Monday, July 30, 2007

Interesting German 27 MHz Allocations

Tom, DL8AAM, posted a message to UDXF, containing, among other things, this allocation of the 11 meter band for Germany. The 11-meter situation is similar in a lot of countries, and it's a good demonstration of the pressures on all utility radio spectrum above maybe 25 MHz. Note the international vs local (more detailed) spectrum uses, plus the many overlapping subbands and shared ranges:

26175-27500
Mobile (Maritime)

26175-27500
Mobile (Military)

26175-27500
Fixed (Data)

26560-27410
CB-type channels spaced 10 kHz, except on 26995 and 27145,
which are not authorized. FM authorized on all channels. AM and SSB
also authorized 26965-27405. Digital modes on 26565, 26675,
26685, 29915, 26925, 27025, 27035, 27235, and 27245 kHz.
Internet gateways on 26665, 26765, 27085, and 27215.

26957-27283
Data and tone signals for remote control, can share with other
services, power limited to 10 mW ERP.

26957-27283
Educational demonstrations of RF pheonmena and circuitry for
class uses by schools and universities, 5 watts or under.

26995-27145
Radio controlled models, 10-kHz channels, 100 mW or under.

26995-27195
Local area voice communications and "switching," 50 mW or under.

27090-27100
Train control data by public railways, max +42 dB ref. 1 uA/m at 10m.

27195
Radio controlled models, 100 mW or under.

27255
Radio controlled models, 100 mW or under.

27500-28000
Mobile (Military)

27510
Local area voice or data paging inside compounds, building
complexes, etc, 5 W ERP or under.

27525-27565
Voice commands by motorcycle driving instructors to students
alone on the bike, 10-kHz channels.

27575, 27585, 27595
Voice commands, simplex answers allowed, 50 mW or under.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

UK Flood Activity

Peter Thompson and other listeners on the UDXF list have heard HF transmissions from rescue helicopters working the floods in England. Callsigns are the usual "RESCUE" plus a number. They are working Kinloss Rescue.

News broadcasts continue to show helicopter rescues in the UK, so I would imagine the activity is ongoing.

Another UDXF user named "Paul" passes along this freq list for Kinloss Rescue (all USB):

2182 Distress
3023 Night (pri)
3089 Night (sec)
5680 Day (Pri)
5699 Day (sec)
6760 Discrete
8980 Discrete
9001 Discrete

4706 kHz USB has also been reported, by "David" on UDXF, who adds that 6736 (day) and 4718 (night) are also known USB backup frequencies.

More Long EAMs

Jeff Haverlah continues to monitor long Emergency Action Message transmissions on the US Air Force High-Frequency Global Communications System.

On July 22, the hour/half hour restoral EAM from McClellan Global consisted of two messages of 52 characters each.

At 1721 UTC, Andrews broadcast the longest EAM yet - 287 characters! It had the distinctive repeating formating and the typical 14-character ending block. Unlike the usual Saturday activity, this was on a Sunday, and not by a Nightwatch player using a tactical callsign.

I wonder how long THAT one took to transmit, in the slow US Air Force drawl.

[UPDATE 03 AUG: Sometime in July, Tom Sevart heard Andrews with 270 characters at 1800.]

Large Joint Exercise Begins Today, Off US East Coast

Named "Bold Step 2007," the Joint Task Force Exercise, or JTFEX, will involve some 15,000 personnel from the U.S. and British navies.

Participating units:

USN Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group
USN Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group
Royal Navy Carrier HMS Illustrious
Royal Navy Destroyer HMS Manchester
USN attack submarine USS Boise
USN attack submarine USS Montpelier

The exercise begins July 26, and lasts 5 days.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Long Saturday EAMs Continue in July

As if we needed any further proof that long Emergency Action Messages on UTC Saturdays are nothing remarkable, we got another one in July. Jeff Haverlah again:

1823z 14 Jul 07

11175.0 was active at 1758z+/- with unknown HFGCS station (too
weak/"muddy" to id) with a 200-character count ± EAM (M4GSLB maybe; missed the number in the mud but sounded like ? zero zero; and, it was long enough for it) containing distinctive repetitive formatting and apparently ending in the common 14-character ending block. Typical Saturday activity.


You have that right, Jeff.

