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NATO phonetic alphabet

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FAA radiotelephony alphabet and Morse code chart

The (International) Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet, commonly known as the NATO phonetic alphabet, is the most widely used set of clear code words for communicating the letters of the Roman alphabet, technically a radiotelephonic spelling alphabet. It goes by various names, including NATO spelling alphabet, ICAO phonetic alphabet and ICAO spelling alphabet. The ITU phonetic alphabet and figure code is a rarely used variant that differs in the code words for digits.

To create the code, a series of international agencies assigned 26 code words acrophonically to the letters of the Roman alphabet, with the intention of the letters and numbers being easily distinguishable from one another over radio and telephone, regardless of language barriers and connection quality. The specific code words varied, as some seemingly distinct words were found to be ineffective in real-life conditions. In 1956, NATO modified the then-current set of code words used by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO); this modification then became the international standard when it was accepted by ICAO that year and by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) a few years later.[1] The words were chosen to be accessible to speakers of English, French and Spanish.

Although spelling alphabets are commonly called "phonetic alphabets", they should not be confused with phonetic transcription systems such as the International Phonetic Alphabet.

The 26 code words are as follows (ICAO spellings): Alfa, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo, Foxtrot, Golf, Hotel, India, Juliett, Kilo, Lima, Mike, November, Oscar, Papa, Quebec, Romeo, Sierra, Tango, Uniform, Victor, Whiskey, X-ray, Yankee, Zulu. "Alfa" and "Juliett" are intentionally spelled as such to avoid mispronunciations. Numbers are spoken as English digits, but with the pronunciations of three, four, five, nine, and thousand modified.[2]

The code words are fairly stable. A 1955 NATO memo stated that:

It is known that [the spelling alphabet] has been prepared only after the most exhaustive tests on a scientific basis by several nations. One of the firmest conclusions reached was that it was not practical to make an isolated change to clear confusion between one pair of letters. To change one word involves reconsideration of the whole alphabet to ensure that the change proposed to clear one confusion does not itself introduce others.[3]

Nonetheless, several regions have changed a single word that is problematic for them. (See variants.)

International adoption[edit]

After the code words were developed by ICAO (see history below), they were adopted by other national and international organizations, including the ITU, the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the United States Federal Government as Federal Standard 1037C: Glossary of Telecommunications Terms[4] and its successors ANSI T1.523-2001[5] and ATIS Telecom Glossary (ATIS-0100523.2019)[6] (all three using the spellings "Alpha" and "Juliet"), the United States Department of Defense,[7] the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) (using the spelling "Xray"), the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU), the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials-International (APCO), and by many military organizations such as NATO (using the spelling "Xray") and the now-defunct Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO).

The same alphabetic code words are used by all agencies, but each agency chooses one of two different sets of numeric code words. NATO uses the regular English numeric words (zero, one, two &c., though with some differences in pronunciation), whereas the ITU (beginning on 1 April 1969)[8] and the IMO define compound numeric words (nadazero, unaone, bissotwo &c.). In practice these are used very rarely, as they are not held in common between agencies.


A spelling alphabet is used to spell parts of a message containing letters and numbers to avoid confusion, because many letters sound similar, for instance "n" and "m" or "f" and "s"; the potential for confusion increases if static or other interference is present. For instance the message "proceed to map grid DH98" could be transmitted as "proceed to map grid Delta-Hotel-Niner-Ait". Using "Delta" instead of "D" avoids confusion between "DH98" and "BH98" or "TH98". The unusual pronunciation of certain numbers was designed to reduce confusion as well.

In addition to the traditional military usage, civilian industry uses the alphabet to avoid similar problems in the transmission of messages by telephone systems. For example, it is often used in the retail industry where customer or site details are spoken by telephone (to authorize a credit agreement or confirm stock codes), although ad-hoc coding is often used in that instance. It has been used often by information technology workers to communicate serial or reference codes (which are often very long) or other specialised information by voice. Most major airlines use the alphabet to communicate passenger name records (PNRs) internally, and in some cases, with customers. It is often used in a medical context as well, to avoid confusion when transmitting information.

Several letter codes and abbreviations using the spelling alphabet have become well-known, such as Bravo Zulu (letter code BZ) for "well done",[9] Checkpoint Charlie (Checkpoint C) in Berlin, and Zulu Time for Greenwich Mean Time or Coordinated Universal Time. During the Vietnam War, the U.S. government referred to the Viet Cong guerrillas and the group itself as VC, or Victor Charlie; the name "Charlie" became synonymous with this force.

Pronunciation of code words[edit]

The final choice of code words for the letters of the alphabet and for the digits was made after hundreds of thousands of comprehension tests involving 31 nationalities. The qualifying feature was the likelihood of a code word being understood in the context of others. For example, Football has a higher chance of being understood than Foxtrot in isolation, but Foxtrot is superior in extended communication.[10]

To eliminate wide variations in pronunciation, posters illustrating the pronunciation desired by ICAO are available.[11] However, there are still apparent differences in pronunciation between ICAO and other agencies, and ICAO has conflicting Latin-alphabet and IPA transcriptions.

