Articles for Amateur Radio Newsletters aimed at new hams
 written by Gerry Crenshaw, WD4BIS, Rowlett, Texas



NHP #11: Call signs and Using Phonetics

Should you use a snappy mnemonic for your call sign or is it better to use the International Telegraphers Union (ITU) Phonetic Alphabet? What phonetics do you like better using my call sign? Is one easier to remember that the other?

This is Whiskey Delta Four Bravo India Sierra
This is Whiskey Delta Four Bug In Software

One I always remember is the phonetics of the call sign of WA8YCD, his melodious voice proudly came over the HF band as.....Willie Always Eight Your Chicken Dinner

When you first get your call sign and throw it out on the air, sooner or later someone is going to ask you to repeat it or use phonetics. Don't be scared of this. Use words rather than letters to give your call sign. There is nothing wrong with a snappy mnemonic, but snappy call signs and the use of the phonetic alphabet both have there place in amateur radio operations.

The phonetic alphabet has been changed and refined over time. It started like most of these things in the military. You would think that since we all speak English, this should not be a problem. But it proved to be so for the RAF when it began to use pilots from other nationalities. The first RAF phonetic alphabet consisted of the following

1924-1942 Ace Beer Charlie Don Edward Freddie George Harry Ink Johnnie King London Monkey Nuts Orange Pip Queen Robert Sugar Toc Uncle Vic William X-ray Yorker Zebra

This changed during W.W.II to accommodate other accents as well as the fact that radios were now in the planes

1942-43 Apple Beer Charlie Dog Edward Freddy George Harry In Jug/Johnny King Love Mother Nuts Orange Peter Queen Roger/Robert Sugar Tommy Uncle Vic William X-ray Yoke/Yorker Zebra

And yet again to accommodate the Yanks:

1943-56 Able-Affirm Baker Charlie Dog Easy Fox George How Item/Interrogatory Jig/Johnny King Love Mike Nab/Negat Oboe Peter/Prep Queen Roger Sugar Tare Uncle Victor William X-ray Yoke Zebra

And again:

1956 (NATO): Alfa Bravo Charlie Delta Echo Foxtrot Golf Hotel India Juliet Kilo Lima Mike November Oscar Papa Quebec Romeo Sierra Tango Uniform Victor Whiskey X-ray Yankee Zulu. (all phonetics from the "Source book of the RAF 1994)

By a strange coincidence the last set of phonetics has been adopted by the ITU. This set of phonetics is used world wide by anyone conducting net operations of any kind. In fact, all International pilots use English and this set of phonetics as a common language. These phonetics have borne the test of time and proven their value. The are widely used on HF operations world wide.

These phonetics are all carefully chosen, two or three syllable words that are hard to confuse with anything else. While it is true that we could create our own alphabet with other words, would they prove their worth? For example, a phonetic alphabet of my own using one syllable words (to save time and stop from running out of breath) might be

Ack Bog Cue Dog Easy Fan Goo Hog Ice Jack King Land Mom Nice Own Pie Que Rat Sit Tom Us Vine Wine X-ray Yak Zoo

Sending a CQ now would be Cue Que., Cue Que or perhaps someone with the letters B,D,H in his call sign would enjoy using the phonetics of Bog Dog Hog, Or some one with letters Y,A would like to say Yak Ack or some one with the Letters R,N,I - Rice Nice Ice. From this example of my phonetic alphabet I think we could very easily tie up all of net time just trying to sort out call signs.

All communications carried out by Radio Amateurs in a controlled net environment use the ITU phonetics. This includes message handling for the National Traffic System and Emergency communications as used on the RACES and ARES nets. The ITU phonetics are a must to know for any amateur who is going to be involved in net operations. If your plans include some kind of net operations, these phonetics are a need to know.

There is nothing wrong with a snappy call sign mnemonic, just remember that their place is NOT in a controlled NTS or RACES net.

Good luck and 73's


Whiskey Delta Four Bravo India Sierra

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Copyright 2005 Gerald Crenshaw WD4BIS. All rights are reserved.

Permission in advance is granted to those who use this for non-profit Amateur Radio club newsletters as long as it is used unmodified including this copyright notice and that notice is given to the author via email ([email protected]). In addition, please forward a copy of any newsletter this appears in to: Gerry Crenshaw WD4BIS, c/o GARC, 1027B W. Austin St, Garland, TX, 75040

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