Log Extract: Long EAMs Are Not Remarkable

As I suspected, previous reports published in our Utility Logs column have indeed shown Emergency Action Messages (EAMs) that were as long as, or longer than, the 174-character one of June 26 that has aroused attention. Recall from my previous blog entry that this EAM has been cited by unknown Internet sources as the longest since the first Persian Gulf War.

It isn't.

This would tend to reinforce the argument made by a writer to Bill Gertz's column, who was quoted in the same post, that long EAMs generated by periodic exercises "should not be considered unusual."


Long EAM Examples:

Jeff Haverlah, a long-time Utility Logs contributor and generally Mr. EAM in this hobby, reported the following on February 17, 2007:

1729z 17 Feb 07

11175.0 was active at 1431z with OFFUTT bcsting a 248-character
EAM (TOXRB7) containing common, repetitive, distinctive formatting,
including the 14-character ending block common to these strings.

11175.0 was active at 1717z with OFFUTT bcsting a 163-character
EAM
(TO57UN) containing distinctive (but not apparently repeating)
formatting including the 14-character ending block common to these
strings.


(Emphasis mine, for readability.)

Also from Jeff, this report of March 10:

0039z 11 Mar 07

11175.0 was active at 101722z+/- with OFFUTT (weak with deep
fading) bcsting a 201-character EAM (TOCDIJ) containing distinctive formatting and ending in a common 14-character ending block.


And, on 26 May, again from Jeff:

1555z 26 May 07

11175.0 was active at 1447z with ANDREWS (good levels here)
bcsting a 202-character EAM (IV3PR6) containing distinctive repetitive formatting (but did not end in the 14-character ending block common to these strings.) Activity common to utc Saturday's (1447z 28 Apr 07 245-character IVLZ7S) for example.) All Andrews xmsns are keying off with a soft pop/thump.


And, on June 23 near the beginning of the June 25 period in question, from Jeff:

1434z 23 Jun 07

8992.0 was active at 1418z with ANDREWS (good/fair levels here)
bcsting a 121-character EAM (IVSAD2) containing distinctive, repetitive formatting.


Conclusion:

It seems significant that all of these long messages appeared at roughly one-month intervals, and on UTC Saturdays. There is a suggestion here of a monthly activity (likely a communications exercise) that generates long EAMs. We can therefore conclude that, while the June 25 activity was noteworthy for call signs, traffic volume, and a special test string, it was very much not noteworthy for EAM length. The writer to the Inside the Ring column appears correct.

Monday, July 16, 2007

What Happened on June 26?

Utility World is about radio waves, not conspiracies or speculation on whatever dire plots the world's various governments might be up to. Therefore, its only place is to report on communications monitoring, and let readers draw their own conclusions, if any are to be drawn.

It appeared to start on the US Air Force High-Frequency Global Communications System (HF-GCS). Nothing is particularly remarkable about the stations that appear at various intervals with rotating tactical call signs of 2 or 3 syllables that change daily. These are several multi-service air-ground activities relating to command control, often involving the US Strategic Command.

What originally got the attention of people who make a hobby out of logging such things was a sudden enormous increase in the number and length of Emergency Action Messages (EAMs). Despite their important-sounding name, and high traffic priority, these are actually routine, encrypted broadcasts of updated instructions (or lack thereof) for US military assets worldwide. They use frequencies pretty much from DC to daylight. Presumably, in a real national emergency, the content would be very very much less routine.

At 0100 UTC on June 26, Jeff Haverlah logged CORN SNOW broadcasting two EAMs simulcast on the HF-GCS frequencies of 4725, 8992, and 11175 kHz USB. Two-letter tactical calls beginning in CORN are believed to be linked with the Nightwatch net, a Stratcomm airborne command post mission using multiple aircraft and ground stations. Past loggings include, but are not limited to, CORN BEEF, CORN OIL, and CORN STOCK.

Meanwhile, John, KC2HMZ, noted this net becoming very active on 11175, with two longer EAMs than the ones at 0100, a standby for traffic, and generally more net chatter than you usually get from these units. He heard the callsign as CORN ROW. Some new players appeared, using standard NATO trigraph callsigns, a type of tactical ID used by US Navy in some operations.