Pronunciations are somewhat uncertain because the agencies, while ostensibly using the same pronunciations, give different transcriptions, which are often inconsistent from letter to letter. ICAO gives a different pronunciation for IPA transcription and for respelling. The ATIS gives English spellings, but does not give pronunciations or numbers. ICAO, NATO, and FAA use modifications of English numerals, with stress on one syllable, while the ITU and IMO compound pseudo-Latinate numerals with a slightly different set of modified English numerals, and with stress on each syllable. Numbers 10–99 are spelled out (that is, 17 is spoken "one seven" and 60 is spoken "six zero"), while for hundreds and thousands the English words hundred and thousand are used.[6][12][13][14][15][16]

The pronunciation of the digits 3, 4, 5, and 9 differs from standard English – being pronounced tree, fower, fife, and niner. The digit 3 is specified as tree so that it is not pronounced sri; the long pronunciation of 4 (still found in some English dialects) keeps it somewhat distinct from for; 5 is pronounced with a second "f" because the normal pronunciation with a "v" is easily confused with "fire" (a command to shoot); and 9 has an extra syllable to keep it distinct from German nein 'no'.[17]

Only ICAO prescribes pronunciation with the IPA, and then only for letters.[11] Both the IPA and respelled pronunciations were developed by ICAO before 1956 with advice from the governments of both the United States and United Kingdom.[18] The ICAO lists both its "International Phonetic Convention" pronunciations and its "Latin alphabet representation" pronunciations under the heading "Approximate pronunciation" and notes: "The pronunciation of the words in the alphabet as well as numbers may vary according to the language habits of the speakers. In order to eliminate wide variations in pronunciation, posters illustrating the desired pronunciation are available from ICAO."[11]

In addition, the ITU and IMO specify a different set of numeral words than does ICAO. The ITU/IMO words are compounds combining the English numeral with either a Spanish or Latin prefix.[19] However, as of 2002, the IMO's GMDSS procedures permit the use of the ICAO numeral pronunciation.[19]

Pronunciation Conflicts
Symbol Code word
(ICAO spelling)
in IPA[11]
ICAO respelling[11] ITU-R 2007 (WRC-07) respelling[13] IMO English
FAA respelling
(with stress)[14]
(France aeronautical)
1957 U.S. Navy respelling[22] U.S. Army respelling[23]
A Alfa ˈælfa AL FAH AL FAH (AL FAH) ALFAH al fah AL fåh AL fah
C Charlie ˈtʃɑːli or
CHARLEE tchah li,
char li
D Delta ˈdeltɑ DELL TAH DELL TAH (DEL TAH) DELLTAH del tah DĔLL tåh DEL tah
E Echo ˈeko ECK OH ECK OH (EK O) ECKOH èk o ĔCK ōh EKK oh
F Foxtrot ˈfɔkstrɔt FOKS TROT FOKS TROT FOX TROTT FOKSTROT fox trott FŎKS trŏt FOKS trot
G Golf ɡʌlf GOLF GOLF (GOLF) GOLF golf GŎLF Golf
H Hotel hoːˈtel HO TELL HOH TELL HOH TELL (HO TÈLL) HOHTELL ho tèll hōh TĔLL HO tell
I India ˈindi.ɑ IN DEE AH IN DEE AH (IN DI AH) INDEE AH in di ah ÏN dēē åh IN dee ah
J Juliett ˈdʒuːli.ˈet JEW LEE ETT JEW LEE ETT (DJOU LI ÈTT) JEWLEE ETT djou li ètt JEW lēē ĔTT JEW lee ett
K Kilo ˈkiːlo KEY LOH KEY LOH (KI LO) KEYLOH ki lo KĒY lōh KEY loh
L Lima ˈliːmɑ LEE MAH LEE MAH (LI MAH) LEEMAH li mah LĒĒ måh LEE mah
M Mike mɑik MIKE MIKE (MA ÏK) MIKE maïk MĪKE Mike
N November noˈvembə NO VEM BER NO VEM BER (NO VÈMM BER) NOVEMBER no vèmm ber nō VĔM bēr NOH vem ber
O Oscar ˈɔskɑ OSS CAH OSS CAH (OSS KAR) OSSCAH oss kar ŎSS cåh OSS car
P Papa pəˈpɑ PAH PAH PAH PAH (PAH PAH) PAHPAH pah pah påh PÄH PAH pah
Q Quebec keˈbek KEH BECK KEH BECK (KÉ BÈK) KEHBECK bèk kēh BĒCK keh BECK
R Romeo ˈroːmi.o ROW ME OH ROW ME OH (RO MI O) ROWME OH ro mi o ROW mē ōh ROW me oh
S Sierra siˈerɑ SEE AIR RAH SEE AIR RAH (SI ÈR RAH) SEEAIRAH si èr rah sēē ÄIRråh see AIR ah
T Tango ˈtænɡo TANG GO TANG GO (TANG GO) TANGGO tang go TĂNG gō TANG go
U Uniform ˈjuːnifɔːm or
(or OO-NEE-FORM)[24]
you ni form,
ou ni form
YOU nēē fôrm YOU nee form
V Victor ˈviktɑ VIK TAH VIK TAH (VIK TAR) VIKTAH vik tar VĬK tåh VIK ter
W Whiskey ˈwiski WISS KEY WISS KEY (OUISS KI) WISSKEY ouiss ki WĬSS kēy WISS key
X X-ray ˈeksˈrei ECKS RAY ECKS RAY ECKS RAY (ÈKSS ) ECKSRAY[25] èkss ĔCKS rāy EKS ray
Y Yankee ˈjænki YANG KEY YANG KEY (YANG KI) YANGKEY[25] yang ki YĂNG KĒY YANG kee
Z Zulu ˈzuːluː ZOO LOO ZOO LOO (ZOU LOU) ZOOLOO zou lou ZŌŌ lōō ZOO luu
0 Zero, nadazero ZE-RO[26] NAH-DAH-ZAY-ROH[27] NAH-DAH-ZAY-ROH (NA-DA-ZE-RO)[27][28] ZE-RO / ZEE-RO zi ro Zero ZE-RO
Won (USMC)[29]
3 Three, terrathree TREE TAY-RAH-TREE TAY-RAH-TREE (TÉ-RA-TRI) TREE tri Thuh-ree TREE
4 Four, kartefour FOW-er KAR-TAY-FOWER KAR-TAY-FOWER (KAR-TÉ-FO-EUR) FOW-ER fo eur Fo-wer FOW-ER
7 Seven, setteseven SEV-en SAY-TAY-SEVEN SAY-TAY-SEVEN (SÉT-TÉ-SEV'N) SEV-EN sèv n Seven SEV-EN
8 Eight, oktoeight AIT OK-TOH-AIT OK-TOH-AIT (OK-TO-EIT) AIT eït Ate AIT
9 Nine, novenine[30] NIN-er NO-VAY-NINER NO-VAY-NINER (NO-VÉ-NAI-NEU) NIN-ER naï neu Niner NIN-ER
. (decimal point) Decimal, (FAA) point DAY-SEE-MAL[26] DAY-SEE-MAL (DÉ-SI-MAL) (point) si mal
00 Hundred HUN-dred (hundred) hun-dred Hun-dred
000 Thousand TOU-SAND[26] (thousand) taou zend Thow-zand TOU-SAND
. (full stop) Stop STOP STOP (STOP)


