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Military Radio Communication Code Words

Roger That: How To Communicate Using Radio Lingo

Tactics Radio Communication and Operations Code Words, Call Signs and Radio Checks

Have you ever been communicating over two-way digital radio and heard radio lingo that had you scratching your head? Say you finished saying something important and the person you were speaking to responded “10-4,” or “Roger that.” Maybe they even replied with a “Sure, what’s your 20?” when you talked about meeting up. These phrases are examples of short-hand radio lingo that’s been in place for decades, all designed to create succinct and crystal clear communications for radio users. Unfortunately, things aren’t that clear when you aren’t familiar with the terminology. To help you understand some of the most popular radio lingo used today, we broke it down here. Over.

Article 32 Radio Regulations Distress And Rescue

International Telecommunication Union Radio Regulations and the International Civil Aviation Organization Convention and Procedures for Air Navigation Services set out “distress, urgency and safety procedures”.

On the radio, distress and rescue usage takes precedence above all other usage, and the radio stations at the scene of the disaster are authorized to commandeer the frequency and prohibit all transmissions that are not involved in assisting them. These procedure words originate in the International Radio Regulations.

The Combined Communications-Electronics Board sets out their usage in the Allied Communications Publications “ACP 135 Communications instructions Distress and Rescue Procedures”.

Mayday is used internationally as the official SOS/distress call for voice. It means that the caller, their vessel or a person aboard the vessel is in grave and imminent danger, send immediate assistance. This call takes priority over all other calls.

The correct format for a Mayday call is as follows:

Mayday, Mayday, Mayday,

I have


VHF instructors, specifically those working for the Royal Yachting Association, often suggest the mnemonic MIPDANIO for learning the message of a Mayday signal: mayday, identify, position, distress, assistance, number-of-crew, information, over.

In aviation a different format is used:

Mayday, Mayday, Mayday

Nature of the emergency

Pan-pan is the official urgency voice call.

Pan-Pan, Pan-Pan, Pan-Pan

Need For The Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet

On any two way radio communication link or for other forms of voice telecommunications, the audio bandwidth is limited and interference and distortion may be present.

The radio phonetic alphabet is used to represent the relevant letters. It has been developed over many years in such a way that the words used provide a minimal risk of being mistaken for another one.

Sounds like ‘B’ and ‘T’ for ‘S’ and ‘F’ are very similar. Other letters can be difficult to distinguish and this means it is possible for messages to be received incorrectly. Even those which may sound very different could be mistaken if signals are poor and interference levels are high

To overcome this words beginning with the particular letter were used from the very earliest days of radio to identify a particular letter and avoid confusion and misinterpretation.

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Overview Of Military Radio Communication

Each branch of the U.S. military has its own techniques for tactical radio operations. But, some communication techniques remain constant throughout the military from the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard to the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Marines, and U.S. Army.

Key Similarities in Military Radio Communication:

  • Military personnel all use AM, FM, high frequency , and ultra high frequency electromagnetic waves to carry messages.
  • The U.S. military uses International Morse Code as a standard for the simplest communication, which involves the use of a radio transmitter with an oscillator.
  • The U.S. military uses Zulu Time to time radios precisely for the purpose of encrypting ratio transmissions.
  • Military personnel use the Military Alphabet to spell out call signs and messages to ensure clear communication and avoid confusion.
  • The U.S. military uses the same radio lingo to relay and respond to messages.

Common Military Alphabet Phrases/slang Terms

FM 21
  • 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
  • Lima Charlie Loud and Clear
  • Mikes Minutes
  • Oscar-Mike On the Move
  • Tango Uniform Toes Up, meaning killed or destroyed or defective equipment
  • Tango Yankee Thank You
  • Whiskey Charlie Water Closet
  • Whiskey Pete White Phosphorus
Military Acronyms & Abbreviations

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Military Radio Communication Protocols

Communication over two-way radios follows a universal set of rules. The military also uses certain, more restrictive protocols due to the nature of its work and the need to protect national interests.

Military Radio Protocol Best Practices:

  • Identify with whom you want to communicate by using their call sign.
  • Pause a moment after pressing the push-to-talk button.
  • Be direct and short when communicating.
  • Speak slowly and clearly.
  • Spell out letters and numbers, using the Military Alphabet (NATO Phonetic Alphabet.
  • Use correct lingo and prowords to reduce confusion and shorten transmitted messages.

Universal Rules Of Radio Communication

1) Before you press the transmission button, gather your thoughts about what you are going to say. Many people with radios have a tendency to talk and/or repeat too much. Say what you need to say without unnecessary repeats. Keep in mind that your message should go through the first time you may not have any opportunity to repeat it.

2) Give the call sign of the unit you are calling first. It will alert the addressee to focus on the incoming message. There might be more listeners and radio network users so you must let them know that this time there will be a message for them, not a usual background noise.

3) Introduce yourself by your call sign. Do not use real names or nicknames.

