Milair listening

manross

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Joined
Jul 24, 2005
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148
Ok I find myself once again with my head spinning trying to decipher all the information about milair listening. Just when I got data receiving and decoding down pat, I suddenly find sdr, rtl, rsp1a, and many more acronyms banging around inside of my head.
So I'm going to put out here my desires regarding milair listening. I have radios that will allow me to do just that. I have the ability to buy a new scanner (I've heard the best for milair is Uniden 15x). I also can entertain the idea of buying an sdr type of setup. Sooooo if money wasn't a consideration, within reason, what would your ideal setup to receive milair be? Whatever way I go keep in mind that this setup is for milair only. I have other radios to take care of all other listening I'm interested in. I like the fact that the sdr route seems to be very cost effective, but doesn't it do exactly what a scanner does? If I went this route I'd prefer something that would work with Adroid based devices.
Any help that you can send my way will be greatly appreciated. Thanks, take care and stay healthy.
 
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MDScanFan

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Jan 23, 2010
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USA
Just curious, have tried monitoring milair with your current receivers and antennas? It was not clear to me from your post. It seems like that may be a good first step before buying a new receiver. If so, are you hearing what you want and what specifically are you trying to improve (speed, signal quality, etc)?

The antenna system is generally more important than the receiver. What are you using for an antenna system?
 

manross

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Joined
Jul 24, 2005
Messages
148
Just curious, have tried monitoring milair with your current receivers and antennas? It was not clear to me from your post. It seems like that may be a good first step before buying a new receiver. If so, are you hearing what you want and what specifically are you trying to improve (speed, signal quality, etc)?

The antenna system is generally more important than the receiver. What are you using for an antenna system?
Like I said before my head is spinning from researching all of the information out there. I posted in a thread somewhere my current radios. I just bought a SDS100, what a beautiful scanner. This will be my main scanner for simulcast trunking local government, fire, state patrol etc. I now find myself with extra radios. I have an old Pro43 which to some is the holy grail of milair listening scanner. I also have a BR330T and a BCD396T. My initial plan was to use Pro43 for milair. Then I learned there are some trunking systems in the 225-400 band. So that eliminated the 43. I'm also interested in data acquisition and decoding. Soooooo I did a discriminator tap on the 330 for data receiving and now the 396 is for milair and other fed stuff. If the 396 proves not to be up to snuff on milair the I'll do a tap on it and use 330 for milair and 396 for data. I hope all of this makes sense.
 

manross

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Joined
Jul 24, 2005
Messages
148
Money no object? Here is what we used, during my time in the USN.


With these transmitters:
Those are some battle tested radios I bet. Do you use these now? Can you even find them on the civilian market? I have extra radios to use for milair, but I'm not against buying something better. Thanks for the information. Take care.
 

empireco

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Apr 20, 2009
Messages
113
Location
Central Ky
I use a BCT15X for UHF Milair hooked through LMR-400 to an old Radio Shack Discone about 35 feet up and get aircraft out to couple hundred miles when they are at altitudes of say 20,000 plus , works great. the scanner is actually fed by a diplexer with the discone from 100 MHz up and from 25 to 90 MHz has an AR6- Ringo 6 meter ham antenna feeding it that's up at 100 feet for VHF Lo helos and such.
Does a really good job.
The BCT15X is a LOT or quality radio for the bucks...
 

manross

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Joined
Jul 24, 2005
Messages
148
I use a BCT15X for UHF Milair hooked through LMR-400 to an old Radio Shack Discone about 35 feet up and get aircraft out to couple hundred miles when they are at altitudes of say 20,000 plus , works great. the scanner is actually fed by a diplexer with the discone from 100 MHz up and from 25 to 90 MHz has an AR6- Ringo 6 meter ham antenna feeding it that's up at 100 feet for VHF Lo helos and such.
Does a really good job.
The BCT15X is a LOT or quality radio for the bucks...
You definitely have one heck of a setup. I have an older discone for local police/fire etc. For milair I have a DPD MilTenna Omni UHF/VHF air antenna. When I moved back to Colorado from Washington state I also brought a marine band ground plane antenna. Won't be needing the marine antenna in Colorado. I have a bunch of miscellaneous antenna odds and ends.
So let me ask you a question. Do you search through 225-400 band and listen to whatever it stops on or do you program in the active channels and then scan them that way. I read an article regards RTL SDR. It said it could search the whole entire milair band in 2.5 seconds. Even one of the cheapest rtl sdr could do it in less than 9 seconds. Where as the 15x took 70+ seconds. They cost anywhere from $20 on up to several hundreds of dollars. My first thought, why bother with the scanners. Your thoughts?
 

empireco

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Central Ky
I have multiple scanners programmed with lots of .milair freqs. I seldom search 225 - 400 with my scanners, they are always scanning, 24-7 and with Freescan recording and logging everything on 2 computers. I have a friend who has multiple receivers searching that range 24-7 and he lets me know if anything new is afoot. While I'm monitoring I always have ADSBexchange open on my computer so I can see all the aircraft and keep situational awareness. The ADSBexchange has SO greatly enhanced the milair monitoring experience!!!
Sometimes if I see two or more in a group and can't hear their air to air comms I'll plug up my SDR and have a look at the band scope and try to find them that way. A lot easier to spot them that way instead of searching on a scanner.
The bandscope of the SDR and software is its greatest advantage for finding new frequencies in use but it's not very good for monitoring as the SDR and software will listen to one frequency at a time. I'm sure you'll find as I did that one receiver isn't sufficient enough for good milair monitoring. I've heard helos lately splitting their conversations between a UHF freq and a VHF Lo freq!