Prior to World War I and the development and widespread adoption of two-way radio that supported voice, telephone spelling alphabets were developed to improve communication on low-quality and long-distance telephone circuits.

The first non-military internationally recognized spelling alphabet was adopted by the CCIR (predecessor of the ITU) during 1927. The experience gained with that alphabet resulted in several changes being made during 1932 by the ITU. The resulting alphabet was adopted by the International Commission for Air Navigation, the predecessor of the ICAO, and was used for civil aviation until World War II.[18] It continued to be used by the IMO until 1965.

Throughout World War II, many nations used their own versions of a spelling alphabet. The U.S. adopted the Joint Army/Navy radiotelephony alphabet during 1941 to standardize systems among all branches of its armed forces. The U.S. alphabet became known as Able Baker after the words for A and B. The Royal Air Force adopted one similar to the United States one during World War II as well. Other British forces adopted the RAF radio alphabet, which is similar to the phonetic alphabet used by the Royal Navy during World War I. At least two of the terms are sometimes still used by UK civilians to spell words over the phone, namely F for Freddie and S for Sugar.

To enable the U.S., UK, and Australian armed forces to communicate during joint operations, in 1943 the CCB (Combined Communications Board; the combination of US and UK upper military commands) modified the U.S. military's Joint Army/Navy alphabet for use by all three nations, with the result being called the US-UK spelling alphabet. It was defined in one or more of CCBP-1: Combined Amphibious Communications Instructions, CCBP3: Combined Radiotelephone (R/T) Procedure, and CCBP-7: Combined Communication Instructions. The CCB alphabet itself was based on the U.S. Joint Army/Navy spelling alphabet. The CCBP (Combined Communications Board Publications) documents contain material formerly published in U.S. Army Field Manuals in the 24-series. Several of these documents had revisions, and were renamed. For instance, CCBP3-2 was the second edition of CCBP3.

During World War II, the U.S. military conducted significant research into spelling alphabets. Major F. D. Handy, directorate of Communications in the Army Air Force (and a member of the working committee of the Combined Communications Board), enlisted the help of Harvard University's Psycho-Acoustic Laboratory, asking them to determine the most successful word for each letter when using "military interphones in the intense noise encountered in modern warfare.". He included lists from the US, Royal Air Force, Royal Navy, British Army, AT&T, Western Union, RCA Communications, and that of the International Telecommunications Convention. According to a report on the subject:

The results showed that many of the words in the military lists had a low level of intelligibility, but that most of the deficiencies could be remedied by the judicious selection of words from the commercial codes and those tested by the laboratory. In a few instances where none of the 250 words could be regarded as especially satisfactory, it was believed possible to discover suitable replacements. Other words were tested and the most intelligible ones were compared with the more desirable lists. A final NDRC list was assembled and recommended to the CCB.[31]

After World War II, with many aircraft and ground personnel from the allied armed forces, "Able Baker" was officially adopted for use in international aviation. During the 1946 Second Session of the ICAO Communications Division, the organization adopted the so-called "Able Baker" alphabet[10] that was the 1943 US–UK spelling alphabet. However, many sounds were unique to English, so an alternative "Ana Brazil" alphabet was used in Latin America. In spite of this, International Air Transport Association (IATA), recognizing the need for a single universal alphabet, presented a draft alphabet to the ICAO during 1947 that had sounds common to English, French, Spanish and Portuguese.

From 1948 to 1949, Jean-Paul Vinay, a professor of linguistics at the Université de Montréal worked closely with the ICAO to research and develop a new spelling alphabet.[32][10] The directions of ICAO were that "To be considered, a word must:

  1. Be a live word in each of the three working languages.
  2. Be easily pronounced and recognized by airmen of all languages.
  3. Have good radio transmission and readability characteristics.
  4. Have a similar spelling in at least English, French, and Spanish, and the initial letter must be the letter the word identifies.
  5. Be free from any association with objectionable meanings."[31]

After further study and modification by each approving body, the revised alphabet was adopted on 1 November 1951, to become effective on 1 April 1952 for civil aviation (but it may not have been adopted by any military).[18]

