Tuesday, November 7, 2017

All These Calls Tonight

There are MANY calls beginning with Foxtrot-Foxtrot tonight. 

IF what I understand about this is correct, Foxtrot-Foxtrot means the highest priority other than Klaxon (basically nuclear war). Regardless, the number of calls and their lengths tonight is insane. 

Friday, October 13, 2017

Want to Build Your Own SDR Radio?

If you're looking to build an SDR to use at home, the best package I have come across is this NooElec bundle that includes an SDR dongle, Ham It Up converter (including the $20 case), a 9:1 Balun for a longwire antenna (the antennas this kit comes with are not designed to receive HF frequencies like the ones HFGCS broadcasts on), and several adapters. To get going, you will only need a USB-A to USB-2.0 cable for the Ham It Up and a length of UNSHIELDED speaker wire for an antenna (the longer, the better and split into a "T" if possible. Search for "Randomwire Antenna" for more information).

All and all, this is roughly $170 when sold separately, but can currently be found for only $90! Combined with the USB cable and speaker wire listed above, $115 gets you all frequencies from 100 kHz up to 6 GHz!


Monday, September 25, 2017

If you're interested in getting into Ham Radio

I have a new blog about the basics and will be adding to it again tomorrow.  http://memefeng.blogspot.com/2017/09/so-youve-become-interested-in-amateur.html

This is the basics needed to become a ham yourself.

If you just want to listen and build an SDR to use at home, the best package I have come across is this NooElec bundle that includes an SDR dongle, Ham It Up converter (including the $20 case), a 9:1 Balun for a longwire antenna (the antennas this kit comes with are not designed to receive HF frequencies like the ones HFGCS broadcasts on), and several adapters. To get going, you will only need a USB-A to USB-2.0 cable for the Ham It Up and a length of UNSHIELDED speaker wire for an antenna (the longer, the better and split into a "T" if possible. Search for "Randomwire Antenna" for more information).

All and all, this is roughly $170 when sold separately, but can currently be found for only $90! Combined with the USB cable and speaker wire listed above, $115 gets you all frequencies from 100 kHz up to 6 GHz! 


Sunday, September 3, 2017

A Simple Tutorial on the What and How of Understanding a Message on HFGCS.

I've been noticing a huge increase in traffic to this blog since the Nork Nuke Test, so I thought an update is needed. Sorry I don't update more often but I make very little from here and am focused on projects that keep food on me table (barely).

Firstly, if you're new to this, learn the NATO Phonetic Alphabet.

Why? It will be easier to understand what is going on. "Alpha" means A on a radio. Because of static, if people used ABCD it could be really easy to mistake C for E or D, or M for N, or S for F. Now, if you use a known phonetic word that begins with the required letter needing to be said and when said is very different from any other phonetic, it's easy to know Foxtrot means F and Sierra means S.

Good start? Golf Romeo Echo Alpha Tango! If you just read that as "GREAT!" you now understand Phonetic Alphabets!

So let's understand the typical messages we will hear on HFGCS.

There's basically 5 parts to any message. Preamble, message, time stamp, authenticator, and sender.

Preamble. This is the part of the message that contains the needed information for the intended recipient to know it is for them.

Message. This is the information the recipient needs from the sender. An "Order of the Day," if you will.

Time stamp. This part is the minutes of the hour anywhere in the world (save for those weird time zones off by a half hour in Canada and North Korea). Consider this part fixed to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), or Universal Coordinated Time (UTC). In the U.S. Military, this is known as "Zulu" time.

Authenticator. A two alphanumeric phrase that verifies the message is true and real from the sender to the recipient that can be verified by the recipient's code book.

Sender. Who is sending the message. This can be either a fixed station such as Andrews Air Force Base or Offutt Air Force Base (as examples), or a Call Sign Station such as "Operator" or "Economic" (also examples). The latter Call Sign Stations could be anything from a fixed base such as Andrews using the Call Sign for a specific mission, or an Aircraft assigned to a mission.

Alright. Let's breakdown a common call. For the sake of saving time, the Phonetic Alphabet is translated into its intended letters.

Let's say we hear: "All Stations, All Stations. This is Andrews, break. SJ7UK, SJ7UK, message follows. SJ7UKKJHNY6T44T. Time: Zero Four, Authentication WN. This is Andrews out." (this will be repeated once more). This is a fictional call.

