Savannah – Back in August, I wrote a post on possible VMFAT-501 frequencies after I received a question about them. I offered up what I thought might be some possibilities and it turns out none of them were correct (so far)! Today I was home in Savannah for the first time since the first F-35B class at MCAS Beaufort got underway and was able to catch a flight of VMFAT-501 F-35Bs working in SEALORD’s offshore airspace and at Townsend Range. SWEDE 71/72 used 315.300 for air-to-air and checked up with BASE on 299.275 on their way home after working at Townsend. At least now we now know two of their squadron frequencies:
- 299.275 – VMFAT-501 Base
- 315.300 – VMFAT-501 Tac (Tac 1?)
If they follow the same practice as the rest of the squadrons at Beaufort, there will be two more Tac frequencies. I’m assuming that 315.300 is Tac 1, but I’m not ready to label it that yet. It’s also worth mentioning that the first few F-35Bs I heard flying out of Beaufort used SWEDE 6# but they’re now using SWEDE 7#. This falls between the 6# callsigns that VMFA-312 uses and the 8# callsigns that VMFA(AW)-533 uses, so 7# may be their assigned callsign numbers. More listening will flesh it all out. Good Listening!
Savannah – Propagation this morning has resulted in being able to hear all five (that I know of) Savannah Coastal Refuges Complex repeaters. This repeater system is normally multicast and over the last several years they have been using digital voice. The system covers the Savannah NWR Complex along coastal South Carolina and Georgia composed of the Pinckney Island NWR, the Savannah NWR, the Tybee NWR, Harris Neck NWR, Blackbeard Island NWR, and Wolf Island NWR.
- 169.8250 – Savannah NWR Complex Harris Neck Rptr (NAC 4A4)
- 171.6500 – Savannah NWR Complex Pinckney Rptr (NAC 555)
- 171.7500 – Savannah NWR Complex Rptr (NAC 5B6) (Multicast)
- 172.4500 – Savannah NWR Complex Skidaway Rptr (NAC 68F)
- 172.6500 – Savannah NWR Complex Onslow Rtpr (NAC 455)
Through monitoring in different areas and comparing signal strengths, I’ve been able to identify four of the five repeaters (as seen in the list above). What I heard this morning has led me to believe that the unidentified one, 171.750 (NAC 5B6) is a repeater for the Wolf Island NWR area around Darien. ARC536 Pro logged a signal strength of 190 for the Harris Neck Repeater on 169.825 (NAC 4A4) and 171.750 just a bit lower at 144. A repeater for Wolf Island would be located just a bit farther south of me than the Harris Neck repeater, so the received signal strengths could indicate that. I’ve also heard 171.750 a few times in Brunswick which further backs that theory up. Hopefully a bit more monitoring will help confirm it.
While there normally isn’t anything thrilling to listen to on this system, it’s normally just administrative and maintenance related traffic, you can sometimes hear firefighting related traffic on it and during turtle nesting and hatching season, you can hear some research related traffic on it. If you’re interested in such things, it’s definitely something to keep in one of your scan banks or favorites lists.
Savannah - Today was my first time back in Savannah in a week and I got quite a surprise when I saw a MC-12W pop up on Mode-S. MC-12s aren’t exactly a common visitor to this area and one’s presence immediately intrigued me. I was even more intrigued when I realized it was flying low level and correlated it to to SUNNY 22 which had just departed from Hunter AAF. A few seconds later, the callsign SUNNY 22 popped up in the callsign block in my Mode-S display. SUNNY is the callsign used by the US Army’s B/224 MI Bn, which is based at Hunter AAF. I immediately decided that I needed to make sure that the Mode-S information I was receiving was indeed what was flying out of Hunter, so I found me a spot off of the approach end of Runway 28 at Hunter and waited for SUNNY 22 to return. When it did, I was able to take a few photos confirming that SUNNY 22 was an MC-12W, specifically MC-12W 10-0739 (Mode-S AE4C61).
What makes this so interesting is that to the best of my knowledge the MC-12W is a USAF aircraft. If so, why is it flying with a US Army unit? According to the logs from my Mode-S receiver, the first time it was snagged was on 2 October 2014 for just a short period of time between 2025 and 2075 feet; the next time it shows on the log is today. As some of you may remember, I posted last month that 224 MI Bn was flying another new aircraft, an EMARSS, so this makes two new aircraft that B/224 MI Bn has been flying recently.
Combine this with one other bit of information and things get even more interesting. B/224 MI Bn normally flies RC-12Ns but I haven’t heard an RC-12 since July. The EMARSS aircraft started flying regularly in early August and the MC-12W showed up today, could this indicate that the unit is getting different aircraft an that its mission is moving in a different direction? Time will tell.
It’s been awhile since I wrote an amateur radio post. It’s also been awhile since I was active on amateur radio. The summer heat and I don’t agree with each other and the HF antenna at home has had problems so I just haven’t been on the air. With the coming of autumn (even though it hasn’t felt like it with 90 degree temperatures in the afternoons), I’ve felt like being more active and I put the desire into action this past weekend. On Saturday afternoon, I revived a tradition I used to have while in Brunswick and went to the Cracker Barrel for their Saturday Chicken and Rice followed by some mobile HF operating. On Sunday, I also operated mobile for a bit after attending the 8:00 AM Eucharist at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church.
