The Soviet designation system is still somewhat mysterious, although we've attempted to decipher it below. Part of the reason for confusion is that the Soviets had two designation systems following completely different formats.
The system you ask about in your question is the more straightforward one, including examples like the R-27 and Kh-31. In this system, each missile is identified by a three-part code.
The first part is a letter or series of letters describing the basic function of the missile. These designations include:
A Anti-ballistic missile B Unguided test vehicle K KAB Guided bomb Kh Air-to-surface missile KS Air-to-surface missile KRM KSR S Unguided rocket R Guided missile (includes air-to-air and surface-to-surface) RS Guided missile V Surface-to-air missile
The second part is a number identifying its place in the sequence of missiles within that function.
The third part is another letter or series of letters describing additional modifications to the missile. Among these codes are:
A B D E Export (?) F New warhead (?) K Export (?) Kr Modified with a guidance unit (?) M N Naval (?) P Practice R S T Telemetry unit or guidance unit (?) U Training V Test Zh New propulsion unit (?)
Another Soviet system used a different format based on the various components of a missile system. This designation scheme uses several levels, such as the entire system including the launcher and control facilities, the missile itself, and its subcomponents like the warhead and engine. This system consists of up to six parts, an example being the 9M14M anti-tank missile.
First is a one or two-digit number indicating the organization responsible for the development of the weapon:
2 Ground forces (Red Army) 3 or 4 Navy (VMF) 5 or 6 Air Defense and Anti-Ballistic Missile Forces (PVO, PKO) 8 or 15 Strategic Rocket Force (RVSN) 9 Air Force (VVS) 11 or 14 Space Force 17 Naval Space Force
The second part is a letter or series of letters describing the function of the missile or component. These codes include:
A Sealed unit D Rocket engine F Warhead K Complete missile system Kh Satellite M Individual missile P Silo S Rocket stage V Ya Anti-ballistic missile Zh Solid rocket motor
The third part is a two-digit number identifying the individual type of missile or component.
The remaining parts of the system are optional numbers and letters defining further modifications to the original missile.
The DOD system is a very clear and straightforward numbering system based on the purpose of the missile, as exemplified by the AA-12 and AS-12 that you ask about. The system is generally similar to the system used for US missiles in that it contains three basic parts.
The first part is a two- to four-letter code defining the function of the missile. These codes include:
AA Air-to-air missile ABM Anti-ballistic missile AS Air-to-surface missile AT Anti-tank missile FRAS Unguided anti-submarine rocket FROG Unguided artillery rocket SA Surface-to-air missile SA-N Naval surface-to-air missile SL Space launcher SS Surface-to-surface missile SSC Coastal defense surface-to-surface missile SS-N Naval surface-to-surface missile SUW-N Naval surface-to-underwater missile
The second part is a number identifying its place in the sequence of missiles within that function.
The final part is an optional letter describing a modification to the original missile. These subvariants are in alphabetical order starting with 'A,' 'B,' and so on.
Experimental missiles are also identified by the letter X that is inserted after the letter-code and before the sequence number, such as the SS-X-10.
Note that this system has also been expanded to include Chinese missiles and rockets by simply adding the letter "C" to the start of the function code.
The Air Standards Coordinating Committee (ASCC) is a joint organization formed by the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. In 1954, the ASCC adopted a system of codenames to identify Soviet military equipment similar to that used during World War II to identify Japanese aircraft. The codenames start with a specific letter based on the purpose of the missile:
A Air-to-air missile G Surface-to-air missile K Air-to-surface missile S Surface-to-surface missile
This system has also been applied to Chinese weapons.