To break it down:

The Preamble is "All Stations, All Stations. This is (Joint Base) Andrews, break ("break" = pause in transmission). SJ7UK, SJ7UK, message follows." This means "All stations, I have a message for SJ7UKT, please allow me to send it without interruption unless you have priority or urgent traffic."

The message is "SJ7UKKJHNY6T44T." This is the code/message sent to the intended receiver. Notice the first 5 alphanumerics are the same as the intended receiver.

Time. This is the minutes of the hour of the broadcast (in UTC time).

Authentication. Two Alphanumerics. The code book of the recipient will verify this is the correct authentication for the message.

Sender. This is who is sending the message to the asset. They will identify themselves.

So let's say we hear, "Skyking, Skyking, do not answer: Golf Cart. Time: Two Six, Authentication WW. This is Mandrake, out." (This is a fictional example.)

What do we make of this?

Preamble: "Skyking, Skyking, do not answer." This means, "I have a priority message to a unit (aircraft) that should not acknowledge or it will give away its position. Other stations, please do not interrupt this urgent call unless you have Emergency Traffic."

The message: "Golf Cart." This directs the aircraft to do something VERY specific through a pre-determined "Go Word."

The Authentication, Time and Sender are the same as above.

I hope this little tutorial is helpful.

If this has helped you to understand what's going on a little better and made you appreciative and you can spare it, I'd be grateful if you can afford to hit that little button to the right at the top  \and donate a buck or two.

If you're looking to build an SDR to use at home, the best package I have come across is this NooElec bundle that includes an SDR dongle, Ham It Up converter (including the $20 case), a 9:1 Balun for a longwire antenna (the antennas this kit comes with are not designed to receive HF frequencies like the ones HFGCS broadcasts on), and several adapters. To get going, you will only need a USB-A to USB-2.0 cable for the Ham It Up and a length of UNSHIELDED speaker wire (the longer, the better. Search for "Randomwire Antenna" for more information).

All and all, this is roughly $170 when sold separately, but can currently be found for only $90!

Monday, October 31, 2016

Some Updated Info On Skyking Traffic Meanings

Sorry I haven't updated in a bit. I've been devoting my time to some personal matters.

I have been given information that affirms some speculation and dismisses some others about Skyking traffic. One source was a video (see below) and another was from a message I received from someone a little more familiar with the subject than I.

HFGCS typically transmits two types of messages: "All Stations" and "Skyking." A third message is possible but rarely (if ever) heard. (There are the occasional oddball calls where someone has the radio patched into a telephone to make a call home, radio checks and other such things but not relevant to what we listen for.)

The interesting thing I have learned is "Skyking" is not a singular entity or some Doomsday Plane command craft like many (including myself) have speculated. Skyking is a message priority.

Skyking means, "This is urgent traffic."

Alright, so we hear a message like this: "All stations, all stations, this is Andrews, standby. NV6YI, NV6YI, NV6YIH6D9TTSA3B. Time: 34, Authentication: FY. I say again: NV6YI, NV6YI, NV6YIH6D9TTSA3B. Time: 34, Authentication: FY. This is Andrews out."

It basically means: "Attention all receivers listening, I am Andrews Air Force Base and I have traffic for (a certain unit, usually a 5 character code repeated twice). Please stand by and not broadcast while I send my message (to certain unit) unless you have urgent traffic. (Certain unit), (coded message for that unit). The time is (minutes in the hour), this message is authenticated that this is me by the two-digit code that will match yours."

This is routine traffic for HFGCS. Normal broadcasting for this station. Could be a lunch menu, could be a message that some guy's wife left him while he was stationed in Guam. Who knows.

Now, if we hear something like: "Skyking, Skyking, do not answer. NV6YI, NV6YI, NV6YIH6D9TTSA3B. Time: 34, Authentication: FY. I say again: Skyking, Skyking, do not answer. NV6YI, NV6YI, NV6YIH6D9TTSA3B. Time: 34, Authentication: FY. This is Andrews out."

It means: "Attention all receivers listening, I have URGENT traffic for (a certain unit, usually a 5 character code repeated twice) and (certain unit) should not respond as it will give away their position. Please stand by and not broadcast while I send my URGENT message (to certain unit) unless you have EMERGENCY traffic. (Certain unit), (coded message for that unit). The time is (minutes in the hour), this message is authenticated that this is me by the two-digit code that will match yours."

