SDR Console V3 analyser

The shack, finally operational after a few months off.

With the rebuild of my shack complete I’ve been able to start testing out all my radios, new connections etc.

The Mini-Circuits components all come well packaged in anti-static bags

A whole bundle of new cables from Mini-Circuits arrived last of all and have helped tidy up the back of the radio 19″ rack considerably. I’ve previously installed quite a few Mini-Circuits components, including 0.141″ diameter Hand-Flex interconnect cables, and so it was more of these that I opted for. The bonus with these cables is that they are hand formable meaning you can shape and bend them into pretty much any area that you want to. The 141 series (which I use) are capable of a 8mm bend radius, whilst the thinner 086 series can be bent to 6mm.

Being able to manipulate the cables certainly helps in tight spaces, and when you don’t want them to hang down

Previously I used hand-made cables with RG58U coax, but in order to have a 19″ rack that can slide out from under the desk, the cables needed to be longer than actually required. Because of this the cables would drop down into all the others attached to the PC and in some cases cause a little interference. With the Hand-Flex cables I’ve been able to use the same length of coax to allow me to move out the rack, but be able to bend them up and out of the way of the PC cables.

They’re also very good for the radios on the rack, being able to bend them and hold in place around the radios and other cables. They are near lossless too with a quoted insertion loss of 0.01 dB in the HF band to 0.55 dB at 18GHz. I normally run tests of the Mini-Circuit components when I receive them and find that the figures quoted are near spot on. I highly recommend these cables if you’re looking to upgrade your systems, and are available from the Mini-Circuits website, along with lots of other goodies that will tempt you.

Measurement of insertion loss of the Mini-Circuits ZF3RSC-542B-S+ Power Splitter/Combiner I also purchased as part of my plans for satellite communication monitoring. This is connected to the AirSpy SDR and takes feeds from two SatCom connections (currently deactivated) and a WinRadio AX-71C Discone Antenna. Mini-Circuits quote an insertion loss of around 19.5dB at 130 MHz which is confirmed here with a signal generated at -20dB being less than 1dB out at -40.48dB when passed through the combiner.

This image shows how the cables can be held in place without cable ties

The radio setup now includes two new SDR’s – an AirSpy HF+ and a standard AirSpy with the HF+ replacing the Enablia TitanPro. I’ve also reinstated my WinRadio G31DDC which had been in storage for a year or so. I really do like the TitanPro, and have put it into storage for the time being. The recording capabilities in particular are great with it being able to select 40 frequencies at once spread over numerous bandwidths, but I have had issues with the power supply – one being it caused interference. I attempted to make one of my own but it has a 6v(+/-1v)/2.5 Amp current requirement and no matter how many different methods of building my own supply using a 12v feed downgrading to 5, 6 or 7 volts, it just wouldn’t work in a stable manner. In the end it was easier to remove it and slot the G31DDC back in its place.

As it is, I’d forgotten how good the G31DDC is and I don’t really feel like I’m missing much thanks to the ability to use the other SDR’s with SDR Console V3 and it’s SDR Analyser.

The three 19″ racking units from Penn Elcom, along with all the shelves, have been very useful and certainly makes things easier when it comes to changing radios and connections over. I can just disconnect a few things and slide the whole unit out. I also obtained a 19″ Project box from them which I used as my main 12v switch unit. This is connected to two regulated desktop power supplies that act as master switches.

Although the SDR Console website page for the Analyser states it isn’t available yet, this is incorrect and it is downloaded with the latest version of the main programme.

If you’re a current user of V2 or have been in the past then you won’t notice much difference. You can have up to 24 parallel demodulators operating within the SDR’s bandwidth that you have chosen, all of which can run independent of each other in receive and record. You can also run each demodulator through a decoder such as MultiPSK independently and decode these in parallel with each other. This capability has taken that step towards those of the TitanPro, especially when being used with the Elad FDM-S2 that can provide a Maximum DDC bandwidth of 6144kHz’s.

Unfortunately, whilst you can schedule recordings of IQ data, you still can’t do this for individual channel recordings. This is a real shame as it would be a fantastic addition to the capabilities of SDR Console.

Getting back to the analyser though this does, in theory, cancel out the lack of channel recording scheduling.

When you record IQ data it is saved as WAV files, split into multiple ones depending on how long a recording you make . All of these files can be individually played back through the incorporated SDR Console player but even better is the use of the File Analyser.

With this you get a visual “image” of the complete recording, whereby after opening the analyser you get it to combine all the files into one XML file. For the image below I used the FDM-S2 with a selected bandwith of 768kHz centred on 4425kHz, hoping to catch calls to Russian Naval base Severomorsk in CW(RJD99) from ships operating in the region. I set the scheduler up to record from 0000z to 0700z which worked perfectly, giving me 78 files totalling 78GB – obviously, the bigger the bandwidth, the larger the total file size.

After clicking on New in the analyser and browsing to the relevant folder the WAV files are saved in, the analyser finds the first one and gives this as an option to open – it automatically adds the remaining WAV files and starts the process. This can take quite some time to extract, around 45 minutes for the example shown. But you only need to do this once because once it has finished you can save it as an XML file and open it at any time – in this case it was a 28MB XML file.

A note here – do not then delete the WAV files as the analyser still needs them.

As you can see, I was successful in locating calls to RJD99, and I have highlighted some of the others that I took a look at – this is just a screenshot of two hours out of the seven recorded.

All you then need to do is find any signal of interest, and after clicking on select and start in the top ribbon, click on the signal. This will then start playing the file from that location in the main SDR Console window. You don’t need to stay on that frequency, you can use the Console as if you were listening live and move around the frequency range you dictated in the bandwidth of the recording.

And, as it is basically a live screen you can do additional things such as record and use decoding software.

RJI92 calling RJD99 on 4416 kHz during playback of the Analyser

When using the Analyser I run this through a separate PC meaning SDR Console itself can carry on working on the main radio control PC. This is also handy if you’re away but have time to go through the IQ data using a laptop. Just copy over the original WAV files to a portable hard drive/memory stick and carry on as described above.

There are numerous other functions available for you to use with the main part of SDR Console, some I still haven’t had the chance to play with completely. I’m still exploring things such as the Signal History function which can store up to 48 hours of data. Here you can export data in CSV format to third-party programs such as QtiPlot. Signal history can also be used within the Analyser

This is useful as it can give you a quick overview into single frequency use, signal strengths, fading and such like. Definitely something I need to spend more time on.

