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Army Phonetic Alphabet (NATO) 2023

The Army Phonetic Alphabet refers to the phonetic alphabet used by the Army to ensure clarity in communication over radios and audio communication tools, where any misunderstandings can be fatal.  

The NATO Phonetic Alphabet, officially called the International Radio-Telephony Spelling Alphabet, is the world’s most widely used radiotelephone spelling alphabet. 

  • It’s also commonly known as the International Civil Aviation Organization Phonetic Alphabet.
  • It’s used by the Army, Air Force, Navy, and all other US Armed Forces branches.
  • We use this alphabet to clarify communication for maritime operations, domestic and international flights, and, of course, NATO Alliance military activities.
  • The US Military and the Army use the NATO phonetic alphabet to ensure clear communication, particularly over radio transmissions.
  • The US Army had its own phonetic alphabet before the NATO version was standardized and universally accepted in the military.
  • All branches of the Army use the NATO phonetic alphabet.

NATO Phonetic Alphabet History

At the beginning of the 20th century, spelling alphabets were deployed to improve communication during two-way radio transmissions and low-quality or long-distance telephone circuits.

The system is simple. Assigning names to the 26 letters of the English language and a slight variation to the English numbers.

  • The letters are Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo, Foxtrot, Golf, Hotel, Kilo, Lima, Mike, November, Oscar, Papa, Quebec, Romeo, Sierra, Tango, Uniform, Victor, Whiskey, X-ray, Yankee, and Zulu. 
  • The numbers are 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10.

The Army Phonetic Alphabet List

Here is the Army Phonetic Alphabet:

LetterPhonetic Word
AAlpha
BBravo
CCharlie
DDelta
EEcho
FFoxtrot
GGolf
HHotel
IIndia
JJuliett
KKilo
LLima
MMike
NNovember
OOscar
PPapa
QQuebec
RRomeo
SSierra
TTango
UUniform
VVictor
WWhiskey
XX-ray
YYankee
ZZulu
Army Phonetic Letters

The Army Phonetic Number

For numbers:

  • 0 – Zero
  • 1 – One (sometimes “Wun” for clarity over radio)
  • 2 – Two
  • 3 – Three (often pronounced “Tree” in radio communication)
  • 4 – Four (often pronounced “Fower” in radio communication)
  • 5 – Five
  • 6 – Six
  • 7 – Seven
  • 8 – Eight
  • 9 – Nine (often pronounced “Niner” in radio communication)

Army Phonetic Alphabet (NATO)
Army Phonetic Alphabet (NATO)

Examples

Here are a few phonetic alphabet examples of how or why we would use them:

Medical evacuations in military operations

  • This Vietnam-era Combat Medic is calling in a Medevac, and he has to give the exact location for the helicopter to land. 
  • The location is Papa Golf 193 5799422. 
  • We still use the same system today. 
  • It is clear, and the helicopter knows precisely where to land.

Clarifying spelling during online transactions

  • Imagine you’re ordering a package online. 
  • You give the customer service representative your address, but because English is her second language, she’s unsure how to spell Pennsylvania. 
  • So you clarify by saying P as in Papa, E as in Echo, N as in November, another N as in November, S as in Sierra, Y as in Yankee, L as in Lima, V as in Victor, and so on. 
  • Therefore, she fully understands and writes it correctly. 

Aircraft Control Tower Communication

Airport Phonetic Alphabet
Airport Phonetic Alphabet
  • An aircraft control tower communicates with airplanes. 
  • If you were listening to their communication, you would hear something to the effect of Delta Flight Niner, Five, Tree; this is Charles de Gaulle; maintain your altitude at Two, Five thousand feet. Proceed to checkpoint Niner. You will land on runway Five Tree with an approach angle of Niner five degrees. 

Benefits of the NATO Phonetic Alphabet and Numbering System

  • Improved clarity and accuracy in communication
  • Reducing misunderstandings and miscommunications
  • Enhancing safety in various industries

We use the Phonetic Alphabet to clarify communications because communication errors are a matter of life and death in some circumstances and some career fields.

So, there you have it—a quick explanation of the Army alphabet and numerical system. Thanks for reading.

George N.