ALLIED FLAGHOIST PROCEDURES
A large percentage of all tactical messages
received by a ship are signaled by flaghoist. Therefore,
a broad knowledge of flaghoist communication
procedures on the part of every Signalman is essential.
As you will learn in chapter 6, flaghoist is also used for
international signaling. It comes into play, for example,
when your ship exchanges messages with a merchant
ship under U.S. flag or otherwise; then somewhat
different procedures apply than those governing
exchanges of messages between Allied naval units.
Flaghoist signaling provides a rapid and accurate
system of passing tactical and administrative information
during daylight. Flaghoist is rapid because, by hoisting
one or more flags that have a predetermined meaning, you
can communicate simultaneously with all ships in
company. It is accurate because addressees are required to
repeat the signal, flag for flag, allowing the originator to
see if addressees have read the hoist correctly. Flaghoist
signaling aptly meets the provisions of security, another
prime requirement of naval communications. Not only is
the range limited, but the meanings of many signals
are contained in a classified signal publication.
Flaghoist signaling is especially well suited to
tactical signals. All vessels can read the signal at the
same time, and all can take action in unison with a
minimum chance of error.
To perform effectively as a Signalman, for both
military and international situations, you must acquire
a solid background in procedures, methods, and rules
pertaining to flaghoist communications. The main
purposes of this chapter are to illustrate the flags and
pennants used; explain how to construct, read, raise,
and lower hoists; and discuss partial contents of the
Allied Maritime Tactical Signal and Maneuvering
Book, ATP 1, volume II, from which most tactical
signals are derived.
SIGNAL FLAGS AND PENNANTS
LEARNING OBJECTIVES: List the flags and
pennants in a standard naval flag bag. List the
phonetic name for each letter of the alphabet.
Define tackline and state its purpose.
The standard Navy flag bag consists of 68 flags:
the 26 letters of the alphabet, 10 numeral flags, 10
numeral pennants, 18 special flags and pennants, and
Each alphabet flag has the phonetic name of the
letter it represents. A numeral flag takes the name of
the numeral it represents; numeral pennants are used
only in calls. Special flags and pennants are used in
tactical maneuvers to direct changes in speed,
position, formation, and course; to indicate and
identify units; and for specialized purposes. Flags and
pennants are spoken and written as shown in figures
5-l and 5-2.
One good way to learn flags and pennants is to
practice sketching each of them, labeling each
according to its proper color or colors. When you feel
you know every flag and pennant, ask someone to test
you. Ask the person testing you to call at random the
various letters of the alphabet, and you name and
describe the corresponding flags. When you are
topside, pay particular attention to flaghoists flying
from other ships. Test your ability to recognize and
name those flaghoists. Many flags and pennants may
be learned as opposites. Number flags can be learned
by color and design sequence.
In addition to the 68 flags in the bag, you have
a tackline. A tackline is a length of halyard
approximately 6 feet long; the exact length depends
upon the size of flags in use. The tackline is
transmitted and spoken as tack and is written as a dash
(hyphen) "-". It is used to avoid ambiguity. It separates
signals or groups of numerals that, if not separated,
could convey a different meaning from that intended.
If the signal SL2 means Prepare to receive
personnel casualties, TACK would be inserted
between the digit 2 and the given number of
casualties: SL2 TACK 27.
TACK also is used to separate range and bearing
figures. If C3 means Investigate possible
sighting, the signal might be C3 TACK 345 TACK
20, indicating the sighting at a bearing of 345 and
a distance of 20 miles.