It’s been a long time coming, but Version 3 of SDR Console has been well worth the wait.

TitanSDR Pro demonstration

After receiving quite a few requests on information about the Enablia TitanSDR and it’s capabilities, I decided it would be good a good idea to create a demonstration video that would hopefully show just how good an SDR it is. The video is at the end of this blog.

I think that a lot of people can’t understand just why the two versions are the price they are, especially when it seems that a new dongle SDR is being evolved every day at a ridiculously cheap price. Yes, they are expensive but when you compare the price of these SDR’s to a top end desktop receiver, such as the Icom IC-R8500 for example, then it is fairly comparable.

But you must consider the fact that the Titan is really more than one receiver. The Pro version is 40 receivers, the standard is eight. You can’t record independently using the Icom, you need some additional software or a digital voice recorder plugged in to the receiver; and even then you can only record the one frequency – the Pro can record 40 frequencies, the standard can record eight.

The TitanSDR Pro can monitor up to 40 frequencies at the same time. Here, 10 frequencies are being monitored, mainly Oceanic ones.

The TitanSDR Pro can monitor up to 40 frequencies at the same time. Here, 10 frequencies are being monitored, mainly Oceanic ones.

Then, you can’t really record any bandwidth to play back using the Icom, but both versions of the Titan can record up to three separate bandwidths. These can then be played back, either through the SDR itself, or on another PC using the supplied USB dongle that carries a second version of the software – and if you did this you could be listening to, or recording, further frequencies or bandwidths. And all these separate bandwidth recordings can, of course, be played back multiple times, with multiple recordings being made within them; or data can be decoded; or signals analysed – what ever you require from an SDR.

This image shows the Titan monitoring 12 frequencies, 6 of which are decoding ALE using PC-ALE. This can take place in the background, while listening to the other frequencies on the SDR.

This image shows the Titan monitoring 12 frequencies, 6 of which are decoding ALE using PC-ALE. This can take place in the background, while listening to the other frequencies on the SDR.

But, of course, this is just standard for any SDR isn’t it?? But is it?? Can you think of another SDR that has the capability to monitor/record 40 frequencies at once? I can’t.

The nearest SDR I found to the Titan in quality of not only recording capabilities but in quality of filters etc. meant that I would need to buy around 13 SDR’s of this model and spend over €30,000. Yet, just one of this model costs pretty much the same price as the Titan. Now, with that knowledge, the price of the TitanSDR’s really doesn’t seem that bad after all.

Don’t forget, the TitanSDR is a Military spec. SDR, designed originally for agencies to monitor multiple frequencies for analysis and data collecting. It already has top specifications but Enablia are still willing to listen to the users and add requested features if they can. They have already done this with quite a few ideas that myself and other users have suggested.

You'd think that the Titan would be a CPU guzzler wouldn't you? Well it isn't. Here the SDR is running 31 frequencies, multiple decodings using MultiPSK, and PC-ALE. The CPU is running at only 27%, and that was it's max reading.

You’d think that the Titan would be a CPU guzzler wouldn’t you? Well it isn’t. Here the SDR is running 31 frequencies, whilst making multiple decodings using MultiPSK and PC-ALE. The CPU is running at only 27%, and that was it’s max reading.



I promised the owners of PlaneBaseNG that I’d add something about their aviation database to my blog about a year and a half ago, but due to personal issues and renovating my house I never got round to it. As it is though, I’m glad I didn’t because the database has changed so much since then I’d have had to have done blog updates practically every month since.

But, as it’s nearing the two year anniversary of it’s conception I thought now would be the right time. PBlogo

So what is PlaneBaseNG? In the words of its owners “PlaneBaseNG is a fully featured product that manages all your aircraft sighting logging and reporting needs” and I’m not going to say otherwise. It is a great aircraft database, much better than any others around at the moment. It is simple to use, the search features are great and it has the easiest logging features I’ve seen. And most importantly it’s free – though you can donate money to help with its development if you wish, it’s totally optional.

PlaneBaseNG (or PB from now on) was developed after a few people got fed up with other databases out there. In particular, there was one that hadn’t changed for quite some time. I used this (unnamed) database and can vouch that it was good at first but very quickly went out of date in its development and style. Not only that, despite saying they would listen to their customers and add features where possible, this just never happened. In my opinion, though not proven, I think that the owners of the (unnamed) database used the funds from the subscribers to travel the world planespotting. The initial purchase wasn’t cheap (currently £130), and there were yearly subscription fees for the weekly updates – I mean, they even charged the poor data inputters the yearly subscription fees despite having to spend hours updating the data. Yep, I know this because I was a data inputter for them for a (very) short while. Handily enough all the fixed “books” for trips, created from search features, happened to be of the favourite trip locations of the owners. Requests for user created “books” fell on deaf ears.

I soon realised they weren’t for listening to anyone when I gave them some advice on making the data input easier. There were countless errors in Operator names, or should I say countless different versions of names for the same Operator – Delta Airlines/Delta Air Lines etc. This was because each editor had a crib sheet instead of having a much more useful sub-database containing the definitive list of Operators that could be chosen from a drop down list. It was easy to implement but it wasn’t and I got frustrated – as a user, searches were a nightmare as the data was quite often wrong. So I left editing but carried on with the database as there were no other options out there – except creating your own (which I had done and it was much better than this (unnamed) database, but as a single data-inputter going through Aviation Letter each month was very time consuming and so I had had to give up). planebase

I was pleased to hear, about two years ago, that there was a new database coming out; and I was lucky enough to be one of the early users as I knew a few of the guys involved, some of which had also left the other database. PB changed very quickly in the early days, with almost daily updates to the actual software and features. This has slowed down now but that is because it is features packed, and I don’t know if there’s anything else PB can produce or think of that’s needed. Just some of the features included are:
Search facilities for Reg, Manufacturer, Type, Operator, Mode-S hexcodes, SelCal, Base, ICAO Operator codes
Multiple User creatable Reports
Wordbook (to create a handy needlist when travelling)
Adding photos to records
Flight logs

And much more – full information of all the features are on their website and in the extensive manual (something else the (unnamed) database fell short with, being four to five years out of date when I last saw it).