Problems were soon found with this list. Some users believed that they were so severe that they reverted to the old "Able Baker" alphabet. Confusion among words like Delta and Extra, and between Nectar and Victor, or the poor intelligibility of other words during poor receiving conditions were the main problems. Later in 1952, ICAO decided to revisit the alphabet and their research. To identify the deficiencies of the new alphabet, testing was conducted among speakers from 31 nations, principally by the governments of the United Kingdom and the United States. In the United States, the research was conducted by the USAF-directed Operational Applications Laboratory (AFCRC, ARDC), to monitor a project with the Research Foundation of Ohio State University. Among the more interesting of the research findings was that "higher noise levels do not create confusion, but do intensify those confusions already inherent between the words in question".[31]

By early 1956 the ICAO was nearly complete with this research, and published the new official phonetic alphabet in order to account for discrepancies that might arise in communications as a result of multiple alphabet naming systems coexisting in different places and organizations. NATO was in the process of adopting the ICAO spelling alphabet, and apparently felt enough urgency that it adopted the proposed new alphabet with changes based on NATO's own research, to become effective on 1 January 1956,[33] but quickly issued a new directive on 1 March 1956[34] adopting the now official ICAO spelling alphabet, which had changed by one word (November) from NATO's earlier request to ICAO to modify a few words based on U.S. Air Force research.

After all of the above study, only the five words representing the letters C, M, N, U, and X were replaced. The ICAO sent a recording of the new Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet to all member states in November 1955.[10] The final version given in the table above was implemented by the ICAO on 1 March 1956,[18] and the ITU adopted it no later than 1959 when they mandated its usage via their official publication, Radio Regulations.[35] Because the ITU governs all international radio communications, it was also adopted by most radio operators, whether military, civilian, or amateur. It was finally adopted by the IMO in 1965.

During 1947 the ITU adopted the compound Latinate prefix-number words (Nadazero, Unaone, etc.), later adopted by the IMO during 1965.[citation needed]

  • Nadazero - from Spanish or Portuguese nada + NATO/ICAO zero
  • Unaone - generic Romance una, from Latin ūna + NATO/ICAO one
  • Bissotwo - from Latin bis + NATO/ICAO two. (1959 ITU proposals bis and too)[36]
  • Terrathree - from Italian terzo + NATO/ICAO three ("tree") (1959 ITU proposals ter and tree)
  • Kartefour - from French quatre (Latin quartus) + NATO/ICAO four ("fow-er") (1959 ITU proposals quarto and fow-er)
  • Pantafive - from French penta- + NATO/ICAO five ("fife") (From 1959 ITU proposals penta and fife)
  • Soxisix - from French soix + NATO/ICAO six (1959 ITU proposals were saxo and six)
  • Setteseven - from Italian sette + NATO/ICAO seven (1959 ITU proposals sette and sev-en)
  • Oktoeight - generic Romance octo-, from Latin octō + NATO/ICAO eight (1959 ITU proposals octo and ait)
  • Novenine - from Italian nove + NATO/ICAO nine ("niner") (1959 ITU proposals were nona and niner)

In the official version of the alphabet,[2] the spellings Alfa and Juliett are used. Alfa is spelled with an f as it is in most European languages because the spelling Alpha may not be pronounced properly by native speakers of some languages – who may not know that ph should be pronounced as f. The spelling Juliett is used rather than Juliet for the benefit of French speakers, because they may otherwise treat a single final t as silent. Early on, the NATO alliance changed X-ray to Xray in its version of the alphabet to ensure that it would be pronounced as one word rather than as two,[37] while the global organization ICAO keeps the spelling X-ray.

The alphabet is defined by various international conventions on radio, including:

  • Universal Electrical Communications Union (UECU), Washington, D.C., December 1920[38]
  • International Radiotelegraph Convention, Washington, 1927 (which created the CCIR)[39]
  • General Radiocommunication and Additional Regulations (Madrid, 1932)[40]
  • Instructions for the International Telephone Service, 1932 (ITU-T E.141; withdrawn in 1993)
  • General Radiocommunication Regulations and Additional Radiocommunication Regulations (Cairo, 1938)[41]
  • Radio Regulations and Additional Radio Regulations (Atlantic City, 1947),[42] where "it was decided that the International Civil Aviation Organization and other international aeronautical organizations would assume the responsibility for procedures and regulations related to aeronautical communication. However, ITU would continue to maintain general procedures regarding distress signals."
  • 1959 Administrative Radio Conference (Geneva, 1959)[43]
  • International Telecommunication Union, Radio
  • Final Acts of WARC-79 (Geneva, 1979).[44] Here the alphabet was formally named "Phonetic Alphabet and Figure Code".
  • International Code of Signals for Visual, Sound, and Radio Communications, United States Edition, 1969 (revised 2003)[45]


Timeline in development of the ICAO/ITU-R radiotelephony spelling alphabet
Letter 1920 UECU[38] 1927 (Washington, D.C.) International Radiotelegraph Convention (CCIR)[39] 1932 General Radiocommunication and Additional Regulations (CCIR/ICAN)[46][47] 1938 (Cairo) International Radiocommunication Conference code words[41] 1947 (Atlantic City) International Radio Conference[48] 1947 ICAO (from 1943 US–UK)[49]


