Nicknames of USSR aroplane

September 27, 2007 at 1:44 pm | Posted in aeroplane, russian, ukraine | Leave a comment


L-39 /Elka/ – derived adding diminutive suffix -ka to the official designator “L”


An-2 /Kukuruznik/ – cornhoper (closer to literal, kukuruza is maize) or cropduster (a more idiomatic translation; Annushka – little Anna

An-8 /Kit/ – Whale

An-14 /Pchelka/ – little bee (also An-28 and perhaps, An-38)

An-10 /Ukraina/ – Ukraine

An-22 /Antei/ – Antheus. Antheus is a greek mythology hero, son of Poseidon and Gaia, who lost his powers when lifted from the ground (doubtful marketing value for an aircraft)

An-30 /Boing/ – Boeing. The cockpit of this surveying and mapping aircraft was slightly raised in comparison to An-24 in was derived from. This gave this aircraft a Boeing 747 look.

An-71 /NLO s vneshney podveskoy/ – UFO with an external store (

An-72/74 /Cheburashka/ – a fictional cartoon creature with disproportionally large round ears. The unusual overwing powerplant installation of An-72/74 must have given this association; chyudovishye s binoklem – monster with binocular (

An-124 /Ruslan/ – character from Pushkin’s poem; /Pterodaktel’/ – Pterodactel(sp?)

An-225 /Mriia/ – ukrainian for dream


Aviatika-890 /Metla/ – broom


A-50 /Shestikryl/ – hexaplane. The wing, tail and a pair of additional horizontal surfaces on the main gear bays adds up to six

Be-12 /Chaika/ – seagull

Be-200 /Al’batros/ – albatross; Irkut – resident of Irkutiya (Be-200 is built at Irkutskoe APO)


Er-2 /Ermoshka/


Il-2 /Sturmovik/ – Attack aircraft; /Letauschii (Letuchii) tank/ – flying tank; /Ilyusha/ – diminutive of Ilya, common surname

Il-28 /Miasnik/ – butcher, given by the crews which believed that Beagle is not forgiving aircraf or putting this simply – a widow-maker

Il-76 /Gus’ lapchatyi/ – goose

Il-86 /Baton/ – bread loaf; /Baklazhan/ – eggplant; Russky Dzhambo – Russian jumbo

Il-102 /Valenok/ – winter boot, which has unimpressive look and aerodynamic (


Ka-8 /Irkutianin/ – resident of Irkutsk

Ka-22 /Vintokryl/ – screw-wing. Logical name for this compound helicopter

Ka-50 /Chernaia akula/ – black shark; /Oboroten’/ – werewolf. While Oboroten’ could have been an individual name of one of the prototypes, Black shark is clearly related to the movie “Tchernaya akula” – Kamov’s promotion spin with great Ka-50 footage and very little plot. Tchernaya akula – seems to be more popular and used as (semi-)official name of the helicopter.

Ka-52 /Aligator/ – alligator


LaGG fighters – /Lakirovannyi Garantirovannyi Grob/ – varnished guarantied coffin
(my note: Early LaGG canopies were made of flawed plexiglass. When exposed to the sun for a few weeks, they turned yellow and were hard to see through. Uncle Joe was not pleased.)

La fighters – /Lapot’/ – peasant shoe made of tree bark
(my note: Lavochkin made their fighters out of wood until the La-9)

La-5 /Mylo/ – Soap. Given by LII personnel where La-5 was tested in winter camouflage. Apparently bluish-white paint job was associated with “zhukovsky” soap.

La-250 /Anakonda/ – anaconda


The abbreviation “MiG” coincides with word /mig/ meaning “instant” or “moment”

MiG-15 (-17) – /Samolet-soldat/ – soldier-plane

MiG-21 /Balalaika/ – triangular shaped folk music instrument. Clear pick on the Fishbed’s wing; /Veselyi/ – merry, because of it relatively small size and, perhaps, fun to fly

MiG-23 /Chemodan/ – luggage trunk (certain similarities of airframe and this travel accessory); /Krokodil/ – crocodile (short legs of the amphibian resembles MiG’s main gear); /Grif/ – griffon, a radio call sign used in Afghanistan; /Fantomasoenok/ – see MiG-25.