The database isn’t just for “spotters”, it can be used by anyone that is interested in aviation. For instance the SelCal search is useful to those that listen to HF regularly and need to check on what they’ve possibly heard. The same goes for checking details on Operators or Squadron details – the searches are endless really. Updates to the database occur twice a week, with a full update on a Tuesday and an additional Airliner/Execs update on Fridays. The database itself contains well over a million entries in categories of Airliners, Executive Jets and Propliners, Military (fighter/transports/Helis etc), Helicopters, Russians and GA types – you name it, they’re in there – even gliders. And if there’s something that’s not in there, a quick email and I’m sure it wouldn’t be long before it was.

pblinkNow on to PB’s sidekick – PBLink. This feature is for those that use either SBS or PlanePlotter virtual radars. It is a separate download that adds a background link to PB so that when you get an unknown Hexcode appearing on your radar a check is made with the main database and the details filled out in the SQB file for the radar. Before hand I had to use the Gatwick Aviation Societies (GAS) data, but that required access to the internet. The great thing about PBLink is that an on-line connection isn’t needed, making it possible to go fully mobile with your SBS. I tried it out last year at LAX, from the back of my hire-car and it worked perfectly, along with being able to log what I saw. There’s even the possibility to download a fully populated SQB file (overwriting your current one) which means you don’t need PB installed at all. I don’t bother with that as there’s no real point if you use PB as well (plus I use specific flags and file names for these which would get wiped out I think). As it’s linked to your database it also shows whether you’ve seen the aircraft before and if so, where and when.

Again, there’s plenty more details on the website and in the PBLink manual. It’s pointless me saying anymore, I’d only repeat what is in it and probably in not as much detail.

pbliteFinally, the last manifestation of PB is PBLite. This is designed for Windows based tablets and is an almost exact copy of the full PB database. One thing that’s great about this software is that if you use the full version on your PC or laptop, you can copy across your logs/sightings to the tablet. And just to add, this also possible if you have a desktop and a laptop – your loggings can be copied between the two as and when.

I like PlaneBaseNG a lot, I use it daily and not just for the spotting side of things. I use it for radio monitoring, and I use it to confirm information when I’m writing my blogs and magazine articles. With over 1000 users already, I’m obviously not the only one that thinks it is a great product.

All I’ll say is, go and take a look at the website for PlaneBaseNG and you’ll see many more features – some I haven’t even tried yet. Meanwhile, over at the (unnamed) database, despite a nice new glitzy website – it’s still the same old database by the look of the screenshots.

DIY Canon EOS 5D Camera fix

Canon Eos5D(mk1) DIY fix

There I was on a harbour tour of Portsmouth, snapping away at the (large) amount of RN ships docked there at the moment, when my 5D made an awful clunking, grating sound and stopped taking images. Looking through the viewfinder gave me nothing but darkness. After a brief panic, I took the lens off and sitting in it was what looked like the shutter mechanism from the camera. Luckily I also had my 50D with me, so I was able to continue with what I was doing, but as soon as the time became available I took another look at the 5D

As it was, it turned out it wasn’t the full mechanism but just the mirror that had come unstuck, so the thought of huge amounts of money flying on to my credit card stopped as I thought it would be a reasonably cheap fix. I did wonder if the previous weeks wet shoot of HMS Duncan may have been the cause. It had been a wet day, but the camera hadn’t got seriously soaked as I protected it. It was, however, also quite humid, so I think the two weather patterns and the clunking process that shutters have to go through combined to unstick the mirror a little. This final shoot was enough to let the mirror lose it’s grip completely


Back home a few days later and I investigated the price of getting the mirror put back on. I was shocked to find that the price for this repair was ridiculous, prices between $250 and $500 were being quoted by people with the same problem in the USA (I couldn’t find a price in the UK). This was crazy, and I seriously thought that at that price I may as well look for another 5D

But then I thought, well I may as well see if a bit of superglue to the back of the mirror will work. So I Googled to see if others had tried this, and they had, and it had worked

So this is this is the process I carried out to make the DIY fix.

1. Obviously, make sure you’re in a clean area, with as little dust as possible

2. On the back of the mirror is a small black piece of thin plastic, take this away. There’s no need to remember or mark what way round it goes as this is obvious by the holes

3. Cut the end off a cotton-bud

Remove the black plastic and cut off the end of a cotton-bud

Remove the black plastic and cut off the end of a cotton-bud

4. Get the superglue and squeeze some out onto a piece of paper, card or plastic – whatever you have available really. DO NOT squeeze superglue directly onto the small pads on the back of the mirror, we all know that superglue has a mind of its own and is hard to control in small amounts

5. Take the cut end of the cotton-bud, scoop up a small amount of glue and dab it onto one of the small pads on the mirror – you don’t need too much. Repeat this for the other three pads, but do it fairly quickly before the glue can dry

6. Return the black plastic to back of the mirror

7. Look at the shutter mechanism of the 5D and note the correct way round the mirror should go by the position of the indents for the pads

8. Gently place the mirror on the shutter mechanism, applying only a small amount of pressure

Mirror fixed back in place. Now let the glue dry followed by a clean

Mirror fixed back in place – now let the glue dry followed by a clean

9. Close up the camera with the lens cap and leave it for a few hours to dry properly

10. After a few hours, test to make sure the camera works correctly and the mirror stays in place

11. Give the mirror a clean as its bound to have some fingerprints on it

This took me about 5 minutes, and cost the price of one cotton bud and a tube of superglue – both of which I had already

Cross Country Wireless HF/VHF/UHF Multicoupler

With the total rebuild of the radio-shack looming I’d been investigating on a Multicoupler for my VHF/UHF radios. My homebuilt antenna connected to my Bearcat UBC-800XLT is far better than the bought Vertical Antenna that is connected to my Icom IC-R8500 so I wanted to remove the vertical antenna (using the co-ax for a homebuilt AIS antenna I’ve been testing in a different location) and use the Bearcat antenna on multiple radios

I’d found a few Multicouplers that suited, but after a discussion on MilCom about different ones, and a recommendation on one of my choices, I decided to go for the Cross Country Wireless HF/VHF/UHF Multicoupler multicoupler

I wasn’t the only one as I know at least one other member of MilCom made the same choice

There was a slight delay in delivery as Chris, the owner of CCW, was away on holiday. But as the units are made to order this wasn’t a problem to me at all

When the Multicoupler arrived I put it to use immediately and was very pleased with the results. It does have to be powered by a 12V adaptor and I had one of these spare, it can go down to 7V I believe, but either way power is required or you’ll get nothing. I ran the Multicoupler with the two radios, and even added my UBC-3500XLT to it too, with no loss at all. Very happy indeed.

