ITU / NATO Phonetic Alphabet

- a list or chart of the ITU or NATO phonetic alphabet used for voice radio communications, and general telecommunications applications

The ITU or NATO phonetic alphabet is widely used for radio communications and other applications.

Its use has come about because of the need to be able to distinguish letters accurately when spoken over radio channels where the bandwidth of the audio is limited and there may be interference. As a result it is often referred to as the radio alphabet.

Even when using standard telephone lines letters such as "B" and "P" for example may sound very different. Many other letters also sound relatively similar, and particularly over radio communications equipment, it may be different to distinguish between them.

In order to alleviate the problem, phonetic alphabets have been used since the earliest days of radio communication.

For many years the one adopted by the ITU, International Telecommunications Union, has been taken as the standard, and it si the one that is given below.

ITU / NATO phonetic alphabet chart / list

A Alpha N November
B Bravo O Oscar
C Charlie P Papa
D Delta Q Quebec
E Echo R Romeo
F Foxtrot S Sierra
G Golf T Tango
H Hotel U Uniform
I India V Victor
J Juliet W Whisky
K Kilo X X-ray
L Lima Y Yankee
M Mike Z Zulu

History of the ITU phonetic alphabet

After the introduction of voice radio communications it was soon realised that it was easy for letters to be mistaken. However it was only with the advent of international radio communications in the mid 1920s that the need for international organisation cooperation was recognised. Asa result of this the International Telecommunications Union, ITU took on many responsibilities from allocating callsign blocks for the different countries to gaining agreements on codes and other standards.

As a result of this work the ITU assembled and adopted the first internationally recognised alphabet in 1927. This was widely used in early radio or "wireless" communications of the day. As a result of its use, a number of weaknesses were discovered and in 1932 it was revised.


1932 ITU Phonetic Alphabet:

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


During the Second World War, another phonetic alphabet was devised to be used by the allies. It was introduced around 1941 and was called the Joint Army / Navy Phonetic Alphabet. This one was used by many, especially ex-servicemen after the war.


Joint Army/Navy Phonetic Alphabet:

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


After the war there were several phonetic alphabets in use for radio communication and the then International Air Transport Association recognised the need for a single one to be used. As a result they presented a draft version of one to be used in 1947. This was modified after some use and adopted in 1951. This proved to be unsatisfactory in use and was modified again in 1956, and soon after this it was adopted by the ITU and reffered to as the ITU phonetic alphabet, the NATO phonetic alphabet, or even the radio alphabet.

Since then the ITU Phonetic Alphabet has been in widespread use for all forms of radio communication from shipping to aeronautical and all forms of radio communications.

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