1947 ICAO alphabet (from ARRL[citation needed])[52] 1947 ICAO Latin America/Caribbean[31] 1947 IATA proposal to ICAO[31] 1949 ICAO code words[31] 1951 ICAO code words[32] 1956 ICAO final code words[11] 1959 (Geneva) ITU Administrative Radio Conference code words[43] 1959 ITU respelling[43] 2008 – present ICAO code words[11] 2008 – present ICAO respelling[11]
A Argentine Amsterdam Amsterdam Amsterdam Amsterdam ABLE ADAM ANA ALPHA Alfa Alfa Alfa Alfa AL FAH Alfa AL FAH
B Brussels Baltimore Baltimore Baltimore Baltimore BAKER BAKER BRAZIL BETA Beta Bravo Bravo Bravo BRAH VOH Bravo BRAH VOH
C Canada Canada Casablanca Casablanca Casablanca CHARLIE CHARLIE COCO CHARLIE Coca Coca Charlie Charlie CHAR LEE or SHAR LEE Charlie CHAR LEE or SHAR LEE
D Damascus Denmark Danemark Danemark Danemark DOG DAVID DADO DELTA Delta Delta Delta Delta DELL TAH Delta DELL TAH
E Ecuador Eddystone Edison Edison Edison EASY EDWARD ELSA EDWARD Echo Echo Echo Echo ECK OH Echo ECK OH
F France Francisco Florida Florida Florida FOX FREDDIE FIESTA FOX Foxtrot Foxtrot Foxtrot Foxtrot FOKS TROT Foxtrot FOKS TROT
G Greece Gibraltar Gallipoli Gallipoli Gallipoli GEORGE GEORGE GATO GRAMMA Golf Gold Golf Golf GOLF Golf GOLF
H Hanover Hanover Havana Havana Havana HOW HARRY HOMBRE HAVANA Hotel Hotel Hotel Hotel HOH TELL Hotel HO TELL
I Italy Italy Italia Italia Italia ITEM IDA INDIA ITALY India India India India IN DEE AH India IN DEE AH
J Japan Jerusalem Jérusalem Jérusalem Jerusalem JIG JOHN JULIO JUPITER Julietta Juliett Juliett Juliett JEW LEE ETT Juliett JEW LEE ETT
K Khartoum Kimberley Kilogramme Kilogramme Kilogramme KING KING KILO KILO Kilo Kilo Kilo Kilo KEY LOH Kilo KEY LOH
L Lima Liverpool Liverpool Liverpool Liverpool LOVE LEWIS LUIS LITER Lima Lima Lima Lima LEE MAH Lima LEE MAH
M Madrid Madagascar Madagascar Madagascar Madagascar MIKE MARY MAMA MAESTRO Metro Metro Mike Mike MIKE Mike MIKE
N Nancy Neufchatel New York New-York New York NAN NANCY NORMA NORMA Nectar Nectar November November NO VEM BER November NO VEM BER
O Ostend Ontario Oslo Oslo Oslo OBOE OTTO OPERA OPERA Oscar Oscar Oscar Oscar OSS CAH Oscar OSS CAH
P Paris Portugal Paris Paris Paris PETER PETER PERU PERU Polka Papa Papa Papa PAH PAH Papa PAH PAH
Q Quebec Quebec Québec Québec Quebec QUEEN QUEEN QUEBEC QUEBEC Quebec Quebec Quebec Quebec KEH BECK Quebec KEH BECK
R Rome Rivoli Roma Roma Roma ROGER ROBERT ROSA ROGER Romeo Romeo Romeo Romeo ROW ME OH Romeo ROW ME OH
S Sardinia Santiago Santiago Santiago Santiago SUGAR SUSAN SARA SANTA Sierra Sierra Sierra Sierra SEE AIR RAH Sierra SEE AIR RAH
T Tokio Tokio Tripoli Tripoli Tripoli TARE THOMAS TOMAS THOMAS Tango Tango Tango Tango TANG GO Tango TANG GO
U Uruguay Uruguay Upsala Upsala Upsala UNCLE UNION URUGUAY URSULA Union Union Uniform Uniform YOU NEE FORM or
V Victoria Victoria Valencia Valencia Valencia VICTOR VICTOR VICTOR VICTOR Victor Victor Victor Victor VIK TAH Victor VIK TAH
W Washington Washington Washington Washington Washington WILLIAM WILLIAM WHISKEY WHISKEY Whiskey Whiskey Whiskey Whiskey WISS KEY Whiskey WISS KEY
X Xaintrie Xantippe Xanthippe Xanthippe Xanthippe XRAY X-RAY EQUIS X-RAY eXtra eXtra X-ray X-ray ECKS RAY X-ray ECKS RAY
Y Yokohama Yokohama Yokohama Yokohama Yokohama YOKE YOUNG YOLANDA YORK Yankey Yankee Yankee Yankee YANG KEY Yankee YANG KEY
Z Zanzibar Zululand Zürich Zurich Zurich ZEBRA ZEBRA ZETA ? Zebra Zulu Zulu Zulu ZOO LOO Zulu ZOO LOO
0 Jérusalem[Note 1] Jerusalem[Note 1] Zero Juliett[Note 1] (alt. proposals: ZE-RO, ZERO) zero ZE-RO
1 Amsterdam[Note 1] Amsterdam[Note 1] Wun Alfa[Note 1] (alt. proposals: WUN, WUN) one WUN
2 Baltimore[Note 1] Baltimore[Note 1] Too Bravo[Note 1] (alt. proposals: TOO, BIS) two TOO
3 Casablanca[Note 1] Casablanca[Note 1] Thuh-ree Charlie[Note 1] (alt. proposals: TREE, TER) three TREE
4 Danemark[Note 1] Danemark[Note 1] Fo-wer Delta[Note 1] (alt. proposals: FOW-ER, QUARTO) four FOW-er
5 Edison[Note 1] Edison[Note 1] Fi-yiv Echo[Note 1] (alt. proposals: FIFE, PENTA) five FIFE
6 Florida[Note 1] Florida[Note 1] Six Foxtrot[Note 1] (alt. proposals: SIX, SAXO) six SIX
7 Gallipoli[Note 1] Gallipoli[Note 1] Seven Golf[Note 1] (alt. proposals: SEV-EN, SETTE) seven SEV-en
8 Havana[Note 1] Havana[Note 1] Ate Hotel[Note 1] (alt. proposals: AIT, OCTO) eight AIT
9 Italia[Note 1] Italia[Note 1] Niner India[Note 1] (alt. proposals: NIN-ER, NONA) nine NIN-er
. (decimal point) (proposals: DAY-SEE-MAL, DECIMAL) decimal DAY-SEE-MAL
Hundred hundred HUN-dred
Thousand (proposals: TOUS-AND, –) thousand TOU-SAND
, Kilogramme[Note 1] Kilogramme[Note 1] Kilo[Note 1]
/ (fraction bar) Liverpool[Note 1] Liverpool[Note 1] Lima[Note 1]
(break signal) Madagascar[Note 1] Madagascar[Note 1] Mike[Note 1]
. (punctuation) New-York[Note 1] New York[Note 1] November[Note 1]

