02:17 GMT +314 November 2019
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    Heavy flamethrower system TOS-1 Buratino during demonstration firing conducted at the 10th Russia Arms Expo international exhibition's opening

    The Origins of Russia's Funny Weapon Names Finally Revealed

    © Sputnik / Alexey Malgavko
    Military & Intelligence
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    Anyone familiar with Soviet and Russian weapons systems knows that the Russians are known for giving funny and endearing names to everything from small arms to intercontinental ballistic missiles. Now, experts are finally able to pour light on exactly how and why designers choose the names they do.

    Soviet and Russian military design bureaus have had a long history of kidding around with their potential adversaries, thinking up clever names for deadly weapons systems, from the tank chassis-attached flamethrower system TOS-1, given the moniker 'Buratino' (Pinocchio), to the fire control vehicle 1V152, nicknamed the 'Kapustnik' (roughly 'Cabbage Festival'), to the MiG-15 trainer aircraft, affectionately called the 'Babushka' (Grandmother), and the ICBM RT-23 'Molodets' (Good Sport). A more detailed listing of some of the best remembered names can be found here.

    Now, Russia's Rossiyskaya Gazeta explains exactly how and why weapons designers choose the names that they do.

    Speaking to the newspaper at the Russia Arms Expo 2015, currently under way in Nizhny Tagil, central Russia, Uralvagonzavod Deputy Director of Special Equipment Vladislav Halitov explained that all of these names come from a special database. Formerly administered by the Main Directorate of the Chief of Armaments, the names are now a special responsibility of the Department of Weapons, the Chief Directorate of Rocket Artillery and the Chief Directorate of Armored Vehicles, all under the Ministry of Defense.

    Halitov explained that back in the Soviet period, the Ministry of Defense created a special R&D registery, containing a series of code words. Drafted for five years into the future, the registry was consistently updated. The main task of the department working with the registry was to assign secret code names, checking for duplication and to make sure that the words were abstract and/or absurd enough to ensure that the potential enemy would be left guessing what exactly new systems actually entailed. The expert noted that a similar system exists in the US, except there about two dozen specialized departments are involved in the selection of names.

    Andrei Bassov, the chief editor of the military-focused online journal Technowars.ru, explained that "up to a certain moment in time, the new words added to the registry were based on certain principles and traditions." For example, a category of self-propelled artillery systems featured the names of flowers, from the 2S1 'Gvozdika' (Carnation), to the 2S4 'Tyulpan' (Tulip), and the 2S7 'Pion'. Air defense systems featured a series of river names –the 2K22 'Tunguska', the ZSU-23-4 'Shilka', the S-125 'Neva' and the S-75 'Dvina'. The Soviets' famous MLRS rocket artillery systems were code named after natural weather phenomena, from the BM-21 'Grad' (Hail) to the BM-27 'Uragan' (Hurricane) to the BM-30 'Smerch' (Whirlwind) and the 9A52-4 'Tornado'.

    At times, names were chosen based on the weapons systems' association with day-to-day objects, such as the 9K38 man-portable surface-to-air missile 'Igla' (Needle) and the 9K32 'Strela' (Arrow) or the radio jamming complex 'Moshkara' (Mosquito). Others, like the 'Kikimora' (Hobgoblin) and 'Leshiy' (Wood Goblin) sniper suits, were based on Russia fairy tale lore.

    Occasionally, designers would give way to humor, with the 'Azart' (Passion) sapper shovel, the 'Nezhnost' (Tenderness) handcuffs, and the 'Podkidysh' (Abandoned Baby) grenade launcher round.

    Bassov noted that following the collapse of the Soviet Union, a trend toward seriousness become apparent. As the expert explained, designers came "to understand that one could not only gently troll our foreign partners, but that they also needed to consider how to sell their equipment abroad."

    It is with this in mind that the 9K720 Iskander ('Man's Defender' in Greek) mobile short range ballistic missile system got its name. The same is true of the BMPT 'Terminator' AFV and the  Armata Universal Combat Platform, the latter derived from the Latin 'Arm' and the Turkish 'Ata' (Father). According to another version of the origins of Armata's nomenclature, the R&D center made the choice of name by accident, choosing the first name they saw in the registry, with no one exactly sure about how it got there.

    As to what it comes down to as far as naming a new system, Russian journalist Vladimir Solovyev recently asked Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Rogozin about it, with Rogozin teasingly replying that it's as simple as "a colonel coming by, looking at the R&D design and saying, depending on the mood 'that's it!'"


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    weapons systems, armaments, arms, weapons, Soviet Ministry of Defense, Russia Arms Expo (RAE-2015), Russian Ministry of Defense, Russia, Soviet Union
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