As I've mentioned before:
I do have one BCT15X that is dedicated to VHF Lo only and is hooked to a AR-6 Ringo at 100 feet. It scans my favorite helo freqs for 10 seconds then searches between 29.7 to 88 for 10 seconds.

The scanners are set and forget. With the SDR although fabulous capability and cheap you have to be actively manning it on the computer with software. Watching a large swath of bandwidth with an SDR takes a lot of computer power, draws a lot of electricity and strain on the CPU plus generates lots of heat out the back of my computer.

Plus what happens when you find 2 hundred something active mil air freqs in your area? You're going to need multiple scanners to cover all that so you don't miss anything. Clicking on everything that pops up on an SDR waterfall you would wear yourself out and still not be able to keep up.

The SDR got me into digital monitoring long before I had a modern digital scanner but I soon bought a Uniden 996P2 so i could put all those channels in that I had found and scan them so I could hear all the action and not just focus on one frequency.

Hope this helps.
 

manross

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Joined
Jul 24, 2005
Messages
148
Wow lots of good info. I hope you don't mind, but when I find a good post I copy it and save it on my tablet. I find it a lot easier to go to my memo app and find it. Its much quicker than trying to sift thru threads on different sites. If you would rather not want me to copy your post, just let me know and I'll trash it.
My house sits at 6210' above sea level. The house also sits on a hill that puts my antennas anywhere from 200' to 1000' above my listening targets. Fort Carson and NORAD to the south and southwest. Fort Carson has a lot of radio listening. They're a training base for helos and armored units. NORAD of course is, well, NORAD. You would think it would be a treasure trove of listening. Well its not. The most I hear is the main gate guard house relay info on vehicle traffic in and out of the mountain. That whole mountain is loaded with sensors of all types. When one of the sensors go off, they go on alert until they have determined that it was a rabbit, not a person.
Then you have the USAF to the east, southeast. From the Airforce Academy to the north, Peterson AFB to Space Comm to the east and a bunch more. There's a crap load of helicopters flying around here 24/7. With the DPD Omni Milair antenna I can hear a lot of aircraft 0' to 40,000'. There is even a USN Attachment here. I still haven't figured out what the heck they do.
So you can tell I have a lot to listen to around here.
 

empireco

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Central Ky
Don't mind anyone copying or sharing my posts.
Yeah, you live in a goldmine! I love listening to .mil helos!!!!
 

batdude

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Joined
Jul 29, 2002
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East Central, Florida
Ok I find myself once again with my head spinning trying to decipher all the information about milair listening. Just when I got data receiving and decoding down pat, I suddenly find sdr, rtl, rsp1a, and many more acronyms banging around inside of my head.
So I'm going to put out here my desires regarding milair listening. I have radios that will allow me to do just that. I have the ability to buy a new scanner (I've heard the best for milair is Uniden 15x). I also can entertain the idea of buying an sdr type of setup. Sooooo if money wasn't a consideration, within reason, what would your ideal setup to receive milair be? Whatever way I go keep in mind that this setup is for milair only. I have other radios to take care of all other listening I'm interested in. I like the fact that the sdr route seems to be very cost effective, but doesn't it do exactly what a scanner does? If I went this route I'd prefer something that would work with Adroid based devices.
Any help that you can send my way will be greatly appreciated. Thanks, take care and stay healthy.
without a doubt, the best solution for >FINDING< mil air frequencies is an Airspy SDR ($160), the SDR# program (free) and the Fast Scanner plug in (Free) --- this setup will scan the entire 150-ish MHz of the 225-380 mil air band in < 2.5 seconds, has easy recording and frequency manager capability and outstanding sensitivity. There is nothing comparable out there that has the sensitivity and speed of this setup short of a custom designed/government procured solution ($$$$$$) and no "scanner" even comes close.

here is a short video of an airspy in action scanning the entire mil air band:

For >SCANNING< mil air frequencies, I would recommend one of the more modern scanners from Uniden or Whistler (x36/SDS series or the TRX series from Whistler) ---- mainly because any of the age of some of the "better" radios is getting up there (like the GRE 500/600 - now 15+ years old) - and as for the 15x... yes, it "works" - but for me the audio quality is not very good....


doug
 
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manross

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Joined
Jul 24, 2005
Messages
148
To "empireco" thank you very much. Between you and batdude I have a wealth of information to assimilate. The learning curve is a little steep, but nothing I can't handle. I am without a doubt going to get some sort of rtl-sdr setup. I'm leaning on one that plays nice with an android tablet. My aging Windows 10 PC is delegated to monitoring weather with a 22" wall mounted monitor. I can count on one hand how many times I have gotten on the PC, not counting the weather program, in the last 2 years.
Anyhow thanks to all for sharing your expertise. I'm sure I'll have more questions in the future as I grow into this part of my hobby.
Also so there's no confusion, I changed my username from "manross" to "retiredCSPD". My new name came into existence when I retired 13 years ago. Damn where did the time go. 20 yoa at my heart and mind, but the body is a different story......

Hmmm I guess my new username will show with a new thread. Dang these new fangled technologies.
 

krokus

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Jun 9, 2006
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Southeastern Michigan
Those are some battle tested radios I bet. Do you use these now? Can you even find them on the civilian market? I have extra radios to use for milair, but I'm not against buying something better. Thanks for the information. Take care.
I have not seen one of these since I left the Navy. I am sure they are available, but I am not certain where. (My post was mostly tongue in cheek, as you asked for the best radios.)
 
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