4) Dont speak too fast especially if the message needs to be written down. Pause after logical phrases. High voice does not guarantee that you will be more readable.

5) Use CLEAR, OVER, OUT when you finish your message. It notifies the addressee that you finished your portion of information and wait for the response or just ended the transmission .

6) When you have understood the message, acknowledge the receipt with the words COPY, RECEIVED, ROGER or ACKNOWLEDGED. The word COPY is preferred.

7) If the caller requires some actions you may use WILCO instead of ROGER to notify that you WILLCOMPLY .

8) Use BREAK, BREAK whenever there is a radio traffic and you want to get through with your emergency message.

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Communications : A Quick Guide To Radio Lingo

How to guides

Whether youre training new starters or refreshing the skills of seasoned personnel with years of experience working with two-way radios its essential to ensure that everyone speaks the same radio lingo. Otherwise you may find responders struggling to get up to speed with whats being said. Or failing to answer communications directed at them by dispatchers appropriately.

Short-hand radio expressions have been around for decades. Back in 1937, the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials developed the so called ten-codes. Historically used by law enforcement officers in North America, these brevity codes were used to represent commonly used phrases.

Since then, many industries have evolved standardised terms that are used as 2-way radio communication short cuts. The aim of these dispatch signals is to boost communication response rates and collaboration between teams and even different agencies.

But this only works if everyone uses the same agreed terminology. Which means your organisation needs to define which terms will be used during message transmissions or whether you are going to stick to plain English only.

To get you started, weve put together a list of some commonly used radio communication phrases, traditionally used in public safety and complex security environments, such as industrial settings or sports stadiums.

Roger ThatMessage received and understood similar to Ten Four or Copy That


Itu / Nato Radio Phonetic Alphabet

NATO Phonetic Alphabet – Learn the Military Alphabet Code Words

The international radio communications phonetic alphabet, is given in the table below:

ITU / NATO International Radiotelephony Phonetic Alphabet
Z Zulu

* Although the normal spellings in plain speech for “alfa” and “Juliett” are “alpha” and “Juliet””, these particular formats for the spellings of these words have been adopted to simplify the comprehension of these words internationally. The word alfa was used because because if the spelling alpha was used, it might not be pronounced correctly by non English or French speakers. Similarly the spelling for Juliett was adopted because a single “t” is left silent in French. The use of “tt” meant that the letter t would be pronounced at the end of the word.

The alphabets used by NATO, ITU, and ICAO are all the same in essence: some small differences exist in the ways the actual pronunciation of the words is described.

As an example of the use of the International Radiotelephony Phonetic Alphabet, a callsign such as G3YWX would be said as Golf three Yankee Whisky X-ray.

In cases like these the use of the radio phonetic alphabet is particularly useful because there are no visual clues and other ways of identifying the letters when an audio channel only is used.

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History Of The International Radio Phonetic Alphabet

The radio spelling alphabet or radio phonetic alphabet has been developed over many years. For just twenty six letters, a huge amount of research and refinement has been invested to ensure that it enables clear and concise radio communication to be effected.

Even before the First World War, the need for a spelling or phonetic alphabet was recognised to ensure improved accuracy both on radio communications and long distance wired telephony circuits.

Some military spelling alphabets were introduced, but the first non-military alphabet introduced in an international scale was adopted by the CCIR which was the predecessor of today’s ITU, in 1927. The use of this phonetic alphabet enabled a much enhanced version to be introduced in 1932.

The Complete Military Alphabet

The complete military alphabet is revealed in chart below.

We designed this chart to be more than just a visual aid.

We added a convenient search bar feature just above the military phonetic alphabet to help you memorize each word.

How to use the search bar feature:

  • Type any letter into the search bar.
  • Guess the word that matches it.
  • Keep practicing until you memorize each word.
  • This is a fast way to learn each alphabet military code word.

    ZOO loo

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    The Nato / Icao / Itu Phonetic Alphabet / Army Alphabet / Police Alphabet

    The standard “NATO” phonetic alphabet is:

    Alfa, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo, Foxtrot, Golf, Hotel, India, Juliett, Kilo, Lima, Mike, November, Oscar, Papa, Quebec, Romeo, Sierra, Tango, Uniform, Victor, Whiskey, X-ray, Yankee, Zulu.

    Numbers are pronounced as normal, except often 9 is pronounced “Niner” so it doesn’t get confused with 5.

    It is called the “NATO” alphabet because it was standardised by the NATO member countries back in the 1950s to allow accurate exchange of radio messages between air, naval and army forces of all the NATO member nations.

    They had to make sure that each chosen word sounded different to the others, and was easily pronounceable by speakers of all the European languages, not just in English.

    It is now very widely used by all types of “professional communicators” including air traffic control, the police and other emergency services, shipping, etc and in all types of business.

    History Of The Military Alphabet

    FM 21

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

    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.

