Fagot, Fishbed, Fitter, Farmer...

I know why NATO assigned codenames to Soviet aircraft, and I know the convention (‘F’ words for fighters, ‘H’ words for helicopters, etc.). But how were the names chosen? The MiG-21 was a pretty good interceptor. Why ‘Fishbed’ and not ‘Falcon’ or ‘Firebird’? Why ‘Fagot’ for the MiG-15? Why not ‘Factor’? ‘Foxbat’, ‘Flanker’ and ‘Fencer’ are pretty good names for a fighter jet, but ‘Fishbed’ and ‘Farmer’ just seem a little too mundane and ‘Fagot’ seems insulting.

No firm answer, just a few more observations.

The original naming convention included 1 syllable for piston & two-syllable for jet, but that became obsolete pretty quickly. They later extended the 1 syllable convention to turboprops as well.

I think the words were chosen mostly to be simple syllables easy to pronounce in the several langauges used in NATO. You wouldn’t want something that when pronounced by an Italian sounded so different that a Brit wouldn’t recognize the word.

Using names that sound like fighter marketing-speak might have impacted later naming by NATO forces. Had NATO assgned “Falcon” to the MIG-19, GD would have had to name the later F-16 something else. No point in spotting the enemy all the cool names.

Ultimately, they’re classic codewords. That is, terms chosen explicitly for NOT meaning anything.

WAG. Why not use insulting words to describe the enemy aircraft? Calling the bad guy names is a long standing tradition.

“Fagot” with one “g” doesn’t mean “homosexual”. If you look it up in a dictionary, it means:

So you can forget about the “let’s call enemy aircraft insulting names”.

I never said that’s what it means. My first thought was ‘Those Capitalist bastards are calling our Glorious Fighter a bundle of sticks!’ Still, they’re homonyms so others may construe it differently.

That makes sense. Like ‘Give me a six-letter noun.’ for certain projects.

[Homer Simpson]He, he, he said “homonyms!”[/HS]

No, but that was what Essell’s WAG was. I was talking to him.

I’d be insulted if someone called my (very good) fighter a bundle of sticks.

But re: the homonym. I can imagine radio chatter by Sabre pilots: ‘This place is full of Fagots!’ ‘Yeah, Fagots all over the place!’ ‘I’ve got two Fagots on my ass!’ ‘Ha! That Fagot’s going down!’

Which reminds me of this old joke: A crusty old fighter pilot was addressing a Ladies’ Group and telling of his experiences in the war. ‘Those Fockers were filling the sky. I had two Fockers on my tail, and another one in my sights…’ The Host interjected here, ‘I should point out that “Focker” is a type of German airplane.’ To which the pilot replied, ‘Yeah, but these Fockers were Messerschmitts!rimshot

WAG (in the absence of anything more definitive, since by all accounts I’ve read the NATO Air Standardisation Coordinating Committee (ASCC) has never publicised why certain names were selected): the names had to be clear and unambiguous (for radio communications) and (even more of a WAG) could not be too flattering (hence no Tu-1000 “Better Bomber Than We Have”).