To reduce confusion and assist with identification, NATO assigned unique and unusual names to aircraft on the other side of the iron curtain. This meant words like Camel and Charger were used, as they were unlikely to come up in conversation and would be memorable.

Commercial aircraft received names beginning with C. Names with a single syllable meant a propeller plane, while those with two syllables indicated jets. Simple, right?

Crusty, Charger and Camel

Since these came about during the cold war, they mainly apply to Soviet and Eastern Block aircraft, as well as China. For example, the Tupolev Tu-134 you see at the top of this post has a NATO reporting name of Crusty. C for commercial plane, two syllables indicating a jet.

As you can see above, the Tupolev Tu-144 gained a relatively appropriate name as it was so fast. In general, the names can be somewhat demeaning, which I guess makes sense as they’re “enemy” aircraft.

Naturally Camel has no relation to the actual plane, which is the Soviet Union’s first jet airliner, the Tupolev Tu-104. I think by now you’re getting the drift on how this works.

Other Well Known Passenger Planes

The Tupolev Tu-114 gained the name of Cleat – C for commercial and a single syllable denoting propellers. Not a particularly dignified name for the world’s fastest turboprop, which also flew jointly with Japan Air Lines once upon a time.

The first Soviet widebody, the Ilyushin Il-86, gained the name Camber, while the Tupolev Tu-154 tri-jet was dubbed Careless. Not a very fitting name, is it?

The Ilyushin Il-62 pictured above, gained the name Classic. That works today with the passage of time, as it is now considered a classic aircraft, though I am sure that was not the original intent!

Overall Thoughts

The list of NATO reporting names for transport aircraft is here on Wikipedia. Some other interesting names include Cookpot (for the Tupolev Tu-124), Codling (for the Yakovlev Yak-40), Coot (for the Ilyushin IL-18 turboprop) and Chan for the Chinese Harbin Y-11.

There is very little chance of me remembering more than a few of these, as I know the aircraft by their proper names. I’m curious as to whether these lists had to be memorised by military people as part of their training or not.

Were you aware of the NATO reporting names like Camel and so on? How many do you actually know? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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Featured image by Aleksandr Markin via Wikimedia Commons.
Tupolev Tu-144 by Christian Volpati via Wikimedia Commons.
CSA Tupolev Tu-104 by Lars Söderström on via Wikimedia Commons.
Tupolev Tu-114 via Pinterest.
Ilyushin IL-62 by Ralf Manteufel on via Wikimedia Commons.