Navy Signal Flags


What are Navy Signal Flags or Nautical Signal Flags?

The examples through V provide two-letter signals for General Signal Code with variations and compliments.
Two-Letter Signal Code Examples
I.
Distress—Emergency Code
II.Casualties—Damages Code
III.Aids to Navigation—Navigation Code
IV.Maneuvers Code
V.Miscellaneous Code

 


Signal flags are a uniform set of easily identifiable nautical codes and are used to convey visual messages and signals between two ships or from ship-to-shore. They are based on an internationally recognized set of codes referred to as the International Code of Signals and is published in nine languages; English, French, Italian, German, Japanese, Spanish, Norwegian, Russian and Greek. The codes are important for safety and are crucial when language barriers exist.

The Origins of Signal Flag Codes

The use of flags to send messages while at sea actually dates back as far as the Middle Ages. However, the most detailed sets of flag codes were first developed by the British during the Napoleonic Wars (1799-1815) to convey messages and signals between two ships and ship-to-shore. The code of signals we use today was first established in 1857 by the British Board Trade and was revised in 1932. The International Code of Signals became effective in 1969 and this document is based on the 2003 revision in certain examples.

Pictures of U.S. Navy Signal Flags and What They Mean

Single-letter signals allocated to significations which are very urgent, important, or of very common use. Some flags have alternate meanings. Click the links or signal flag pictures to read more. The size of flags should vary based on the length of the vessel. The flag colors red, yellow, white, black, and blue are colors that tend to stand out the best at sea and are easily distinguished based on the contrasting colors inherent to the design. The flags are usually constructed using nylon fabric with double-stitched seams and are normally secured with nylon rope lines and rings. Note: examples of messages will be posted here once all the flags are described.

Signal flag, Diver Down
A – ALPHA
Diver Down
Signal flag, Dangerous Cargo
B – BRAVO
Dangerous Cargo
Signal flag, Affirmative
C – CHARLIE
Affirmative
Signal flag, Maneuvering Difficulty
D – DELTA
Maneuvering Difficulty
Signal flag, Changing Course to Starboard
E – ECHO
Changing Course to Starboard
Signal flag, Disabled
F – FOXTROT
Disabled
Signal flag, Pilot Required
G – GOLF
Pilot Required
Signal flag, Pilot Onboard
H – HOTEL
Pilot Onboard
Signal flag, Changing Course Toward Port
I – INDIA
Changing Course to Port
Signal flag, On Fire
J – JULIET
On Fire
Signal flag, Contact Me
K – KILO
Contact Me
Signal flag, Important Message
L – LIMA
Important Message
Signal flag, My Vessel Stopped, Lost Power
M – MIKE
My Vessel Stopped, Lost Power
Signal flag, Negative
N – NOVEMBER
Negative
Signal flag, Man Overboard
O – OSCAR
Man Overboard
Signal flag, Leaving Port
P – PAPA
Leaving Port
Signal flag, Ship is Healthy
Q – QUEBEC
Ship is Healthy
Signal flag, Feel Your Way Past Me
R – ROMEO
Feel Your Way Past Me
Signal flag, Going Full Astern
S – SIERA
Going Full Astern
Signal flag, Keep Clear, Am Trawling
T – TANGO
Keep Clear, Am Trawling
Signal flag, You Are in Danger
U – UNIFORM
You Are in Danger
Signal flag, Need Assistance
V – VICTOR
Need Assistance
Signal flag, Medical Aid Needed
W – WHISKEY
Medical Aid Needed
Signal flag, Stop! Watch for My Signals
X – X-RAY
Stop! Watch for My Signals
Signal flag, Dragging Anchor
Y – YANKEE
Dragging Anchor
Signal flag, Require Tug
Z – ZULU
Require Tug
Signal flag, Zero (0)
0 – Zero
Number Zero
Signal flag, One (1)
1 – One
Number One
Signal flag, Two (2)
2 – Two
Number Two
Signal flag, Three (3)
3 – Three
Number Three
Signal flag, Four (4)
4 – Four
Number Four
Signal flag, Five (5)
5 – Five
Number Five
Signal flag, Six (6)
6 – Six
Number Six
Signal flag, Seven (7)
7 – Seven
Number Seven
Signal flag, Eight (8)
8 – Eight
Number Eight
Signal flag, Nine (9)
9 – Nine
Number Nine
Dangerous Beast
Dangerous Beast
Dangerous Beast
   

 


Pictures of Signal Flag Pennants and Naval Maneuvering Signals

Answer Signal Pennant
Answer
First Substitute Pennant
First Substitute Pennant
Second Substitute Pennant
Second Substitute Pennant
Third Substitute Pennant
Third Substitute Pennant
Fourth Substitute Pennant
Fourth Substitute Pennant
Signal Pennant #0
Signal Pennant #0 Numerical
Signal Pennant #1
Signal Pennant #1 Numerical
Signal Pennant #2
Signal Pennant #2 Numerical
Signal Pennant #3
Signal Pennant #3 Numerical
Signal Pennant #4
Signal Pennant #4 Numerical
Signal Pennant #5
Signal Pennant #5 Numerical
Signal Pennant #6
Signal Pennant #6 Numerical
Signal Pennant #7
Signal Pennant #7 Numerical
Signal Pennant #8
Signal Pennant #8 Numerical
Signal Pennant #9
Signal Pennant #9 Numerical
Emergency Pennant
Emergency Pennant
Station Pennant
Station Pennant
Speed Pennant
Speed Pennant
Squadron
Squadron
Division
Division
Port
Port
Group Pennant
Group Pennant
Formation Pennant
Formation Pennant
Starboard Pennant
Starboard Pennant
Turn Pennant
Turn Pennant
Course Pennant
Course Pennant
Negation Pennant
Negation Pennant
Designation Pennant
Designation Pennant
Question Pennant
Question Pennant
Preparative Pennant
Preparative Pennant

Fun With Signal Flag Code

Waterproof Playing Cards: Nautical Flags and Their Meanings
Waterproof Playing Cards: Nautical Flags and Their Meanings
Browse Signal Code Flags Nylon With Grommets
Signal Code Flags Nylon With Grommets
Fun Mini-Signal Flag Code Set
Fun Mini-Signal Flag Code Set

References:

1. USN, U.S. Navy Signal Flags, August 2009.

2. Lunde, P 2009, The Book of Codes

3. Bartlet, J., 2010

4. Flag Symbol Designs by info@sleewee.com

5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_maritime_signal_flags

6. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency

7. Chapman Piloting, 63rd Edition 1999.

8. National Imagery and Mapping Agency, Pub 102, rev. 2003


All posts in this series:

Police Signal Codes - A reference listing of police signal codes.

Police 10 Codes - A reference listing of police 10 codes.

Phonetic Alphabet - ALPHA through ZULU Phonetic Alphabet.

How to Use a Police Radio - Instructions how to use a police radio and how to transmit a message.

Navy Signal Flags - Navy Signal Flags with meanings and images of flags.

American Morse Code - American Morse Code letters and numbers and how they differ from International Morse Code.

Morse Code SOS Distress - How to send a Morse Code SOS distress signal with example telegraph sound and flashing light SOS signal.