However, a problem did arise. For some reason, reception would drop off over time. A quick chat with Chris bought about the probability that it was the power unit as he tests everything before sending out. Using another power supply the problem was fixed – initially. After a few days the same happened again, with great reception at first but then a drop. The power supplies I used were of the same make, so I queried it with Chris and he told me of a supply they have available that doesn’t seem to have any problems at all. So I purchased this too, and a few days later it arrived

Since then I’ve had no problems at all, and I am very pleased with it. I have only used it for VHF/UHF, not HF, so I can’t give any critique on its performance in this area

Temporary placement of the Multicoupler for testing

Temporary placement of the Multicoupler for testing

The HF/VHF/UHF Multicoupler is priced at £119.95 plus shipping (£8 in the UK I believe)
The 12V power supply is £20 including postage to the UK

Further details and specifications are available on the CCW website

The Spectrum Monitor articles and the MilCom Forum

I’m pleased to say that I’ve had two articles published in the July edition of e-Mag The Spectrum Monitor

The first article is about the Joint Warrior exercise that took place in March/April this year, and how and what to listen out for when these exercises take place twice a year in the UK. I wasn’t expecting this article to be published until September so this was an added bonus this month

The second article is about how I got into listening to Air Traffic Control and how this then took me down the road to becoming an Air Traffic Controller, an aviation/military photographer and writer, and into monitoring the radios in general – in particular HF

As well as the articles, there’s about 11 photos of mine included alongside. I also provided the cover image.tsmcover

The magazine is available either to buy individually at $3 each or by subscription for $24 for one year. Either way the magazine is well worth the money

MilCom Forum

About a month ago now, a new forum was created for the Military Monitoring enthusiast – MilCom

The main aim of the forum is bring together those of us that are interested in monitoring Military Communications, be it VHF/UHF, HF, CW, data, SATCOM etc. The posting of radio logs is actively encouraged. In just a month the membership has passed 110 with posts already at 850+; and this is without any real advertising of the forum. One thing you’ll notice if you head over, is that it isn’t just about Aviation. The forum covers all areas of Military Communications – Aviation, Maritime and Land (Space too if you really want to)

As well as the forum area there is a database section which contains information on Military Callsigns, VHF/UHF frequencies, HF frequencies and other things such as common abbreviations and terms used by the Military. There’s also an interactive map. These databases are updated almost daily by a team of us, and can also have anything missing submitted to the team for addition once confirmed. The databases are continually growing, are more accurate than any printed publication (which is generally out of date the day of printing) and more importantly – FREE

The only proviso to this data being available is that members participate in the forum and do not just “lurk”. The membership is continually monitored by the team and trimmed if necessary. That being said, we are a friendly group so don’t let the rules put you off – instead join up and participate.

2 B2 or not 2 B2

Whilst most of the UK were running around chasing B-52s and B-2s that were flying out of Fairford, more on which later, the USAF and USN over in the States were preparing for yet another large combined exercise involving multiple assets, including more B-52s and B-2s, as well as E-6s and KC-135s

Early heads up that something was going to take place was given when various airspace reservations were spotted by “Magnum” on the USAFs own NOTAM website. This was re-enforced when four KC-135s were positioned in Nova Scotia on the 10th of June

Sure enough, as predicted, on the afternoon of the 11th 11175kHz of the HF-GCS network started to come alive with calls from various assets involved in the exercise

I was preoccupied for the first few hours, but plenty of calls were coming through and picked up by the small group of us that regularly follow these missions. A couple of us do live in the USA so follow the action with their own gear, but in the majority Live ATC is a necessity for us in Europe; that is until a bit later and conditions let us follow the aircraft that are the furthest east

At around 1830z a long EAM (Emergency Action Message) of 147 characters was sent by GOALPOST, an E-6B operating over the USA:


This is significantly longer than the standard EAMs of 30 characters, and this EAM was repeated on quite few occasions over the next hour or so

By 1900z the callsign tally was quite large:
SPURxx KC135s
NARESxx KC135s
BEAKxx B2s

The operating areas of these flights had been pretty much worked out by those monitoring too, but I’ll leave those out except for one portion a bit later on

The sheer number of messages, such as the 4 group status messages used by the B2s in previous missions I’ve mentioned, and EAMs were overwhelming. There were so many they were stepping all over each other making it nigh on impossible to make them all out. It does make you wonder just how things would pan out should this all happen for real

Saying that though, the Russian CW networks I also listen too aren’t any better and do exactly the same thing.

I joined the action properly at around 2130z when I got a SkyKing message using my WinRadio Excalibur on 11175kHz. With the way the bandwidth was set up with the Excalibur I could see that Gander on 11279kHz was coming in strong which gave me hope that conditions would be good enough to pick some of the exercise up on 11175. I decided to set one of the other channels available on Gander as it’s always interesting listening to them sometimes

As it was, whilst monitoring 11175, I saw a really strong signal come in on Gander so I changed channels quickly and heard what I thought was SPEED20 calling with a position report. There was a distinct burn to the background call which showed it as a military flight.

A quick check through my old notes showed SPEED as a 97AMW callsign so I thought this would be one of the tankers. But, one of the US monitors then said he’d not heard a tanker using SPEED before, which made me doubt the call. Magnum then queried whether it may have been BEAK20 so I waited until the next position report about 20 mins later to confirm. It was indeed BEAK20, probably a B-2A from Whiteman AFB. The two B-2s were not that far from the boundary between Gander and Shanwick, and were now heading south

Route over the Atlantic by BEAK20/21

Route over the Atlantic by BEAK20/21

A bit of further delving through my old bits of papers that I call logs showed that I’d written down SPEED as a 97BW callsign in the early 90s. I’d tie this down to the fact that the 97th flew B-52s to Fairford for Desert Storm, and I visited the base then on a few occasions whilst stationed at Lyneham. Obviously, when the 97th transitioned to their new role of transports and tankers from Altus AFB, I’d just copied over the callsigns

As I’d not picked up much on 11175 on my own gear I decided to make Gander my primary on the Excalibur with 11175 on channel 2, along with 11175 on my Icom IC-R8500; and just to top that off, have Live ATC going on the PC too. It takes a lot of effort to listen to all this at once especially when there’s a time lag through Live ATC; it makes logging it all very difficult – I still feel like I’m cheating when listening to alive ATC too