For the 1938 and 1947 phonetics, each transmission of figures is preceded and followed by the words "as a number" spoken twice.

The ITU adopted the IMO phonetic spelling alphabet in 1959,[53] and in 1969 specified that it be "for application in the maritime mobile service only".[54]

Pronunciation was not defined prior to 1959. For the post-1959 phonetics, the underlined syllable of each letter word should be emphasized, and each syllable of the code words for the post-1969 figures should be equally emphasized.

International aviation[edit]

The Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet is used by the International Civil Aviation Organization for international aircraft communications.[2][11]

Letter 1932 General Radiocommunication and Additional Regulations (CCIR/ICAN)[46][51] 1946 ICAO Second Session of the Communications Division (same as Joint Army/Navy)[31] 1947 ICAO (same as 1943 US-UK)[49]


1947 ICAO alphabet (adopted exactly from ARRL[52] 1947 ICAO Latin America/Caribbean[31] 1949 ICAO code words[31] 1951 ICAO code words[32] 1956 – present ICAO code words[11]
A Amsterdam Able ABLE ADAM ANA Alfa Alfa Alfa
B Baltimore Baker BAKER BAKER BRAZIL Beta Bravo Bravo
C Casablanca Charlie CHARLIE CHARLIE COCO Coca Coca Charlie
D Danemark Dog DOG DAVID DADO Delta Delta Delta
E Edison Easy EASY EDWARD ELSA Echo Echo Echo
F Florida Fox FOX FREDDIE FIESTA Foxtrot Foxtrot Foxtrot
G Gallipoli George GEORGE GEORGE GATO Golf Gold Golf
H Havana How HOW HARRY HOMBRE Hotel Hotel Hotel
I Italia Item ITEM IDA INDIA India India India
J Jérusalem Jig JIG JOHN JULIO Julietta Juliett Juliett
K Kilogramme King KING KING KILO Kilo Kilo Kilo
L Liverpool Love LOVE LEWIS LUIS Lima Lima Lima
M Madagascar Mike MIKE MARY MAMA Metro Metro Mike
N New York Nan (later Nickel) NAN NANCY NORMA Nectar Nectar November
O Oslo Oboe OBOE OTTO OPERA Oscar Oscar Oscar
P Paris Peter PETER PETER PERU Polka Papa Papa
Q Québec Queen QUEEN QUEEN QUEBEC Quebec Quebec Quebec
R Roma Roger ROGER ROBERT ROSA Romeo Romeo Romeo
S Santiago Sail/Sugar SUGAR SUSAN SARA Sierra Sierra Sierra
T Tripoli Tare TARE THOMAS TOMAS Tango Tango Tango
U Upsala Uncle UNCLE UNION URUGUAY Union Union Uniform
V Valencia Victor VICTOR VICTOR VICTOR Victor Victor Victor
W Washington William WILLIAM WILLIAM WHISKEY Whiskey Whiskey Whisky
X Xanthippe X-ray XRAY X-RAY EQUIS X-RAY eXtra X-ray
Y Yokohama Yoke YOKE YOUNG YOLANDA Yankey Yankee Yankee
Z Zürich Zebra ZEBRA ZEBRA ZETA Zebra Zulu Zulu
0 Zero Zero Zero
1 One Wun One
2 Two Too Two
3 Three Thuh-ree Three
4 Four Fo-wer Four
5 Five Fi-yiv Five
6 Six Six Six
7 Seven Seven Seven
8 Eight Ate Eight
9 Nine Niner Niner
. Decimal
100 Hundred
1000 Thousand

International maritime mobile service[edit]

The ITU-R Radiotelephony Alphabet is used by the International Maritime Organization for international marine communications.