Air-to-Air Missiles Russian Designation DOD Designation ASCC Codename ================================================================ RS-1 / RS-2 / R-55 AA-1 'Alkali' R-3 / R-13 AA-2 'Atoll' R-8 / R-30 / R-98 AA-3 'Anab' R-9 AA-4 'Awl' R-4 AA-5 'Ash' R-40 / R-46 AA-6 'Acrid' R-23 / R-24 AA-7 'Apex' R-60 AA-8 'Aphid' R-33 AA-9 'Amos' R-27 AA-10 'Alamo' R-72 / R-73 AA-11 'Archer' R-77 AA-12 'Adder' R-37 AA-X-13 'Arrow' (?) Anti-Ballistic Missiles Russian Designation DOD Designation ASCC Codename ================================================================ A-350 ABM-1 'Galosh' 5Ya26 / 5Ya27 ABM-2 none 53T6 ABM-3 'Gazelle' 51T6 ABM-4 'Gorgon' Air-to-Surface Missiles Russian Designation DOD Designation ASCC Codename ================================================================ KS-1 AS-1 'Kennel' K-10S AS-2 'Kipper' Kh-20 AS-3 'Kangaroo' Kh-22 AS-4 'Kitchen' KSR-2 / Kh-11 AS-5 'Kelt' KSR-5 / Kh-26 AS-6 'Kingfish' Kh-23 / Kh-66 AS-7 'Kerry' 9M114V AS-8 none Kh-28 AS-9 'Kyle' Kh-25 / Kh-27 AS-10 'Karen' Kh-58 AS-11 'Kilter' Kh-25 / Kh-27 AS-12 'Kegler' Kh-59 AS-13 'Kingbolt' Kh-29 AS-14 'Kedge' Kh-55 AS-15 'Kent' Kh-15 AS-16 'Kickback' Kh-31 AS-17 'Krypton' Kh-59M AS-18 'Kazoo' 3M25A AS-X-19 'Koala' Kh-35 / Kh-37 AS-20 'Kayak' Kh-90 AS-X-21 none Anti-Tank Missiles Russian Designation DOD Designation ASCC Codename ================================================================ 3M6 AT-1 'Snapper' 9M17 AT-2 'Swatter' 9M14 AT-3 'Sagger' 9M111 AT-4 'Spigot' 9M113 AT-5 'Spandrel' 9M114 / 9M120 AT-6 'Spiral' 9M115 / 9M116 AT-7 'Saxhorn' 9M112 / 9M128 AT-8 'Songster' 9M114M AT-9 'Spiral-2' 9M117 AT-10 'Stabber' 9M119 AT-11 'Sniper' 9M120 AT-12 'Swinger' 9M131 AT-13 none 9M133 AT-X-14 none 9M123 AT-15 none 9M120M AT-16 none Unguided Anti-Submarine Rockets Russian Designation DOD Designation ASCC Codename ================================================================ unknown FRAS-1 none Unguided Artillery Rockets Russian Designation DOD Designation ASCC Codename ================================================================ 3R2 FROG-1 none 3R1 FROG-2 none 3R10 FROG-3 none 3R9 FROG-4 none 3R10 FROG-5 none PV-65 FROG-6 none 9M21 FROG-7 none Surface-to-Air Missiles Russian Designation DOD Designation ASCC Codename ================================================================ La-205/206/207/208/225 SA-1 'Guild' V-750/755/758/759/760 SA-2 'Guideline' V-400 SA-2 'Gaffer' V-600/601 SA-3 'Goa' 9M8 SA-4 'Ganef' 5V21 / 5V28 SA-5 'Gammon' 9M9 SA-6 'Gainful' 9M32 SA-7 'Grail' 9M33 SA-8 'Gecko' 9M31 SA-9 'Gaskin' 5V55 SA-10 'Grumble' 9M38 SA-11 'Gadfly' 9M83 SA-12A 'Gladiator' 9M82 SA-12B 'Giant' 9M37 / 9M333 SA-13 'Gopher' 9M36 SA-14 'Gremlin' 9M330 / 9M331 SA-15 'Gauntlet' 9M313 SA-16 'Gimlet' 9M317 SA-17 'Grizzly' 9M39 SA-18 'Grouse' 9M311 SA-19 'Grison' 48N6 / 9M96 SA-20 'Gargoyle' 48N6 / 9M96 / 40N6 SA-21 'Growler' 9M335 / 57E6E SA-X-22 'Greyhound' 9M82M / 9M83M SA-X-23 none 9M342 SA-24 'Grinch' Naval Surface-to-Air Missiles Russian Designation DOD Designation ASCC Codename ================================================================ V-600/601 SA-N-1 (SA-3) 'Goa' V-753/760 SA-N-2 (SA-2) 'Guideline' V-611 SA-N-3 'Goblet' 9M33 SA-N-4 (SA-8) 'Gecko' 9M32M SA-N-5 (SA-7) 'Grail' 5V55R SA-N-6 (SA-10) 'Grumble' 9M38 SA-N-7 (SA-11) 'Gadfly' 9M36 SA-N-8 (SA-14) 'Gremlin' 3M95 / 9M331 SA-N-9 (SA-15) 'Gauntlet' 9M313 SA-N-10 (SA-16) 