THE FED FILES -
Welcome to The Fed Files blog! This blog was originally in support of the Fed Files column in Monitoring Times magazine. Although the Fed Files, as well as Monitoring Times, will end with the December 2013 issue, this blog will continue to support the new federal monitoring column in The Spectrum Monitor magazine. If you would like to make a comment, pass along a tip or frequency you can send it to my email address, chrisparris @ thefedfiles.com
Here is a rundown of
the Portland HYDRA shipboard trunked system:
USS Portland (LPD-27)
System ID – 003
LCN-1 and LCN-2 were showing as part of the system, but were not active, so I could not confirm the frequencies. There was no LCN-4 showing.
Dockside security was using 395.2500, N293 and 398.6500,
N293 for simplex communications.
item that came via “close-call” near field monitoring, a UHF air band beacon on 313.6250
MHz. It was a continuous AM carrier with Morse characters “A-I-A” being send
every 10 seconds. My assumption is since this vessel handles helicopters and
tilt-rotor aircraft, a navigation/homing beacon to the ship would be a must.
At the time I heard the Site 2-122 control channel on 172.1375 MHz. During my most recent trip to the Las Vegas area, I caught the control channel on 172.1125 MHz. The site is still broadcasting the same system information and using a NAC of A52.
But during my times of watching the control channel activity, I have yet to see anyone using the system. I've not seen any affiliations to this site and no voice channel grants.
The general assumption is that this is a multi-site VHF P-25 trunked system for the Department of Interior, who manages the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. And with the disbanding of the Hoover Dam Police last year, it was also assumed that the Park Police would take over patrolling the Hoover Dam and related visitors centers. That activity has not yet shown up on the new radio system.
I'll continue to monitor this system as I make it into the Southern Nevada region.
Last year I wrote about some VHF low-band (30-50 MHz) frequencies that were heard in the P-25 digital mode. The frequencies monitored were 30.0500 MHz, 31.2100 MHz and 35.1900 MHz, all in the P-25 digital mode.
A recent posting on Radio Reference indicated that 30.1000 MHz, N270 was heard in Ohio, possibly being used by the Ohio National Guard.
The wide-band, all mode radio systems being deployed by US military units are indeed capable of P25 digital mode on nearly any VHF or UHF frequencies.
Anyone else looking for P25 in the VHF low band? Curious if anyone else has caught any.
While visiting family in the Tucson area over Christmas 2017, I came across some new to me federal VHF channels in use. These include 2 new DMR VHF federal channels that I have not been able to determine who the user is yet.
168.7750 MHz DMR - Color Code 12, Time Slot 1
All conversations heard on Talk Group 111, so not part of a trunked system. All transmissions were encrypted. 169.3750 MHz DMR - Color Code 12, Time Slot 1
All conversations heard on Talk Group 122. Radio IDs were not the same as seen on 168.7750 MHz. All transmissions were encrypted. I'm not certain who these belong to. I had heard some analog traffic on the 168.7750 frequency in past years, but never identified who the user was. The frequencies themselves have been associated with the Department of Agriculture and the US Postal Service. My bet it probably on the USPS at some central mail facility in Tucson. Why they enabled the encryption is beyond me.
And as I was searching I came across two more CBP repeaters that I have not logged in my past visit:
169.8875 MHz, N208 173.9375 MHz, N304
Both carried encrypted traffic with the normal CBP radio identification ranges.
Photos that accompanied this report on the CBP Twitter feed showed the radios and batteries that were seized during this arrest.
The CBP photo shows several models of Motorola TRBO digital radios, probably UHF. I'm wondering if they will do any forensic radio analysis and see what frequencies they were on.
The drug cartels in Mexico have long been known to use radios, and not just portables. A while back, there was a wide-area radio system with linked repeaters that was reportedly build by a company in Houston, Texas. It was operating in an unusual part of the UHF military air band and was fully encrypted, of course.
Which brings me to a recent discovery when I was in Arizona. I left my radio searching unattended while parked at a fairly high altitude near the Mexican border. I recorded a number of encrypted DMR hits on unusual UHF frequencies. I caught quite a bit of traffic on 403.2500, 403.3500 and 403.4500 MHz. All the communications I recorded were using the same talk group number (116), so this might be part of a trunked system. Is this really related to drug smugglers? Who knows, but an interesting catch none the less...
Fairchild Air Force
Base, located near Spokane, in eastern Washington, started out life as the
Spokane Army Air Depot back in 1940. Local business owners and citizens raised
the money in order to bring the base to Spokane. The base was renamed in 1951
in honor of General Muir S. Fairchild.
Fairchild was at
one time home to the 92nd Bomb Group, flying the B-29 Superfortress.
