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Soviet projectile designation system

Written by Valeri Potapov
Created Friday, 23 September 2005 13:55
Last Updated on Sunday, 20 September 2009 22:01

Each Soviet projectile has its unique designation. This designation looks like:


AA means Initial Literal Index (ILI) it defines type of a projectile;
XXX means Main Digital Index (MDI), it defines calibre of a projectile;
BB means Optional Literal Index (OLI), it shows additional capabilities/features of a projectile.

Table 1. Indexes of the Soviet projectiles
Index Russian term English equivalent
Initial Literal Index (ILI)
F fugasniy high explosive
G betonoboiniy concrete-piercing
O oskolochniy fragmentation
OF oskolochno-fugasniy high explosive fragmentation
OH oskolochno-khimicheskiy chemical fragmentation
B broneboiniy armor-piercing (old)
BR broneboiniy armor-piercing (new)
BP broneboiniy prozhigaushiy (WWII term) shaped-charge or HEAT
BK broneboiniy kumulyativniy (later term) shaped-charge or HEAT
Sh shrapnel' shrapnel
She kartech' canister
Z zazhigatelniy incendiary
D dymovoy smoke
S osvetitelniy illumination
Optional Literal Index (OLI)
P podkaliberniy HVAP
SP sploshnoy solid
M modernizirovaniy modernized

All other OLIs aren't common for all types of projectiles and used to describe features of a certain projectile.

Normally, Soviet armor-piersing rounds are APHE, i.e. with some explosive charge to increase penetration power. If there is no explosive charge, such round is always desingnated «solid» SP. Therefore, the BR-350 means 76-mm armor-piercing high explosive round, BR-350SP means 76-mm armor-piercing solid round, OF-350 means high explosive fragmentation round.

According to the Soviet nomenclature, each tandem calibre+bore_length has its unique MDI. For example, 350, 353 and 354 are refer to the 76-mm calibre. The table below is my attempt to systematize these figures:

Table 2. Indexes of the Soviet projectiles
Calibre The projectile's MDI The shell's MDI
20 mm 111 111
25 mm 240 240
37 mm 167 167
45 mm 240, 241, 242 240, 241, 243
57 mm 271 271
76.2 mm 350, 354, 355, 361, 363 353, 354, 355, 361, 363
85 mm 365, 367 365, 367
100 mm 412 412
106.7 mm 420, 422 -
121.92 mm 462, 471 -
127 mm 4891 -
152.4 mm 501, 521, 530, 531, 533, 540, 542, 550, 551 -
180 mm 620, 621, 625 -
210 mm 643 -
280 mm 674 -
305 mm 724 -

To describe a cartridge-loading shell, the «U» letter used before the ILI. It means «unitarniy» (cartridge-loading ammo). For example: UBR-354P refers to the 76-mm cartridge-loading shell with the BR-350P HVAP projectile. The same is for separate loading ammo but the «V» letter using instead: VBR-471. The «V» letter means «vystrel» (charge).

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