Here's where it gets interesting. At 0125, Jeff notes that 7703.0 kHz USB suddenly lit up with FOXTROT ZERO SIERRA (a Navy trigraph) with four different message broadcasts. 3 of these were EAMs, and the fourth was in a very rare format mostly heard in the runup to "Y2K" (remember that one?). This is a 30-character string beginning in 888800.

Jeff's guess on the content of this string is as follows:

888800 25[india]6[zero][zero]AAE6GG[zero][zero]NNXXZZ8886
888800 25I600AAE6GG00NNXXZZ8886

I suspect that 25[india]600 is actually 251600, and I further
suspect that 1600z on 25 UTC was the start of this current event on HF
(12 Noon US Eeastern Time).


This took until 0135, at which time KILO TWO YANKEE came up to repeat the three EAMs (not the other string).

As if this traffic was not interesting enough to people who follow such things, an unknown station pretty much simultaneously (around 0120) broadcast a remarkably long 174-character EAM on 15016 kHz, another HF-GCS frequency.

As mentioned, we deal in radio waves. However, other people, who speculate about other things, have been burning up the Internet with ideas regarding any possible meaning of an EAM of such an extreme length. A typical report appeared July 7th, in an online Pentagon affairs column named Inside the Ring, by Bill Gertz:

The messages sent June 26 included 174 characters, much longer than normal 30-character messages, and amateur radio monitors say they have not seen the size of this message since the 1991 Persian Gulf War.


This is quite a startling claim, but I'm not sure about it. I'll have to research my old logs. (See, this is one reason we publish these...) I remember some other long EAMs, but how long will have to be checked out. This is something Utility World is good at, so I'll do it. [UPDATE 17/0610 UTC: There is indeed a monthly activity that has consistently generated long, or longer, EAMs in 2007.]

In any event, the July 13 column contains further interesting speculation:

Many who wrote suspected that the messages may have something to do with military plans for Iran and the Persian Gulf region, where three U.S. aircraft carrier battle groups are stationed.

One reader said the June 26 message traffic on Air Force Global High Frequency System networks to bases around the world was part of a major Joint Chiefs of Staff strategic "connectivity exercise" code-named Polo Hat.

... Exercises in the past have generated messages that are up to 150 characters, so the recent ones that had 174 characters or more should not be considered unusual.


Either of these two guesses would seem reasonable, were we to even attempt speculation concerning military affairs in the scariest world situation since the Cold War. Meanwhile, back in the Utility World, the combination of the long EAM with the rare Navy format simply remains an interesting, unexplained radio event.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Night of Nights VIII Wrapup/Log

All loggings are CW

7/12/07 2243 UTC:

12992.0: WLO test wheel with "VVV VVV VVV DE WLO WLO WLO QSX 2055R5 KHZ ES 4/8/12/16 MHZ C3 K" in the International Morse Code. //16968.5

0000 Hand sent CW on 16968.5 only. Might have been working somebody, not heard.

7/13/07

0001: KPH right on time for Night of Nights VIII with "CQ CQ CQ DE KPH KPH KPH SPECIAL MESSAGE FOLLOWS AT OOO1, followed by the yearly announcement from the Maritime Radio Historical Society. Signal reports into Southern CA follow:

4247.0 S9
6447.5 S9+10
8642.0 S9+30
12808.5 S9+30
17016.8 S9+20
22477.5 S9

MF did not come up until after sunset. At 0322, KPH was S3 on 500 kHz with "CQ CQ CQ DE KPH KPH KPH PLSE QRX FOR A SPECIAL COMMEMORATIVE MESSAGE, followed on 426.0 by the annual roll call of closed coastal CW stations at 0330 and a 3-minute silent period at 0331.

All KPH freqs were still audible, with decreased strength above 12 MHz, and more on 4/6, with 8 about the same, at 0407.

At 0430, KPH announced on all frequencies that the receivers were closed, and to stand by for press messages on MF and HF. These were copied with good strength on 426 kHz. With real optimized MF equipment here, they would have blasted in.

KPH was still going strong with MMP FREE PRESS at 0615, when I packed it in.

----- other loggings -----

0016: KPH on 12808.5 working vessel AMERICAN VICTORY (a restored WWII victory ship out of FL) on 12552.0. Vessel good copy here.

0020: KSM with wheel, QSX 500 6/12, S9 on 6474.0, S9+20 on 12993.0.

