Why the phonetic alphabet is used on the phone

During times of distress and conflict, clear and easy communication between various authorities can become a situation of life and even mere death. Although the military alphabet, which is more internationally known as the phonetic alphabet has become the international standard for both military and air force communication. This method has proven to be successful for decades, and although not much of it has changed since its introduction into the public realm, a lot of public entities and private military institutions still use it as a primary way of exchanging messages.

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How the phonetic alphabet came to life

The very first recorded instance of the phonetic alphabet being used as a tool of communication was during World War 1 when the British Royal Airforce brought to life the very first version of military and air force or RAF Radio Alphabet. This would later catch on and the International Telegraph Union (ITU) would develop a distinct system for telegraph communication.

Over the years this system has seen multiple changes, but the overall use and functionality thereof has always stayed the same. Whether it be for warfare communication or perhaps used to communicate with ground control on in-flight emergencies – the phonetic alphabet has become an integral part of any modern military system.

The use of the phonetic system in the present time

During the 1950s, the U.S. Armed Forces and NATO developed a single alphabet which they dubbed the International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet (IRSA). This would, later on, become the NATO Phonetic Alphabet and saw vigorous research and development being conducted under the scrutiny of the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Authority). Today, the phonetic alphabet is used across the world, in various languages, dialects, and in some of the most critical and high-intensity situations in which civilization may find themselves.

Why is the phonetic alphabet used on the phone?

Regional and international communication

There is a plethora of languages, dialects, and different cultures found all across the world – and although it might seem impossible to use one single system or language for communication, where English is limited, using the phonetic alphabet for cross-culture or foreign communication can help minimize miscommunication. Certain languages and unconventional voice patterns in certain cultures may help eliminate this issue in times of distress.

Relaying important information

Although this system has been used by hundreds of military units and air force personnel, it’s quite understandable that the phonetic alphabet will assist when important information needs to be shared or communicated with either a partner or perhaps a third-party. In this event, both ends of the communication channel would be able to have a clear message and/or understanding of what is being transferred.

Safeguarding classified information

In many instances, some people may use this system as a way to share and liaise classified information. Although this might sound a bit fictional, some entities, especially those in the financial and banking industry still use this as a safe method of communication when awaiting or conducting large transactions.

Eliminating technological confusion

Some countries have adopted different systems in which they measure, calculate, teach, and distribute information. In an era of technological advancement and the growing popularity of software development, having this system established in certain technological systems and software development procedures can assist various authorities to understand different tech, but still having the capability to share and safeguard technological advancements.

Creating a broader platform of communication 

The phonetic alphabet has managed to create a broader platform on which a lot of various people, cultures, and religions can easily communicate. This will enable more people to narrow the gap in information sharing, emphasizing important material, and news.

Using the phonetic or military alphabet will enable many people to easily communicate with one another, or military and air force personnel. This system has proven to be successful in a variety of environments, especially in times of distress and conflict. More so, it is important to consider that there are strict guidelines and tactical criteria.

Finally, one should consider that this system has taken years to develop and perfect, thus it should be used correctly and be practiced often to ensure fluency.

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Christophe Rude

Christophe Rude

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