Trojan Horse" respectively before learning their true names from Cozun Graham. Oddly, the Guncannon and Guntank apparently don't get reporting names and are simply referred to as "The Red One" and "You Call That A Mobile Suit?". The Core Fighters are referred to as "Mosquitoes" more than once, but this may simply be an insult. On the other side, the Zeon MS, especially the Zakus are often referred to as "Cyclops" by the Feddies due to their distinctive optic sensors, but this may just be a colloquialism, as the Zakus, at least had been known since before the start of the war. And up until episode 19 (near the halfway point of the anime and the 11th month of the One Year War), it was a surprise that Zeon had any operational mobile suits that weren't Zakus. Doms are also referred to as "Skirts" at first due to their distinctive armor. Lalah's mobile armor Elmeth is "Tricorn Hat" because of its triangular shape.
    • In Mobile Suit Victory Gundam, the Zanscare soldiers, especially Cronicle Asher, tended to call the protagonist mobile suit "White Devil" until they got to know the official designation. Even after that, Cronicle insisted to call it "Victory Type" instead of "Gundam" probably because of concern about the morale of his subordinates.
    • The Human Reform League in Mobile Suit Gundam 00 uses reporting names for the Gundams in the first season. The figter/variable mobile suit Kyrios is dubbed 'Wings'note  while the heavily armed and armoured Virtue is called 'Giant.'
    • In Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, the Alliance and OZ simply assigns each of the five Gundams a number (in order of their first publicly-known appearances) — Wing is 01 (Zero-One), Deathscythe is 02, etc. Of course, these names all match up perfectly with the show's Numerical Theme Naming.
    • In Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, everyone on both sides knows the official names of all mobile suit and ship types. The one exception is the Archangel: despite knowing it was being built, ZAFT didn't know its name. They simply call it "The Legged Ship" through most of, if not all of, the series.
    • Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny follows the same pattern, however Phantom Pain refers to Impulse (whose data they specifically didn't have out of the 4 original Gundams) as some variation of "Combining guy" and the Savior (which wasn't intoduced until much later) as "Newcomer." Zaft meanwhile refers to the Girty Lue (an illegal unregistered Earth ship) as "Bogey-1", and calls the new model Strike Freedom and Infinite Justice by the names of the original units.
  • In the manga version of Bokurano, the names of the enemy robots get a name based on their description in alphabetical order. For example, the first is Arachne, the second is Bayonet, the third is Crab, and so on and so forth.
  • Full Metal Panic! carries on the NATO tradition of using S-names to refer to Soviet weapons, in this case including "Shamrock", "Savage", and "Shadow". The Codarl family of Lambda Driver-equipped Arm Slaves is given the collective codename "Venom".
    • Amalgam's other Arm Slaves have demonic names: Belial, Eligor, Alastor, etc.
    • Mithril's experimental ARX series of Arm Slaves are named after weapons: Halberd, Arbalest and Laevatein.
      • Later in the novels, Sosuke ends up piloting an old-model Savage for a group of pit fighters. He paints it white and navy and dubs it the "Crossbow" because "It's not as good as an Arbalest", a reference that goes over the heads of his new friends.
    • The M9E used by the good guys is named "Gernsback" for author Hugo Gernsback, as an in-universe Lampshade Hanging on the fact that Humongous Mecha are still regarded as "science fiction weapons" even by the people who operate them.

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 
  • In the Babylon 5/Star Trek crossover Shielded Under the Raptor's Wings, Earth Alliance and their allies refer to Minbari ships with their EA reporting names, based on Earth's maritime life forms and with a Theme Naming based on the specific hull, the (partial) exception being the Minbari antimatter converter-equipped Sharlin variants (named "Gag" after Gaghiel, a demon and the Angel of Fish to fit the angelfish theme)
    • Two vessels got stuck with rather unfortunate reporting names: merchant ships other than the Tinashi-based Noloshan are named barrelfish due the ease of shooting them down, while the Neshatan gunship, implied to have received the codename from a Romulan, is called "Sperm" (whoever gave the name noticed the resemblance with the Troligan hulls and named her after the sperm whale to fit their theme naming, and by the time he found out the name had already stuck).