0021: KFS with wheel, CQ DE KFS/A QSX 12/17 CH 3, S9+30 on 12695.5, S9 on 17026.0.

0023: WLO on 8658.0 with weird keying, seemed to be sending a QSX wheel but kept breaking up and keying the same or another transmitter with a different input. Some uncopyable stuff, cutting in and out, then definitely an operator sending "UP 3." Nothing heard on channel 3.

0026: KLB with QSX wheel on 6411.0. Nothing heard on 12917, at this or any other time.

0028: NMN on 8471.0, with distinctive sound of someone leaning on the dit side of a bug, going dididididit, then hand sent (on dah side?) identifier "NMN." Then into hand sent "CQ DE NMN NMN QRU? K."

0034: WLO, same marker as in the test, now with good keying on 8558, 12992, and 16968.5. WLO also faded in on 4343.0, at 0143.

0037: Unknown vessel with callsign KMI- (missed last letter), calling KPH on 8368.0. Op successfully broke KPH on 8642 out of the message being sent at the time. There was what sounded like a short QSO, then back to the message.

0100: KPH with traffic list. The keying on 8 and 12 MHz would seem to shift audio pitch very slightly, maybe tens of Hz. When a wheel was sent, it would shift at the same characters every time around. I thought I had a weird receiver problem but WWV was dead stable for several minutes. It was kind of dizzying when you were trying to copy Morse.

0119: K6KPH, amateur station at the Pt. Reyes receive site, working amateur W5TVW on 14050 CW. Two stations calling on-frequency after K6KPH signed with him.

0134: KKUI on 12552.0, calling KFS, couldn't break them. KKUI called KSM at 0242, and WLO at 0244, similarly no joy. He wasn't having the best night. KKUI doesn't show up in the ITU database online, not that this is the best place to look ships up. The op's procedure wasn't like I remembered commercial maritime. He sent his callsign too much when as I recall the procedure was just to send the station you were calling until an op broke in and said "DE."

0311: K6KPH pulling W2DES out of a small pileup on 7049.9, continuing to run amateurs on 40.

0409: WLO with special message and QSL info, copied on 4/8/12, then appeared to sign for the night.

0430: KPH dropping its QSX watch. Announced special msgs on 426.0 //HF at 0435. Eulogy and silence for Rod Deakin at 0453, MEBA FREE PRESS at 0500, MMP FREE PRESS at 0615.

Friday, July 13, 2007

KPH On-Air - Night of Nights Begins

Promptly at 0001 UTC on the 13th, KPH sent a CQ and then its annual special message, then took a standby at 0015.

Signal strengths in SoCal:

500 kHz - not copied, way in noise
[UPDATE 0322 UTC: KPH now S3 on 500 with the coming of night time]

4247.0 S9
6447.5 S9+10
8642.0 S9+30
12808.5 S9+30
17016.8 S9+20
12477.5 S9

KPH then worked a ship (possible vessel name "American Victory") who was sending on 12552.0.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

WLO First on Air for Night of Nights

At 2243 UTC on 7/12, 12992.0 kHz (actually measured 12991.8 here) is active with a test wheel from WLO: VVV DE WLO QSX 2055R5 KHZ ES 4/8/12/16 MHZ C3 K. // 8658.0 and 16968.5. No propagation to CA lower.

Night of Nights 2007 Net Audio Feed

From Maritime Radio Historical Society:

Two friends of the MRHS have combined forces to make a feed of the KPH 4247.0kc signal available on line. Up to 32 listeners can be accommodated.

Hearing the signal directly off the air is best of course but if you're not in a position to do that on Night of Nights VIII direct your browser to:

http://kumr2.lns.com:8000/

This is a feed from a RACAL receiver in San Francisco tuned to the above frequency.

The Transmitting Department (Steve Hawes) and the Operating Department (me) did final arrangements and testing last weekend in our respective areas.

Steve will figuratively shoveling coal into the boilers in Bolinas to keep the heavy iron running. I'll be more like the man behind the curtain, throwing carious switches and trying to remember which call sign to use as I control KPH, KFS and KSM from Position 1. Meanwhile QSL Mistress Denice has been busy arranging food and drink for those who will be at the receive site.