Skyking just means whomever the message is intended for should get it quickly.

This video should educate you a bit on that. (Start at 58:40 if it doesn't start there.)


So, what's the third type of message?

It's a "Flash" broadcast. Absolute emergency. America is under a Pearl Harbor like-attack broadcast or very serious emergency.

It's called a "Foxtrot Flash" message. As far as anyone I have talked with knows, one has never been transmitted, not even on 9/11.

Based on regular and Skyking traffic on HFGCS, the message would likely start with "Foxtrot, Foxtrot" or "Foxtrot Flash, Foxtrot Flash" or something very similar. What would follow would probably a passphrase or a brief alphanumeric character set.

If you're looking to build an SDR to use at home, the best package I have come across is this NooElec bundle that includes an SDR dongle, Ham It Up converter (including the $20 case), a 9:1 Balun for a longwire antenna (the antennas this kit comes with are not designed to receive HF frequencies like the ones HFGCS broadcasts on), and several adapters. To get going, you will only need a USB-A to USB-2.0 cable for the Ham It Up and a length of UNSHIELDED speaker wire for an antenna (the longer, the better and split into a "T" if possible. Search for "Randomwire Antenna" for more information).

All and all, this is roughly $170 when sold separately, but can currently be found for only $90! Combined with the USB cable and speaker wire listed above, $115 gets you all frequencies from 100 kHz up to 6 GHz! 




Wednesday, October 14, 2015

List of Known Transmitting Stations on the SKYKING Channel.

SKYKING is not the name of the transmitting station, it is the generic name for the broadcasts heard on 8992 and 11175 kHz USB. In fact, many transmissions aren't even directed at SKYKING. Many are directed at stations assigned alpha-numeric codes, usually 5 or 6 letters & numbers long (Four Whiskey Foxtrot Niner Kilo or something to that effect).

NATO (The North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and US Military (among others) use a phonetic alphabet when they say letters over a radio channel. It makes it easier to understand the letter being said through static by saying a word, distinct from anything else, that begins with the letter being transmitted.

To say "A," a military user (and in many cases, law enforcement) would say "Alpha." It's unmistakable to the recipient -even with heavy static- that "Alpha" was sent. "A."

The most common phonetic alphabet in the English and European world is the NATO Standard.


Transmissions come from two distinct sources on SKYKING; base names and code names.

Known Bases:

  1. Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. HQ to the American Air Force's nuclear arm. A commonly heard broadcaster, typically sends messages to SKYKING. "Offutt out" at the end of transmission.
  2. Andrews Air Force Base (Joint Tactical Base) in Maryland, not far from D.C. and home to Air Force One. Typical messages are sent to SKYKING, (also leaning the theory of SKYKING being TACMO elements further). "Andrews out" at end of transmission. 
  3. Edwards Air Force Base in California (near Rosamond). Uncommon transmitter. "Edwards out." 
  4. Reykjavik. This is a NATO base not commonly used since the Cold War. It has, however, been very frequent in broadcast in the last week as of the time this blog has been posted. "Reykjavik out." 
Code names. Unsure if these are bases, stations or vehicles (aircraft) transmitting:

  1. MAINSAIL: Common transmitter. Typically sends the messages to SKYKING specifically. Many of the longer codes heard in the last year have been sent through MAINSAIL. "MAINSAIL out." 
  2. TOY SHOP. Uncommon. Heard in the late 1990s and began transmitting again in the early 2010s. Typically a weak signal through WebSDR, suggesting it is West Coast in America or possibly in Japan or in the Southern Hemisphere (Diego Garcia?) "TOY SHOP out." 
  3. FUZEBOX. Again, a code name not heard in many years that is recently transmitting again, but some speculate it is NORAD's Cheyenne Mountain Complex which has recently been re-activated to active duty (2014) instead of reserve. Signal quality on WebSDR would suggest either a very powerful transmitter or something on America's East Coast (Mount Weather?) as opposed to Central North America. "FUXEBOX out." 
  4. COLLAPSE. A rather ominous code name that began transmitting again when Russia started supporting Assad in Syria and a code name that has not been heard in many years. COLLAPSE has a signal strength similar to FUSEBOX when listened to on WebSDR.  Female voices have been heard on this callsign on several occasions in recent days along with male voices."COLLAPSE out."
  5. FLAT TOP. I cannot find any sources on this name being used before. Since SKYKING is an USAF channel, it is unlikely FLAT TOP means an Aircraft Carrier, but rather is an ode to the flat top haircut common to the military in the 50s-90s. "FLAT TOP out." 
I'm sure I am forgetting bases and code names, but I'm starting the list here.