'Gimlet' 9M311 SA-N-11 (SA-19) 'Grison' 9M317 SA-N-12 (SA-17) 'Grizzly' unknown SA-N-13 unknown 9M39 SA-N-14 (SA-18) 'Grouse' 48N6 SA-N-20 (SA-20) 'Gargoyle' Surface-to-Surface Missiles Russian Designation DOD Designation ASCC Codename ================================================================ R-1 SS-1A 'Scunner' R-11 SS-1 'Scud' R-2 SS-2 'Sibling' R-5 SS-3 'Shyster' R-12 SS-4 'Sandal' R-14 SS-5 'Skean' R-7 SS-6 'Sapwood' R-16 SS-7 'Saddler' R-9 SS-8 'Sasin' R-36 SS-9 'Scarp' GR-1 SS-X-10 'Scrag' UR-100 SS-11 'Sego' 9M76 SS-12 'Scaleboard' RT-2 SS-13 'Savage' RT-15 SS-X-14 'Scapegoat' RT-20 SS-X-15 'Scrooge' 15Zh42 SS-16 'Sinner' MR-UR-100 SS-17 'Spanker' R-36M SS-18 'Satan' UR-100N SS-19 'Stiletto' 15Zh45 SS-20 'Saber' 9M79 SS-21 'Scarab' 9M76 SS-22 'Scaleboard' 9M714 SS-23 'Spider' RT-23 SS-24 'Scalpel' RT-2PM SS-25 'Sickle' unknown SS-X-26 'Stone' RT-2PM2 SS-27 none 15Zh53 SS-X-28 'Saber' Coastal Defense Surface-to-Surface Missiles Russian Designation DOD Designation ASCC Codename ================================================================ 4K95 SSC-1A 'Shaddock' 4K44 SSC-1B 'Sepal' FKR-1 SSC-2A 'Salish' 4K87 SSC-2B 'Samlet' P-15M / P-21 / P-22 SSC-3 'Styx' RK-55 SSC-X-4 'Slingshot' 3M25N SSC-X-5 'Scorpion' 3M55 SSC-X-5 'Stooge' 3M24 SSC-6 'Sennight' Naval Surface-to-Surface Missiles Russian Designation DOD Designation ASCC Codename ================================================================ P-1 SS-N-1 'Scrubber' 4K40 / 4K51 SS-N-2 'Styx' 4K95 SS-N-3A/C 'Shaddock' 4K44 / 3M44 SS-N-3B 'Sepal' R-13 SS-N-4 'Sark' R-21 SS-N-5 'Serb' R-27 SS-N-6 'Serb' 4M66 SS-N-7 'Starbright' R-29 SS-N-8 'Sawfly' 4K85 SS-N-9 'Siren' none SS-NX-10 none none SS-N-11 none 4K77 / 4K80 SS-N-12 'Sandbox' R-27K SS-NX-13 none 83R / 84R / 85R SS-N-14 'Silex' 82R SS-N-15 'Starfish' 86R / 88R SS-N-16 'Stallion' R-31 SS-N-17 'Snipe' R-29R SS-N-18 'Stingray' 3M45 SS-N-19 'Shipwreck' R-29 SS-N-20 'Sturgeon' RK-55 SS-N-21 'Sampson' 3M80 SS-N-22 'Sunburn' R-29RM SS-N-23 'Skiff' 3M25 SS-N-24 'Scorpion' 3M24 SS-N-25 'Switchblade' 3M55 SS-N-26 'Strobile' 3M54 SS-N-27 'Sizzler' R-39 SS-NX-28 none 89R SS-N-29 none 3M14 SS-NX-30 none Naval Surface-to-Underwater Missiles Russian Designation DOD Designation ASCC Codename ================================================================ unknown SUW-N-1 Ugra Space Launchers Russian Designation DOD Designation ASCC Codename ================================================================ 8K71PS (Sputnik) SL-1 none 8A91 (Sputnik 2) SL-2 none 8K72 / 8A92 (Vostok) SL-3 none 11A57 / 11A511 (Soyuz) SL-4 none 11A510 SL-5 none 8K78 / 8K78M (Molniya) SL-6 none 63S1 / 11K63 (Kosmos) SL-7 none 65S3 / 11K65 (Kosmos) SL-8 none 8K82 (Proton) SL-9 none 11A59 SL-10 none 8K69/11K69/11K67 (Tziklon) SL-11 none 8K82K (Proton) SL-12 none 8K82K (Proton) SL-13 none 11K68 (Zenit) SL-14 none 11A51 / 11A52 (N1) SL-15 none 64S2/11K64/11K77 (Zenit) SL-16 none 11K25 (Energiya) SL-17 none unknown SL-18 none UR-100N (Strela/Rokot) SL-19 none unknown SL-20 none unknown (Rokot) SL-21 noneWe hope that this description helps you better decipher the various designations applied to Soviet missiles and rockets during the Cold War period and continuing to today. Additional information is available at Andreas Parsch's Designations of Soviet and Russian Military Aircraft and Missiles.
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