VY 73 and Good Listening,

Richard Dillman
Chief Operator, MRHS

WLO Night of Nights VIII Frequency Change

According to Dick Dillman, WLO has now confirmed that it WILL be operating in Night of Nights VIII.

The frequencies are different from those originally posted below, and these have been corrected to reflect the change. The new freqs are:

2055.5 4343.0 8658.0 12992.0 16968.5.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Night of Nights VIII Frequencies

ALL FREQS (kHz/CW) SUBJECT TO CHANGE!
(They probably won't, but be safe and check the web site or this blog. QSL info is at the web site. They DO QSL, and it's worth getting yours.)


KPH (Historic Pt. Reyes power house):

426 500 4247.0 6477.5 8642.0 12808.5 17016.8 22477.5
Listening 500 kHz and HF Channel 3:
4184.0 6276.0 8368.0 12552.0 16736.0 22280.5


KFS (Former San Francisco Radio):

12695.5 17026.0
Listening HF Channel 3


KSM (New MRHS Commercial License):

6474 12993
Listening HF Channel 3


WLO (ShipCom, Mobile, AL):

2055.5 4343.0 8658.0 12992.0 16968.5 [Corrected 7/12/07 0318 UTC]
HF is now CONFIRMED
500 kHz status is not known
Listening Channel 3



KLB (ShipCom, Seattle, WA):

488 500 6411.0 12917.0
Beginning at 0030 GMT
Listening 500 kHz and Channel 3


NMN (That's right - USCG CAMSLANT Chesapeake!):

448 468 500 8471 12718.5 16976
Listening 500 kHz and Channel 3


NMC (USCG CAMSPAC Pt. Reyes):
At present, there are not operators to do a Night of Nights. If this changes:
448 472 500 6383.0 8574.0 17220.5


NOJ (USCG COMMSTA Kodiak, AK):

416 470 500 8650.0 12889.5 16909.7
Listening HF Channel 3


K6KPH:

Amateur station K6KPH will transmit and listen on 3550, 7050 and 14050kc for KPH, KFS and KSM reception reports. Professional operators will be at the key and commercial procedures will be used. But please don't hesitate to call, no matter what your code speed or experience level may be. Same QSL as KPH.

Night of Nights VIII Is Tomorrow

Posted to UDXF on 7 July by Richard Dillman, Chief Operator:

Transmitter Engineer Steve Hawes and I are testing all transmitters today in preparation for Night of Nights VIII. Virtually every transmitter and certainly every antenna will be in use. We are short of antennas so KSM will be (and is now) on 6474.0 and 12993.0 only. Priority is being given to KPH which is on 4247.0, 6477.5 8642.0, 12808.5, 17016.8 and 22477.5. KFS is on 12695.5 and 17025.0. We are about to shut down so by the time this reaches many we will be off thew air for today. But please check http://www.radiomarine.org for all the Night of Nights VIII information including the frequencies of the other stations we hope will be joining us.


From the web site:

Night of Nights VIII Information

HISTORIC MORSE CODE RADIO STATION KPH RETURNS TO THE AIR FOR "NIGHT OF NIGHTS VIII"

Plus...

o Station KFS will return to the air!

o MRHS station KSM will be on the air.

o Coast Guard station NMN to be heard for the first time since USCG ended the use of Morse!

o Coast Stations WLO, KLB, NMC, NOJ and NMN may join in.

o Amateur station K6KPH, with commercial operators at the key, will be QRV for signal reports.

o Operations begin at 1701pdt 12 July, 0001gmt 13 July. We usually continue two way operations for about 6 hours but broadcasts on the commercial stations KPH, KFS and KSM may continue after that.

If you're not already a member, join the MRHS mailing list for late information. Just send an email message to: Radiomarine-subscribe@yahoogroups.com


Go to radiomarine.org for full information.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

British Royal Navy FAX Frequency Weirdness

GYA, the UK Royal Navy weather FAX, has been jumping around in frequencies for a couple of days now.

Ary Boender and others report that the 4 MHz frequency of GYA, the UK Royal Navy weather FAX, changed from 4610 to 4070 kHz on July 2. (FAX tuning can be as much as 1.9 kHz away from the USB dial reading.) At one point 4070 was the only active frequency, with the usual skeds on 11086.5 and 18261 being silent.

Today, July 3, Ary reports it back on 4610 at 9826 UTC.

We'll have to keep watching this.