Search the Site with 
to end of page

U.S. Navy Signal Flags and their Meaning

Even in these days of radio and satellite communications, the U.S. Navy uses the international alphabet flags, numeral pennants, numeral flags, and special flags and pennants for visual signaling. These signal flags are used to communicate while maintaining radio silence. Navy Signalmen transmit messages by hoisting a flag or a series of flags on a halyard. Each side of the ship has halyards and a "flag bag", containing a full set of signal flags. Signals unique to the Navy are used when communicating with other U.S. Navy or allied forces. When communicating with all other vessels, the International Code of Signals is used. The code/answer pennant precedes all signals in international code.

FlagNamePhonetic PronunciationNavy MeaningInternational Meaning
AlfaAL-fahI have a diver down; keep well clear at slow speed.
BravoBRAH-vohI am taking in, discharging, or carrying dangerous cargo.
CharlieCHAR-lee"Yes" or "affirmative".
DeltaDELL-tahI am maneuvering with difficulty; keep clear.
EchoECK-ohI am directing my course to starboard.
FoxtrotFOKS-trotI am disabled; communicate with me.
On aircraft carriers: Flight Operations underway
GolfGOLFI require a pilot.
Hotelhoh-TELLI have a pilot on board.
IndiaIN-dee-ahComing alongside.I am directing my course to port.
JulietJEW-lee-ettI am on fire and have dangerous cargo; keep clear.
KiloKEY-lohI wish to communicate with you.
LimaLEE-mahYou should stop your vessel immediately.
MikeMIKEMy vessel is stopped; making no way.
Novemberno-VEM-burNo or negative.
OscarOSS-kurMan overboard.
Papapah-PAHAll personnel return to ship; proceeding to sea (Inport).
Quebeckay-BECKBoat recall; all boats return to ship.Ship meets health regs; request clearance into port.
RomeoROH-me-ohPreparing to replenish (At sea). Ready duty ship (Inport).None.
Sierrasee-AIR-ahConducting flag hoist drill.Moving astern.
TangoTANG-goDo not pass ahead of me.Keep clear; engaged in trawling.
UniformYOU-nee-formYou are running into danger.
VictorVIK-tahI require assistance.
WhiskeyWISS-keeI require medical assistance.
XrayECKS-rayStop carrying out your intentions and watch for my signals.
YankeeYANG-keeShip has visual communications duty.I am dragging anchor.
ZuluZOO-looI require a tug.
Code/AnswerCode or AnswerFlag that follows is from the International Code of Signals.Message is understood. Also, numeric decimal point.
First substituteFirst subAbsence of flag officer or unit commander (Inport).Substitute for the first flag in this hoist.
Second substituteSecond subAbsence of chief of staff (Inport).Substitute for the second flag in this hoist.
Third substituteThird subAbsence of commanding officer (Inport).Substitute for the third flag in this hoist.
OneWUNNumeral one.None.
TwoTOONumeral two.None.
ThreeTREENumeral three.None.
FourFOW-erNumeral four.None.
FiveFIFENumeral five.None.
SixSICKSNumeral six.None.
SevenSEV-enNumeral seven.None.
EightAITNumeral eight.None.
NineNIN-erNumeral nine.None.
ZeroZEE-rohNumeral zero.None.
Pennant onePEN-ant WUNPennant one.Numeral one.
Pennant twoPEN-ant TOOPennant two.Numeral two.
Pennant threePEN-ant TREEPennant three.Numeral three.
Pennant fourPEN-ant FOW-erPennant four.Numeral four.
Pennant fivePEN-ant FIFEPennant five.Numeral five.
Pennant sixPEN-ant SICKSPennant six.Numeral six.
Pennant sevenPEN-ant SEV-enPennant seven.Numeral seven.
Pennant eightPEN-ant AITPennant eight.Numeral eight
Pennant NinePEN-ant NIN-erPennant nine.Numeral nine
Pennant zeroPEN-ant ZEE-rohPennant zero.Numeral zero

There are also some other Flags used by the Navy. They indicate a higher rank, some departments and particular persons.

Command Flag of an Admiral
Command Flag of a Vice Admiral
Command Flag of a Rear Admiral
Command Flag of a Commodore
Union Jack

Used only on the bow staff (jack staff) while moored pierside or at anchor.
Flag of the Secretary of the Navy
Flag of the Under Secretary of the Navy
Flag of the Assistant Secretaries of the Navy
Flag of the Chief of Naval Operations
Flag of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Flag of the Secretary of Defense
Official Flag of the United States Navy
Flag of the Vice President of the United States
Flag of the President of the United States

Back.  Back to first page.