From MiG to Su, Tu, and Yak, why does Russia frequently name aircraft in “anomalous” ways?

We frequently hear about Russian aircraft such as the Su-35, MiG-29, and Tu-160. However, few people understand why they are named in such an unusual manner.

Famous Russian planes frequently have names that are too short, or even strange. What is the origin of these names?


MiG is a well-known fighter line in the world, having played an important role during the Cold War. Among these aircrafts, the MiG-29 is frequently mentioned as one of the best aircrafts ever produced by the Soviet Union.

MiGs also appear in popular culture, including films such as ‘Top Gun’ (1984) and ‘Firefox’ (1982), demonstrating the brand’s global reach.

The MiG aircraft is named after its two chief engineers, Artem Mikoyan and Mikhail Gurevich.

The two aircraft designers met at the Polikarpov Design Bureau in Moscow and formed their own design firm, dubbed ‘Mikoyan-Gurevich.’ The company was renamed MiG in 1942, and it later introduced a series of cutting-edge aerial machines under that name.

The room was renamed Mikoyan after Mikhail Gurevich’s death in 1976. However, the MiG symbol is still widely used for fighters produced by this company.


Su is as well-known as MiG. The majority of Russia’s frontline aviation force consists of fighters with the prefix Su in front. Furthermore, many countries around the world, including China and India, have Su squadrons as the backbone of their air forces.

Su planes were also used for some of the first aerobatics. The acrobatic cobra, which is extremely difficult, is well-known in this regard.

This technique necessitates an aircraft that is extremely agile, sturdy, and responsive. The Su-27 proved to be an excellent choice for pioneering such manoeuvrable operations.

The Su, like the MiG, was named after its main designer, Pavel Sukhoi. Sukhoi, who was born in the Russian Empire in 1895, was one of the world’s first men to pioneer aviation.

Sukhoi’s path to success was difficult, as he passed through several periods, including World War I, the Russian Revolution, and the Civil War before establishing his own studio, the Sukhoi Design Bureau.


Tu bombers were crucial in WWII and became a mainstay of Soviet long-range aviation during the Cold War. These aircraft are also named after their designer, Andrei Tupolev. Tupolev was a student of Nikolai Zhukovsky, the father of modern aeronautics and hydrodynamics.

Tupolev began producing combat machines for the Red Army when Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union. The first flight of the Tu-2, a twin-engine high-speed front-line bomber, occurred in 1941.

This aircraft went on to play an important role in the Soviet Union’s victory in World War II. Tupolev’s long-range bomber became a key feature of the Soviet air force as the world entered the Cold War.


Yak is named after designer Yakovlev. Yakovlev aircraft accounted for nearly two-thirds of all Soviet fighters during WWII. Alexander Yakovlev, a Russian aircraft designer, started his career at the age of 18 and presented his first complete aircraft, the AIR-1, three years later. When World War II broke out, the talented designer began a rapid career development and became a deputy minister of the Soviet Union’s Aviation Industry.

Yakovlev asked his superiors for permission to leave his managerial position and focus on aircraft design after six years as an official. After that, until 1984, Yakovlev ran a design firm by the same name. The design bureau produced over 200 types of aircraft under Yakovlev’s leadership.


During World War II, the Il-2 attack aircraft became one of the Soviet army’s symbols of strength. The Il-2 is the most produced military aircraft in history, having produced over 36,000 aircraft. The Il-2 was “as essential to the Red Army as air and bread,” according to Stalin. Sergei Ilyushin is the man behind this iconic plane.

Since the age of 15, Ilyushin has worked as the youngest child in a poor peasant family. In 1917, Ilyushin enlisted and received his pilot’s licence.

Ilyushin quickly established himself as one of the Soviet Union’s most talented aeronautical designers after leaving the army and earning his engineering degree in 1926.

After WWII, Ilyushin continued to design commercial aircraft, including the Il-18 and Il-62, which were widely used by Aeroflot throughout the Soviet Union.

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