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International Radio Phonetic Alphabet: NATO Alphabet

The radio sound alphabet, more correctly be termed the radiotelephony spelling alphabet is employed for unambiguously spelling out words by letter, often over radio or telephone connections

Often called the radio sound alphabet, this alphabet is widely used for 2-way radio communications, and other telecommunications services to convey letters unambiguously where interference and bandwidth limitations often make it difficult to differentiate accurately between different letters.

The radio sound alphabet or spelling alphabet may be a set of words that are wont to represent the letters of an alphabet. The words within the sound alphabet are wont to represent the name of the letter with which it starts – this is often actually called acrophony.

International Radio Phonetic Alphabet: NATO Alphabet

Although it’s often called the radio sound alphabet, a sound alphabet may be a term used within linguists to record detailed information about the sounds of human speech. Therefore when used for radio applications a special term is usually needed. The more correct term for the radio sound alphabet is that the International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet.

As the International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet is widely called the radio sound alphabet, this term is going to be used here for many of the time.

The radio sound alphabet is employed internationally and hence it’s often called the International Radio or Radiotelephony sound alphabet. By having an internationally recognized spelling alphabet, all operators are going to be attuned thereto and there’ll be fewer instances of misinterpretation.

Need for the radiotelephony spelling alphabet

On any two-way radio communication link or for other sorts of voice telecommunications, the audio bandwidth is restricted and interference and distortion could also be present.

The radio sound alphabet is employed to represent the relevant letters. it’s been developed over a few years in such how that the words used to provide a minimal risk of being mistaken for an additional one.

Sounds like ‘B’ and ‘T’ for ‘S’ and ‘F’ are very similar. Other letters are often difficult to differentiate and this suggests it’s possible for messages to be received incorrectly. Even those which can sound very different might be mistaken if signals are poor and interference levels are high

To overcome these words beginning with the actual letter were used from the very earliest days of radio to spot a specific letter and avoid confusion and misinterpretation.


The sound alphabet currently used and therefore the one detailed below is usually mentioned because of the ITU sound alphabet.

It has also been adopted by a variety of other organizations and thus can also be known by these names also.

NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Alliance) has adopted the sound alphabet for his or her radio communications and telecommunications. Accordingly, references to the NATO sound alphabet can also be seen.

The International Civil Aircraft Organisation, ICAO also uses the international radio sound alphabet for radio communications between aircraft and ground also as many other applications. Accordingly, the radio sound alphabet can also be referred to as the ICAO sound alphabet.

As the spelling alphabet or sound alphabet is employed internationally, it’s also often called the International Radio sound alphabet, although the NATO alphabet is one among the more widely used notations.

International Radio Phonetic Alphabet: NATO Alphabet

ITU / NATO radio sound alphabet

The international radio communications sound alphabet is given within the table below:


A Alpha

B Bravo

C Charlie

D Delta

E Echo

F Foxtrot

G Golf

H Hotel

I India

J Juliett

K Kilo

L Lima

M Mexico

N November

O Oscar

P Papa

Q Quebec

R Romeo

S Sierra

T Tango

U Uniform

V Victor

W Whisky

X X-ray

Y Yankee

Z Zulu

Although the traditional spellings in plain speech for “alfa” and “Juliett” are “alpha” and “Juliet”, these particular formats for the spellings of those words are adopted to simplify the comprehension of those words internationally. The word alfa was used because if the spelling alpha was used, it’d not be pronounced correctly by non-English or French speakers. Similarly, the spelling for Juliett was adopted because one “t” is left silent in French. the utilization of “tt” meant that the letter t would be pronounced at the top of the word.

By adopting these measures to make sure that the letters are pronounced correctly, it becomes a very international sound alphabet, and for this reason, it had been adopted because of the NATO sound alphabet.

The alphabets employed by NATO, ITU, and ICAO are all an equivalent in essence: Some small differences exist within the ways the particular pronunciation of the words is described.

As an example of the utilization of the International Radiotelephony sound alphabet, a callsign like G3YWX would be said as Golf three Yankee Whisky X-ray.

In cases like these, the utilization of the radio sound alphabet is especially useful because there are not any visual clues and other ways of identifying the letters when an audio channel only is employed.

History of the International Radio sound alphabet

The spelling alphabet or radio sound alphabet has been developed over a few years. For just twenty-six letters, an enormous amount of research and refinement has been invested to make sure that it enables clear and concise radio communication to be effected.

Even before the primary war, the necessity for a spelling or sound alphabet was recognized to make sure improved accuracy both on communications and long-distance wired telephony circuits.

Some military spelling alphabets were introduced, but the primary non-military alphabet introduced in a world scale was adopted by the CCIR which was the predecessor of today’s ITU, in 1927. the utilization of this sound alphabet enabled a way enhanced version to be introduced in 1932.