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NATO phonetic alphabet

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File:FAA Phonetic and Morse Chart2.svg
FAA radiotelephony phonetic alphabet and Morse code chart.

The NATO phonetic alphabet is the most widely used spelling alphabet. The NATO alphabet assigns code words to the letters of the English alphabet acrophonically so critical combinations of letters (and numbers) can be pronounced and understood by those who transmit and receive voice messages by radio or telephone regardless of their native language, especially when the safety of navigation or persons is essential. The paramount reason is to ensure intelligibility of voice signals over radio links.

Contents

International

Adoption

It is used by many national and international organizations, including the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). It is a subset of the much older International Code of Signals (INTERCO), which originally included visual signals by flags or flashing light, sound signals by whistle, siren, foghorn, or bell, as well as one, two, or three letter codes for many phrases.[1] 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, with some alternative pronunciations), whereas the IMO uses compound numeric words (Nadazero, Unaone).

Common name

The alphabet's common name (NATO phonetic alphabet) arose because it appears in Allied Tactical Publication ATP-1, Volume II: Allied Maritime Signal and Maneuvering Book used by all allied navies in NATO, which adopted a modified form of the International Code of Signals. Because the latter allows messages to be spelled via flags or Morse code, it naturally called the code words used to spell out messages by voice its "phonetic alphabet". The name NATO phonetic alphabet became widespread because the signals used to facilitate the naval communications and tactics of the United States and NATO have become global.[2]

However, ATP-1 is marked NATO Confidential (or the lower NATO Restricted) so it is not publicly available. Nevertheless, a NATO unclassified version of the document is provided to foreign, even hostile, militaries, even though they are not allowed to make it publicly available.

Language

Most of the words are recognizable by native English speakers because English must be used upon request for communication between an aircraft and a control tower whenever two nations are involved, regardless of their native languages. English is not required domestically, thus if both parties to a radio conversation are from the same country, then another phonetic alphabet of that nation's choice may be used.

In most versions of the alphabet, the non-English spellings Alfa and Juliett are found. Alfa is spelled with an f as it is in most European languages. The English and French spelling alpha would not be properly pronounced by speakers of other languages—native speakers of those languages would not know that ph should be pronounced as f. Juliett is spelled with a tt for the benefit of native French speakers because they will treat a single t as silent. In English versions of the alphabet, like that from ANSI, one or both may revert to their standard English spelling.

Alphabet and pronunciation

Template:IPA notice 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 pronunciation desired are available from the ICAO. It is used in the army.

Letter Code word Pronunciation IPA from ICAO
A Alfa (ICAO, ITU, IMO, FAA)
Alpha (ANSI)
AL FAH Template:IPA
B Bravo BRAH VOH Template:IPA (sic)
C Charlie CHAR LEE  or
SHAR LEE
Template:IPA (sic)  or
Template:IPA (sic)
D Delta DELL TAH Template:IPA
E Echo ECK OH Template:IPA
F Foxtrot FOKS TROT Template:IPA
G Golf GOLF Template:IPA (sic)
H Hotel HO TELL (ICAO)
HOH TELL (ITU, IMO, FAA)
Template:IPA
I India IN DEE AH Template:IPA
J Juliett (ICAO, ITU, IMO, FAA)
Juliet (ANSI)
JEW LEE ETT Template:IPA
K Kilo KEY LOH Template:IPA
L Lima LEE MAH Template:IPA
M Mike MIKE Template:IPA
N November NO VEM BER Template:IPA (sic)
O Oscar OSS CAH Template:IPA
P Papa PAH PAH Template:IPA
Q Quebec KEH BECK Template:IPA
R Romeo ROW ME OH Template:IPA
S Sierra SEE AIR RAH (ICAO, ITU, IMO)
SEE AIR AH (FAA)
Template:IPA
T Tango TANG GO Template:IPA (sic)
U Uniform YOU NEE FORM  or
OO NEE FORM
Template:IPA (sic)  or
Template:IPA
V Victor VIK TAH Template:IPA
W Whiskey WISS KEY Template:IPA
X X-ray or
Xray
ECKS RAY (ICAO, ITU)
ECKS RAY (IMO, FAA)
Template:IPA
Y Yankee YANG KEY Template:IPA (sic)
Z Zulu ZOO LOO Template:IPA
0 Zero (FAA)
Nadazero (ITU, IMO)
ZE RO (ICAO, FAA)
NAH-DAH-ZAY-ROH (ITU, IMO)
1 One (FAA)
Unaone (ITU, IMO)
WUN (ICAO, FAA)
OO-NAH-WUN (ITU, IMO)
2 Two (FAA)
Bissotwo (ITU, IMO)
TOO (ICAO, FAA)
BEES-SOH-TOO (ITU, IMO)
3 Three (FAA)
Terrathree (ITU, IMO)
TREE (ICAO, FAA)
TAY-RAH-TREE (ITU, IMO)
4 Four (FAA)
Kartefour (ITU, IMO)
FOW ER (ICAO, FAA)
KAR-TAY-FOWER (ITU, IMO)
5 Five (FAA)
Pantafive (ITU, IMO)
FIFE (ICAO, FAA)
PAN-TAH-FIVE (ITU, IMO)
6 Six (FAA)
Soxisix (ITU, IMO)
SIX (ICAO, FAA)
SOK-SEE-SIX (ITU, IMO)
7 Seven (FAA)
Setteseven (ITU, IMO)
SEV EN (ICAO, FAA)
SAY-TAY-SEVEN (ITU, IMO)
8 Eight (FAA)
Oktoeight (ITU, IMO)
AIT (ICAO, FAA)
OK-TOH-AIT (ITU, IMO)
9 Nine (FAA)
Novenine (ITU, IMO)
(No 'r' in spellings)
NIN ER (ICAO, FAA)
NO-VAY-NINER (ITU, IMO)

