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What Does Tango Mean in the Military?

Written by Everett Bledsoe / Fact checked by Brain Bartell

what does tango mean in the military

The word “tango” has a particular meaning in military circles and is frequently used in films or TV series featuring armed forces. But what does tango mean in the military?

First, tango represents the letter T in the phonetic alphabet. In a military context,the word has a variety of meanings, from enemy target, a type of clothing, to a position in battle.

Today, we will explore the term’s history and current usage. Understanding the significance of “tango” in the military can give you invaluable insights into this intriguing part of armed forces communication.

Tango Meaning in the Military

Military forces, aviation, maritime industries, and emergency services worldwide have all adopted the phonetic alphabet since its introduction during World War II to facilitate communication. The phonetic alphabet, in which “Tango” stands for the letter “T,” helps people communicate clearly even under stress or in a flurry of activity.

In the military, the word “tango” can also refer to anything from an enemy target to a specific location on the battlefield. The following are some of the many uses of the term “tango” in military contexts.

1. As a Position in Battle


When in formation, soldiers commonly refer to the front lines as the “tango” because it is where the action is. This most likely comes from the fact that the front line tends to directly engage with the enemy, which can also be referred to as “tango,” especially if they are known to be more skilled and better equipped.

2. As an Enemy Target


As mentioned above, “tango” can refer to “target” or “terrorist.” This military term is usually used by ground forces when they detect the enemy combatant. Note that the air force generally doesn’t call enemy aircraft by this term—they refer to identified adversaries by “bandit.”

In the late 20th century, “tango” could also be used to call the opponent’s tank.

3. As a Type of Clothing

This tango definition refers to the camouflage uniforms worn by military service personnel when they are in enemy territory. These uniforms are designed to make it easier for soldiers to blend in with their environment and be less noticeable to their adversaries.

4. As a Type of Equipment

The word “tango” also refers to a type of military hardware used in communication. Equipment of this sort is frequently crucial for soldiers on missions in enemy territory, as they make spying on adversaries and effortless communication possible.

5. As Avehicle


In military jargon, the word ‘tango” may also refer to a type of vehicle used during military operations in hostile territories. The “tango” vehicle carries supplies, personnel, and equipment and is also used by the military for transportation simulations.

Examples of “Tango” Codes in the Military

The term “TANGO” is commonly used in certain military phrases. Here are some of the phrases, along with corresponding definitions:

1. Tango Uniform

 In military jargon, “Tango Uniform” is a euphemism for “Tits Up” or “Toes Up.”

When referring to defective or inoperable machinery or systems, this term is frequently heard. As a morbidly humorous comparison, TU is also compared to a dead person lying on their back with their tits and toes pointing up.

2. Tango Down


 A “Tango Down” in the context of military operations, is a radio code used to let teammates know that the intended target, typically an enemy soldier, has been killed. In this case, “tango” is the military slang for enemy.

3. Echo Tango Sierra

This is the military code for Expiration Term of Service, or when someone is about to complete their tour of duty.

4. Tango Mike/Tango Yankee

These are the military phrases for “Thanks Much” and “Thank You.”

5. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot


Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is a euphemistic alternative to the slang profanity “what the f*ck?” (which expresses disbelief or confusion).

It is believed that the word first appeared during the Vietnam War. At that time, it was used as a radio code for the letters “W,” “T,” and “F,” which stand for “Wounded, Trapped, and F*cked.”


After learning about the unique military jargon, we now know that the question “What does tango mean in the military?” has different answers depending on the context.

Overall, “Tango” is just one of many words in the military’s phonetic language, which is used to make sure that people can talk clearly and accurately. This is especially helpful when sending important information by radio or phone.

Its widespread use makes sure that military people can talk to each other and work together well. It also improves how well armed operations work in different situations.

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