The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) phonetic alphabet is a spelling alphabet, a set of words used instead of letters in oral communication (i.e. over the phone or military radio). Each word ("code word") stands for its initial letter (alphabetical "symbol"). The letter R stands for the word Romeo.

The 26 code words in the NATO phonetic alphabet are assigned to the 26 letters of the English alphabet in alphabetical order. This is so that the names for letters and numbers would be distinct enough to be easily understood by those who exchanged voice messages by radio or telephone, regardless of language differences or the quality of the connection.

The specific code words varied, as some seemingly distinct words were found to be ineffective in real-life conditions.

In1956, NATO modified the then-current set of code words used by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO); this modification then became the international standard when it was accepted by the ICAO that year and by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) a few years later. The words were chosen to be accessible to speakers of French and Spanish in addition to English.

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