I was reading New Ham Radio License by AG6IF and the author says something strange in the context of station/operator identification:

Use the standard ham phonetics, not the Air Force version, or the Fire Department's version or something you heard on TV.

As far as I know, the USAF uses the NATO phonetic alphabet. This suggests that the ham radio phonetic alphabet isn’t the same as the NATO phonetic alphabet.

Is the author confused? Am I confused? Are there multiple alphabets? Should I not be using military / air traffic phonetics?

  • $\begingroup$ Kevin's answer is okay, but I think you are somewhat correct. I can't find the info I wanted, but there are some differences in phonetic alphabets. Having said that, the "ham radio phonetic alphabet" is not etched in stone. $\endgroup$
    – Mike Waters
    May 25 '18 at 18:25

Many hams use nonstandard phonetics (or alternate standard and nonstandard when repeating themselves). The author of the above quote is probably aware of this but feels it is not best practice.

I suspect that the author meant to convey “don't use what you think is cool or what you may have heard on other bands, use what is standard here” and went a little too far in listing not-ham things.

As far as I know, there are no specific elements of the NATO phonetic alphabet which are not in common use in ham radio — except perhaps that the NATO modified pronunciation of numbers (“tree”, “fower”, “fife”, “niner”) is uncommon. Also, “kilo” is often replaced with “kilowatt” even by people who do not otherwise use nonstandard phonetics.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ kilowatt? You mean KW? Ya, don't do that. That's not "common", it's wrong, common or not. $\endgroup$
    – user10489
    May 25 '18 at 11:35
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ A debate about the use of "alternative" phonetics can easily devolve into a religious war. When the individuals communicating are native English speakers and have a relatively noise-free channel, strict adherence to an agreed-to set of phonetics has an advantage. I operate mostly DXing on HF where those conditions are far from true. Using an alternative phonetic for a specific letter or two is sometimes quite helpful when the characters are not getting though otherwise. $\endgroup$
    – mike65535
    May 25 '18 at 15:03

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.