  • In Wilhuff Tarkin, Hero of the Rebellion, an insert in the Spacebattles thread explains that the official names of the Subjugator and Devastation classes are Ash Worlds and Eibon Scimitar respectively, with their canon names being instead reporting names from the Republic... That match what Dooku and Grievous would have actually named them if they didn't need to deceive the Separatist Congress.

    Films - Live Action 
  • Pacific Rim: It's stated in external sources that the names of Kaiju are assigned on the spot by KaijuWatch monitors based on radar profile, or from a database of names (furthering their comparison to natural disasters). Possibly the Precursors manufacturing the Kaiju have their own names for them, but they aren't exactly communicating.

  • In the second book of the The Third World War, a section is devoted to an Airborne Warning And Control System (AWACS) version of the Il-76 "Candid" transport plane, called the Il-76C or "Cooker". Just before the war kicks off in the Central Region of NATO (i.e. West Germany), one has to make an emergency landing at a Polish airport. The Polish ground crew nick the operating manuals and pass them to NATO. As the crew don't wish to feel the wrath of their superiors for losing the documents, they don't report the theft and NATO is able to render the "Cooker" ineffective.
    • There is a real-life "Candid" AWACS version- but this was a Beriev project and is called the A-50 "Mainstay". It remains in Russian service, with examples exported. "Cooker" would not have been a valid reporting name for an AWACS aircraft; all electronic warfare aircraft fall under the "miscellaneous" category and get reporting names beginning with "M".
  • In the Star Carrier series the Terran Confederation Navy doesn't know the actual names for Turusch warships, so individual classes are lettered based on the Military Alphabet (for example, a big multikilometer battleship converted from an asteroid is designated Bravo-class). Turusch space fighters get nicknamed "Toads" due to their lumpy potato-like shape. The word "Turusch" itself is also an example, being the Agletsch term for the species, which actually calls itself the Gweh.
  • In Doom, shortly after Fly and Arlene reunite they start brainstorming names for the monsters. They hope to find a radio and want to provide a proper report on what they've encountered. It's also the closest thing they have to entertainment. Arlene is better at the game and usually comes up with a reason to assign a monster the proper name from the games. Those that differ are:
    • Baron of hell - hell-prince
    • Cacodemon - pumpkin. Later on, the military formally designates the monster as "cacodemon".
    • Lost soul - flying skull
    • Cyberdemon - steam demon.
    • Clyde is the name assigned to the vat-grown humans and fills the role of the chaingun zombies. Fly doesn't get the reference to Clyde Barrow, and he asks why they don't call the clones Fred and Barney or Ralph and Norton.
    • Revenant - bony
    • Mancubus - fatty
    • Arch-vile - fire-eater
    • The Mormons have their own conventions using Biblical/demonic terms. The only confirmed name, in an Albert POV chapter, is moloch for cyberdemon. A force of "brownies" and "baphomets" attack Salt Lake City; brownie is almost certainly the imp and baphomet is probably the demon, as both are the grunts of the alien monsters. "Shelobs" are mentioned in the same vein as moloch-cyberdemons, the biggest and most powerful of the monsters. Given the name comes from The Lord of the Rings, shelob is probably the spiderminds.
  • In John M. Ford’s take on Klingon culture, they use these for Federation starships. In The Final Reflection a Mann class cruiser is referred to by a Klingon character as having the imperial code name "Hokot".

    Star Wars Franchise 
Star Wars Legends, particularly the X-Wing Series, is unsurprisingly full of this. Really big, impressive ships, like Executor-class Star Dreadnoughts, got no nicknames, but ships that were encountered more frequently tended to attract short names that could be shouted by surprised pilots when they came out of hyperspace. Some of the more recurring names:
  • Imperial TIE Fighters, with their spherical cockpits bracketed by vertical wings, are referred to as an "Eyeballs" by Rebel pilots, while the TIE Interceptors' inwardly-canted wings lead them to be called "Squints." TIE Bombers are "Dupes" due to their double-fuselaged design, TIE Advanced and other special models are "Brights," and TIE Defenders are "Trips" for their triple wing-bases.