MiG-25 /Letaushchii gastronom/ – flying liquor store. MiG-25 uses incredible amount of alcohol based deicing fluid causing numerous cases of alcoholism among its pilots and ground crews. [Side note: It appears that earlier MiG-25 also used alcohol based hydraulics. Nicknamed “Massandra”, this fiery cocktail forced concerned wives to write a letter to the higher echelons of power. Mikoyan’s — who is ethnic armenian — reply was: “If aircraft system performance would require Armenian cognac, we will fill planes with Armenian cognac”. Nevertheless, later MiGs featured alcohol free liquid, owning much to the original solution, proposed ironically by … a woman.]; /Fantomas/ – beginning of the service life of the aircraft coincided with appearance of much popular French movie; /Chertopolokh/ – a weed, also used in folklore to describe something bulky and sophisticated. This nickname was given by Gromov LII personnel to whom E-155 appeared very different from smooth and rounded bodies of contemporary jets. Recall these large boxlike intakes of E-155, twin fins and winglets!

MiG-27 /Kondor/ – condor; /Krokodil/ – Crocodile (see MiG-23); /Chemodan/ – luggage trunk (see MiG-23); /Utkonos/ – duck-billed platypus, driven by the shape of the aircraft nose

MiG-29 /Strizh/ – swift; Fulcrum (ground crews and pilots refer to aircraft by western codename); /Gorbach/ – hatchback (perhaps later models with enlarged spine)

Project 105-11 /Lapot’/ – peasant shoe made of tree bark. This lifting delta-body aircraft was developed as a part of the Lozino-Lozinskiy Spiral space shuttle program.


3M /Molot/ – hummer; /Stilyaga/ – stylish, for longer (and more stylish looking) nose than M-4

VM-T /Atlant/ – atlant

M-55 /Geofizika/ – Geophysics


Mi-1 /Moskvich/ – Moscower

Mi-6 /Korova/ – cow (

Mi-8 /Zontik/ – umbrella, because of rotating blades; /Karlson/ – the name of the character from the children bok of swedish writer Astred Lindgren. According to the book, Karlson lived in the penthouse on the roof top and used a small proppelor on his back to get airborn; /Boj’ya korovka/ – ladybird, incect with black spots (usually six) on the red back; /Zmey gorynych/ – fictious three-headed dragon from russian folklore. During takeoffs (especially in a cold weather) Mi-8 creates steam coming from drenage fuel tubes which resembles the smoke of the fire-breathing dragon; /Zhivoglot/ – eat-alive, did you ever have a look in Mi-8’s cargo hold from behind?

Mi-10 /Letaiushchii kran/ – flying crane, generic; /Spitsa/ – long (knitting) needle

Mi-24 /Shmel’/ – bumble bee; /Krokodil/ – crocodile

Mi-26 /Korova/ – cow; /Saraj/ – barn


Pe-2 /Peshka/ – diminutive of Pe, coincide with word “pawn”. Consonant with “Pe”. In Russian, the suffix “shka” is used to emphasize the small size.


I-15 /Chaika/ – seagull. The shape of the top wing of this biplane similar to the birds wing

I-16 /Ishak/ – donkey. In Russian, the first part of “I-16” pronounced as “Ishestnadtsat'” is consonant to “Ishak”

Po-2/U-2 /Kukuruznik/ – cornhoper (closer to literal, kukuruza is maize) or cropduster (a more idiomatic translation), /Letaiushchaia Parta/ – flying (school) bench. Generic to trainer aircraft.


T-4 /Sotka/ – a 100, which refers to this number in the designation of the aircraft and also the take-off weigh of the plane which was close to 100 metric tones.

