What’s in a name?

Ugh. Hand me some aspirin, willya?

I’ve been doing some research on the Chinese OrBat, and it’s giving me a headache.

First, I don’t read or speak Chinese.

Second, I’m so set in my ways in understanding the basic nomenclature norms of Western and Soviet states that learning a new one is like teaching an old dog a new trick.

The Chinese have a nasty habit of restructuring their entire nomenclature system from time to time, and even worse, have lately adapted the execrable Western habit of allowing marketing names to actually become nomenclature. And a system sold for export will have an entirely different nomenclature for the export product, even if it is identical.

Actually, on the understanding of the Soviet nomenclature, that’s a bit of a misnomer. What I really understood was the NATO reporting names for most Soviet systems. While some stuff, like tanks (T-54/55, T-62, T-64, T-72, T-80) used the actual Soviet designation, a lot of stuff used a designation rather arbitrarily assigned by NATO. For instance, what I spent the first half of my life knowing as the SA-2 SAM Surface-to-Air Missile system, was really the S-75 Dvina. If I were to say Fresco, Farmer, Fishbed, Flogger, every fighter pilot in the West would know exactly that I meant the MiG-17, –19, –21, and –23. While the Soviets used those numbers, I have no idea what they actually nicknamed those jets.

Similarly, most groundpounders know what an AT-3 Sagger is, but might be a little fuzzy on just what the 9K11 Malyutka is.  I sometimes forget that the NATO reporting name isn’t really the name the Soviets gave things.

The standard NATO reporting name system (an outgrowth of the standard reporting names for Japanese planes in World War II) made understanding easy for peabrains like me.

There really isn’t a similar system for Chinese weapon systems. I’m starting to glean the basics of how the Chinese name things. And about the time I do, they’ll probably change their system again.

8 thoughts on “What’s in a name?”

  1. I sympathize. Hardware is bad, units (with both true unit designators and military unit cover designators) are even worse.

  2. This post me think of the Press Conference in “Red Storm Rising” where Ivan announces they are going to take the entire Yankee Class out of service and the guy says “you in the west call them the Yankee class. We, of course, call them something else.”

    Always thought that was a good line from Clancy.

  3. Nomenclature, shchnomenclature. I icall ’em as I see ’em: Tank, PC, Truck, Troops, or Chopper. As in “Gunner, Sabot, tank”; “Gunner, MPAT-Air, Chopper” etc. Keeps it simple that way.

    1. When I “kill” a moving flank target at 2200 meters, at night, from the commander’s station, it doesn’t matter to me whether it is a Type XX or Type YY. It only matters that the M829A3 hits center mass and slices through the armor. “On the wayyyyy” Boom. “Target, cease fire. Driver back.”

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