Letter 1932–1965 IMO code words[55] 1965 – present (WRC-03) IMO code words[56] 1967 WARC code words[57] 2000 – present IMO SMCP code words[56] 1967 WARC respelling[57] 2007 – present ITU-R respelling[13]
A Amsterdam Alfa Alfa Alfa AL FAH AL FAH
B Baltimore Bravo Bravo Bravo BRAH VOH BRAH VOH
C Casablanca Charlie Charlie Charlie CHAR LEE or SHAR LEE CHAR LEE or SHAR LEE
D Danemark Delta Delta Delta DELL TAH DELL TAH
E Edison Echo Echo Echo ECK OH ECK OH
F Florida Foxtrot Foxtrot Foxtrot FOKS TROT FOKS TROT
G Gallipoli Golf Golf Golf GOLF GOLF
H Havana Hotel Hotel Hotel HOH TELL HOH TELL
I Italia India India India IN DEE AH IN DEE AH
J Jérusalem Juliett Juliett Juliet JEW LEE ETT JEW LEE ETT
K Kilogramme Kilo Kilo Kilo KEY LOH KEY LOH
L Liverpool Lima Lima Lima LEE MAH LEE MAH
M Madagascar Mike Mike Mike MIKE MIKE
N New-York November November November NO VEM BER NO VEM BER
O Oslo Oscar Oscar Oscar OSS CAH OSS CAH
P Paris Papa Papa Papa PAH PAH PAH PAH
Q Québec Quebec Quebec Quebec KEH BECK KEH BECK
R Roma Romeo Romeo Romeo ROW ME OH ROW ME OH
S Santiago Sierra Sierra Sierra SEE AIR RAH SEE AIR RAH
T Tripoli Tango Tango Tango TANG GO TANG GO
U Upsala Uniform Uniform Uniform YOU NEE FORM or
V Valencia Victor Victor Victor VIK TAH VIK TAH
W Washington Whisky Whisky Whisky WISS KEY WISS KEY
X Xanthippe X-ray X-ray X-ray ECKS RAY ECKS RAY
Y Yokohama Yankee Yankee Yankee YANG KEY YANG KEY
Z Zurich Zulu Zulu Zulu ZOO LOO ZOO LOO
. Full stop STOP STOP STOP
, Comma
Break signal
Fraction bar


Since 'Nectar' was changed to 'November' in 1956, the code has been mostly stable. However, there is occasional regional substitution of a few code words, such as replacing them with earlier variants, because of local taboos or confusing them with local terminology.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap Each sequence of figures is both preceded and followed by "as a number" (or, for punctuation only) "as a mark", spoken twice.