Su-17 /Strizh/ – swift. Radio call of the Su-25 during Afghanistan conflict (see Su-25, MiG-23). Swept wings of Su-17 (swift) contrasting to those of Su-25 (rook) as well as max speed difference could have influenced the choice of the names

Su-25 /Gratch/ – rook. Radio call of the Su-25 during Afghanistan conflict (see Su-25, MiG-23). The Soviet infantry called Su-25 /Rasshcheska/ and/or /Grebenka/ (comb) because loaded Su-25 with its ten pylons occupied with the payload, resembled the comb if viewed from below. The VVS staff called Su-25 – /Konek-gorbunok/ which is a fictional animal from one of the fair tales by Bazhenov. This character is an ugly (hatchbacked) and small pony or some sort of a miniature horse, which outperformed the bigger (and faster) stalemates.

Su-26 /Suchok/ – bough, knot. Alternative content is optional

Su-27 /Zhuravlik/ – baby crane; /Sushka/ – diminutive of Su, coincide with word “cracker” (could be any Sukhoi design); /Sukhar’/ – same

Su-27K/27IB/27M etc. /Triplan/ – triplane, canards+wings+tail=3 horizontal surfaces. As one of the Kuznetsov sailors noted after seeing Su-27K/33 for the first time: “This fighter has two ‘wings’ too many…”

Su-27IB/34 /Utkonos/ – duck-billed platypus, driven by the shape of the aircraft nose

Su-33/27K /Korabelka/ – carrier born. This well apply to MiG-29K and Su-25UTG

Su-37 /Terminator/ – terminator


Tu-anything – /Tupol’/, pl. Tupolya. Likely consonant to word topol’.

Tu-22 /Shilo/ – awl. Self explanatory

Tu-22M /Slepoj Dzhek/ – blind Jack. Pick on the bomber’s small cockpit windows and/or pour cockpit visibility

Tu-91 /Bychok/ – a fishy name, striking similarity

Tu-95 /Bear/. The bomber crews referred to their a/c by NATO codename

Tu-114 /Rossiia/ – Russia

Tu-134 /Tushka malaya/ – small tushka (see Tu-160); /Tushkanchik/ – type of desert rat; /Svistok/ – whistle, due to characteristic engine sound; /Malyshka/ – baby; /Passazhirskii istrebitel’/ – passenger fighter. Alternative content is optional

Tu-134Shch (experimental airframe fitted with fighter radom for the radar tests) /Shchyuka/ – pike for its predatory look

Tu-154 /Tushka bol’shaya/ – big tushka (see Tu-160); /Tushkan/ – type of larger desert rat; /Gorbaty/ – hatchbak because of the prile given by an air intake of the center engine; /Avrora/ – trijet interpolation of three chimney legendary cruiser “Avrora”; /Poltinnik/ – half-hundred, it is Tu-154 after all

Tu-160 /Tushka/ – diminutive of Tu, coincide with word “corpse” or “carcass” of small animal or bird (could be applied to any Tupolev design); /Gordost’ natsii/ – pride of nation. Used as a reference to cost and sophistication of the bomber; /Kambala/ – flounder. Blended wing-body and highly inclined windshield inspired this one

Tu-204 /Ludmila/. Given by folks at Aviastar who build both Tu-204 and An-124 Ruslan at the same Ul’yanovsk plant. Ludmila and Ruslan are characters from Pushkin’s poem “Ruslan and Ludmila”


Yak fighters nicknamed /IAstrebki/ (pl). IAstrebok is a small hawk. It is also possible that this word was morfed from Istrebok (diminutive of fighter plane) and Yak.

Yak-9U /Ubiitsa/ – killer. Not in “widow maker” sense but rather to emphasize its lethality to opponents

Yak-24 /Letaiushchii vagon/ – flying car (as in street car)

Yak-28 /Kormilets/ – provider. The aircraft was considered to have high level of automatization, so that pilot would simply relax in the cockpit and “hang there till next pay day”.

Yak-36/36M/38/41 /Vertikalka/ – vertical

Yak-40 /Okurok/ – cigaret butt; Istrebitel’ goruchego – fuel fighter (in consuming sense)


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