NATO Phonetic Alphabet

One of the most valuable tools in maintaining clarity and avoiding confusion in communications is the use of the phonetic alphabet. C, D, E, P, V, T, and Z all sound very much alike on a Sound-powered phone, for example. By using their phonetic equivalents (Charlie, Della, Echo, Papa, Victor, Tango, and Zulu) there is no chance of someone misunderstanding what letter you mean. If you say. “We need part number six alfa” instead of “six a,” there is no chance that someone will confuse that with part 6k (which would be “six kilo”). The phonetic alphabet can also be used to spell out words that someone is having difficulty understanding.

The phonetic alphabet has been around for a long time, but has not always been the same. Back in the days of World War II, the phonetic alphabet began with the letters “Able, Baker, Charlie.” K was “King,” and S was “Sugar.” After the war, when the NATO alliance was formed, the phonetic alphabet was changed to make it easier for the people who speak the different languages found in the alliance. That version has remained the same, and today the phonetic alphabet begins with “Alfa, Bravo, Charlie,” K is now “Kilo,” and S is “Sierra.”

As you look over the phonetic alphabet, you will notice certain idiosyncrasies that you must accept. For example, the letter “Alfa” is spelled with an f instead of ph. This is because some of our allies do not have a ph in their language. Also note that “Whiskey” ends in “key,” not “ky,” and “Juliett” ends in two ts.

Pay close attention to the pronunciation of each letter. Note that in the table provided, each word is accented on the syllable in capital letters. This is no time for individuality— it is essential that everyone say these words as much the same as is possible to avoid any confusion. which is the whole purpose. The letter p should he pronounced “pah-PAH,” not “POP-ah” as most Americans are more Likely to say. L is “LEE-mah,” not “LYE-mah,” and q is “kay-BECK,” not “quee-BECK.”

— The Bluejacket’s Manual

Symbol Code Word Pronunciation
A
Alpha
Al-fah
B
Bravo
BRAH-vo
C
Charlie
CHAR-lee
D
Delta
DELL-tah
E
Echo
ECK-oh
F
Foxtrot
FOKS-traht
G
Golf
GOLF
H
Hotel
hoh-TELL
I
India
IN-dee-ah
J
Juliet
JEW-lee-ett
K
Kilo
KEY-loh
L
Lima
LEE-mah
M
Mike
MIKE
N
November
no-VEM-ber
O
Oscar
OSS-ker
P
Papa
pah-PAH
Q
Quebec
kay-BECK
R
Romeo
ROW-me-oh
S
Sierra
see-AIR-rah
T
Tango
TANG-go
U
Uniform
YOU-nee-form
V
Victor
VIK-ter
W
Whiskey
WISS-key
X
X-ray
ECKS-ray
Y
Yankee
YANG-key
Z
Zulu
ZOO-loo