RAF radio alphabet

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The RAF radiotelephony spelling alphabet was used by the British Royal Air Force (RAF) to aid communication after the take-up of radio, especially to spell out aircraft identification letters, e.g. "H-Harry", "G for George" etc. Several alphabets were used, before being superseded by the adoption of the NATO/ICAO radiotelephony alphabet. While sometimes referred to as the "RAF Phonetic Alphabet", it is a spelling alphabet rather than a true phonetic alphabet.

Polish Spitfire Mk Vb from the 303 Kościuszko Squadron flown by S/Ldr Zumbach and showing the RF 303 Squadron codes and the individual aircraft letter D - or, when spoken, D-Dog

History[edit]

During World War I both British Army and British Navy had developed their own quite separate spelling alphabets. The Navy system was full alphabet, starting: Apples, Butter, Charlie, Duff, Edward, but the RAF alphabet was based on that of the "signalese" of the army signallers. This was not a full alphabet, but differentiated only the letters most frequently misunderstood: Ack (originally "Ak"), Beer (or Bar), C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, eMma, N, O, Pip, Q, R, eSses, Toc, U, Vic, W, X, Y, Z.

By 1921 the RAF "Telephony Spelling Alphabet" had been adopted by all three armed services, and was then made mandatory for UK civil aviation, as announced in Notice to Airmen Number 107.[1]

Alphabets[edit]

1921 – 1942[1][2] 1942–1956[3]
Apple
Beer
Charlie
Don
Edward
Freddie
George
Harry
Ink
Johnnie
King
London
Monkey
Nuts 1
Orange
Pip
Queen
Robert
Sugar
Toc
Uncle
Vic 2
William
X-ray
Yorker
Zebra
Able
Baker
Charlie
Dog
Easy
Fox
George
How
Item
Jig
King
Love
Mike
Nan
Oboe
Peter
Queen
Roger
Sugar
Tare
Uncle
Victor
William
X-ray
Yoke
Zebra
  • 1 The choice of Nuts following Monkey is probably from "monkey nuts" = peanuts; likewise Orange and Pip can be similarly paired.
  • 2 "Vic" subsequently entered the English language as the standard (Vee-shaped) flight pattern of three aircraft.

Since 1956[edit]

In 1956 the NATO phonetic alphabet was adopted due to the RAF's wide commitments with NATO and worldwide sharing of civil aviation facilities.[3]

Since 1956
Alpha
Bravo
Charlie
Delta
Echo
Foxtrot
Golf
Hotel
India
Juliet
Kilo
Lima
Mike
November
Oscar
Papa
Quebec
Romeo
Sierra
Tango
Uniform
Victor
Whisky
X-Ray
Yankee
Zulu

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Notice to Airmen", Flight, Flightglobal.com, XIII (679): 862, 29 December 1921, retrieved 11 August 2014 
  2. ^ Keesing's Contemporary Archives, Volume 4, Part 2, 1942
  3. ^ a b "'Alfa Bravo' for R.A.F", Flight, Flightglobal.com, 69 (2451): 63, 13 January 1956, retrieved 11 August 2014