I chose to operate on 10, 15, and 20 Meters over the weekend and while for the most part I avoided the QSO Parties that were taking up most of the spectrum during my operating times I still managed to make a few interesting contacts. The Scandinavian Activity Contest was this past weekend so I took advantage of it to put some 20 Meter DX contacts in the log from Denmark and Sweden on Saturday afternoon. I also worked one station in the Arizona QSO Party on 10 Meters. Sunday was the more interesting day of the two, however. The first station I worked was 2SZ from London on 15 Meters. That’s right – 2SZ. The callsign initially confused because it didn’t a have a prefix, but before long I heard the operator explain that it was an historic callsign specially issued for their station (more about that later). Another interesting contact was UE16HQ, a special event station from Russia. I may have only worked seven stations over the weekend, but it was fun and 2SZ and UE16HQ were particularly interesting ones.
- N7AT, Arizona – 10 Meters
- OZ7X, Denmark – 20 Meters
- 5Q2J, Denmark – 20 Meters
- SK6AW, Sweden – 20 Meters
- 2SZ, England – 15 Meters
- ON4IA, Belgium – 15 Meters
- UE16HQ, Russia – 10 Meters
I love working historic special event stations and 2SZ definitely fits that bill. What made it special is not just that it was honoring an historic event but an historic radio event. 2SZ is part of an operation honoring the 90th Anniversary of the first radio contact made between the United Kingdom and New Zealand on 18 October 1924. GB2NZ is being used as the main callsign for that operation, but 2SZ is a more specific one recognizing the station used in England to make that contact. Cecil Goyder, an 18 year old student, was operating a station at the Mill Hill School in London using the callsign 2SZ we he made contact with 4AA, Frank Bell in New Zealand. Not only was this the first radio communication between the UK and New Zealand, it was the first “transworld message,”setting a distance record of 12,450 miles! In honor of this, Ofcom allowed 2SZ to be used from Mill Hill School this past weekend and I’m proud to be one of the amateurs who were able to help celebrate this historic event by making contact with station!
UE16HQ was one station among twelve taking part in a special event celebrating the return of Formula 1 racing to Russia. The Grand Prix of Russia took place this past weekend in Sochi, the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics. It just so happens that it has been 100 years since a Grand Prix race took place in Russia. In 1913 and 1914 there were Grand Prixs in St. Petersburg, but World War I put a stop to them and there were no Grand Prixs in the Soviet Union after the war. UE16HQ was the callsign for the special event’s Headquarters Station, but there were also eleven other team stations – one for each one of the race teams racing in Formula 1. As a motor sport fan and amateur radio operator, it was fun to be able to help celebrate the return of Grand Prix racing to Russia after a 100 year absence through radio!
All in all, it was great fun getting back on the air and as the cooler temperatures come, I look forward to being back on the air more often from the mobile station!
This article is from the DVIDS website and provides information that VMFAT-501 F-35B pilot training will begin on Monday, 6 October 2014!
First Fightertown F-35B training course takes off
Story by Cpl. Brendan Roethel
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, S.C. – The Pilot Training Center and Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 are slated to kick off the first F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter pilot training course, also known as the F-35B Safe for Solo course, aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, Oct. 6.
The three-month course is the formal instruction period that trains and certifies pilots to fly the F-35B. Upon successful completion, pilots will earn the Military Occupational Specialty 7518, F-35B pilot. Throughout the course, Marine aviators will learn everything from basic familiarization for flying the F-35B to various missions and weather conditions.
“During a Hornet or Harrier course, the majority of the training is in the mechanics of the jet such as how to work the radar,” said Maj. Carlton A. Wilson, the executive officer for VMFAT-501. “[The F-35B] is so much easier to fly. We are able to spend less time teaching about the mechanics of flying the jet, and start teaching advanced concepts at a much earlier stage in training.”
According to Wilson, by spending less time teaching about the mechanics of flight and spending more time teaching concepts, F-35 pilots will be capable of making independent decisions at an earlier stage in their career which allows for decentralized execution and aligns well with the Marine Corps warfighting philosophy.
The joint mission of VMFAT-501 and the PTC is to train pilots to go out to the operating forces in order to execute the missions assigned to the F-35B.
“The PTC teaches pilots about the F-35B in a classroom and flight simulator setting taught by civilian instructors with prior military flight experience,” Wilson said. “After learning new concepts in the classroom and successfully applying them in the flight simulator, the pilots will take what they learned to the squadron. At the squadron, they will apply the newly learned fundamentals by actually flying the F-35B under the supervision of active-duty military instructors.”
The first pilot class will consist of two aviators with prior Hornet or Harrier experience. After the first class of aviators graduate, class sizes will increase gradually to approximately 20 Marines. Within the next year, Prowler pilots and new Marine Aviators will begin filling seats in the class which will consist of a more rigorous course of instruction.
“Most of the pilots coming through the course at the start will have gone on at least one deployment in either the Harrier or the Hornet, and have a number of hours and different qualifications under their belt,” Wilson said. “At the end of the day, for pilots with prior training on the Hornets and Harriers, it is just another jet. The only thing the pilots really have to do is apply what they already know to a different aircraft.”
This first class is the next step of many in the transition from the Corps’ aging legacy tactical fleet to the F-35, which will provide the dominant, multi-role, fifth-generation capabilities needed across the full spectrum of combat operations to deter potential adversaries and enable future naval aviation power projection.