The Military Alphabet

U.S. Army cadets like these must learn the military alphabet
(U.S. Army/Ken Scar)

Did you know about the existence of a military alphabet? It's a specialized phonetic alphabet utilized by the military for communication over radios and various devices. This alphabet was developed to enhance communication effectiveness within the military.

What Is The Military Phonetic Alphabet?

The military phonetic alphabet comprises 26 words designated to spell out letters during radio or telephone transmissions. This systematic approach is crucial for maintaining clarity and precision in communication, particularly in challenging or noisy environments. The military phonetic alphabet includes the standard English alphabet, with additional words specific to military applications, such as "Alpha," "Bravo," and "Charlie."

Each word in the military phonetic alphabet corresponds to a letter of the regular English alphabet. In order to make sure everyone is using the same pronunciation guide, all military members are taught this phonetic alphabet upon entering service.

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History Of The Military Alphabet

The military alphabet is also known as the International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet (IRSA). It was created by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

The IRSA is used to spell out words and letters over radio. This helps prevent confusion between similar sounding words. The first official version of the military alphabet was adopted in 1927, although a version was used as early as 1913. The current version, which is also the NATO alphabet and used by the countries of NATO, was adopted in 1957.

The Military Alphabet During World War II

During World War II, the United States military used a modified version of the Joint Army/Navy Phonetic Alphabet (JANAP). This was adopted in 1941 and continued to be used until 1957 when it was officially replaced by the IRSA.

Military Slang Phrases

The military alphabet is often used for acronyms of military slang phrases. For example, Bravo Zulu or "BZ" is used to indicate general approval or appreciation. The phrase originated in the Royal Navy of Great Britain and has been used by navies and the military around the world ever since.

Learn more about military slang phrases

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