Another position report followed with Gander telling BEAK20 to switch to 8891 as the new primary frequency. I followed them over as I was getting a good plot of their route using Skyvector. Again, with the bandwidth setup that I use on the Excalibur I was able to see other surrounding frequencies, and I noted that the Russian network on 8847kHz was also very busy. A quick listen showed these to be transports, but I was busy elsewhere so dumped the freq

I followed BEAK20 back to the Canadian domestic airspace at waypoint ELSIR, but before that at 2350z he asked Gander if they could go off frequency at midnight Zulu to monitor 11175 for approx 10 minutes. Gander said standby but never did get back to them, well not that I heard

At 0010z a new EAM was sent, this time by new callsign and an E-6B, OUTCROP. The Pool callsigns for the E-6s always change at midnight Zulu, so we were to expect a few new ones in the next half an hour or so, another one being LEGALITY.

With BEAK20 pretty much being back on Canadian domestic I was back to 11175 on the Excalibur and OUTCROP was quite clearly audible on it, whilst LEGALITY wasn’t.

Things had really started picking up again, with lots of stepped on calls again as everyone came back up on frequency, a pattern that is common with these – busy (all checking in) – quiet (flying the mission) – busy (checking back in). A couple of new callsigns also followed along with new groups of EAMs

This continued on for the next few hours, with myself calling it a day around 0130z when it had mostly died down. The final callsign list for the night was:

SPURxx KC135s
NARESxx KC135s
BEAKxx B2s
GLUExx ?
HALLxx ?
SUMACxx KC135s
HISTO possibly B52s

The last group of E6s were the same ones as earlier but have the midnight callsign change

Interestingly, a new NOTAM has been published that covers at least the next week, and the same airspace as used for this exercise. Is this to be a bigger and better one?

UK B-2s and B-52s

As I mentioned earlier, 2 B-2s and 3 B-52s have deployed to the UK for two exercises; SaberStrike for the B-52s and a FAMEX(Familiarisation Exercise) for the B-2s. They have caused nothing but what I would call a “boy band” over excitement from the UK aviation enthusiasts (of which I am one, though I’ve not got that excited)

It is great to see them over here again, and I did manage a glimpse of two B-52s as they left the Turnberry VOR tracking NW, but the commotion and excitement they have caused is amazing. Maybe I got too used to them 20 years ago (the B-52s) and I’ve seen a few B-2s in the USA so maybe I’ve been nulled by that.

As I live a good 300 miles away from Fairford, and with a holiday during the same period, I was never really going to see them, but I thought the radio may be a bit interesting. In the end it wasn’t. Daily round-robin tours of the UK for training purposes gave mainly route information. The B-2s tended to fly as singletons, but the B-52s did fly in pairs so there was some inter-plane chat between them – at the time of going on holiday this was on
226.875MHz and 300.125MHz

One of the routes flown as plotted by Chris Globe

One of the routes flown as plotted by Chris Globe

With the flights there seemed to be a regular pattern of one in the morning, one in the afternoon (of both types); and after a while it was noticeable that they used the same waypoints or FRDs (fix/radial/distance) but maybe in a different order. After two days, once they were used to being here, air to air refuelling also was incorporated into the missions with 100ARW from RAF Mildenhall

Callsigns used for the UK flights were:

EXULT11-13 B-52s on the 7th for flights from USA to Fairford
CORE11/12 B-52 UK flights
DOOM11/12 B-52 UK flights
DOOM20 B-52 UK flights
DEATH11/12 B-2 for flights from USA to Fairford
SPIRIT01/02 B-2UK flights
SPIRIT11 B-2 UK flights
ICOSA11/12 B-2 flight to Ascension

At the time of this blog the B-52s are yet to take part in Exercise SaberStrike except for one fly past at the beginning of the exercise

As I’ve said, I went away on holiday so missed some of it, but on the 11th the B-2s made a trip to Ascension Island (where I was posted to in the 90s) as ICOSA11/12 flight and they were monitored again by the small group of us. They were met by four to six KC135s that flew from Lajes in the Azores. This was part of an Out-of-Area operation to prove they can carry out Global Power flights outside of operating from Whiteman AFB

Although I believe they were due to land at Ascension, they didn’t and they returned to Fairford that night following a very long mission

Let’s hope these exercises are repeated next year, and maybe I’ll be able to head down to Fairford to see them

Logs from CONUS exercise:




1842z NARES42 calls SkyMaster, no response


2128z SkyKing PP3 T28 Auth RJ

Gander 11279

2220z BEAK20 (B-2A)
5442N 38W @ 2200 FL250
Est 5448N 3338W @ 2220
5245N 3339W next

2225z BEAK20
5448N 3338W @ 2220
Est 5245N 3339W @2238
5012N 3340W next
asked by Gander to do a radio check on 8891, then told that this was the new primary. 5616 is back up

Gander 8891

2240z BEAK20
5245N 3339W @ 2239 FL250
est 5012N 3340W @ 2301
5018N 38W next

2300z BEAK20
5012N 3340W @ 2259 FL250
est 5018N 38W @ 2324
5015N 42W next, Req FL280 (approved at 2304)

2323z BEAK20
5018N 38W @ 2324 (note being sent before this time) FL280
est 5015N 42W @ 2342
5007N 45W next

2345z BEAK20
5015N 42W @ 2342 FL280
est 5007N 45W @ 2359
50N 50W next

2351z beak20 Requesting to go off freq at midnight to monitor 11175


Gander 8891

0002z BEAK20
5007N 45W @ 2359 FL280
est 50N 50W @ 0023
ELSIR next

At 50W call Gander on 122.375




0015 BEAK21 1msg 4grps TL5T


0020z SPUR44 1 msg 4 grps 1YCK



0035z HALL33 1msg 4grps KIW2

0039z SPUR23 calling





0045z SUMAC24 1msg 4grps TPUW








0107z BEAK20 1msg 4grps HG2W

0109z DOOM92 with REDRIVER radio check


0116z BURNT15 1msg 4grps 6SX6 (only OUTCROP heard)

0120Z SUMAC42 1msg 4grps YUWI (only OUTCROP heard)

All information, callsigns and data has no connection to my employers and is obtained from my own radio logs, personal knowledge and public information

Global Lightning

On the night of the 14th into the morning of the 15th of May there was another exercise involving B-2A bombers transitting the Atlantic and returning to the USA following an Air to Air refuel with two KC-135Rs from Mildenhall. Also involved again was an E-6B operating out of Stuttgart

I’ve covered this type of operation previously in this blog which goes into detail how things happen, and this can be found here to recap on

There were two changes to the usual though. Firstly, the B-2 status messages (made every 15 minutes) had a slight word change, using “items” instead of “groups”; and secondly, and more significant was where the E-6 operated.

