Phonetic Alphabet

Walkie Talkie World War II
Walkie Talkie World War II
Our walkie-talkie radios have many uses in many different industries

Our walkie talkie radios are also supplied by Motorola, Kenwood, Icom, Barrett, Tait, Vertex Standard, Entel and Codan.

A walkie-talkie (more formally known as a handheld transceiver) is a hand-held portable, two-way radio transceiver. The first walkie-talkies were developed for military use during World War II, and spread to public safety and eventually commercial and jobsite work after the war. Major characteristics include a half-duplex channel (only one radio transmits at a time, though any number can listen) and a push-to-talk switch that starts transmission. Typical walkie-talkies resemble a telephone handset, possibly slightly larger but still a single unit, with an antenna sticking out of the top. Where a phone’s earpiece is only loud enough to be heard by the user, a walkie-talkie’s built-in speaker can be heard by the user and those in his immediate vicinity. Hand-held transceivers may be used to communicate between each other, or to vehicle-mounted or base stations.

he Phonetic Alphabet is used by radio operators, to spell out words. It is useful when exchanging important and precize information (addresses, names, etc) especially during not clear transmission. This alphabet has been changed over the years and in different groups of radio users and different countries the alphabet varying from each other.

The NATO phonetic alphabet, more formally the international radiotelephony spelling alphabet, is the most widely used spelling alphabet. Though often called “phonetic alphabets”, spelling alphabets have no connection to phonetic transcription systems like the International Phonetic Alphabet. Instead, the NATO alphabet assigns code words to the letters of the English alphabet acrophonically so that 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.

Communications Aerial
Communications Aerial
The phonetic alphabet is used by many national and international organisations, 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. 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).

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. 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.

Circuit Board
Circuit Board
Most of the words are recognisable 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.

2 thoughts on “Phonetic Alphabet”

  1. Hi guys. Really interesting article. I’ve been looking for some insight into why Alfa was spelled with an ‘f’!

    We put together a phonetic alphabet infographic that I think you might enjoy:

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