  1. ^ "The NATO phonetic alphabet – Alfa, Bravo, Charlie".
  2. ^ a b c "Alphabet - Radiotelephony". International Civil Aviation Organization. n.d. Archived from the original on 20 June 2018. Retrieved 2 July 2018.
  3. ^ "SGM-675-55: Phonetic Alphabet for NATO Use" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 12 April 2018.
  4. ^ "Definition: phonetic alphabet". Federal Standard 1037C: Glossary of Telecommunication Terms. National Communications System. 23 August 1996. Archived from the original on 11 November 2020. Retrieved 11 November 2020.
  5. ^ "T1.523-2001 - Telecom Glossary 2000". Washington, DC: American National Standards Institute. 2001. Archived from the original on 11 November 2020. Retrieved 11 November 2020.
  6. ^ a b "ATIS Telecom Glossary (ATIS-0100523.2019)". Washington, DC: Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions. 2019. Archived from the original on 11 November 2020. Retrieved 11 November 2020.
  7. ^ "Joint Publication 1-02: Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms" (PDF). p. 414, PDF page 421. Archived (PDF) from the original on 3 October 2012.
  8. ^ ITU 1967, pp. 177–179.
  9. ^ "Where does the term "Bravo Zulu" originate?". 6 March 2005. Archived from the original on 6 March 2005. Retrieved 22 August 2010.
  10. ^ a b c d "The Postal History of ICAO: Annex 10 - Aeronautical Telecommunications". ICAO. Archived from the original on 12 February 2019. Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Annex 10 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation: Aeronautical Telecommunications; Volume II Communication Procedures including those with PANS status (7th ed.). International Civil Aviation Organization. July 2016. p. §, Figure 5–1. Retrieved 18 June 2022.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  12. ^ International Civil Aviation Organization, Aeronautical Telecommunications: Annex 10 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation, Volume II (Fifth edition, 1995), Chapter 5, 38–40.
  13. ^ a b c "ITU Phonetic Alphabet and Figure Code" (PDF). ITU-R. Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 November 2017. Retrieved 31 October 2017.
  14. ^ a b "FAA Order JO 7110.65Z - Air Traffic Control". 2 December 2021. §2-4-16, TBL 2-4-1. Retrieved 20 January 2022.
  15. ^ "Phonetic alphabet in the 'FAA Federal Aeronautical Regulations / Aeronautical Information Manual'". 2 December 2021. §4-2-7, TBL 4-2-2. Retrieved 20 January 2022.
  16. ^ "ICAO phonetic alphabet by Canada". 20 May 2010. Archived from the original on 16 May 2013. Retrieved 22 August 2010.
  17. ^ "What is the standard phonetic alphabet?". Indiana University. Archived from the original on 7 May 2019. Retrieved 7 May 2019.
  18. ^ a b c d L.J. Rose, "Aviation's ABC: The development of the ICAO spelling alphabet", ICAO Bulletin 11/2 (1956) 12–14.
  19. ^ a b "Phonetic Alphabet". GMDSS Courses and Simulators. Archived from the original on 26 June 2019. Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  20. ^ International Maritime Organisation (2005). International Code of Signals, p. 22–23. Fourth edition, London.
  21. ^ Service de l'Information Aéronautique, Radiotéléphonie Archived 2 November 2014 at the Wayback Machine, 2nd edition, 2006
  22. ^ "Radioman 3 & 2 Training Course Manual NAVPERS 10228-B" (PDF). 1957. Archived (PDF) from the original on 27 February 2018.
  23. ^ "Military phonetic alphabet by US Army". 14 March 2014. Archived from the original on 2 August 2014. Retrieved 11 August 2014.
  24. ^ The FAA table that shows stressed syllables has only the first pronunciation.
  25. ^ a b Evidently a formatting error with the boldface. The second FAA table syllabifies these correctly as ECKS-RAY and YANG-KEY.
  26. ^ a b c The ICAO specifically mentions that all syllables in these words are to be equally stressed (§ note)
  27. ^ a b With the code words for the digits and decimal, each syllable is stressed equally.
  28. ^ Only the second (English) component of each code word is used by the Aeronautical Mobile Service.
  29. ^ "RP 0506 – Field Communication" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 11 August 2014.
  30. ^ Written 'nine' in the examples, but pronunciation given as 'niner'
  31. ^ a b c d e f g h i "The Evolution and Rationale of the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) Word-Spelling Alphabet, July 1959" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 10 March 2016. Retrieved 1 November 2017.
  32. ^ a b c "Alpha, Bravo, Charlie: how was Nato's phonetic alphabet chosen?". Archived from the original on 30 October 2017.
  33. ^ "North Atlantic Military Committee SGM-217-55 memorandum" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 7 November 2017.
  34. ^ "North Atlantic Military Committee SGM-156-56 memorandum" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 7 November 2017.
  35. ^ Radio Regulations 1959, pp. 430–431.
  36. ^ "Radio Regulations and Additional Radio Regulations (Geneva, 1959). Recommendation No. 30 - Relating to the Phonetic Figure Table". International Telecommunication Union (ITU). pp. 605–607.
  37. ^ Albert Pelsser, La storia postale dell' ICAO, translated by Nico Michelini
  38. ^ a b "Draft of Convention and Regulations, Washington, D.C., December, 1920". 1921. Archived from the original on 31 March 2019.
  39. ^ a b "General Regulations and Additional Regulations (Radiotelegraph)". Washington: International Radiotelegraph Convention. 1927. Retrieved 30 January 2019.
  40. ^ "General Radiocommunication and Additional Regulations". Madrid: International Telecommunication Union. 1932. Retrieved 30 January 2019.
  41. ^ a b "General Radiocommunication Regulations and Additional Radiocommunication Regulations". Cairo: International Telecommunication Union. 1938. Retrieved 30 January 2019.
  42. ^ Radio Regulations and Additional Radio Regulations. Atlantic City: International Telecommunication Union. 1947. Retrieved 28 January 2019.
  43. ^ a b c Radio Regulations; Additional Radio Regulations; Additional Protocol; Resolutions and Recommendations (PDF). Geneva: International Telecommunication Union. 1959. pp. 430, 607. Archived (PDF) from the original on 7 November 2017. Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  44. ^ "Final Acts of WARC-79 (Geneva, 1979)" (PDF). Geneva: International Telecommunication Union. 1980. Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 November 2014. Retrieved 31 January 2019.
  45. ^ International Code of Signals for Visual, Sound, and Radio Communications, United States Edition, 1969 (Revised 2003) (PDF), 1969, archived (PDF) from the original on 20 March 2015, retrieved 31 October 2017
  46. ^ a b "(Don't Get) Lost in Translation" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 16 February 2017.
  47. ^ Alcorn, John. "Radiotelegraph and Radiotelephone Codes, Prowords And Abbreviations" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 June 2016.
  48. ^ "International Radio Conference (Atlantic City, 1947)". International Telecommunication Union. Retrieved 28 January 2019.
  49. ^ a b Myers, G. B.; Charles, B. P. (14 February 1945). CCBP 3-2: Combined Radiotelephone (R/T) Procedure. Washington, D.C.: Combined Communications Board. pp. 1–2.
  50. ^ a b "FM 24-12,:Army Extract of Combined Operating Signals (CCBP 2-2)" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 1 December 2017.
  51. ^ a b c Alcorn, John. "Radiotelegraph and Radiotelephone Codes, Prowords And Abbreviations" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 June 2016.
  52. ^ a b "Item 48 in the Friedman Collection: Letter from Everett Conder to William F. Friedman, February 11, 1952" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 22 July 2016.
  53. ^ "Documents of the World Administrative Radio Conference to deal with matters relating to the maritime mobile service (WARC Mar)". Geneva: International Telecommunication Union. 1967. Retrieved 30 January 2019.
  54. ^ "Report on the Activities of The International Telecommunication Union in 1967". Geneva: International Telecommunication Union. 1968. Retrieved 30 January 2019.
  55. ^ ITU 1947, p. 275E.
  56. ^ a b "IMO Standard Marine Communication Phrases (SMCP)" (PDF). Rijeka: International Maritime Organization. 4 April 2000. Archived (PDF) from the original on 22 February 2019. Retrieved 30 January 2019.
  57. ^ a b "Final Acts of WARC Mar". Geneva: International Telecommunication Union. 1967. Retrieved 30 January 2019.
  58. ^ Van Hare, Thomas (1 March 2013). "Uncle Sam's Able Fox ‹ :: A Magazine for Aviators, Pilots and Adventurers". Archived from the original on 7 August 2018. Retrieved 7 August 2018.
  59. ^ twincessna340a (20 August 2020). "8/18/20 - Taxiway DIXIE at ATL has Reverted to D". Retrieved 7 October 2021.
  60. ^ Klapper, Ethan [@ethanklapper] (21 August 2020). "Taxiway D at ATL has long been known as "Dixie" since it's a mega hub for Delta and it was thought this would cause radio confusion. It's now taxiway D — like at every other airport. !ATL 08/177 ATL TWY DIXIE CHANGED TO TWY D 2008181933-PERM" (Tweet). Retrieved 7 October 2021 – via Twitter.

External links[edit]