There had been the usual NOTAM in adavnce of this exercise which had the standard operating area of the E-6 out over the Atlantic, and this is where it was expected to transit to. E6However, on getting airborne it went NE from Stuttgart and settled over an area near Rostock in Germany. Whether this was some sort of show to Moscow, I guess we’ll never know but it does seem likely, especially with the Baltic Fleet homeport at Baltyisk not too far away

Anyway, on to the the log for the night.

Main Callsigns involved:
FOWL11/12 = 2 B-2A
MERCATOR = E-6B likely to be the one over Rostok
SALESMAN = E-6B Rostock E-6B, callsign change at midnight Zulu
CALAMINE = E-6B LANT/CONUS flight, callsign change at midnight Zulu
QUID90/91 = KC-135R flight from Mildenhall

All other calls from MainSail unless otherwise stated

11175[on Live ATC]

1647z STRATEGY with request to Mainsail

1648z ETHAN28 with radio check






1903z Diego Garcia with test count

2105z FOWL12 calls SkyMaster with 1 Msg 4 groups V3JM

2107z SkyKing BTL T07 Auth 00

2112z SkyKing 6OL T12 Auth FM

2120z FOWL11 to SkyMaster 1msg 4items 9J93

2130z MERCATOR standing by for traffic

5598 – Santa Maria Oceanic

2134z FOWL11 flight
44N30W @ 2133
Est 44N2230W @ 2208
44N22W next

2135z FOWL11 to route 44N22W after 44N2230W

2150z FOWL flight to route KOPAS 36N13W 36N18W 33N20W from Santa Maria


2150z FOWL11 1msg 4items 6JPN

5598 – Santa Maria Oceanic

2154z QUID90 calls for 44N22W ALTRV clearance

2159z clearance approved

2217z FOWL11 flight
44N22W @ 2217 block 260/270
Est 44N13W @ 2325
36N18W next

2220z QUID90 flight
44N22W @2219z Block 280/290
est 44N20W @ 2321z
44N15W next
In contact with FOWL flight, req MARSA and block 260/290 for refuel

2228z Quid90 informs SM they will be off HF for 30 mins for refuel


2230z MERCATOR standing by for traffic

2202z MERCATOR calls Mainsail for r/c

2205z FOWL12 1msg 4items MG52

2210z NORMANDY standing by for traffic (very weak – TACLANT)

2220z FOWL11 1msg 4items 7FR7

2230z MERCATOR standing by for traffic

2240z NORMANDY standing by for traffic (very weak – TACLANT)

5598 – Santa Maria Oceanic

2249z Quid90 flight
44N20W @ 2233
est 44N15W @ 2310
44N13W next
block 260/290


2250z FOWL11 1msg 4 items VKGT
FOWL12 1msg 4items U1VO

2257z SPAR781 calls Mainsail for r/c

2300z MERCATOR standing by for traffic

2300z RCH155 calls Andrews for r/c

2305z FOWL12 1msg 4items 06T6

5598 – Santa Maria Oceanic

2305z SM is asking FOWL11 for its route after KOPAS:


2310z NORMANDY standing by for traffic

5598 – Santa Maria Oceanic

2313z Quid90 calls SM, refuel complete, est KOPAS 2321
SM asks Quid90 to confirm Quid91 eta for KOPAS. Has to explain to SM that they are all together and will get there at the same time!!


2320z FOWL11 1msg 4items SS7U

5598 – Santa Maria Oceanic

2323z Quid90 flight
KOPAS @ 2322 FL280/290
Est TAKAS 2331
ETIKI next

SM gives reroute KOPAS dct REGHI FPL route


2324z FOWL12 calls SkyMaster for any Message traffic
No message tfc at this time

2330z MERCATOR standing by for traffic

2335z FOWL12 1msg 4items 1Q4K


2353z E5GSHU – IP5T2TGZKSU7LXXPS73B22LG (possibly FOWL in background)


0006z FOWL12 1msg 4items RFKR

0007z CALAMINE standing by for traffic


0012z SALESMAN standing by for traffic

0027z TINHORN calls Mainsail for systems test


0036z FOWL12 1 msg 4items E0TH

0039z Open mike from one of the E6s


0041z SALESMAN standing by for traffic

0049z FOWL11 1msg 4items AILK


0104z FOWL12 1msg 4items P8UE


0114z SALESMAN sends E5GSHU – IP5T2TGZKSU7LXXPS73B22LG (lots of background noise)

0117z SALESMAN sends E56QA3 – 4IKTV2HPK44KY7O5NBJTOY7K (but on first transmission after preambles, starts at TV2H etc)

0119z FOWL11 1msg 4items OO1C


0134z FOWL12 1msg 4items IUB6 – disregard – 3Y16

0140z SALESMAN sends E56QA3 – 4IKTV2HPK44KY7O5NBJTOY7K, more follows standby

0150z FOWL11 1msg 4items H5ZX


0206z FOWL12 1msg 4items IUBI

0219z FOWL11 1msg 4items XNB1

0229z 0159z E56QA3 – 4IKTV2HPK44KY7O5NBJTOY7K

0235z FOWL12 1msg 4items K5GT

0240z SALESMAN sends E56QA3 – 4IKTV2HPK44KY7O5NBJTOY7K, more follows standby

0249z FOWL11 1msg 4items DABJ



0309z SALESMAN sends E56OYP – D7Y5WI4F7XKJMBBCV7BNVAG6, more follows standby
E56QA3 – 4IKTV2HPK44KY7O5NBJTOY7K, more follows standby

0326z SALESMAN standing by for traffic

0329z 0304z E56OYP – D7Y5WI4F7XKJMBBCV7BNVAG6

0339z SALESMAN sends E56OYP – D7Y5WI4F7XKJMBBCV7BNVAG6 (background calls of SKYMASTER to other station)