The spelling and pronunciation given is that officially prescribed by the ICAO, ITU, IMO, and the FAA. The ICAO indicates unstressed numeric syllables in lower case (stressed in UPPER CASE), unlike its own alphabet, where stressed syllables are UNDERLINED UPPER CASE (unstressed in UPPER CASE). In the interests of uniformity, the IMO/FAA style of stressed syllables in BOLD will be used here (underlines might be confused with links).

Wherever the agencies (ICAO, ITU, IMO, FAA, ANSI) differ, each agency's preferred pronunciations or spellings are also given in the table. The ICAO, ITU, and IMO give an alternate pronunciation for a couple of letter-words. The FAA gives the alternate pronunciations in one publication as shown by the image on this page, but in other publications it does not. The FAA gives different spellings for their pronunciations depending on the publication consulted. These are from the FAA Flight Services manual (§ 14.1.5) and the ATC manual (§ 2-4-16). ANSI gives English spellings, but does not give pronunciations or numbers. The ICAO, NATO, and FAA use the common English number words (with stress), which are also the second component of the more complex ITU and IMO number words (no stress).[3][4][5][6][7]

Only the ICAO prescribes any kind of IPA pronunciation (and then only for letters, not numbers). It is a broad transcription because many different pronunciations of each code word are allowed, depending on the language habits of the speakers. Thus only a generic 'e' is indicated, rather than its various shades; 'r' indicates an English r, rather than a trilled r; 'i' indicates either a long or short i. Several differences are apparent between the Latin alphabet pronunciation and the IPA pronunciation (indicated via sic): no 'r' is shown in the IPA forms of CHAR LEE, SHAR LEE, NOVEMBER, or YOU NEE FORM, but is shown in OO NEE FORM; the Template:IPA phoneme ('ng') in the IPA forms of TANG GO and YANG KEE is shown as an 'n'; the IPA form of GOLF implies it is pronounced 'gulf'; and the IPA form of BRAH VOH has both syllables stressed. These alternatives may indicate the wide variations in pronunciation that are acceptable.[3]

History

The first internationally recognized alphabet was adopted by the ITU in 1927. The experience gained with that alphabet resulted in several changes being made in 1932 by the ITU. The resulting alphabet was adopted by the International Commission for Air Navigation, the predecessor of the ICAO, and was used in civil aviation until World War II. It continued to be used by the IMO until 1965:

Amsterdam Baltimore Casablanca Denmark Edison Florida Gallipoli Havana Italia Jerusalem Kilogramme Liverpool Madagascar New_York Oslo Paris Quebec Roma Santiago Tripoli Upsala Valencia Washington Xanthippe Yokohama Zurich

Military alphabets before 1956
Template:Country data UK Template:Country data USA
Royal Navy Western Front slang
or "signalese"
RAF phonetic alphabet U.S. phonetic
alphabet
1914–1918 (WWI) 1924–1942 1943–1956 1941–1956
Apples
Butter
Charlie
Duff
Edward
Freddy
George
Harry
Ink
Johnnie
King
London
Monkey
Nuts
Orange
Pudding
Queenie
Robert
Sugar
Tommy
Uncle
Vinegar
Willie
Xerxes
Yellow
Zebra
Ack
Beer
Charlie
Don
Edward
Freddie
Gee
Harry
Ink
Johnnie
King
London
Emma
Nuts
Oranges
Pip
Queen
Robert
Esses
Toc
Uncle
Vic
William
X-ray
Yorker
Zebra
Ace
Beer
Charlie
Don
Edward
Freddie
George
Harry
Ink
Johnnie
King
London
Monkey
Nuts
Orange
Pip
Queen
Robert
Sugar
Toc
Uncle
Vic
William
X-ray
Yorker
Zebra
Able/Affirm
Baker
Charlie
Dog
Easy
Fox
George
How
Item/Interrogatory
Jig/Johnny
King
Love
Mike
Nab/Negat
Oboe
Peter/Prep
Queen
Roger
Sugar
Tare
Uncle
Victor
William
X-ray
Yoke
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