If you're looking to build an SDR to use at home, the best package I have come across is this NooElec bundle that includes an SDR dongle, Ham It Up converter (including the $20 case), a 9:1 Balun for a longwire antenna (the antennas this kit comes with are not designed to receive HF frequencies like the ones HFGCS broadcasts on), and several adapters. To get going, you will only need a USB-A to USB-2.0 cable for the Ham It Up and a length of UNSHIELDED speaker wire for an antenna (the longer, the better and split into a "T" if possible. Search for "Randomwire Antenna" for more information).

All and all, this is roughly $170 when sold separately, but can currently be found for only $90! Combined with the USB cable and speaker wire listed above, $115 gets you all frequencies from 100 kHz up to 6 GHz! 

Sigmira: A Fully Featured and Advanced SDRadio (and Free!)


Sigmira is my personal go-to SDR. Much like Twente's WebSDR described in the first post here, it is an SDR, but you download it (Windows is supported, and an unsupported Linux version exists) and your computer becomes the station instead of using the Twente website.

PLEASE NOTE: I am in no way affiliated with Sigmira nor do I receive any compensation for my review of this program. As with any software, use it at your own risk. I have never had an issue with it and I know of no one who has, but I am not liable if any harm comes to your system with its usage.
Using 2 monitors. 

Sigmira gives you some significant advantages over WebSDR.
  1. There are many antennas people have set up to allow you to log onto. You can choose an antenna closer to the broadcaster you wish to listen to whereas Twente's antenna is fixed to the Netherlands. This means if you locate an online antenna closer to, say, America when you want to listen to SKYKING, you can do so and the signal should be better. Sigmira antennas are all over Europe, North America and Central Asia. 
  2. There are several more modes of reception not found on WebSDR. It will demodulate several rare and specific modes such as SITOR-B and NFM. 
  3. It displays local and UTC times. 
  4. For those that wish to get into more technical aspects of SDRadios, there's phase array controls and other aspects of fine-tuning the signal not found on WebSDR. 
  5. The Waterfall, and this is just opinion, is much more sensitive and detailed.
  6. The Squelch Control is MUCH better than WebSDR's. You can manually adjust it until it's where you want it.
Some disadvantages.
  1. It is far more complex than WebSDR's site. Straight-forward band and mode selection is easy enough, but novice users may have issues with logging onto antennas or using the advanced features. 
  2. Recording transmissions is also not as straight forward. At this time, I find using another program (for me, VLC) is the easiest way to record a broadcast. 
  3. Many online antennas have an automatic time limit, usually an hour to 2 hours. While it is generous of those with SDR receivers to allow us to consume some of their bandwidth for free, time limits may be problematic for those who want to listen to a station for longer. You can typically log back on right after your session has ended with no problems. 
  4. There is no chat box. Not a serious issue, but WebSDR's chat box does allow you to know what others are hearing and gives you a chance to tune in. There is an IRC chatroom out there that works the same way, however. (I'll update this when I find it again,) 
The Sigmira website has a .pdf instruction manual you should download and read first if you are considering using this more advanced program. This will help you to understand Sigmira's more complicated systems and help you decide if you wish to download it or just stick with WebSDR. For the novice just looking to amuse themselves from time-to-time with SKYKING or other transmissions, WebSDR is probably all you need. For those who are curious to explore more, Sigmira might be a new and interesting option. 

If anyone has questions about Sigmira or anything on my blog here, feel free to ask.

If you're looking to build an SDR to use at home, the best package I have come across is this NooElec bundle that includes an SDR dongle, Ham It Up converter (including the $20 case), a 9:1 Balun for a longwire antenna (the antennas this kit comes with are not designed to receive HF frequencies like the ones HFGCS broadcasts on), and several adapters. To get going, you will only need a USB-A to USB-2.0 cable for the Ham It Up and a length of UNSHIELDED speaker wire for an antenna (the longer, the better and split into a "T" if possible. Search for "Randomwire Antenna" for more information).

All and all, this is roughly $170 when sold separately, but can currently be found for only $90! Combined with the USB cable and speaker wire listed above, $115 gets you all frequencies from 100 kHz up to 6 GHz!