The military alphabet is the colloquial phrase referring to the International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet, and also sometimes called the NATO Phonetic Alphabet or the ICAO Phonetic or Spelling Alphabet. This spelling alphabet was originally developed to clarify transcription errors that occurred over broadcast signals, such as phone lines or radio frequencies. Numerous organizations, not just the military, use the military alphabet to clear up potential miscommunication over broadcasts. These organizations include professional broadcasters, HAM radio enthusiasts, and aircraft control workers and pilots.
Development of the Military Alphabet
The current military alphabet was developed in the 1950’s to replace an older spelling alphabet, which was the Joint Army/Navy Phonetic Alphabet, which was used by military organizations from 1941 to 1956. However, the idea of a military alphabet to facilitate broadcast communications dates back as early as World War I – an edition of the Bluejackets Manual from 1913 supplies a type of military spelling code. The first internationally adopted spelling alphabet dates back to 1927.
The new standard military alphabet has been so useful that it has been adopted internationally, including by NATO and the UN. Occasionally, various organizations will analyze the ease of understanding the words in the military alphabet and may adopt a new standard code word. In the current version, for example, the word for the letter C is “Charlie,” but originally that word was “Cast.” Because this military alphabet has been adopted as an international standard, if the standard changes, it must be by international agreement.
When is the Military Alphabet Used?
The military alphabet comes out as a standard over broadcast signals, such as two-way radio transmissions, to avoid spelling errors when the speaker must spell a word or uses letters in a call signal. Many letters in the Western alphabet sound similar – for example, B and C – so using words with clearly identifiable first letters and unique pronunciations helps clear up confusion for the listener.
The standardized military alphabet is sometimes also used to relay slang between military members. For example, the term “Bravo Zulu” means Well Done, based on the Navy’s flags from a maritime tactical signals publication.
Why Should I Download the Military Alphabet Form?
If you are trying to learn the military alphabet for any reason – whether you work in a branch of the military, radio broadcasting or some type, or simply want to learn it for potential later use – our free, downloadable forms can easily be printed out and hung on a wall or placed in a book for reference. Download our free military alphabet PDF form today and get started!