In military use British and American armed forces each developed their phonetic alphabets prior to both forces adopting the NATO alphabet in 1956. British forces adopted the RAF phonetic alphabet which is similar to the phonetic alphabet used by the Royal Navy in World War I. The U.S. adopted the Joint Army/Navy Phonetic Alphabet from 1941 to standardize systems amongst all branches of their armed forces. The U.S. alphabet became known as Able Baker after the words for A and B. The British adapted their RAF alphabet in 1943 to be almost identical to the U.S. one.

After World War II, with many aircraft and ground personnel drawn from the allied armed forces, "Able Baker" continued to be used in civil aviation. But many sounds were unique to English, so an alternative "Ana Brazil" alphabet was used in Latin America. But the International Air Transport Association (IATA), recognizing the need for a single universal alphabet, presented a draft alphabet to the ICAO in 1947 which had sounds common to English, French, and Spanish. After further study and modification by each approving body, the revised alphabet was implemented November 1, 1951 in civil aviation (it may not have been adopted by any military):

Alfa Bravo Coca Delta Echo Foxtrot Golf Hotel India Juliett Kilo Lima Metro Nectar Oscar Papa Quebec Romeo Sierra Tango Union Victor Whisky Extra Yankee Zulu

Immediately, problems were found with this list—some users felt they were so severe that they reverted to the old "Able Baker" alphabet. 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. Confusion among words like Delta, Nectar, Victor, and Extra, or omission of other words under poor receiving conditions were the main problems. After much study, only five words representing the letters C, M, N, U, and X were replaced. The final version given in the table above was implemented by the ICAO on March 1, 1956,[8] and was undoubtedly adopted shortly thereafter by the ITU, because it appears in the 1959 Radio Regulations as an established phonetic alphabet.[9] Because the ITU governs all international radio communications, it was also adopted by all radio operators, whether military, civilian, or amateur (ARRL). It was finally adopted by the IMO in 1965. In 1947 the ITU adopted the compound number words (Nadazero Unaone, etc.), later adopted by the IMO in 1965.

Usage

The alphabet is used to spell out parts of a message containing letters and numbers to avoid confusion, because many letters sound similar, for instance "n" and "m" or "b" and "d". 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 "BH98" and "DH98".

In addition to the traditional military usage, civilian industry uses the alphabet to combat similar problems in the transmission of messages over telephone systems. For example, it is often used in the retail industry where customer or site details are spoken over the telephone (in order to authorize a credit agreement or confirming stock codes), although ad hoc coding is often used in that instance. It has found heavy usage in the information technology industry to accurately and quickly communicate serial/reference codes (which can be and are frequently extremely long) or other specialised information by voice.

Several letter codes and abbreviations using the phonetic alphabet have become well-known, such as Bravo Zulu (letter code BZ) for "well done",[10] Checkpoint Charlie (Checkpoint C) in Berlin, and Zulu Time for Greenwich Mean Time or Coordinated Universal Time. During the Vietnam War, Viet Cong guerrillas and the group itself were referred to as VC, or Victor Charlie; the name "Charlie" has thus become synonymous with this force.

The phonetic alphabet is frequently used in popular culture to evoke a military environment or situation. For example, in the movie Meet the Parents, Robert de Niro plays a former CIA operative who repeatedly utters phrases using the phonetic alphabet. Other notable examples of usage include the British television series Juliet Bravo which wasn't the character's name but her callsign, The Bill and Robert Ludlum's novel The Bourne Identity which repeatedly uses the system - the phrase Cain is for Charlie and Delta is for Cain is repeated, always italicized, to symbolize the messages relayed to the main character during the Vietnam War.

Slang uses include euphemisms for swear words, such as Whiskey Tango Foxtrot ("What the fuck?")[11], Charlie Foxtrot (American military slang referring to any sort of mass confusion as a "cluster fuck" or "completely fucked"), Foxtrot Uniform ("Fuck up")[12], and Foxtrot Oscar ("Fuck off").[13] In Australia, the term "overtime" is often abbreviated to OT and is therefore tagged Oscar Tango.

Variants

Aviation

  • "Delta" is replaced by "Dixie" or "David" at airports that have a majority of Delta Air Lines flights, such as Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in order to avoid confusion because "Delta" is also Delta's callsign.
  • "Foxtrot" is commonly abbreviated to "Fox" at North American airports and some European ones.