  • Rebel X-Wings are dubbed "Pointers" by Imperial pilots due to their long fuselages, while Y-Wing bombers are "Wishbones" thanks to their flight profile, A-Wings are "Slims" owing to their small size, and B-Wings are "Crosses" because of their unusual flight mode. The ancient Z-95 Headhunter (rarely used by the Rebels but still common among pirate gangs) are called "Skulls" due to the shape of their aft fuselage. Of course, there's no rules against coming up with nicknames for your own side's ships, so one young Rogue Squadron pilot described the Y-Wings they were escorting as "Wallowing Pigs."
  • Smugglers, pirates and other groups without the means to afford proper starfighters may resort to mix-and-matching parts to produce something flyable, which are broadly referred to as "Uglies." Specific designs include the "X-TIE" (TIE solar panels on an X-Wing fuselage), its "X-Ceptor" variant (using TIE Interceptor wings), and the "Clutch" (a TIE cockpit "clutched" directly by three Interceptor wing-blades). The most notorious Ugly design sticks a Y-Wing's engines on a TIE Fighter's ball cockpitnote , creating a slow, cumbersome, shieldless, under-armed flying coffin variously referred to as a "T-Wing," "TYE-Wing," "Die-Wing," or "Why-Fighter."
  • Lambda-class T-4a shuttles are often referred to as "Lambs," an abbreviation of their designation that also describes their chances in a dogfight (" the slaughter.")
  • For Star Destroyers, Imperator and Imperator-II ships are "Impstars" and "Impstar Deuces" (or just "Deuces"), respectively. The smaller Victory-class ships are "Vics," while Interdictor cruisers and other capital ships with gravity well generators are "Dragships."
  • The Yuuzhan Vong's coralskippers are soon nicknamed "Skips," but identification of Vong capital ships, which due to their Organic Technology nature are less identical than traditional ships, runs entirely off of reporting names based on their size and, sometimes, combat role. Hence, corvette-analogues, cruiser-analogues, carrier-analogues, interdictor-analogues, etc. In most cases, these matched only loosely with the Vongs' own categorizations.
  • During the Clone Wars, many GAR units took to referring to the ubiquitous B1 battle droids as "clankers" to differentiate them from the significantly more deadly models like the heavily armed and armored B2 Super Battle Droids and the agile and intelligent BX Commando Droids. Calling any other type of droid a "clanker" is basically just an insult, implying they're as stupid as the B1 model. Clones troopers fighting on Geonosis referred to the native insectoids as "bugs," for obvious reasons.

    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech: The early BattleMechs that debuted in the Clan Invasion usually have two names: The more famous names assigned by the Inner Sphere defenders (such as the Thor and Mad Cat), and the 'Mech's true Clan designation (Summoner and Timber Wolf respectively). Which ones are used by any individual fan are a matter of preference. Later Clan 'Mechs have only one name, as the Clanners maintain contact with the Inner Sphere and share some data. Then the Clans themselves would go on to use this trope themselves, when a secret cabal of Clan scientists attacked the Clans, using a design that the Clans themselves were unfamiliar with. The Clans code named the new 'Mech "Pariah".
    • One Clan, Diamond Shark, started using Inner Sphere names themselves when making successor designs of the old Omnimechs for export to Spheroid customers, e.g. a variant of the Timber Wolf is the Mad Cat Mk II.
    • The Cauldron-Born is a 'Mech now only known by its reporting name. Clan Smoke Jaguar originally named it the Ebon Jaguar, but since the Inner Sphere were the first non-Jaguars to encounter the new design at the Battle of Luthien, its Inner Sphere reporting name spread to the other Clans before its original name did. Hence, everyone who is not a Smoke Jaguar refers to it as the Cauldron-Born (and everyone who is a Smoke Jaguar is now too dead to argue).