0353z SkyKing PFF T53 Auth DS

No further calls were received after this. Another busy night, shame there’s not more of them

All information, callsigns and data has no connection to my employers and is obtained from my own radio logs, personal knowledge and public information

Book Review follow-up

Well, since my review on the Klingenfuss books there’s been quite a bit of discussion on the forums about these kind of publications, but in general there was a lot of agreement about Klingenfuss being poor

Nils Schiffhauer even went as far as making a comparison of three books against 54 signals he recorded.The books he compared were:
Joerg Klingenfuss’ Utility Guide 2013/1014
Michael Marten’s “Spezial-Frequenzliste Band 2, 2013/14
Roland Proesch’ “Frequency Handbook for Radio Monitoring HF”, Edition 2013

He allocated points to the signals which totalled 108. (Full entry/callsign info = 2, correct organisation but no callsign = 1, no entry = 0). The results are below:
Klingenfuss: 45
Marten: 79
Proesch: 68

This shows that over 50% of Klingenfuss has data missing or is incorrect. I’d be happy if around 75% of data was correct as it is a changing environment and 25% is an allowable discrepancy for these changes. The other two books come in at this (and above for Michael Martins)

CoverTechnicalHandbook2013_1E Moving on from this I obtained a copy of Roland Proesch’s “Technical Handbook for Radio Monitoring HF (2013)”, which is on the same subject as Klingenfuss’s “Radio Data Codes”. As I now have both books I am able to carry out a random comparison of the two publications

So that I could try and do a fair comparison, I flicked through the pages of Rolands book, randomly stopping and picking the HF mode on that page. I then opened Klingenfuss and compared what each book had on the subject. The results are below (RM = Radio Monitoring Handbook, KF = Klingenfuss):

RM – Full information on this subject
KF – No information at all (that I could find)
Winner – RM

RM – Full information, images showing Spectrum information
KF – Same information, but the only images were of WaveCom decode screenshots
Winner – RM

RM – 4 and a half pages on the subject including spectrum images and a table of information
KF – 1 page on the subject and another page of WaveCom decode screenshots
Winner – RM

RM – 1 info page, but contains a frequency table and Spectrum image. In the appendices there is a table containing all the Maritime Identification Digits, though basic country information only (an extra 5 pages). Another table contains Ship/Station Selective Calling (another 4 pages) – Total pages for DSC is 10
KF – Slightly more information, including a description of MMSIs. Contains the same tables as RM but with the added Coast Station identities. The total number of pages is 15 although there no Spectrum images and the images that are there are of WaveCom decode screenshots again
Winner – With both books I’d say there some inaccuracies when comparing the information to the ITU website, but KF does beat RM when it comes to DSC. The one thing that lets KF down though is its abuse of ITU – Quote: Alas, the data is obviously compiled by dull and incompetent ITU bureaucrats and, by consequence, incomplete and not up to date


Example page from Radio Monitoring HF 2013 of DominoEX

To compare the books further RM has 448 images of either Spectrum data, sonograms and such like whilst I struggled to find many in KF, but KF does have many decoder screenshots, which if this is what you want then fair enough.

Radio Monitoring has a much better coverage of Russian systems. For instance, the common MS-5 (also known as CIS-12 or Fire) QPSK system used by the Russian Navy is nowhere to be seen in Klingenfuss, whilst Radio Monitoring has over a page dedicated to it including Spectrum images and a sonogram, the same goes for other systems. It’s almost as if Klingenfuss refuses to acknowledge that Russian data systems exist

Kligenfuss does have a huge amount of data on Meteorological Transmissions, well over 140 pages, including tables and decodes, though I found the layout of some of it not that great. This information is readily available online anyway as is all the data contained in both books when it comes to frequencies, callsigns, MMSI decodes etc.

But, when it comes to learning about the actual Waveforms and Data Modes I’d say Radio Monitoring beats Klingenfuss hands down. The first 135 pages of Radio Monitoring are fantastic, with descriptions of Waveforms, protocols, bit/baud rates (including a 12 page table which has great information on shift, modes, and possible users – needs to be seen to see how good this is), ASCII coding and much more. I will admit that Klingenfuss is better for a small number of Data Modes, but by and large this is often not the case.

If you could only afford one book on this subject matter, then Radio Monitoring is the one to choose, I think you’d find at least something on what you were looking for.

There’s a PDF file available that has 81 pages taken from the Radio Monitoring Handbook if you’d like to see more of whats covered and how it looks. This also includes the table of contents so that you can see what modes are covered

More information on this book, and the others written by Roland Proesch, is available on his website.

The Technical handbook for Radio Monitoring HF 2013 is 49Euros plus shipping and i’d give it a 9 out of 10. Personally I’ll be looking into getting the other books in the series

Radio book reviews

Klingenfuss Publications

I’m going to review two Klingenfuss books that I’ve purchased recently, firstly 2013/2014 Guide to Utility Radio Stations followed by Radio Data Code manual.

These are two books I’ve been contemplating on getting for over a year now and I finally decided to take the plunge at a cost of around £85 for the two, including delivery

2013/2014 Guide to Utility Radio Stations

This is the twenty-seventh edition of this book and Klingenfuss claim to be the best in this field when it comes to compiling data for HF frequency usage by Utility Stations. This book doesn’t cover any Broadcast Stations, this is in the companion book 2014 Shortwave Frequency guide which I’d decided not to purchase, mainly because there are free on-line providers of this data that is updated regularly, daily in some cases – my favourite (and the best) being SWBC Shortwave Broadcast Schedules

I wish I’d used that logic when it came to the Utility book too. To say I’m disappointed is an understatement. My decision to buy the book was because it seemed to give quite a bit of information on Digital data systems that I may find in the HF spectrum, and something I wanted to learn about. I’ll admit it does do this and it is as shown in the screenshot on the Klingenfuss website. What is disappointing though, is the huge amount of frequencies that aren’t included

There’s hardly any of the Russian Navy CW frequencies listed for instance, in particular 8345kHz and 12464kHz, the two primary frequencies used by Russina Navy ships to contact Moscow and various other bases. These have been used for years now, yet Klingenfuss quote themselves as being the most up to date publication around. They even go as far to slag off the internet and comment on out of date or incorrect frequencies online as quoted here:
……there is no comprehensive real radio monitoring executed out there at all! While these people offer gigantic frequency lists covering tenthousands of entries, these concoctions are perfectly useless to serious radio listeners since they merely represent dull data compilations copied – of all things! – from the Internet and not based on real radio monitoring. The internet, however, is not only just a too convenient source for copying and plagiarizing information, but above all constitutes a worldwide promotion platform for incompetent and stupid people, idiots and out right maniacs…… As a result, you will find on the Internet an incredible amount of intentional disinformation, misleading interpretations, pure speculation and wrong conclusions; and such “quality” of “data” is today the mainstay of cheap frequency lists offered by other publishers!