Amateur radio

Amateur radio and citizens' band radio operators will occasionally use "Italy" instead of "India", "Kilowatt" instead of simply "Kilo", "Radio" instead of "Romeo", "Yokohama" instead of "Yankee" and "Zanzibar" instead of "Zulu".

Other

Many unofficial phonetic alphabets are in use that are not based on a standard, but are based on words the transmitter can easily remember. Often, such ad-hoc phonetic alphabets are first name alphabets based on (mostly) men's names, such as Alan Bobby Charlie David Edward Frederick George Howard Isaac James Kevin Larry Michael Nicholas Oscar Peter Quincy Robert Stephen Trevor Ulysses Vincent William Xavier Yaakov Zebedee, or on a mixture of names and other easily recognizable (and locally understandable) proper nouns, such as U.S. states, local cities and towns, etc. One documented example of this is the LAPD phonetic alphabet.

Additions in other languages

Certain languages' standard alphabets have letters, or letters with diacritics e.g. umlauts, that do not exist in the English alphabet. Each of their countries has had its own radiotelephonic alphabet containing words for these letters decades before the ICAO had their alphabet.

German

To the above NATO series has been added Ärger ("anger") for <Ä>, Öse ("grommet") for <Ö>, and Übel ("evil") for <Ü>. These additions are not in the ICAO alphabet and are used only in the German-speaking world. Three other special words commonly used in German radiotelephonic alphabets were not added: one for <Ch>, one for <Sch>, and one for <ß>, which is instead encoded as <s><s>.

Danish

Denmark is also a member of NATO, and according to Per K. Nielsen, its military has added Ægir for <Æ>, Ødis for <Ø>, and Åse for <Å>, which in its alphabet are separate letters that follow <Z>.

Norwegian

The Norwegian phonetic alphabet uses Ærlig ("honest") for <Æ>, Østen ("the East") for <Ø>, and Åse (<female surname>) for <Å>.

Spanish

In Spain and Latin America, Ñandu ("rhea") is used for <Ñ>.

Recordings

Template:Multi-listen start Template:Multi-listen item This recording is not of the full alphabet. Template:Multi-listen end

References

  1. International Code of Signals, United States Edition, 1969 Edition (Revised 2003), Chapter 1, pages 18-19, 148.
  2. Globalization and Sea Power
  3. 3.0 3.1 Aeronautical Telecommunications: Annex 10 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation, Volume II, Chapter 5.
  4. ITU Phonetic Alphabet and Figure Code
  5. ICAO Phonetics by the FAA
  6. American National Standard T1.523-2001, Telecom Glossary 2000
  7. ICAO phonetic alphabet by Canada
  8. L.J. Rose, "Aviation's ABC: The development of the ICAO spelling alphabet", ICAO Bulletin 11/2 (1956) 12-14.
  9. International Telecommunication Union, "Appendix 16: Phonetic Alphabet and Figure Code", Radio Regulations (Geneva, 1959) 430-431.
  10. Where does the term "Bravo Zulu" originate?
  11. Jack L. Saunders, Bukowski Never Did This: A Year in the Life of an Underground Writer and His Family, LitVision Press, p106, ISBN 097671535X
  12. Fred J. Pushies, Terry Griswold, U. S. Counter-Terrorist Forces, p239, Crestline Imprints, 2002, ISBN 0760313636
  13. Ray Puxley, Britslang: an uncensored A-Z of the people's language including rhyming slang, p187, Robson 2004, ISBN 1861057288

See also

External links

be-x-old:Фанетычны алфавіт bg:Фонетична азбука на НАТО ca:Alfabet fonètic de l'OTAN cs:Hláskovací tabulka cy:Gwyddor seinegol NATO da:NATOs fonetiske alfabet de:Buchstabiertafel el:Φωνητικό αλφάβητο NATO es:Alfabeto fonético de la OTAN fr:Alphabet phonétique de l'OTAN ko:NATO 음성 문자 hr:Fonetska tablica sricanja slova i brojeva it:Alfabeto fonetico NATO he:אלפבית צלילי hu:NATO fonetikus ABC nl:Spellingsalfabet (NAVO) ja:NATOフォネティックコード no:Fonetisk alfabet nn:Fonetisk alfabet pl:Alfabet fonetyczny NATO pt:Alfabeto radiotelefônico ro:Alfabetul fonetic NATO ru:Фонетический алфавит sk:Medzinárodná hláskovacia tabuľka sl:NATO abeceda fi:Radioaakkoset sv:Bokstavering ta:ஒலியன்களின் அகரவரிசை th:การออกเสียงตัวอักษรของการสื่อสารวิทยุ tr:Heceleme alfabesi uk:Фонетичний алфавіт zh:北约音标字母

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.
It uses material from the Wikipedia article "NATO phonetic alphabet".
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