What is Military Alphabet-NATO Phonetic Alphabet

You must have heard about alphabet and there uses. Our education and communication totally depends on them. But have you ever heard of military alphabet and 24 hour time?

These are the alphabet that have specific meaning to it. Some of them are also used as codes when needed. They can be also recognized as Military Phonetic Alphabets.

History Behind Military Alphabet

There is a record that shows the use of phonetic alphabet in (1927) but officially phonetic alphabet were not being used until the second world war. The United States Of America adopted a special list of codes to use between military members for communication purpose, and to also convey secret codes to each other during the war. It was in 1941.

Many nations preferred to use their own coding techniques but the Royal air force decided to adopt a much similar list to codes to that of U.S Military. This system introduced by U.S was known by the name “Able Baker”. Then during 1943, the U.S, Australian and U.K Military decided to use able baker alphabet to convey messages between allied nations. With time, able Baker was being adopted more by as many nations. They were approximately 32 in number at the time after world war-2. But with getting utilized, it was also being modified as the alphabets’ names were more common to English people.

Military Alphabet

Let me represent a table that will show you brief summary of history behind able Baker through some years.

LETTTER1957191319271938WORLD WAR II
AAlfa (or Alpha)AbleAffirmativeAfirmAfirm (Able)
CCharlieCastCast CastCharlie
EEcho EasyEasyEasyEasy
IIndiaItemInterrogatoryIntInt (Item)
NNovemberNanNegativeNegatNegat (Nan)
OOscarOboeOptionOptionOption (Oboe)
PPapaPupPreparatoryPrepPrep (Peter)

The Military Phonetic Alphabet were finally and officially in use, in 1957. And since that time they were officially being called the International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet (IRSA). This use of alphabets, came in body by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), was also being used by both the United States and NATO. But it was usually the most important four words,(Charlie, Mike, Victor, and X-Ray) and are still being used from the Able Baker alphabet.

Phonetic Alphabet Uses In Military

The military makes sure that their members know the right way to communicate, especially during wars. When they need to face enemies they shall not be using their enemy’s codes as it can result in loss and disaster. And hence the military came up with phonetic alphabet so military can convey important messages. Let me explain this with one example, if we want to say (muster as building DMG) then the right way to say it must be *muster at building Delta Might Golf*. This is how phonetic military alphabet work.

Table That Shows Phonetic Alphabets

AAlphaAL fah
BBravoBRAH voh
CCharlieCHAR lee
DDeltaDEL tah
EEchoEKK oh
FFoxtrotFOKS trot
HHotelHO tell
IIndiaIN dee ah
JJulietJEW lee ett
KKiloKEY loh
LLimaLEE mah
NNovemberNOH vem ber
OOscarOSS car
PPapaPAH pah
QQuebeckeh BECK
RRomeoROW me oh
SSierrasee AIR ah
TTangoTANG go
UUniformYOU nee form
VVictorVIK ter
WWhiskeyWISS key
XX-RayEKS ray
YYankeeYANG kee
ZZuluZOO loo

In order to form the code, a number of international agencies worked together and allotted twenty-six (26) code words. And so the letters of the alphabet, and the names for letters and numbers should be distinct enough, to be simply understood and conveyed by people who will change voice messages during wars or for any other purpose. No matter language variations or the standard of any specific association.

 One thing about phonetic military alphabet  is that they should be pronounced as original military words and not as the common pronunciations we use. Also they are not specific to accents but they need to be commonly used between military members. Military as we all know is a total different world and so it needs to have literally everything of its own, unique and different. And same is the case when we talk about military alphabets, especially how they are pronounced and for that purpose they are represented in the above table so one can easily determine their pronunciations. For instance J military alphabet represents the code word (Juliet) which should be pronounced as JEW-Lee-ett, and similar will be the case with all the other alphabets. Another example that we can discuss can be X military alphabet, which’s code word is X-ray and the pronunciation must be as EKS Ray. This is very simple and easy to attain and have no rocket science to it.

