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Red Flag 14-1 and 14-2 - Any advice or tips for a first time listener?

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br0adband

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Well, after all the years I'm finally going to spend some time trying my best to monitor Red Flag comms with a couple of RTL sticks and SDR# here in the coming weeks. Red Flag 14-1 is from 01/27/2014 through 02/14/2014, and Red Flag 14-2 is from 03/03/2014 - 03/14/2014 so I'm going to do my best to keep up with all the potential action that I'm able to from my location in downtown Las Vegas - I'm hoping I'll get a chance to build an OCFD here in the next week before 14-1 starts which might help considering I'm in an apartment building on the 3rd floor (top floor, actually) but I can't get an antenna on the roof. At some point I may actually ask the building owners if they'd allow it since I've been here for many years and "a good resident" I think. Would just need to get it up outside my window with maybe 12-15 feet of feedline since I'm practically on the roof myself.

Anyway, I'm wondering if anyone else in this area has spent time monitoring previous Red Flag events and perhaps offer some tips on how best to try and keep up with what's going on. I know it'll be something I'll be struggling with but hey, it's going to be an interesting exercise for me too.

At the moment I've only got one pigtail for one RTL stick, going to order another one here soon as well so I'll pretty much be using just one of them for this little shindig of mine as it progresses. I can use the second RTL stick since I've already basically re-purposed the original craptastic little antenna by removing the rather shoddy cable and attaching it to a makeshift dipole cut to the 300 MHz area - it ain't the greatest thing but for the moment it's functional and seems to do sorta-kinda ok. I use the Nellis AFB ATIS at 270.100 MHz as my "yardstick" for performance and I can get a fairly decent pull on the signal using that but I don't suspect it'll be of much use for any long range reception compared to the 1/4 wave ground plane I've got set up right now. I found a post from the past by hertzian where he created this crazy simple folded Stub Decoupled GA/Milair Homebrew so I grabbed a coat hanger and bent it up in the same fashion and amazingly it does actually perform quite well indeed.

If anyone has any tips, tricks, or general advice towards getting the most from monitoring Red Flag - given I'm using basically just one receiver and there's going to be a ton of stuff happening on a fairly large amount of frequencies (I've created some favorites lists with data from the Dreamland Resort website which seems to be pretty comprehensive for this kind of stuff) - I'd love to hear 'em from those that are considerably more experienced with this sort of thing than I am (MilAir monitoring).
 

737mech

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Red Flag

I'm not sure how well an rtl will perform vs' a milair band scanner and yes a good antenna is required. I'm trying to find the mission freqs, gets old listening to the tower and clearance etc. One you should try is 308.6 AM it's the airborne warning plane commonly called "White 8". Also I'm hearing stuff on 327.8 right now.
 

br0adband

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Heard a bunch of traffic earlier today as more and more aircraft from around the world arrive and get situated before the start of 14-1, it's pretty awesome to hear them coming in and picking up their accents (which they don't obviously have from their perspective). Some Aussies rolled in today as well as a few units from places unknown that I couldn't quite figure out.

I've listened to scanners since the early 1970s but I was never able to focus or narrow my listening specifics towards CivAir and MilAir comms and now that I can I almost feel like I'm too slow to handle this. Was sitting on the Nellis Tower channel 4 earlier and I swear, those ATC people there are incredibly efficient as expected and most of the time - not always, but just a smidgen more than 50% I'd say - I simply can't keep up with what they're saying over the air. With repeated listening it'll get easier, and I do make the effort to do some research on the terms heard (I know a lot of them already but even so), unit identifiers, etc.

Sure beats the hell out of listening to some slot cashiers calling for a supervisor because some tourist hit a small jackpot, most definitely. It's like a whole new ballgame... ;)
 

mancow

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That explains all the practice activity at the Smoky Hill range I've been hearing and all the transiting tankers.
 

gariac

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I maintain a a NTTR frequency list. Check out
http://www.inplanesight.org/frequencies/nellis_aug_2011_public.pdf
It looks old, but then again, there haven't been many flags due to sequester.

Those RTL sticks are terrible on UHF. About the only use I found for them is mode-s decoding. For VHF/UHF air, you can use scanners that people think are obsolete. Well yeah, they may not trunk, but you don't need that for mil air. Here is a list of mil air capable scanners.
Military Air  Capable Scanners for Red Flag

The Pro-2042 is what I haul out to the range. I have some of the older Pro-2035 as well. A Pro-2042 gets about $100. A pro-2035 about $50. The step size on the Pro-2035 is funny. I don't recall off hand. Otherwise the performance is similar to the Pro-2042. Both have a first IF around 700MHz, which makes them good for mil air scanning. They are also easy to modify for demodulator taps.

The big drawback is you have to program them by hand. I found one on ebay with the optoscan card. The seller didn't know anything about it. ;-) There is a Pro-2042 with optoscan on ebay right now, but way too overpriced. The opto card might get you another $40 or so. And Scancat is pretty poor, not to mention it doesn't run on modern computers.
 
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