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    Joint Army / Navy Spelling / Phonetic Alphabet:

    Able Baker Charlie Dog Easy Fox George How Item Jig King Love Mike Nan Oboe Peter Queen Roger Sugar Tare Uncle Victor William X-ray Yoke Zebra

    After the war there were several phonetic alphabets in use for radio communication and the then International Air Transport Association recognised the need for a single one to be used. As a result they presented a draft version of one to be used in 1947. This was modified after some use and adopted in 1951. This proved to be unsatisfactory in use and was modified again in 1956, and soon after this it was adopted by the ITU and referred to as the ITU phonetic alphabet, the NATO phonetic alphabet, or even the radio alphabet.

    Since then the ITU Phonetic Alphabet has been in widespread use for all forms of radio communication from shipping to aeronautical and all forms of radio communications.

    More Ham Radio Topics:

    Phonetic Alphabet In The Military

    The phonetic alphabet is a list of words used to identify letters in a message transmitted by radio, telephone, and encrypted messages. The phonetic alphabet can also be signaled with flags, lights, and Morse Code.

    When on the radio, spoken words from an approved list are substituted for letters. For example, the word “Army” would be “Alfa Romeo Mike Yankee” when spelled in the phonetic alphabet. This practice helps to prevent confusion between similar sounding letters, such as “m” and “n,” and to clarify signals communications that may be garbled during transmission.

    In military missions, the use of the phonetic alphabet has been used to communicate with the chain of command as to what phase of the mission has been successfully performed. For instance, if a SEAL Team has arrived on the beach and were undetected to continue the mission, they may have designated that as the first “waypoint” and use the code word “Alpha.” It will tell the upper-level chain of command where they are and if they are on schedule.

    An early version of the phonetic alphabet appears in the 1913 edition of The Navy Bluejackets Manual. Found in the Signals section, it was paired with the Alphabetical Code Flags defined in the International Code. Both the meanings of the flags and their names were selected by international agreement. Later editions included the Morse code signal as well.

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    Army Radio Etiquette: 10 Things To Know

    In todays post, I am giving you 10 things you should know about Army radio etiquette.

    # 1: Slow And Clear

    It is best if you speak slow and clearly. Depending on conditions, there can be some interference, so by speaking slowly, the receiver is more apt to understand. Remember, speaking loud does not necessarily help. It can actually cause more confusion.

    # 2: When Finishing A Message

    To let the receiver know you have finished the message, you simply say Over and wait for their reply. If you do not expect or need a reply, your say Out.

    # 3: Do Not Interrupt Other Conversations

    In some cases, the channel may be used by other units too. Unless you have a dire emergency, allow other messages to be sent before you send your message. If it is an emergency, wait until you hear Over and immediately say Break, Break, Break, give your call sign and say I have an Emergency Message for , Do You Copy? Over!

    # 4: Precedence

    In any Army call, you must give precedence. There are 4 types:

    # 5: Proper Message Format

    There is a format that should always be followed:

  • Identify first the station you are calling.
  • Identify your unit.
  • All units and all potential radio operators should have a copy of ATP 6-02.53.

    It should be studied carefully to ensure proper Army radio etiquette.

    # 7: Never Use Radio Without

    A radio operator is to not use that radio unless he/she has an order to do so from a superior officer.

    # 8: If Message Not Understood

    # 9: Messages Should Be Kept Under 30 Seconds

    Why Try The Lingo

    Decoding Military Communication Codes

    Using walkie talkie lingo may seem a bit comical, can you not just talk normally over the radio?

    Radios dont have the same audio quality as smartphones do. This means if you speak normally, recipients may lose some words on the way. This leads to an unclear transmission, which can be frustrating.

    Using radio talk codes and the right lingo makes your message short and sweet. This is essential for people whose lives depend on clear radio communication. For example, the military, firefighters, civilian pilots, and other services.

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    Use In The Armed Forces And International Civil Aviation Organization

    Lots of English letters sound the same. Its easy to mistake B for P, or C for E. Wrong spellings might cause a mislabeled package shipment or a misspelled dinner invitation. For a soldier, miscommunication can spell disaster.

    Radio operators in the armed services use this alphabet when sending codes or relaying important messages. A spelling alphabet ensures clear communication even when theres heavy background noise or severe radio interference.

    Besides error-free spelling, men and women in the service use the Alpha Bravo Charlie Delta alphabet as shorthand and slang. Popular expressions include:

    Oscar-Mike : a unit is moving between positions

    Charlie Mike : a mission will continue following an interruption

    Tango Delta : the enemy was eliminated

    Lima Charlie : confirmation of received instructions

    Discover more expressions, check out our complete list of military slang.

    Military Communication Procedure

    The military alphabet is the foundational piece of the militarys codified communication procedure. This procedure helps regulate communication over the radio and other communication platforms used by the military. This system helps soldiers by restricting the flow of information, emphasizing clarity, and instituting norms for orders, updates, and important information.

    Radio Communication

    Hey , this is Over.

    Radio Checks


    I will comply.

    Note: Roger/Negative/Break/Over

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