Common Military Slangs That Are Used More Often

  • (11 Bravo) as Army Infantry
  • (40 Mike Mike) as “40 Milli meter Grenade” or as “M203 Grenade Launcher”
  • (Bravo Zulu) as “Good Job” or can be also used as “Well Done”
  • (Charlie Foxtrot) is used as “Cluster F**k”
  • (Charlie Mike) is used as per command to “Continue Mission”
  • (Lima Charlie) as convey message which will be “Loud and Clear”
  • (Mikes) to indicate “Minutes”
  • (November Golf) abbreviated as “NG” or “No Go” this usually indicates failure
  • (Oscar-Mike) used as “On the Move”
  • (Tango Mike) as a thank you, which in exact words will be “Thanks Much”
  • (Tango Uniform) used to order “Toes Up” that  means someone is killed, destroyed or an error of defective equipment
  • (Tango Yankee) as a gesture of saying “Thank You”
  • (Whiskey Charlie) termed as “Water Closet” which in our common language means toilet or to attend toilet
  • (Whiskey Pete) used as for “White Phosphorus”
  • (Whiskey Tango Foxtrot) used as an expression “WTF”

Military Time Clock

Military time clock is different from our standard time clock. As military has a total different life purpose from civilian people, hence they lead a very different life. They have everything that is quite unique from civilian people, it is like they live in a separate world. Here we are going to represent two tables that are going to clear out the differences between military time clock and civilian time clock. Also it will be a comparable table so you can either differentiate or indicate time, as per your need. For your better understanding we have made sure to mention the times that are equivalent to each other right in front.

12-hour am-pm clock24 hour military time
     12:00 midnight   00:00 (mid-night)
     1:00 am   01:00 (1 in the morning)
     2:00 am   02:00 (2 in the morning)
     3:00 am   03:00 (3 in the morning)
     4:00 am   04:00 (4 in the morning)
     5:00 am   05:00 (5 in the morning)
     6:00 am   06:00 (6 in the morning)
     7:00 am   07:00 (7 in the morning)
     8:00am   08:00 (8 in the morning)
      9:00 am   09:00 (9 in the morning)
      10:00am   10:00 (10 in the morning)
      11:00am   11:00 (11 in the morning)
      12:00 pm   12:00 (noon)
       1:00pm   13:00 (1 in afternoon)
       2:00pm   14:00 (2 in afternoon)
       3:00pm   15:00 (3 in afternoon)
       4:00pm   16:00 (4 in afternoon)
       5:00pm   17:00 (5 in the evening)
       6:00pm   18:00 (6 in the evening)
       7:00pm   19:00 (7 at night)
       8:00pm   20:00 (8 at night)
       9:00pm   21:00 (9 at night)
       10:00pm   22:00 (10 at night)
       11:00pm   23:00 (11 at night)
      12:00 midnight   24:00 (midnight)

The above mentioned two tables makes it very clear and easy to understand the differences between our tine and military time. As our clock repeats the same digits after 12 noon, there’s keep on going till 24 midnight, which indicates our 12 at midnight. To better understand military time now, for example if right now in your region it is 10 pm then military time clock must show 22:00. Also if your standard clock shows 10 am, then military time must be 10:00. Now you can see how 10 in the morning and 10 at night can create and show a whole different time in military clock, but it is easy to remember once you understand it properly.


In this blog we have discussed two things in general, one military alphabet and other military time. Now if you are a regular visitor of our blog, then you must know that there is a separate guide for military time clock on our website, but to define it shortly it is also explained briefly in this blog.

Now let’s jump into the topic of military alphabet, military has their own use of alphabets, pronunciations etc. And all this for code and communication. They did not introduce any other type of alphabet but they do have different meaning to these standard alphabet, and that is why when we use alphabet just like mentioned above, they are then recognized as military alphabet and not ordinary alphabet. Now as we all know, total number of alphabet is 26 and so the codes must be 26 in numbers too.