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What is the military alphabet?

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Quick Answer

The military alphabet is a phonetic alphabet that replaces letters with words. For example, A becomes Alpha, B is Bravo, C is Charlie and D is Delta. Each word is distinct from the other words for clarity of communication, especially important when troops must communicate via radio.

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Full Answer

The military or phonetic alphabet helps people to distinguish between letters that sound the same. M and N, which sound very similar, become Mike and November, words that are easily distinguished from each other. D and T, two other similar letters, become Delta and Tango. Likewise, C and E become Charlie and Echo.

The military alphabet was first established in 1913. However, the words representing letters have changed since then. The word for A was first Able in 1913, changed to Affirmative in 1927 and was shortened to Afirm from 1938 through World War II. A only became Alpha or Alfa in 1957. J for Juliett first started out as Jig until 1957. As of 2014, only a few letters and words, such as X-ray for X and Mike for M, have remained constant since 1913. A few other letters and words have changed only a little. For instance, Foxtrot started out as Fox. The current phonetic alphabet was established in 1957 by international agreement.

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