    • The Timber Wolf is an example of how unknown contacts can end up with their reporting names, too. Its profile looks a little like a cross between two Inner Sphere mechs, causing their targeting readout to flip between identifying it as a Maruader (codename prefix MAD-) and Catapult (prefix CAT-), hence Mad Cat.
  • In Lancer, the mechs produced by the hacker collective / techno-cult HORUS have reporting names taken after mythological monsters, since no one knows what their "proper names" are supposed to be (or if they even have any).
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The vehicles used by the Tau are known only by their Imperial designations, which are all based on sea life: Hammerhead Tanks, Orca Drop Ships, Barracuda fightercraft, etc.
      • Tau Battlesuits are also known by Imperial designations. XV (short for the Tau term, which translates to "mantle of the hero"), followed by a number indicating weight class and a second number indicating specialisation. For example XV-8 is a general purpose heavy battlesuit, while XV-88 is the same class but fitted for fire support and XV-25 is a light stealth suit. The new XV-104 mech is therefore properly called "ten-four" rather than "hundred and four".
    • Similarily, the various Tyranid creatures are only ever referred to by their Imperial reporting names due to the fact that the 'Nids don't have any kind of language that humans or other intelligent life are capable of comprehending. The imperial names, gathered from different encounters all over the galaxy, don't really have a common theme, except that many sound vaguely like dinosaur names, and some are Latin names for things from the Romans: Lictors were public bodyguards for Roman magistrates, Carnifexes were executioners for the lower classes, it also means Butcher as in the job description. On the other hand, the Tyranid Hive Fleets follow a clear Theme Naming scheme that draws upon the names of monsters and eldritch abominations from ancient long-dead mythologies and legends (from in-universe POV, which includes 20th/21st-century fiction), e.g. Behemoth, Kraken, Hydra, Jormungandr, and Dagon, with some being named after fearsome prehistoric animals, like Magalodon [sic].
    • Eldar tanks are also commonly known by their imperial type names. For some vehicles, the Eldars' own name for them is also known, for example the Falcon is properly called Enfaolchu and is named after a bird in the Eldar mythology.

  • 2300 AD uses the Greek alphabet (for capital ships) and the NATO Military Alphabet (for fighters, transports, landers, and missiles) as reporting names for Kafer space forces.

    Video Games 
  • Ace Combat: Assault Horizon uses the real-world reporting names and/or designations for all the military hardware portrayed. It also includes an in-universe example ("Didn't know the real name so we made one up") when the enemy's new non-nuclear bombs are christened "Trinity". Even after the project details are discovered, the name sticks.
    • An averted example with Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown: datamining has found that there were reporting names originally coded for the two main drones the Erusean military uses. The MQ-99 was to be called the "Wasp" and the MQ-101 the "Vogel," but in the final product, these names are nowhere to be found in the script and they are simply referred to by their model numbers.
  • Ace Online has them too:
    • Anima Mortar (A-gear)
    • Brandy Burg (B-gear)
    • Idle Sniper (I-gear)
    • Meadow Bugle (M-gear)
  • In the 1998 Remake of BattleZone, the Soviet-made Cosmo Colonist Army vehicles are all known by Reporting Names. The "fighter" tank is called the Flanker, after the Su-27.
  • A Nod intelligence item in Tiberium Wars suggests the name "Gravity Stabilizer" for the Scrin aircraft production is actually a name given by analysts after studying what the unknown "Visitor structure type 8" did. Presumably the other units' names were arrived at similarly, giving them a somewhat more plainly descriptive feel than the original factions' units. One imagines the Scrin themselves were less than interested in telling humans all about their fancy tech.
  • Dawn of War: Due to Translation Convention, the Tau units use Imperial designations (see Warhammer 40K above) in their responses, including XV-22s and the Devilfish stealth transport ("The Devilfish swims silently").
  • The eponymous fightercraft from Einhänder is actually a reporting name used by the (German-speaking) Earth forces. The fighter's actual name is either "Astraea" or "Endymion", depending on the specific model you choose to fly.
