Pre-revolutionary Imperial Russia (before 1917) did not have a single national unified system but instead relied on those provided by the manufacturers of the aircraft, like Sikorsky Ilya Muromets or Anatra Anasal.

Pre-war Soviet system

The Soviet system used from shortly after the revolution in 1923 and until gradually superseded after 1940, was divided by function, with numbers assigned in order by the government. Duplicate designations were common, as were multiple meanings for individual letters. Designers and manufacturers also had their own internal designations which could be confused for the official government designations. For instance, Tupolev's designs used the designator ANT, for A.N.Tupolev and Yakovlev's designs used AIR, for A.I.Rykov, the communist leader he reported to. Not all designations were taken up, some numbers were assigned to projects that were subsequently cancelled, often at a very early stage of development.

Type prefixes

This list is incomplete; you can help by adding missing items. (January 2011)

(Cyrillic characters in parentheses)

Soviet system after December 9, 1940

The system after December 9, 1940 (in accordance with order No 704) used letter abbreviations for the design office, then sequential numbers, sometimes with odd numbers for fighters (e.g. Yak-3, MiG-15, Su-27...) and even numbers for other types (e.g. Il-2, Tu-16, Su-34, Tu-154...). However, this latter rule was not always applied, especially for helicopters.

Contrary to western sources, official Soviet designations did not include constructors' names (e.g. Yakovlev Yak-1), only abbreviations (i.e. Yak-1) however initially full names like Yakovlev-1 were occasionally used. Numerical designations were assigned individually for each developer to aircraft when they entered service. Aircraft also frequently had development designations used within design bureaus, like aircraft 105, or ANT-105 that led to the Tu-22, or T-6 for Su-24, and an industry production name assigned to the facility where production was undertaken.

The NATO Air Standardization Coordinating Committee reporting name system (used because designations of new types were often unknown to NATO) was based on an initial letter indicating type of aircraft (B = bomber, C = cargo, F = fighter, H = helicopter, M = miscellaneous) or missile, and 1 syllable if propeller-driven or 2 if jet- or rocket-powered.

Design office prefixes

An (Ан): Antonov
Ar (Ар): Archangelski
BI (БИ): Berezniak-Isaev
Be (Бе): Beriev
Che (Че): Chetverikov
Gu (Гу): Gudkov
Il (Ил): Ilyushin
Ka (Ка): Kamov
La (Ла): Lavochkin
LaG (ЛаГ): Lavochkin-Gorbunov
LaGG (ЛаГГ): Lavochkin-Gorbunov-Gudkov
Li (Ли): Lisunov
M (М): Myasishchev
Mi (Ми): Mil
MiG (МиГ): Mikoyan-Gurevich, until the death of Artem Mikoyan in 1970, then just Mikoyan
Pe (Пе): Petlyakov
Po (По): Polikarpov
Su (Су): Sukhoi
Sh (Ш): Shavrov
Shche (Ще): Shcherbakov
Ta (Та): Tairov
Ts (Ц): Tsybin
Tu (Ту): Tupolev (bureau designation was ANT)
Yak (Як): Yakovlev (bureau designation was AIR)
Yer (Ер): Yermolayev

See also