The base also supported the B-36 Peacemaker for a time in the early 1950’s. The
base became home to B-25 bombers in 1956 and KC-135 tankers in 1958. During the
Cold War, a ring of nine Atlas intercontinental ballistic missiles silos
surrounded Spokane and Fairchild Air Force Base. These were operational from
1961 through 1965, as part of the Air Force’s 567th Missile
Squadron. The bombers moved away in 1993, making aerial refueling the base’s
primary operational function.
In addition to the
tankers, Fairchild is home to the Air Force Survival School. The 336th
Training Group teaches SERE tactics, Survival - Evasion -Resistance - Escape. Some of the real-world
training takes place in the nearby Coleville National Forest.
The base itself is
served by a VHF P-25 digital trunked radio system. This system was a Motorola
system years ago (the last time I was at the base), but has since been upgraded
to a true, P-25 system. Base personnel that I spotted with radios seemed to be
using mostly Motorola APX radios. The system appears to be a single site with
no networking to anywhere else, but with the recent trend of military base
radio systems being networked with other bases, I would not be surprised if
that happened in the future here at Fairchild. Here are the specifics of the
base trunked system:
Fairchild Air Force Base
In addition to the
trunked system, there are a number of VHF and UHF conventional frequencies
allocated to the base. While on base for the 2017 Skyfest air show (more on
that later), I spotted a variety of antennas on hangers, buildings and small
towers located all over the base. I have confirmed a few of the UHF air band
frequencies, and have information that some of the VHF channels are being used
for the USAF Survival School training. Here is a compilation of my database of
conventional frequencies for Fairchild Air Force Base, as well as some
Washington National Guard frequencies from nearby Spokane International Airport
A rare natural phenomenon
that occurred on August 21st, 2017 brought a lot of attention. A
total solar eclipse, where the moon blocks the suns light for a short time, was
visible across the United States. This was the first total solar eclipse that
had been visible in the continental United States since 1979. I was fortunate
enough to be very near the “path of totality”, that is the line along which the
eclipse crossed the United States, plunging a narrow strip the earth in near
total darkness for a few minutes in the middle of the day.
tremendous media buildup prior to the eclipse, and there was concern by public
safety agencies in the areas where the eclipse was going to pass, that the
large crowds would be an issue.
In addition to the
huge crowds, there was a large response of scientific researchers on hand to
observe and record the eclipse. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration
(NASA) had multiple aircraft flying, including their WB-57 high-altitude
research planes, up “chasing” parts of the eclipse as it crossed over the
country. NASA provided continuous media coverage of the eclipse as it moved
from the Pacific Ocean on to the Oregon coast. NASA has an excellent web site
set up with all things about the eclipse and what they were doing with it: https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov
Here is a list of
likely VHF and UHF aircraft frequencies that would be used by NASA aircraft.
Listeners in other regions of the country have confirmed some of these as in
use by NASA aircraft, particularly by the NASA fleet aircraft that fly between
NASA facilities in Houston, Florida and California. Keep these in your scanner
and see what you hear:
259.7000AMNASA Gulfstream III doing live
Besides NASA, the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) flew some aircraft to
observe and record the eclipse. I did not have any luck catching the NOAA air
traffic on any agency specific air-to-ground frequencies, at least in the
Portland, OR area.
Recently, a friendly
source in the Seattle, Washington area passed along information on what
appeared to be a new, three-site IDAS trunked system in the Puget Sound area. IDAS
stands for Icom Digital Advanced System, which is an Icom trunked protocol
using the NXDN open standard developed by Icom and Kenwood.
that have been identified with this system are 408.0375 MHz, 408.4250 MHz and
410.3250 MHz. So far, the system has only revealed these three original site
frequencies that were first noted. The frequencies are all using NXDN digital
mode, so they can be monitored with the TRX models of Whistler scanners or
using SDR radios with the appropriate software. The three sites all seem to
carry the same voice traffic simultaneously.
By listening for
several days, it was determined that the likely user was the Department of
Veterans Affairs Medical Centers. There are two VA Medical Centers in the
Seattle area – the American Lake facility in Tacoma, Washington and the Seattle
facility in Seattle, Washington. https://www.pugetsound.va.gov/locations/directions.asp
So far, the IDAS
trunked system appears to be used by maintenance and shuttle transportation. VA
Security has been reportedly using UHF P-25 repeaters at the Seattle area VA
facilities, but has also been reported to have talk groups on the federal VHF
Integrated Wireless Network (IWN) trunked system that supports a majority of
federal agencies in the region.
The UHF band trunked radio system at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida has received and upgrade from the older Motorola Type II system to a new APCO P-25 Phase II system.
The changes occurred just recently, even as Hurricane Irma threatened the entire state of Florida. Some listeners have posted questions on Radio Reference wondering why they can't hear the KSC trunked system any more.
The new system reportedly has three separate trunked sites and is not simulcast, but using different frequencies at each site.
I will have more information as it becomes available! Check back with this blog...