The military phonetic alphabet was created to properly exchange communication by radio or telephone. More accurately known as International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet (IRDS), it consists of 26 code words that substitute each letter of the alphabet.
The phonetic alphabet is often used by military and civilians to communicate error-free spelling or messages over the phone. For example, Alpha for “A”, Bravo for “B”, and Charlie for “C”. Additionally, IRDS can be used to relay military code, slang, or shortcode. For instance, Bravo Zulu meaning “Well Done”.
History of the Military Phonetic Alphabet
The earliest phonetic alphabet was created in 1927 by the International Telecommunication Union. Its codewords consisted of cities across the world: Amsterdam, Baltimore, Casablanca, Denmark, Edison, Florida, Gallipoli, Havana, Italia, Jerusalem, Kilogramme, Liverpool, Madagascar, New York, Oslo, Paris, Quebec, Roma, Santiago, Tripoli, Uppsala, Valencia, Washington, Xanthippe, Yokohama, Zurich.
Its military use wasn’t pertinent until the coming of World War II.
By 1941, the first two radiotelephonic alphabet codes were created: “Able” and “Baker” to represent the first two letters of the alphabet. The Royal Air Force used a radiotelephony system similar to the U.S, but it was clear the Allies needed a streamlined form of communication.
After criticism for its English-prominent words, Able Baker was modified to incorporate code words with sounds in English, French, and Spanish and later approved by 31 countries. Able Baker was modified several times before established as the universal IRDS during the Cold War in the 1950s.
IRDS, developed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), is used by both the United States and NATO. Only four words – Charlie, Mike, Victor, and X-Ray – are still used from the Able Baker alphabet.
The Military Alphabet
The current military phonetic alphabet with letter characters, telephony, and pronunciation.
|I||India||IN dee ah|
|J||Juliet||JEW lee ett|
|N||November||NOH vem ber|
|R||Romeo||ROW me oh|
|S||Sierra||see AIR ah|
|U||Uniform||YOU nee form|
Common Military Alphabet Phrases
11 Bravo – Army Infantry
40 Mike Mike – 40 Millimeter Grenade or M203 Grenade Launcher
Bravo Zulu – Good Job or Well Done
Charlie Foxtrot – Cluster F**k
Charlie Mike – Continue Mission
Echo Tango Sierra – Expiration Term of Service (someone who is about to complete their tour of duty)
Lima Charlie – Loud and Clear
Mikes – Minutes
November Golf – NG or No Go (fail)
Oscar Mike – On the Move
Tango Mike – Thanks Much
Tango Uniform – Toes Up, meaning killed or destroyed
Tango Yankee – Thank You
Whiskey Charlie – Water Closet (toilet)
Whiskey Pete – White Phosphorus
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot – WTF