I think Klingenfuss need to revisit this statement, and the other statements that follow it in the book (too long to copy here), as they appear to be the publishers with out of date information

One of the other reasons for buying the Utility Guide was that at least if new frequencies did crop up over the year I could pencil them in with relevant data. Well, as it is, there’s a couple of hundred known Russian Navy frequencies missing. I’d be updating for hours – something I wouldn’t expect to do for a book costing £40; and this is just on one area of HF monitoring.

Searching through the HF Spectrum I came across various transmissions which when searching in the book drew a negative. It took around 10 frequencies before it came up with something, although the information provided was incorrect. In all reality, it is worse than a 1 in 10 success rate – the vast majority of frequencies I have searched are not there, yet they were all correctly listed on the Internet

The method for listing Major World Air Route Area (MWARA) and Regional and Domestic Air Routes Area (RDARA) frequencies is also slightly bizarre. In the general frequency section, when you search a frequency it doesn’t list the common users such as Shanwick or Gander. Instead it lists the regions “code”, for example:
6622kHz – AMS=NAT 6G 7F 9B 12C 13D

They then expect you to go to the back of the book where there’s a fold out map and you have to find the general area the frequency may cover. This still doesn’t tell you who it may be that you are hearing as frequencies are shared by different agencies. Later on in the book there is a chapter that lists each region and what frequencies they could possibly use, but again no callsigns. This I find strange as it’s probably easier to list the callsigns in the general frequency section in the first place – they’ve managed to do this repeatedly for other frequencies such as those used by the USAF HF-GCS network. Again, the internet beats Klingenfuss hands down with information such as this

Probably the biggest waste of space are the “screenshots” or should I call it WaveCom software advertising

Out of the 560 pages, 140 or more are of black and white screenshots. I honestly thought the screenshots may be useful in showing what different things may look like on an SDR Spectrum waterfall for instance. But no, it is just page after page of what WaveCom software has decoded. The example to the right here is from their website and is at least in colour, but it is all pretty meaningless when black and white in a small book.

There are countless more pages of advertising throughout the book for other Klingenfuss products and WaveCom, which is understandable to a point – who doesn’t advertise their own products in their own books? But with a fifth of the book being adverts, that’s a bit extreme and I’d much rather have seen more dedicated to frequencies and callsigns; or a smaller book at a cheaper price

It’s only when you read the first few pages that you find out the possible reason for the poor content. All the information in the book is from their “24/7” monitoring from 2012. Yes, the information is in fact over one and a half years old. I wondered why there was a 2013/2014 supplement with the book. So despite claiming they are the most accurate and up to date HF database providers, they aren’t – and really your £40 is in fact purchasing this 10 page supplement of also inaccurate information as there’s still frequencies missing

The continual mentions of “professional Customers” and Government agencies that use this book only makes me wonder just what these agencies think they are getting here – it’s certainly not accurate

I’d say that everything and more is available online on the subjects covered in this book. It almost hurts me to say this as I’m a book lover when it comes to this type of subject, and I think that books are always better than the internet, but in this case that just isn’t so.

Recently I have discovered what looks like a great frequency database which I’m hoping I can get my hands on and review in the future – it certainly looks far superior to anything Klingenfuss has to offer

At a cost of £40 this book is totally overpriced, I’d put it more in the £20 region, probably less. I won’t be buying it again – 5/10

Radio Data Code Manual

I hoped that this book may be a bit better than the Utility one and it is, but there are still some huge shortfallings.

To start with, Klingenfuss have failed again to show screenshots of each type of digital data transmissions. For the main, there are no screenshots of an actual signal, again it’s just a WaveCom advert of decoded messages. Screenshots of each type of transmission is a must I would say, it helps to quickly show what to look for when using an SDR or the other way round, when you’ve found something and want to quickly scan through the book to see if it matches. OK, this would be no good to someone with a standard receiver, but if you’re going to provide screenshots make them useful – I don’t care what WaveCom decoded off someone elses radio two years ago.

Instead, I’ve had to look online for examples of what each transmission may look like (and as a bonus, normally you can hear what they sound like too) – and of course, there’s normally a description of the transmission along with it, how to decode it etc. In other words, the internet has beaten a book again

The text does make up for the lack of screenshots. There are good descriptions of the different types of data transmissions, their uses and how to decode it (if you can). The only thing I would say is this – if you know what it is you’re listening to then why would you need the manual in the first place? You actually need to know all about what it is you’ve found to then look in the right chapter in the book. This is why I think that screenshots of spectrum waterfalls should be included. Instead, there’s just 4 pages of how to identify transmissions and this isn’t enough

There are various callsign chapters, on Aeronautical ICAO designators for instance, but then because of this it seems strange that there aren’t other callsigns from other Utilities. And then you think, why aren’t these in the Utility book anyway? because they’re not but really they should be (the Maritime IMO callsigns for instance)

And this is where I think the problem lies

The data and information is spread between two books, with numerous sentences saying “For reverse list…… please refer to chapter(4) in our GUIDE TO UTILITY RADIO STATIONS”. Half of one thing is in one book, and the other half is in the other book. I’ve basically had to use both books to look some things up so I’m lucky(!?) that I bought them both. Had I only purchased one of them I’d have been even more disappointed than I already am

Given that though, the Radio Data Code Manual is an interesting book and does contain some very useful technical information. Out of the two books here it is the best value for money, it would be better if it had good technical screenshots

The Radio Data Code manual costs £40, I’d pay £30 max for it. I doubt I’ll need to purchase one again in the near too distant future as there’s not that much changing out there at the moment. I’d have to seriously consider whether I would actually part with any cash though – 7/10

I have received quite a few emails regarding the Klingenfuss books which have all been negative towards them.

I have also had some recommendations for books by Roland Proesch. These can be found at his website. I haven’t read the books myself so can’t vouch for them but the PDF demonstration pages are very good and show the books in a good light, particularly the images