  • Inverted in EVE Online, where every ship type has an official nickname, but no actual designations; it's Translation Convention from the languages of the four Empires to English. Which may not help you as a newbie listening in to player's combat coms. "Get a point and a web on that Phoon! Put damps on it!"note 
  • The Terrans in FreeSpace 2 used Egyptian- and demonic-themed reporting names, respectively, for Vasudan and Shivan themed spacecraft, in contrast to the Greco-Roman names they gave to their own ship classes. The Vasudans, who took the comparison to as a compliment, adopted the reporting names when they merged their government with the Terrans. The Shivans are too belligerent and use some kind of communication method that prevents them from being asked for their opinion of GTVA reporting names.
  • In Generation Zero, both the Swedish and Soviet machines seem to follow certain naming conventions. Soviet machines are named for animals (Lynx and Wolf) while the Swedish machines seem to have been named for certain unique characteristics:
    • Tick: Insectoid shape, can often be found attached to electronic devices.
    • Seeker: Reconnaissance drone.
    • Runner: Fast moving quadruped.
    • Hunter: Well armed, primary combat unit of the machines.
    • Tank: Extremely well armed and armored.
    • Harvester: Heaviest and slowest of the machines.
  • Utilised in Gihren's Greed, set in the Universal Century of Franchise/Gundam. When encountering a new enemy machine, it's assigned a reporting name (e.g. Doms are known as "Skirts" as in the source material). Once intelligence successfully learns the unit's proper name, then it's known by that name onwards. Also played with in that even after a unit's name and model number are identified, an enemy unit on the field is still only identified by a descriptor until actual contact is made and the identity confirmed. So a group of enemies might be identified as "GM-types" until either engaged in combat or scanned, after which they might be broken into "GM Light Armor", "GM Command" and "GM". This is the major function of the EWAC units (e.g. EWAC Zaku, EWAC Nero), which can scan and identify enemies from long distancesnote 
  • Halo:
    • Covenant vehicles are known only by their UNSC designations, which are ethereal or supernatural beings — Ghost scout vehicles, Wraith tanks, Phantom and Spirit dropships, Banshee fliers, Seraph starfighters, Shadow troop transports, Vampire support fighters, Goblin Mini-Mecha, etc. Mobile assault platforms are named after non-mythical insects with ties to mythology instead — Locust light assault platforms and Scarab ultra heavy assault platforms.
    • Humans mostly call the Covenant species' by UNSC designations ("Brute" is a lot faster and easier to say than "Jiralhanae"). Grunts are Cannon Fodder, Jackals are thieving scavengers, Elites are badass, Drones are Insectoid Aliens, Hunters are relentless (also UNSC vehicles are named after animals and Hunters serve as anti-vehicle forces, therefore "hunting" them), and Brutes are, well, brutes. The Prophets are an exception, as the name was translated by advanced human AI.
    • Almost all the in-game names of alien weapons are also UNSC designations based on what they do; Needler, Covenant Carbine, Plasma Pistol, etc.
    • Subverted with the Forerunners and the Flood; both are direct translations of the original Forerunner names.
  • In Homeworld, due to various confusions over which race the player belonged to, Taiidan vessels ended up with Kushan names, explicitly referring to creatures and gods from Kushani mythology. This was retconned in the sequel, Homeworld: Cataclysm, to be class names invented by the latter race's Fleet Intelligence. The native Taiidani names were never revealed.
  • Zombie games like Left 4 Dead and State of Decay feature groups of "special" infected with consistent abilities, and their in-universe names appear to be reporting names rather than official designations. This becomes somewhat confusing in State of Decay, where some classes of infected have multiple names even in hint text within the game itself; a very large, nigh indestructible infected is referred to as a "Big Un" when assigned the radiant "Hunt X Infected" quest, a "Juggernaut" on the achievement for killing one with a vehicle, and as a "Big Bastard" when spotted during surveying. What makes this even more bizarre is the two in-game names can be given to the identical infected by the same character.
  • In MapleStory, the Thief job-class advancement Assassin is often shortened to 'Sin.
  • In the Mass Effect universe, this is how the different varieties of husks are referred to. Some of them are meant to be descriptive, such as the Cannibals (which can eat their fallen comrades to regain health) or the Banshees (which announce their presence with a terrifying wail). The only variety not to receive a nickname are the original basic human models, simply called "husks".
  • Discussed in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty in an optional conversation. The Patriots (or whatever they were) tell Raiden about how the titular Metal Gears from this and the previous game are named after two WWII reporting names, before noting how his codename of Raiden and his own given name Jack are just the official and reporting names of a single aircraft, as though he was just another weapon to be used and discarded.
  • In Resident Evil 2 the crawling red monsters which attack the Raccoon City Police building early during the Raccoon City Outbreak are named "lickers" by surviving officers, largely because of their long tongues and because no one knew Umbrella's official name for the weapon, or even that it was made by Umbrella in the first place. However, Umbrella (and later Tri Cell) apparently found the name apt enough and kept it (even marketing a Licker-Beta shortly before Umbrella went under and was absorbed by Tri Cell), resulting in "licker" being the officially recognized name for the bioweapon.
  • The names of the different zerg broods in Starcraft (back when the zerg had discreet broods) were explicitly stated to be names given by terran analysts. Their units are presumably named similarly. The zerg are shown to use these names themselves, but that's probably just Translation Convention.
  • In Super Robot Wars the various Balmar mechs are all simply given reporting names by humans based on what they look like. The six-legged ones are called "Bugs", the ones with wings are called "Birds", etc. The various humanoid types are called "Soldiers", "Knights", and "Fatmen". They are also asigned a numerical designation based on the order they were first encountered in. The Bugs, being recon units are therefore designated AGXnote -01; the heroic Cybaster has an official-unofficial AGX model number because the EFA initially mistook it for a Balmar machine. The funny thing is that their real names are also Earth words, only this time in Ancient Hebrew...
    • Shadow Mirror's Soulgain is referred to as Mustache Man (or White Wrath in the English version, despite it being blue), while Zweizergain is referred to as Horned Man. The Shura gods Ialdaboth and Valefor are both referred to as "the haired one" by the EFA until Folka joins and tells everyone their actual names. Meanwhile the Shura refer to Compatible Kaiser as the "Red Demon".
  • In Thunder Force V, the people of Earth don't know that the wayward ship that landed on their planet (the player's ship in Thunder Force IV, which hails from another part of space and which was left to drift aimlessly after sustaining heavy damage against the Final Boss in that game) is called the Rynex, so they christen it as Vasteel.
  • The Nephilim from Wing Commander Prophecy initially have no names beyond "Unknown" when they first appear, but Confed quickly starts naming Nephilim craft after sea creatures, including a few mythological ones for big capital ships.
  • World of Tanks players usually operate with something very close to this trope, consisting of abbreviations and player or historical nicknames for vehicles. Someone calling spots may state "Bathtub, Tumor, E2", meaning S35 AC and Souma SAu-40 tank destroyers accompanied by a Sherman M4A3E2 "Jumbo".
  • Used in the games set in the X-Universe. Due to the fact that no human is able to pronounce the original names of alien ships, all have got reporting names — Boron ships have fish names, Paranids use names from Greek mythology, and so on. X: Rebirth shows a more literal translation for Split ships. Their Raptor-class carrier is actually called the "Gangrene Chaser". The encyclopedia then goes on to say that many pilots wish it hadn't been translated.

    Western Animation 
  • Something similar is used in the Big Hero 6: The Series episode "Fan Friction". Since Big Hero 6 don't have code names, but do have secret identities, Karmi has to make up names for them in her fanfic. Gogo becomes Speed Queen, Wasabi is Chop-Chop, Baymax is Red Panda, Fred is Flame Jumper, Honey Lemon is Tall Girl, and Hiro is Captain Cutie.

Alternative Title(s): Reporting Name